Livorno – gateway to Florence, Piza and the wonderful Tuscany region (yeah…another sea day yesterday). In fact, it is the second largest city in Tuscany (right behind Florence).
In 1881 the navel accademy was established here. Navy personnel from around the world now attend to hone their skills and enhance their knowledge at one of the world’s finest facilities. In addition, the US has a very large military base here, second only to their presence in Germany.
If you’ve never been to Piza before, you might find the tower somewhat smaller than expected (kind of like the Mona Lisa painting). However its size has never been the attraction. Thankfully the lean has been stopped, as well as left in place, to forever attract the popular I’m-holding-up-the-tower photographs. A perhaps lesser known historical note is that Galileo was born here in 1564 and founded the department of mathematics at the Piza University.
Exotic cars abound, the area being home to so many of them. Fiat, one parent company, has Lancia, Ferrari, Maserati, and Alpha Romeo all based in Tuscany. Audi owns the other major well-know brand – Lamborghini. A rather fun-filled day trip (for the car enthusiast) can be accomplished the next time you find yourself in Modena tasting and learning all about GOOD balsamic vinegar. Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini are all within about 20 to 30 minutes (in different directions) from Modena.
Then, of course, there are the wines. Vineyards are everywhere giving birth to so many superb varieties. From the Super Tuscans to the King itself, Brunello di Montalcino, all are here to tempt both your palate and your wallet. Unfortunately, to the world’s chagrin but certainly to the Italians credit, the price here is no longer the incredible bargain it once was. Having said that, however, if you visit the vineyards, you will still find the occasional surprise or three. Not everything makes it to the major stores. Thank goodness!
The 13th century medieval town of San Gimignano awaits us. So onward we travel. This marvelous town stands today much as it did so many centuries ago. It is known as the Town of Fine Towers, of which 12 still stand. Although now having the benefits of running water and electricity, it retains its old world charm with stores lining the cobblestone streets. They are now as much part of the walls and buildings as their counterparts were in the 1200’s. Yes the majority are really geared to the tourist, but not all contain the gaudy, made-in China items known the world over. Many do have honest Italian goods only available within the area.
An ancient variety of the Vernaccia grape is grown on the sandstone hills in the immediate area. The white wine that it is used for, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, is one of the finer whites in an area that is certainly more commonly known for its big red wines. It’s another one of those pleasant surprises.
A long day travelling, walking, shopping, eating and wine-tasting brings us back to the ship. And…oh darn…we have to do it all over again tomorrow.