The next morning we woke to Livorno, Italy, a port town outside of Florence. After a bad experience with the tour guide in Rome, the group was eager to go explore Florence at our own pace. A few of us visited the city before, so we were confident we could navigate for the day. Which was a good idea, but poorly executed.
As we exited the cruise mid-morning (excited to sleep in since there was no early tour time,) we leisurely strolled down to the taxi area where we quickly realized we had underestimated our trip into Florence. No 20 minute train. We took a shuttle bus to the Livorno train station, half the group nearly missing the train (sorry for the scare, Mom,) then a 90 minute ride into Florence. With the final train leaving at 3:30, our day in Florence had to be shorter than we had hoped for.The day we had hoped would be calm and slow was quickly turning into a rushed and stressful day. Presenting, how to see the best of Florence in just 3 hours…
After picking up a map at the train station, we found our way to Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the most recognizable attraction in Florence. The Gothic cathedral was covered green, white, and pink marble and covered with intricate designs, different than the exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica we saw at the Vatican the day before.
The day before we were in gigantic, hot, and smelly Rome, being herded around in a big tour group. So the group just so happy to finally be in sweet Florence, exploring on our own. Though I’d been to Florence twice before, I always get starstruck by the Duomo’s russet orange shingles.
With no tour guide to lead us, we sped-strolled down random streets, stopping in leather shops along the way. It was an intensely hot day and we were all growing hungry, so we found a local pizzeria with shade and wifi for lunch (priorities.)
The family unanimously agreed: Ristorante La Grotta Guelfa was hands down the best pizza we ever tasted. Devan and I split the salami pizza and caprese salad, which makes my stomach growl just thinking about it.
Around the corner from lunch was the Mercato Nuovo, also known as the Mercato del Porcellino, the famed open air leather market. Florence is known for leather goods, so the group divided into the maze of the market, looking for purses, leather jackets, and souvenirs for family and friends. I had my eye out for a leather tote bag for work, but due to stubborn vendors refusing to negotiate, left empty handed.
Sadly this guy did not come home with me.
The group spent nearly an hour in the market, browsing the stalls for the best deals, while I kept track of time. By 2PM I wrangled the family, forcing them to move along to the final stops before we had to make it back to the train station.
After the market, we wandered to the beautiful Ponte Vecchio bridge. It was a brutally hot day, with the crowds out in full force, so we left after a minute in order to stay on schedule.
The final Florence stop was to see the statue of David replica in Piazza della Signoria, my eye on the clock.
Soon it was time to head back to the train station, our quick day Florence was coming to a close. With the final train departing in minutes, I sped-walked the group back to the station, rushing to get us tickets and seats on the train back in the knick of time. Not a second wasted in Florence before we headed back to Livorno.
After our rushed day under the tuscan sun, the exhausted group reconvened at the ship’s waterslides to cool down. The Norwegian Epic had 3 slides, so we all took turns testing each one.
And if you don’t GoPro your waterslide ride over the Mediterranean sea, did it even happen?