Cradle of the Renaissance and home of the Medici family – Italy’s most progressive art patrons – Florence houses some of the world’s greatest treasures. Florence is around 75 minutes away from Livorno. Pisa, best known for its Leaning Tower but also home to a busy university, fine Romanesque churches and pretty squares, is just 20-25 minutes away. For those who have visited these famous sites, charming historic Lucca, 45 minutes to the north, is an option.
The undistinguished port of Livorno (also know as Leghorn) is the gateway to Tuscany and in particular the cities of Florence (Firenze) and Pisa.
While Florence has a plethora of famous sights, its city centre is small and much of it is pedestrianised. The biggest danger is cultural overload so don’t try and see it all in one go (which is impossible anyway!). Arm yourself with a good map and avoid Mondays when many places are closed. Likewise, the main attractions in Pisa are clustered in one area, so this is also easy to cover on foot.
• Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore (cathedral).
• Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery): the most important art collection in Italy.
• Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery): houses Michaelangelo’s David.
• Ponte Vecchio: the famous Old Bridge home to gold and silversmiths.
• Museo Nazionale del Bargello: Tuscany’s finest sculptures.
• Santa Croce: and the elegant Franciscan church.
• Medici Chapels: family tombs dating back to the 16th century.
• Torre Pendente (Leaning Tower): recently stabilized and re-opened to visitors.
• Duomo: 11th-century gothic cathedral.
High-quality leather produce, gold and silverware and marbled paper are top buys. The area around Santa Croce is home to the Florence’s leather-makers, while the Oltrarno is cluttered with the workshops of local gold and silversmiths – although the Ponte Vecchio is home to the glitzier shops. Similar items can be found in Pisa, as well as numerous souvenirs of the Leaning Tower.
Try Bistecca alla fiorentina (thick T-bone steak grilled over charcoal), minestrone alla fiorentina (vegetable soup), pappardelle alla lepre (pasta with hare sauce), panforte di Siena (confection of honey and candied fruits) and castagnaccio (chestnut cake).
When to go:
The climate is typically Mediterranean in the summer but can be quite cool and wet in winter. July and August are very hot. April to June or September to October are good times to visit with fewer crowds and pleasant, comfortable weather. Dress warmly if visiting November to February.
3km (1.8 miles).
10 minutes town centre.