August 26, 2013

Tour or Stay Onboard? Rome or Civitavecchio? Florence or Livorno? What I Chose.

On Saturday, August 17, with the ship docked at Rome (OK, Civitavecchia), I chose to spend the day onboard. As you might imagine, there were plenty of land tours I might have taken. But I've seen Rome . . . at least all of the sights the tour packages would have covered. It felt good to stay put, recharge a little, and let everyone else scamper off the boat, climb in and out of the tour buses, and work their way back to the ship in 90-degree heat.

I relaxed, caught my breath, had a great massage, and savored the charming views of the port town of Civitavecchio. Who needs the Forum or the Colosseum when you can look at this?

The next day we docked at Livorno, the port closest to Florence -- a place as rich in history, art, and culture as any city in the world. Its center city is compact and walkable. I'd rank it up there with Paris as my favorite city in Europe (mainland Europe, that is; London and Edinburgh may beat Paris and Florence for my top spots).

Given my love for Florence, it seemed almost sacrilegious to rush in and out of the city for a few hours of sightseeing. I didn't want a conducted tour of a special place I had always enjoyed exploring on my own. Based on my experiences at Amalfi and other stops, I knew much of the allotted tour time would be taken up with logistics and transportation.

There were also tours to Siena, San Gimignano, or Pisa. I'd visited these wonderful towns before, and a quick in-and-out on a hot day just didn't appeal.

Again, I decided to stay on the ship and enjoy the views of Livorno, which a guidebook describes as "one of the biggest and grittiest ports on the northwestern Italian coast" with "little to attract visitors."

Who needs Michelangelo's David or the Ponte Vecchio when you can look at this?

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