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Florence revisited

THE ROYAL PRINCESS AT SEA — After our short visit to the Port of Marseille, the largest Port in France, the Royal Princess set sail for the Port of Livorno, north of Rome, where we could take a train to tour the City of Florence (Firenze in Italian) or visit the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa or San Gimigliano or Sienna. But since I visited Florence and Pisa five years ago, I decided to skip the Leaning Tower of Pisa simply because this is only one tourism site that I hated looking at those tourists who act like they are doing their tai chi morning exercises, but in truth they are trying to get their photo trying to prevent the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling.

But the night before the ship arrived in the Port of Livorno, strong typhoon-type rains battered this Port city and the ship's captain announced that some tours might have to be cancelled because of lack of transportation services. Indeed, the next morning as we docked in Livorno, we were told that railway services were suspended because many areas were flooded. Just the same, we disembarked from the ship and checked our options. There was an Avis Rent-a-Car complete with GPS, but I didn't want to risk driving in the Autostrada.

It was then that a taxi driver with a Fiat van approached us to say that he would charge US$ 50.00 per person for a trip to Florence and back to the Port of Livorno.All he needed for us to do is to have his small van full of passengers and this was no problem because there are so many tourists wishing to go to Florence. It was only an hour's drive from Livorno to Florence.

Apparently, if we took a train, we would still have to hire a taxi to bring us to the center of Florence. Hence, as promised, the taxi driver dropped us at the main square, the Piazza Sta. Croce, which is called the Ill Duomo. Its Baptistery in front of the church is famous for its beautiful glided bronze doors. The Ill Duomo is the final resting place of the famous medieval names; Galileo Galilie, Michelangelo (who did the Sistine Chapel) in the Vatican), Machiavelli and Dante (of the Divine Comedy fame) are buried. As the long lines of tourists wishing to enter the Ill Duomo, we decided to skip going inside.

We continued to walk up ahead and ended up in another famous square, the Piazza dellaSignoria, the government center of Florence. This is where you will see a copy of the statue of David (I think the original is in the Louvre in Paris) and a great statute of Perseus who cut off the head of the Medusa and other statues like the famous rape of the Sabin women. There must have been an important governmental meeting that day because the area was crawling with Carabinieri (Italian Police) and the area cordoned off. 

One thing I missed when I last visited Florence five years ago was to visit the Da Vinci Museum simply because I couldn't find it. I finally approached a tour guide and asked for instructions where to see this museum and finally I found it. It is called the Da Vinci Experience and tickets cost 10 Euros with a seniors' discount. It was both an exhibition hall and a theater that showed a documentary of the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci.

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Basically this museum features exhibits of the designs and machines of Leonardo Da Vinci, which they built in a smaller scale. It is there that you can see the drawings of Da Vinci turned into working models. Then a documentary of the art of Da Vinci is shown inside a theater. Leonardo Da Vinci wasn't only one of the world's greatest artist and painter; he was also a military genius whose early drawings later became a battle tank or an airplane.

After exactly four hours in Florence, the taxi driver was waiting for us at the main square and drove us back to the Royal Princess. The following day was a full day at sea, passing by the Island of Sicily on our way to the Island of Katakolon, where famous Olympia is located. This is where the first Olympic games were played three thousand years ago.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com. or vsbobita@gmail.com.  His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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