WHAT SHOULD YOU VISIT?
The City of Florence
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
The big cruise lines are advertising their shore excursions online, some tours including Florence and Pisa cost well over £200 per person! You can see the same as you would on a tour and for a fraction of that amount, and here’s how…
WHERE WILL THE SHIP BE DOCKED?
There is no dock for ships to go alongside in La Spezia, so cruise ships anchor in the bay and use they’re smaller tender boats to shuttle guests across. There is a small pier where the tenders will land.
La Spezia – Florence 2 hrs. drive
Livorno – Pisa 45 min drive
Florence – Pisa 1.5 hrs. drive
La Spezia – Santa Margherita 45 minute drive
Santa Margherita – Portofino 15 minute boat ride
The train station in La Spezia is about 10 minutes away in taxi. The trains are usually good in Italy. The train station in Florence is very conveniently located, and the city is small enough to walk around the main sites. The same applies to Pisa.
La Spezia – Florence is approx. 2 hour and 15 minutes train journey costing €9.30 each way, changing trains once.
La Spezia – Pisa is approx. 1 hr. and 20 minutes train journey costing €1.90 each way.
Florence – Pisa is approx. 1 hours 15 minutes train journey costing €5.20 each way, or the fast train which takes 50 minutes and costs €12.00 each way.
La Spezia – Genoa is approx. 1 hr. and 30 minutes train journey costing €9.00 each way.
La Spezia – Santa Margherita is approx. 1 – 1.5 hrs. depending on the train and costs between €4.40 – €7.50 each way.
SIGHTSEEING IN FLORENCE
Ponte Vecchio Built in 1345, The Ponte Vecchio (which translates to the old bridge), was first bridge that crossed the Arno River. It is also famous for being one of the only bridges in Florence to survive World War II bombings. The Ponte Vecchio holds many goldsmiths and jewellery shops. There are fantastic views of the river from the bridge and some great places along the banks to take photos of it.
Piazza del Duomo One of Florence’s most visited sites is the Duomo, or Cathedral, The Cattedrale de Santa Maria Fiore. The duomo is huge and in Gothic style. Work began on it in 1296, and can hold a staggering 20,000 people! But it’s really most beautiful from the outside, made of different coloured marbles, green, pink, and white. It also have large elaborate doors and some beautiful statues. If you’re feeling energetic, you can buy tickets to climb the 463 steps to the top and be rewarded with great views.
The Baptistery Built in the 11th century, this is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. The façade is covered in green and white marble, but one of the most spectacular sets of doors you can view. They are bronze and reproductions of some that are now housed in the Duomo museum. If you decide to visit inside the Baptistery, you will see the pavement inside made of marble depicting the zodiac and some beautiful mosaics, but most visitors to Florence just photograph the outside.
The Bell Tower – Campanile This is located in Piazza del Duomo. You can get tickets to walk the 414 stairs for pretty views of Florence and the surrounding area.
Galleria degli Uffizi This is the busiest museum in Italy, holding a fantastic collection of Renaissance art. It’s best to go on their website and buy tickets in advance to try to dodge some of the long queues. There are masses of paintings, sculptures and tapestries from all times in history since medieval. But most people visit the museum to view Italy’s finest, work by Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo de Vinci, Botticelli and Giotto. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Galleria dell’ Academia One of the most famous sculptures in Italy is housed here and is what most people come to see at this museum, Michelangelo’s David. You will also find some other beautiful works here. Queues can be long to get in, but they usually move quite fast. The museum is closed on Mondays.
The Church of Santa Croce Located in the Piazza Santa Croce, this church holds some very important tombs, such as Michelangelo and Dante. The church also has some beautiful satin glass windows.
Piazza Del Signoria This is by far, Florence’s most famous square. It is located right in the centre of the old town centre so it’s very easy to find. It is almost like an outdoor museum, with statues and fountains. Most viewed is the copy of Michelangelo’s David, in the position where the original used to stand. There are some great little restaurants and cafes in the surrounding streets, so is a great place to have lunch.
The Boboli Gardens & Pitti Palace Stunning gardens with beautiful fountains right in the middle of Florence. You can also get some great views of Florence from here. The Pitti Palace was once home to the Medici family, one of the most influential families of the area. Again, it is closed on Mondays.
SIGHTSEEING IN PISA
The Leaning Tower of Pisa One of the most visited sites in Italy, thousands flock every day to view the amazing leaning tower. The most popular way to take a photo of the site is as if you’re holding up the tower with one hand and you’re sure to see people doing that there! Due to the unsafe structure of the leaning tower, there are very few tickets to go inside and climb it, but if you really want to do it, we would recommend buying tickets well in advance.
Miracle Square Here you will find the Cathedral that was built in the 13th century and the Baptistery. Surrounding Miracle square are countless little tourist shops and stalls to pick up some souvenirs.
SIGHTSEEING FROM LA SPEZIA
Santa Margherita it’s hard to believe that this area used to be a small fishing village. It is now a beautifully developed resort of the most exclusive nature. There are some fantastic restaurants on the waterfront and in the centre of this tiny town, you’ll find a small pier with boats offering to take locals and tourists alike over to Portofino.
Portofino To reach this beautiful area, you must take a boat from Santa Margherita pier. This stunning little bay is one of the most photographed and famous places in Italy. Have cameras ready as the boat sails you slowly into the bay and you get your first sight of the beautifully painted pastel coloured fisherman’s houses. At the highest end of exclusivity, be careful what you buy, check price tags first!
Genoa When exploring a town or city, it’s always a good idea to buy a tourist map for a newsagent or kiosk first, one that will highlight the main attractions in the area. Head to the centre of Genoa, to the Piazza Ferrari with its pretty fountain and explore the city from there. There are also some fantastic shops in Genoa, and the ice-cream is definitely worth sampling too! The best way to get to Genoa is by taxi. If there are just 2 of you travelling, why not find a willing couple to share the taxi ride and fare?
The Genoa Aquarium A great option for families, entrance into the Aquarium is €18 for adults up to 65 and €12 for children up to 12 yrs. Kids under 3yrs go free of charge. If you are over 65, you get a couple of Euros off the ticket price, so take some ID with you.
Cinque Terre A stunning part of the Italian coastline and literally translated as ‘the 5 lands’ the Cinque Terre is comprised of the 5 villages of Manarola, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The whole of that coastline and all of those villages are UNESCO world heritage site. Lots of tourists flock this are and it’s known as one of the most beautiful places in Italy. Definitely worth a visit. If you walk off the pier that your ship tender will drop you off at and walk left, you will find many pleasure boast taking day trippers out to see this area.
- Most museums in Italy are closed on Mondays!
- When travelling independently, take a contact telephone for your cruise ship with you, this may be printed in your daily ship paper, or you might need to ask the reception desk for it. This will give you peace of mind during the day.
- It’s a great idea to pick up a city map as soon as you arrive into Florence or Genoa, and it makes a nice souvenir to take home.
- When travelling by train in Italy, be sure to validate your train ticket before travel. There is a little machine that you insert your ticket into at the station BEFORE TAKING YOUR TRAIN! If you get caught travelling with a ticket not validated, you could receive an on the spot fine of up to 60 Euros.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be aware of the temperature, it can be very hot in the summer months, so be prepared.
- When looking for somewhere to have lunch, usually restaurants and cafes some distance away from main sites will be more reasonably priced.
- It is important to dress appropriately in religious buildings in Italy. Shoulders and knees should be well covered.
- Be wary of pickpockets, they are everywhere in the world!
- If you’re using local taxis, it’s good to agree a price BEFORE you start your journey, unless the taxi is metered.
- Make sure you leave ample time to return to your ship before sailing.
- If you are an OAP, you can sometimes get reduced entrance into sites and museums. Take some ID with you showing your date of birth, like passport or driving license.
- Shops and businesses in towns, and even in some cities in the Mediterranean are loyal to ‘siesta time’. Between approx. 13.00 – 16.30 some shops will close.