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schmoopie17

Struggling with Florence

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One of our upcoming cruise stops will be Livorno. We have an excursion planned to Florence, but I'm not sure we want to keep it. I've seen many videos and many reviews of Florence and they all focus on art and museums. Neither my wife nor I are art or museum buffs, yet she insists we still have to go to Florence because "everyone" says you have to see it, can't miss it, etc. Other than jewelry and leather shopping (neither of which we plan to buy) there just doesn't seem to be much else to do there. 

 

On the other hand, we are both wine lovers. Wouldn't our time be better spent touring wineries in Tuscany versus walking around (what appears to be) boring (at least for us) Florence?

 

 

Edited by schmoopie17

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Hi. I do remember seeing wine tours which you might like. We ended up taking the Tuscany Bus (cheap) to Florence and we wandered the usual area, got the most amazing pizza in this food building next to the leather market and bought a nice leather purse. We also looked at the David replica and other statues in the square and strolled to see the jewelry as well. The bus also include a trip to the leaning tower of Pisa then back to the cruiseport. The bus gave us a nice map as well.

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We spent 4 nights in Florence pre-cruise a few years ago and never set foot inside any art museums and absolutely loved it.  Florence is a beautfiul city and many areas are pedestrian only.  We visited the Duomo and climbed both the dome and the bell tower.   Piazzle Michelangelo offers incredible views and is a nice walk from central Florence.  We dined at La Prosciutterra where we had the most amazing charcuterie board with a few glasses of Chianti.  We also visited Santa Croce.  

 

If you truly feel you won't enjoy Florence, then you could always do a tour of the Tuscan Countryside.  We did this on a cruise stop to Livorno several years ago.  We joined others on our roll call for a private tour that visited Siena, S. Gimignano and had a tour of a winery where we also enjoyed lunch.  It was probably one of our favorite excursions we've done on any cruise.

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Our group of 4 visited Florence last Sept. Like you, we are not museum/art buffs.  And we went to Florence because it seemed like the thing to do.  

We took the train to Pisa first; the other 3 hadn't been and were very taken with the Leaning Tower.  Then we continued on to Florence where we went to both markets which were ok, saw the Duomo, and stopped at a few places for gelato.  The highlight of the day was Pisa. Florence was just another big busy city.   2 of our group REALLY wanted to visit Florence. Found out later that they only went because people said they should.  So much for that notion !

I think you should do some research and see if there's another destination that would better support your interests.

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There are certainly vineyards to visit in Tuscany, but you could easily visit an enoteca in Florence, and sample the wines of several growers in one stop - maybe have a wine tasting lunch?  

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9 minutes ago, lisiamc said:

There are certainly vineyards to visit in Tuscany, but you could easily visit an enoteca in Florence, and sample the wines of several growers in one stop - maybe have a wine tasting lunch?  

 

But we'd still be stuck in Florence, as opposed to the Tuscany countryside. One of the the things we enjoy about Napa, Sonoma, and other wine areas are the views, the rolling hills, the grapevines, etc. Tuscany  has this type of awesome scenery, as opposed to concrete walls and crowds in Florence.

 

We did find a tour on NCL that combines four hours in Florence, with four hours in Tuscany and wine tasting at a castle winery. That may be our best option. I know that people will say four hours doesn't even scratch the surface in Florence...but at least we can say we went there, while still doing wines in Tuscany.

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Florence is a terrific city for tourists and some consider it one of the best tourist cities in Europe.  That being said, we love the countryside and smaller villages of Tuscany and find ourselves returning again and again.  When people tell me there is "not much to do" my question is usually "what do you like to do?"  

 

That being said, perhaps the OP might want to consider renting a car and just enjoying the region at their own pace.  They could visit a smaller town such as San Gimignano and perhaps spend some time in the Chianti wine area perhaps driving and exploring along the picturesque S222 road.  A rental car delivered to the ship (Sifracar does this) should cost no more then $150 including fuel.  Hiring a car/driver would cost many times that cost.

 

Hank

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First of all, I love Florence...It is so much more than just the art...It is an incredibly beautiful city. 
That said, we have typically NOT gone to Florence on port stops in Livorno.  We have visited Florence for multiple days pre- or post-cruise and have used the Livorno stop for other places in the area.

 

I especially don't want to see Florence in a large herd of 40+ passengers off a tour bus!

 

And therein lies the gist of my comment:  DON'T take a cruise line shore excursion.  Instead, find your Roll Call here on Cruise Critic...and see if anyone has started a group for a wine tour.  If not, start your own.  There are lots of local tour companies who will put together a tour for you that YOU will want to do...Figure out (with their help) an itinerary that you would love and get quotes on prices for 2, 4, 6 or 8...Then go on your Roll Call and see if others may want to join you.  We've always found that the numbers usually work well for a group of 8.  They can fit you comfortably into a van.  You then can visit what you want on YOUR schedule...and you won't have to load and unload 40 people from a bus at every stop.  And it likely will cost LESS than that shorex.

 

We've done tours like this in Europe...and have had very nice small group wine tastings.  One visit to San Gimignano, we had a wonderful lunch right in the wine cellar of a winery--right among the barrels...will never forget that one...

 

Good luck...

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Just an alternative suggestion; when docking in Livorno our favourite place to visit is the town of Lucca. It's smaller than Florence and Pisa, is less well known and therefore less busy but in our opinion much prettier than Pisa. It's a very walkable with some really good views from the fortified walls looking down in to the town.

 

As it's a few miles north of Pisa it's sometimes offered by tour companies as a half day in Lucca and a half day in Pisa. 

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On 2/8/2020 at 9:56 AM, Bruin Steve said:

First of all, I love Florence...It is so much more than just the art...It is an incredibly beautiful city. 
That said, we have typically NOT gone to Florence on port stops in Livorno.  We have visited Florence for multiple days pre- or post-cruise and have used the Livorno stop for other places in the area.

 

I especially don't want to see Florence in a large herd of 40+ passengers off a tour bus!

 

And therein lies the gist of my comment:  DON'T take a cruise line shore excursion.  Instead, find your Roll Call here on Cruise Critic...and see if anyone has started a group for a wine tour.  If not, start your own.  There are lots of local tour companies who will put together a tour for you that YOU will want to do...Figure out (with their help) an itinerary that you would love and get quotes on prices for 2, 4, 6 or 8...Then go on your Roll Call and see if others may want to join you.  We've always found that the numbers usually work well for a group of 8.  They can fit you comfortably into a van.  You then can visit what you want on YOUR schedule...and you won't have to load and unload 40 people from a bus at every stop.  And it likely will cost LESS than that shorex.

 

We've done tours like this in Europe...and have had very nice small group wine tastings.  One visit to San Gimignano, we had a wonderful lunch right in the wine cellar of a winery--right among the barrels...will never forget that one...

 

Good luck...

 

Actually, we're very active on the Roll Call for this cruise and have recruited others to our tours of the Amalfi Coast, Cannes/Nice/Monte Carlo, Normandy, Lisbon and Barcelona. We are using ItalyTeurs.eu for a couple of those tours and I just realized they have a Tuscany tour to Siena and San Gimignano (but no winery stops). They also have another Tuscany tour to Greve and other areas in Chianti, including a winery stop. 

 

We're torn between these two tours and would like input on the itinerary differences, if possible. TIA...

 

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italytours isn't the only vendor in Italy !!

They have their own thread going on this forum so people flock to them, but there are other well reviewed vendors who offer group or private tours.  When I was researching our Naples stop I found several vendors to contact about our plans for the Amalfi Coast. 

I would definitely check with your Roll Call to see if a few people might be interested in joining you for a group or private tour.  We were a party of 4 and hired a driver for the day .... it was a Mercedes minivan which could hold 8, but we wanted a private tour. And I think 6 would have been more comfortable than 8 so I'm glad we didn't do a group tour.

This is one of the companies I talked to, Joe Banana.  I've deleted my research web sites.

https://www.joebananalimos.net/cruise-port-tours-from-livorno-port

 

I got most of my info by using the SEARCH tool, specifically on  past "trip report".  I'd read thru and see who they used, where they went, and if it was a positive experience. 

 

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45 minutes ago, schmoopie17 said:

 

Actually, we're very active on the Roll Call for this cruise and have recruited others to our tours of the Amalfi Coast, Cannes/Nice/Monte Carlo, Normandy, Lisbon and Barcelona. We are using ItalyTeurs.eu for a couple of those tours and I just realized they have a Tuscany tour to Siena and San Gimignano (but no winery stops). They also have another Tuscany tour to Greve and other areas in Chianti, including a winery stop. 

 

We're torn between these two tours and would like input on the itinerary differences, if possible. TIA...

 

 

My son and I recently went to Siena and San Gimignano and we really enjoyed it. Google the Palio horse race, which takes place annually in the piazza in Siena -- there is lots of interesting history (not related to art or museums)....

 

We also went to Greve and another Chianti town. Maybe it's just me, but I always find those group wine tours somewhat hokey -- the spaces look set up just for tourists to view. Unless you're going to do a private wine tour with your own car or driver, I would vote for the Siena/San Gimignano day.

 

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1 hour ago, schmoopie17 said:

 

...I just realized they have a Tuscany tour to Siena and San Gimignano (but no winery stops)...

 

If you put together your own small group for a private tour, most tour providers will customize your tour to whatever desires you have...

I have had providers in Italy add a licensed guide in some places (because Italian laws prevent the driver from doing guide services outside the vehicle).  I have had tour companies add sites to their standard tour itineraries...and I have had them delete sites.

Try telling the provider what you want on your tour--say San Gimignano and a couple of nearby wineries, for example...and have them propose a schedule and give you a price.  You are never restricted to the tours they show on the website...as long as YOU are the one putting together the group (as opposed to merely joining one of their non-private tours).

 

BTW, I really enjoyed both San Gimignano and Siena...And my San Gim tour included a visit to a winery with a tour, wine tasting and an outstanding lunch at the winery (They served us "family style", bringing around plate after plate of mushrooms, peppers, salami and other lunch meats, other veggies--pickled and plain, bread...and unlimited wine!)

Edited by Bruin Steve

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I’ve booked with Romeinlimo for a tour called Florence and San Gimignano.  It’s private, and we are going to Florence briefly, then onto a wine tasting and lunch in Tuscany.  It was easily arranged via email.  

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On 2/7/2020 at 1:14 PM, KarimaJ said:

Hi. I do remember seeing wine tours which you might like. We ended up taking the Tuscany Bus (cheap) to Florence and we wandered the usual area, got the most amazing pizza in this food building next to the leather market and bought a nice leather purse. We also looked at the David replica and other statues in the square and strolled to see the jewelry as well. The bus also include a trip to the leaning tower of Pisa then back to the cruiseport. The bus gave us a nice map as well.

 

Would you please provide more information on this Tuscany Bus. Sounds like this is the type of excursion we’d be interested in. Thanks.

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17 minutes ago, gmbhardy said:

 

Would you please provide more information on this Tuscany Bus. Sounds like this is the type of excursion we’d be interested in. Thanks.

 

Yes you can go to Tuscanybus.com and they have a few different packages available. We didn't really have a lot of time in Florence but we flew through the jewelry and spent a bit more time eating and in the leather area. The bus guide will give you a nice map of where everything is which was very helpful. She also gives you some background info on the way there. Pisa does not take long at all, we took the obligatory pictures and headed back to the bus. They will walk you to the leaning tower then you make your way back on your own so pay attention.

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2 minutes ago, KarimaJ said:

 

Yes you can go to Tuscanybus.com and they have a few different packages available. We didn't really have a lot of time in Florence but we flew through the jewelry and spent a bit more time eating and in the leather area. The bus guide will give you a nice map of where everything is which was very helpful. She also gives you some background info on the way there. Pisa does not take long at all, we took the obligatory pictures and headed back to the bus. They will walk you to the leaning tower then you make your way back on your own so pay attention.

 

Thanks.

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On 2/9/2020 at 3:47 PM, schmoopie17 said:

 

Actually, we're very active on the Roll Call for this cruise and have recruited others to our tours of the Amalfi Coast, Cannes/Nice/Monte Carlo, Normandy, Lisbon and Barcelona. We are using ItalyTeurs.eu for a couple of those tours and I just realized they have a Tuscany tour to Siena and San Gimignano (but no winery stops). They also have another Tuscany tour to Greve and other areas in Chianti, including a winery stop. 

 

We're torn between these two tours and would like input on the itinerary differences, if possible. TIA...

 

Big differences.  San Gimignano is a popular walled town full of shops, boutiques, and other shops.  Siena is a pretty large city with a famous central square within a walled perimeter with its share of touristy shops and plenty of cafes.   Going to Chianti is much more rural and you will drive along a picturesque country road (S222) and likely stop at a few smaller villages as well as some wineries.

 

Hank

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Just a small note on Siena:  We drove to Siena and parked in a public lot near one of the entrances to the city.  At that point, we are looking at a very high hill...the central Piazza, the Cathedral and other sights are at the top of the hill.  We figure we are in for a long hike up...And then I see the most wonderful sign:

 

Image result for siena risalita s. francesco

 

That symbol on the left?  Yup...you guessed it..."Public Escalator"!  Walk through those doors...Takes you clear up to the top of the hill..

 

BTW, if you visit Hong Kong, they have the same thing...and Monte Carlo has public elevators to take you from the beach or harbor to the top of the town.

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If you have never been to Florence, you would be making a big mistake by choosing the countryside over it. Sure the countryside is beautiful but its not Florence. You dont have to be an art lover either to appreciate the beauty that the city encapsulates. Just walking around the city and doing nothing is better than Tuscany. Do both if you need to but dont skip Florence.

Edited by XuGator

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