Cruise ships call in Livorno, a port city evolved from a Middle Ages castle that is an 80-minute ride (by rail or road) through picture-perfect Tuscan hills to Florence. The region’s capital — all narrow medieval streets, palaces, artisan shops, and churches — is home to some of the great art masterpieces of the world. This being Italy, you’ll also find vibrant markets and cafés.
What We Love
Giardino di Boboli: These romantic 16th century Italian-style gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti enchant visitors with their winding lanes, towering cypress trees, and the loveliest of fountains, statues, and groves — plus panoramic views of Florence below.
Ponte Vecchio: Home now to jewelers and goldsmiths, this medieval bridge spanning the Arno River offers a prime perch to watch the setting sun paint Florence gold, and serves as an enduring symbol of the city.
Best Known For
The David: Possibly the world’s most famous sculpture, Michelangelo’s 17-foot marble depiction of the Biblical hero is housed inside the Galleria dell’Accademia. (No time for massive lines? See a copy at Piazza della Signoria.)
The Duomo: The vast dome reigning over Florence is Brunelleschi’s crowning glory. Climb the 463 stone steps for sweeping views of the red rooftops of the city — and an up-close look at the “Last Judgment” fresco.
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Who It's Best For
Art lovers: Nowhere on earth rivals Florence, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, for the abundance of the era’s art and architecture. Soak up works from Michelangelo, Raphael, and Botticelli.
Foodies: Pasta, bistecca (giant Tuscan steak), gelato, wine, olive oils — even at the humblest trattorias and cafés, a food lover can find an unforgettable meal. Order whatever the locals are having.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Colossal waits: Bring your patience for the main attractions, or bypass the crowds and visit still-stellar but less-thronged sights.
Art overload: Some tourists become so overwhelmed when immersed in the art of Florence that the reaction has a name: Stendhal syndrome.
Dana McMahan is a Detroit-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post.