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A quick visit to Marseilles and Florence

CEBU, Philippines — The first destination of the Royal Princess Cruise ship when we left the Port of Barcelona was the Port of Marseilles, in Southern France, and the gateway to Provence, which we reached after an overnight sailing. The French call it Marseilles Fos Port or the Great Seaport of Marseilles.

But this port has become too small, and now good only for mega yachts and fishing boats and so the French constructed a new Marseilles Provence Cruise Terminal (MRCT) which has become a destination port for cruise liners on their way to the Mediterranean. In the 2016, about 1.6 million passengers on board cruise liners had passed through this port.

From the MRCT, we took a free shuttle bus to the Old Port of Marseilles, where we came upon lots of tourists eating in restaurants. Marseilles is where the famous Bouillabaisse soup comes from. There is a hop-on, hop-off bus that takes visitors on a tour of the Old Port of Marseilles all the way up to the Norte Dame de la Garde, a Basilica in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has a commanding view of Marseilles.

After a four-hour stop at Marseilles, we returned to the Royal Princes for an overnight trip to the Port of Livorno, Italy, the gateway to Florence or Firenze.

Arriving in the Port of Livorno, the ship’s captain announced that a strong rain dropped on Livorno that night and disabled the trains to Florence. So, together with other enterprising passengers, we took a taxi van for the 80-kilometer trip to Florence on the Italian Autostrada, their equivalent of Germany’s Autobahn freeway. The trip took an hour and the driver dropped us in the heart of Florence, where he’d later pick us up for the return trip back to the Port of Livorno.

I’ve been to Firenze (Florence) before, and this is one city in Tuscany that I never get tired of visiting. The main square where the Basilica de Santa Croce is located is just a short walk to the Palazzo Vecchio, which is the Town Hall of Firenze. In front of this palace fortress is a replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David.

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Beside this edifice is the Loggia del Lanzi, which I consider to be the main attraction in this piazza, as one can see the sculptures of the Rape (some call it the Abduction) of the Sabine Women, Hercules slaying the Centaur Nessus and – my favorite – Perseus beheading the dreaded Medusa. All these famous figures were sculpted during the Renaissance period.

There was one thing I missed during my previous visit to Florence and, finally on this recent trip, I was able to see the museum dedicated to that medieval genius Leonardo Da Vinci. This museum was unique in the sense that they had copies of many of Da Vinci’s plans and they had replicas of what Leonardo Da Vinci drew with his sketchbook. There, museum visitors could touch what Da Vinci sketched.

Then they had an hour-long video presentation on the works of Leonardo Da Vinci. But since this was a quick visit to Florence, we had to walk back to the main square, where the taxi van was already waiting for us for another hour-long trip back to the Port of Livorno, where the Royal Princess was docked… then onwards to our next cruise destination.

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