We cruised for a night and arrived to the port of Livorno. It's primarily an industrial port and we caught a bus to travel north to visit countryside villages refer to as Cinque Terra. It's mainly five small coastal towns that are near each other. We are in the Tuscany region and lovely small towns resting between vineyards are the norm.
As we left Livorno on the freeway we passed the site of Pisa. Further north is the city of Florence. Several of the cruise passengers were going to take a bus day tour to both sites. It's possible to take the train from Livorno to Florence since it takes about an hour and a half each way.
Trini and I visited both sites two years ago. Pisa's Leaning Tower site is a relatively small area and can be viewed quickly. The city of Florence, on the other hand, takes several days to visit. It's much more than just its famous sites. Florence is a beautiful and picturesque city. To do it justice, one should visit it for several days to experience it by day and night. Visiting Florence is a must for those wishing to experience the Tuscany atmosphere.
As we kept traveling north to Cinque Terra, we could see at a distance the mountains were the carrara marble (also called Luna marble) is still being quarried and exported worldwide. That is the same site where Michelangelo,and many other famous Italian sculptors, obtain their marble blocks. This marble quarry provided the marble for numerous famous buildings and structures throughout Italy. It's quite impressive to see the side of a huge mountain to be completely exposed and its all white. There are many companies along the road that cut huge marble blocks into various sizes.
On our way to Cinque Terra, we passed through the city of La Spezia which is in the Italian Riviera area. It's a small city with a large and outdated naval base. It's outdated since it was built in the 1900s. This area was heavily bombed during WWII because it was a naval port that was captured by the Germans with a considerable amount of port area dedicated to submarines. We saw several modern frigates and submarines in port.
After traveling for an additional 30-minutes we reached the first of the five hilltop and coastal towns. We had to leave our bus and walk down the cliff into the town built in the deep ravine. One views several types of living structures built into small picturesque coastlines in the Amalfi coastline. It's unique to walk down narrow stone pathways. You see very steep rolling mountains and living structures built into the sides of the range. These towns have vineyards on the mountain sides.
Keep in mind that it is now November, the winds from the sea are strong and cold in the first town. We were informed that we were going to get on the local water ferry to go to the next town since the only road over had been recently closed due to a landslide. The ferry ride was thirty minutes. As we were approaching the next town we saw a cannon bunker pointing toward the sea. It was built by the Germans and it now stands as a monument of the war.
The next village we were about to visit was clearly a casual resort area for the summer months. It was enjoyable visiting the local shops and watching the local people. The businesses are small and quite appealing. We visited the local butcher shop, the market, several art shops and of course the wine stores. We bought a bottle of local wine and pastries. It was cool outside but we nevertheless enjoyed the red vino and the fruit rolls. Others traveling with us were enjoying their gelato cones.
We were scheduled to take the Italian train that travels through here and go over to the next town also on the coastline. We road the train for only 3-minutes.
This was the final town we would visit for today. Many of the local businesses were closed because it was out of season. It's actually nice to visit this area without the summer crowds. We were on our own to eat before we returned to our ship so we entered one of the few restaurants that was opened. It was very small and crowded space but in its own unique way it was quaint. Few seats were available but a couple invited us to share their table. They highlighted that they were both retired teachers from the San Francisco area. We shared stories mainly about our travels and, of course, about wines we had tasted in different parts of the world. It was a delight to eat local cuisine, share personal stories and laugh a lot. November is the time for olive harvest so of course we had to try the local olives with cheese. Remember the saying, "when in Italy, do as the Italians".
As we settled in to eat and we started talking amongst the different tables, we soon realized that the charm of Tuscany had enveloped us. Tuscany is a different world where the speed of life comes to a pleasantly slow pace and one easily gets into the sense of NOW. Issues back home get put aside and the senses once again dominated the moment. One views the small towns for their unique charm. The wind seems to whispers as it flows through the narrow streets. It's a delight to hear the locals speaking to each other in Italian. As one stops to pay attention to the smells, one gets a scent of the cold sea breeze, the aroma of delicious Italian foods and firewood burning somewhere. The scents all around were captivating and truly a moving emotional experience.
We were sorry to have to board our bus to return to port but it was getting late and the temperature was dropping quickly.
We arrived to port as it was getting dark. We quickly left port and headed north to visit Toulon, France.