Civitavecchia - Livorno, Italy - DIY a cross-country overnight tour to San Gimignano - Florence (Ufficy Gallery) - Pisa (Leaning Tower)

As we were in Rome in 2007 but never been in Tuscany we decided to leave the ship, to rent a car and to go to Tuscany and return the next day in Livorno.

After breakfast we started:

In front of the ship there were taxis and buses waiting. Surprising for NCL they only used the newest buses and if we were on MSC we only got the oldest. The taxis were not interested to give us a ride to the car rental station. They were only interested to sell their Rome tours.

"Thank you" is well known by the bus drivers in all cruiser's languages to attract your attention to the tips...

Offiziell ist es verboten zum Hafenausgang zu laufen. Nur von der Stelle, an der wir lagen, war es gar nicht so weit, bis zum Hafentor. Dort gibt es zu meinem Erstaunen einen Pavillion vom örtlichen Fremdenverkehrsamt.

Officially it's forbidden to walk to the port exit. But from the place we berthed it was not so far to the port exit. There was a new kiosk from the local tourist information.

You can get also here the BIRG-Tickets (day passes for Rome incl. public transport within Rome) and tickets for Ho-Ho-Buses in Rome. Some cruisers bought the Ho-Ho-Bus-tickets and were surprised to learn that we are about 40 miles away from Rome and that the Ho-Ho-Buses do not stop in Civitavecchia...

We wanted to get a car from Europcar and they told us the fastest way to their rental location and it goes through the port... Europcar told us not to exit at the port gate but as we did not berth where normally MSC berths our shuttle bus did not call the nearest port gate to their office. So we walked all the way to the Reception Building for all Ferry Passengers.

... here we need to make a U-turn... it's to far where we need to go...

Just in front of this section there is on the right side a stairway to the town center.

So if we should have used the bus to this stop to get to the stairway...

So many nice places to take pictures of the port... but none where you see the cruise ships...

More steps than you might think when you see the stairway.

To the street and turn left.

There are more places to watch the port activities but none place to watch the cruise ship activities as well.

Soon we find AVIS... but no trace from Europcar... and we walked about ten minutes already... (according to Europcar it's only five "Italian" minutes from the stairways...)

On the left there is sign for Europcar...

and on the right side there is the rental location.

Our first car had a flat-tire.

For the 2nd car it does not make sense to buy an additional coverage because there were so many damages on the lacquer...

Who cares??? It's no beauty-contest for the car we need to win - we just want to make a trip to the nature. I guess none will steal the car that we might cancel the theft protection insurance...

On the way to the nature we had small lunch in an Italian Ristorante.

We had some Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.. and check the number of chilli-pieces... minimum...

Such a trip to the nature is something beautiful...

It's a shame that you cannot stop everywhere to see nice cities like Siena...

Let's see if we have a chance when we call Livorno next year by OCEAN PRINCESS.

Obviously we drove all the time the wrong way... it's not Rome-bound... It's Florence-bound...

Oops... Looks really like that we totally lost if San Gimignano appeared on the signpost...

But with such a beautiful landscape you have no time take care of the signposts...

As the ancient Roman said: all ways are going to Rome... Somewhen there must be a sign for Civitavechhia...

But it looks like San Gimignano...

Looks exactly like the movie adapted by Frances May's "Under the Tuscan Sun".

Just beautiful...

As they welcomed us we decided to stay... We would not make it anyway back to the ship... Officially we missed the train (happened to three other cruisers...). Inofficially we had a flat-tire... somehow we mixed up the order of the incidents...

2.00 EUR per hour... you can live with... it will become soon dark anyway...

Just follow the circles...

to get to downtown...

We asked officially on board if there is any form we need to fill out before we officially leave the ship and return in another port. They let us know that they will not wait for us. Only if we insist that they should wait we need to book a ship's tour. It's our risk and on our expenses to get to the next port if we miss the ship.

But it's not without risk: Guess the weather has changed and the next port is skipped from the schedule. Each need to calculate its individual risk.

We were just happy to see the landscape and walked around in town.

You can taste and buy everywhere Tuscan specialities like Wine and Cheese...

The cat bid farewell to us in San Gimignano.

We continue to Florence. There I redeemed some points at Holiday Inn. The location is absolutely fantastic. Directly at the highway so that we did not need to navigate through the city.

All we wanted to see was Florence by night.

That's why we went to Piazzale Michelangelo.

It's like a dream.

But now it became colder here uphills.

It's a shame that there is no more than a noble restaurant with a view to David's butt.

One of the replicas in the city.

Does he need to see a dermatologist??? Why it looks so strange???

Because there was no taxi around and no phone number of the hotel on the keycard we could not ask the receptionist to send us a taxi. As we could not find a tobacco store we could not buy any tickets for the bus we used to get downhills to the river Arno. On the bridge there were so many locks. What for???

Here are the Ufficy Galleries for which we ordered some tickets for the next day.

Also the view on the river Arno is like a dream again.

No taxi stopped. So we walked into the downtown area to find a taxi.

Somehow we were hungry. So we went to Casa del Vin Santo. It was not listed in one of our guide books. But he pizzaria round the corner had only pizza which looked very American style and not freshly made. In my mind I see the pizza pieces in the microwave...

They attracted very discreetly our attention to their menu. Not obtrusive like in Athen's Plaka district.

Looks like that there were only locals in the ristorante. We saw Foccacia with Parma Ham and Argula on the menue. Sounded like Todd English on QUEEN MARY 2...

We walked over to Piazza Republica.

There we finally found a taxi. Later the receptionist from hotel explained that you cannot stop a taxi. You can only call a taxi or go to a stand. That's why never a taxi stopped when we try to get one. Now we know more.

Over the night it became cold. The car was full of condensation.

Our hotel was somehow unlucky. Normally I have breakfast in the hotel when I redeem points so they have some revenue. But unfortunate the best coffee house in Florence is just opposite of the hotel: Café Piansa. They should have the very best Cappucino in the town. Bruno as coffee fan insisted to see this place and have breakfast there after reading the review in the Smart Travelling guide. In Germany it's popular as it is co-published by a German newspaper as popular like New York Times or Washington Post as "A perfect weekend in...". So we found Casa Alfonso in Barcelona.

Inside it looked like a Italian coffee house.

We had the impression that half of the city was meeting there.

According to the guide book we should try Cornetto integralo. But we took also something salty.

Cornetto is a popular ice-cream in Europe which does not look like this Cornetto integralo.

Bruno had a second cappucino after 1.20 EUR per cappucino fits in our budget. For 10.20 EUR we had a great breakfast.

Later we also bought a 10+1-coffeebean mixture so Bruno can celebrate his cappucino at home forthcoming weekend.

In the hotel we wanted to use the Business Center to print out the invitations for the Cabin Tour. Unfortunately the printer did not work. So they let us print without charge. So we regretted that we only had the use of internet and some bus tickets.

Bus 23 took us directly from the hotel to the Ufficy Galleries.

During the rush-hour it was somehow adventurous.

As the Ufficy Galleries open at 9 am we get off a little earlier to have a walk around the river Arno.

It was a good occassion to see everything now during the daylight.

In the darkness the city is more brilliant.

Last night it was just magic.

Our destination: the Ufficy Galleries.

The feet of the street light of the promenade look somehow funny.

Some construction works...

We ordered our tickets by phone on Just a call and you get a reference number. For collection of tickets we got a time frame of 15 minutes. We need to collect the tickets at entrance number 3.

Nobody there.

But there was a surcharge for this service of 4.00 EUR.

Then we can enter through entrance number 1.

Elevators are available for wheelchairs and other mobility reduced. We need to walk the endless long stairways upwards.

A neverending stairway.

When we arrived in the Galleries we learned that taking pictures is forbidden. You can only take pictures from the windows to outside.

But we were anyway so much impressed that we had no time to take pictures.

But after one half it was somehow too much. It was just killing. As beautiful as art can be. Boticelli's painting "The Birth of Venus" was luckily in the first part of the exhibition.

We enjoyed the view to outside from here.

We walked to the terrace to enjoy this spectacular view.

A wonderful place to have a cup of cappucino.

Even it would be cold outside or raining you can enjoy the view if you sit indoor.

I was shocked to pay 4.50 EUR for a pot of tea. But Bruno's Cappucino was also 4.50 EUR and only half as good as at Café Piansa.

In the exit area after the exit check we could take pictures again.

There was so much to see in Florence.

It was sunny but cold so we wanted to have another cup of Cappucino somewhere around.

On Pizzal della Signora only Café Rivoire seems to be not a tourist trap as many Italians were standing at the bar to have a cup of coffee.

From the menu we learned that they are manufacturer of chocolate.

But we learned as well that a cappucino is 5.50 EUR. I told few days later a friend who works temporary as pianist in Frankfurt's Steigenberger Hotel Frankfurter Hof that I need to pay 5.50 EUR for a cappucino. When I got later the bill it was 5.50 EUR as well. But we learned that the service charge is already included.

But for 6.50 EUR you get a can of tea and a better brand.

As we were in Florence and we visited such a store we need to try original Florentines. Do not look like in Germany and were available with light and dark chocolate. Both were good.

We continued to walk to find our Bus 23 around Piazza del Duomo. But the transport company just changed recently the routes and new maps were not published on their website so far. So we walked around to find anything.

At Piazza de San Marco we found finally our bus stop. There are also mini-buses available which can go through the little lanes in the city.

Now we know how to find the ticket sales outlets. Sorry that we had not find anything like this last night at Piazzale Michelangelo.

Here we were right. Bus 23A got us back to our hotel.

This time Bruno missed to pack his shorts and packed two of mine. But I missed to pack the GPS. So we need to navigate the classical way. No reason why but I bought a classical map of the Tuscany before in Germany.

FI-PI-LI - does it stands for the Philippines or for what??? Or for Firenze - Pisa- Livorno???

Left back to the port and right to the Leaning Tower.

Torre pendente... the Italian expression for the leaning tower.

Pisa was waiting for us...

Again we crossing the River Arno.

Now we had to follow Pizza del Miracoli.

We were lucky to had a Plan B for worst case that the main parking was fully occupied.

1.75 EUR per hour for parking was fine. Cheaper than San Gimignano.

We hoped to find our car later when we wanted to return.

For the next time.

That's how a Italian Parking Fine looks like.

There she is between the building.

Looked like an amusement park.

There are number of historical buildings around the Leaning Tower.

As the tower is anyway lean I can use the diagonal to get the whole length on the picture.

I pre-ordered the tickets at Opera della Primaziale Pisana. You book a certain time frame - depending to the time of the day between 20 and 30 minutes. Unfortunately I did not allow pop-ups so I could not see the confirmation. Two mails in English remained unattended. A call was attendent by a non-English speaking agent. So I asked an Italian co-worker to translate a mail for another request. The answer came in English. Presentation of my national ID-Card will be good to get the tickets at the collection counter for pre-booked tickets.

Left next to the ticket office we should meet 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled time.

Depending what else you like to see you can get combi-tickets.

But we wanted only to see the tower.

When we had another cappucino (2.00 EUR) in an outdoor-café and waited there for the tour. But we could see how others were laying away the wall at the second highest level. Next to us another German couple were sitting. She liked to go. But he did not. So she went with Bruno upwards as I did not want to go anymore.

That's why I can only enjoy the pictures with you all.

On the tower Bruno met two other German-speaking cruisers from NORWEGIAN GEM and he "adopted" them and took them with us. As we had seats in our car available and they could save the train, bus and port shuttle and go with us. They told that they paged for us last night and that three other cruisers missed the ship because they missed the train back to Civitavecchia.

We used the country roads back to Livorno and made it in 20 minutes. I checked the driving instructions before on the port's website.

But there were only information for ferry passengers avaialble so we arrived at the ferry entrance.

The entrance for cruisers was just around the corner so you can use the directions for guidance and let them give you last instructions for the last mile.

Our NORWEGIAN GEM was waiting for us.

All the taxis and mini-buses with private tours were coming back.

All the shuttles got the tourists back to the ship. It should be 5 EUR for the shuttle.

Hertz-agents were waiting for their customers for car return. There was none from Europcar as they did not know that we wanted to return the car at the pier as we did not rent the car from here this morning. So we called them. But they told us that this is no problem and gave us instructions what to do to get the car collected later the day. We did what they told us and returned to the ship. For this service Europcar charged 20 EUR. A taxi from there rental location would be the same amount. Since we did not return the day before I was expecting a clyster from the security. But was nothing and we could enter the ship. Two wonderful days in the Tuscany terminated.

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