May 11, 2017

Western Mediterranean Cruise - Tuscan Region

Livorno was our third port, and final stop in Italy. It's located near the incredible city of Florence, but since we had visited there before on our last trip, we decided to see the Tuscan towns of Siena and San Gimignano instead. We had another driver today and enjoyed the trip out. This part of Italy is full of castles, villas, vineyards, olive groves and rolling green hills as far as the eye can see - BEAUTIFUL! Sadly all my dad's notes and researches on these cities was taken off a table in the library by another passenger while we were playing games, but he still a great job directing us around from memory.

The drive out to Siena took almost 2 hours so we took a couple breaks on the way to stretch our legs and look at the countryside. On our way out we also learned several things from our driver like Lucca is the best city in Italy (his hometown), and in Pisa they do everything wrong. 

When we arrived in Siena we made our way to the historic city center, known as the Piazza del Campo, that dates back to the 12th century. The Piazza is the site of the famous Palio, a bareback horse race. There were a bunch of school children there walking through displays of projects other students had made about Siena and the Piazza. I loved looking at them and took a couple photos of my favorite ones. We climbed the Torre del Mangia bell tower, which was completed in 1348. The reward for climbing up the 400 tower steps is views of the entire city and surrounding countryside.

Arriving in Siena!

We passed some amazing window displays on our walk through town

The Piazza del Campo

The tower we were about to climb

The Palio horse races

Halfway up the tower looking down on the Piazza

Great views from the top!

We also walked through the Siena Cathedral, one of the finest Gothic churches in Italy. The floors are all marble mosaics, some dating back to the 14th century. Equally impressive are the painted ceilings and domes and the banded light/dark marble columns.

I loved this organ with the trumpets

Some of the amazing floor mosaics

I even found one with my name!

From Siena it was another hour drive to the walled city of San Gimignano. We stopped at a little walled city on our way there and I can't remember what it was called, but it had an incredible vineyard in front. San Gimignano is known for it's well preserved towers. We climbed one for great views of the city. We also stopped for a treat at the Gelataria Dondoli, voted the world's best gelato!

First sighting of San Gimignano and it's towers

We bought Dave's mom a hand painted bowl here and took a picture in front of the shop

Looking down one of the streets

Our driver told us about this Gelateria that was voted the "World's Best." The lines were long, but we got some and it was oh so delicious. 

Views from our second tower climb

Even though it had already been a long day and we still had an hour and half drive back to the coast, we couldn't leave without a quick stop in Pisa. Our driver had a curfew so he only gave us 30 minutes there, but I was glad we got to go. We tried to see if we could climb the famous leaning tower, but they control the times people can go up and down and our window wasn't long enough to accomplish that. We did tour the baptistery next door and took some fun photos with the tower.

Recreating some photos from 11 years ago :)

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