The first thing to know when you see “Florence” on the itinerary of your Mediterranean cruise is that your ship won’t be docking in Florence’s city center. A quick glance at a map of Italy will show you the Renaissance capital lies quite a distance from the coast, so the top tip for cruise visitors to Florence is this: you need to get yourself to Florence.
Florence’s cruise port is Livorno, which lies roughly 55 miles from Florence. The cruise port is far enough from central Livorno that you should check with your cruise about a shuttle into Livorno’s train station, from which you can easily catch a train into Florence. Just be sure you know when you need to be back at your ship and what the return train schedule is before you leave, so you know when you have to be back at Florence’s station for the return trip to Livorno that evening.
Here are some other Florence tips for people visiting the city from a cruise:
- Florence is very walkable. The historic city center is a short walk from the train station, and nearly every sight you want to see is within the center. Even if you want to wander into the less-visited Oltrarno neighborhood across the Arno River, you’ll still be able to walk just about everywhere you want to go.
- Florence’s museums are extremely busy. And by “busy,” we mean “they have really long lines.” Even in the off-season, lines to get into the Uffizi and Accademia can sometimes be hours-long. You can reserve entry times to both in advance, if you know what time you’ll arrive in Florence, or you can book a guided tour that includes a reserved entry.
- Florence is full of churches worth checking out. Yes, the Duomo is the most recognized church in the city, but you’re encouraged to walk into any church you pass. You may find artwork by Florentine masters – or their tombs – and many of the less-famous churches in Florence are much less crowded.
- Florence’s postcard view requires a hike uphill. The view you see in all the postcards of the city, overlooking the famous red roofs and gorgeous domed cathedral, is from the Piazzale Michelangelo. You can walk up if you have the time, or you can catch a bus (they leave from in front of the train station).
- Florence is famous for leather. There are two outdoor leather markets in Florence, so if you’re hoping to do some shopping this might be an excellent chance to do just that. Just keep an eye on your bag, as these crowded outdoor markets can be popular with pickpockets, too.
- Florence is renowned for gelato. There are lots of places in Italy where you can get exceptional gelato, but many think Florence ranks among the best. Skip the gelato shops where gelato is piled in high mountains in the cases, as that’s not freshly-made each day.
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