Livorno or "Leghorn" is the principal town in the province of the same name, which lies in the region called Tuscany. Livorno serves as your gateway to the cities of Florence and Pisa.
meaning "the Flowerling" is the jewel of the Renaissance. From the Piazzale Michelangelo there is a Splended Panorama of the skyline. It is easy to pick out the pointed tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Cathedral's massive dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
This Cathedal, the Duomo, that symbolizes the wealth and power of Florence in its golden age. It took 14 years to build, and was paid for entirely by the clothmakers guild. Brunelleschi built the huge, lanterned dome using a revolutionary method that was later copied for St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. The Roof is supported by high gothic vaulting, and the interior of the dome is adorned with a fresco of the last supper and beauitful stained glass. In the Cathedral Museum is a Pieta created by Mechelangelo at the age of 80, which he left unfinished; the face on Nicodemus is Michelangelo's own.
Just off the square is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the worlds finest museums, with representative works of nearly every Renaissance master.
Not far from the Uffizi is the Ponte Vecchio, a 14th century bridge spanning the Arno.
On the far side of the river is the Pitti Palace, another large and rich gallery located alongside the delightful Boboli Gardens. The Pitti is home to no less than 11 masterpieces by Raphael.
The Best known buildings in Pisa are gathered around the "field of miracles," the familiar trio of Cathedral, Baptistery and teh Campanile or Bell Tower. This Campanile is the world famous leaning tower, now inclined 14 feet to one side due to the settling of the subsoil. The fame of the Tower shouldn't distract you from the overall beauty of the other buildings which are built in the highly original Pisan style. Note the tiers of arcades, together with geomtrical decorations based on lozenge shapes. The Beautifully decorated cemetery, or Campo Santo, contains 53 cartloads of earth that the Crusaders brought from Jerusalem.It is said that Galileo, a native of Pisa, used the Cathedral to study the movement of the pendulum and the Leaning Tower to work out his laws of gravity and accleration.
*There are local artists that wander these areas, one tried to draw me!!
The 16 century walls are largely intact, making the city one of the best examples of Renaissance fortification in Europe. The Interior of the city is also pleasant, since it is flat, not hilly and because the old grid of Roman streets makes it easy to find your way. You can also see where the old Roman amphitheater stood at the Piazza del Mercato; the stones have all been taken for other buildings, but the oval shape remains.
If you want to know what the 14th century looked like, come to San Gimignano, the town of fine Towers. Today's distinctive skyline boasts 14 tall towers, but there were 76 at one time. Back in the day, each one represented a noble family's stronghold against other factions in the city. And of course the height of each tower represented a certain prestige, as well as a military edge. You'll find 7 of them around the main square, including the oldest, on the Mayor's Palace. A law of 1255 banned any tower being built taller, but everyone ignored the law. The tallest today (175 feet) is at the Palace of the People, wher eyou can get a fine view of the countryside. The Municipal museum here is also worth a visit.
Like many Tuscan hill towns, Volterra began as a typical Etruscan stronghold: a high plateau about an hour from the sea. Today the wealth of the fine artifacts in the local museum recalls that stunning culture.
The central Piazza dei Priori is one of Italy's finest squares, surrounded with austere palaces, and delightful shops. From the Palace of the Priors, there are good views of a well preserved Roman theater. Don't neglect the local sculptures in translucent white alabaster...the descendants of the old Etruscans are not far away!
Window shopping is a delight in Florence. You will find good buys in:
- Leather Gloves, belts, purses, wallets and boxes of all shapes and sizes
- Gold and Silver, simple jewelry like gold and silver charms are quite reasonable. Also look for napkin rings, photo frames, cruet sets, sugar bowls and candlesticks.
- Ceramics and Glassware, Ceramic ornaments and innumerable statuettes for every taste
- Inlays and Mosaics, A Florentine specialty; look for small "pictures" of birds, flowers and landscapes; for trinkets, try the colorful, glass handmade mosaic broaches, pendants, bracelets and rings
- Fashion; Florentine designers rival those of Paris and London
The majority of shops in Florence are open Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm; and Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00pm; shops are closed on sunday and on special holidays.
Florentines are proud of their robust food. Recommended items:
- Prosciutto crudo con fichi - this local fave is an appealing appetizer of raw ham and fresh figs
- Pappardelle - a tasty pasta dish of broad noodles served in season with hare sauce
- Bistecca alla fiorentina - this usually mammoth-sized, charcoal-grilled T-Bone steak served with lemon is a specialty
- Cacciucco - Red Mullet or other fish cooked in tomatoes, onion, garlic and red wine, served on croutons
- Zuccotto - A liqueur-soaked, chilled sponge and chocolate cake
White wines - Vernaccia di San Gimignano, an excellent dry wine; Montecarlo, and Bianco del-l'Elba, a mellower wine
Vinsanto - A small glass of this deep amber-colored sweet "holy wine" is the perfect end to a meal.
Tipping - suggested tipping is 15% to 20% percent for good service
Some useful words
Good morning........Buon Giorno