When your Mediterranean cruise docks in Livorno, Italy, you will have a lot of shore excursion choices. But,here is something they probably won't offe[end]r: a Segway tour of Florence. Livorno is the port city for Florence and Pisa, and since there is virtually nothing of interest to tourists in Livorno, a transfer to either Pisa or Florence is required. Of the two, we have always found Florence to be much more interesting. On our most recent visit, we decided to book a tour with Italy by Segway online a few weeks before our cruise on Crystal Serenity. We booked a round-trip motor coach transfer from Livorno to Florence with the cruise line (about $139 pp) which got us into Florence at about 9:45am. We scheduled our tour for 10:30am, so we had plenty of time to walk from the bus drop-off location to Italy by Segway offices.
We arrived at Italy by Segway's offices about 20 minutes ahead of our scheduled tour time. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by Cristina who introduced us to the other three members of our tour group for the day. She helped us get fitted with helmets (a safety requirement) and utilized her iPad to show a brief introductory training video. Rickee and I are very comfortable on Segways, having ridden them in many cities around the world. However, the other three members of our group had never ridden before so Cristina spent time with each one to help them get comfortable with operating the self-balancing machines. The great thing about a Segway is that you can learn to ride one in about five to ten minutes. If you can stand up, you can ride a Segway!
After everyone was comfortably zipping around on their Segways, Cristina gave each of us an Audio Vox communication unit. These units allow us to hear Cristina's commentary through an earpiece, a real convenience in a crowded and often noisy city like Florence. It should be noted that Italy by Segway is the first company we have toured with that employed the Audio Vox units and we think they should be standard issue on all tours. Using the communication device, Cristina was able to let us know in advance which way we would be turning so we had ample time to position ourselves through the crowds.
With helmets in place and Audio units turned on and working, we began our tour with Cristina leading us to our first destination, the iconic Duomo. When we visited the Dumo in 1998, the crowds of tourists lining up to get inside was incredible. Apparently, the Duomo has not lost any of its appeal. The crowds are just as large, if not larger. Fortunately, the Segways are equipped with a small bell to alert pedestrians that we are coming up behind them so they can clear a path for us.
As we stop in front of the Duomo, Cristina informs us of the history of the structure and how construction was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. She also reminds us that Italian name for "Florence" is actually "Firenze", which explains why all of the signs you see in Italy refer to Firenze and not Florence.
The structure was completed in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The massive dome is a masterpiece of engineering, even by today's standards. There is no way to capture the majesty of this building in photos. It is something you have to see in person.
From the Duomo, we rode the Segways just a couple of blocks to San Lorenzo Basilica. The crowds were much smaller here and we had an opportunity for Cristina to take some photos of us in front of the Basilica. In fact, anytime we wanted a photo, Cristina was more than happy to oblige.
Without going into detail on every single stop on the three-hour long tour (75€ per person), suffice it to say that the Segway tour of Florence (or 'Firenze') covers most of the top tourist sights. One of the highlights for us was a visit to Palazzo Vecchio where you can see a life-sized replica of the Statue of David (the original is on display in the Academy Gallery). And, of course, we visited the porcine "mascot" of Florence to rub its nose for good luck!
Another great historical site we had the opportunity to view, albeit from a distance, was Ponta Vecchio, a Medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are gold and silver jewelers, art dealers and souvenir shops. Local laws prevent Segways from traversing the bridge, but we were able to view it from an excellent photo op spot.
Throughout the tour, we had many opportunities to dismount the Segways, walk around to get a closer look at the sights, or even enjoy a cup of Cappuccino or Gelato (Italian ice cream).
One of our final stops was at Piazza Santa Croce where we took photos of the Basilica of Santa Croce. This also happens to be the meeting place for our return transfer back to the cruise ship. The Piazza is only a 5-minute walk from Italy by Segway offices.
You can see the entire itinerary for this tour on Italy by Segway's website. As you will see, there are many more sights that what we talk about here. The three-hour tour is packed with local attractions and great information. Cristina did an admirable job of leading is through a crowded Florence and using every opportunity to give great information. On a Segway tour, you spend less time walking from one sight to another, which can be quite time-consuming if you are part of a large cruise ship walking tour. That means you get to spend more time at the actual points of interest, and you have time to visit more points of interest. The Segway really is the bestway to see Florence!
We were also able to rig up our GoPro to the handlebar of one of the Segways so we could shoot some video of the experience (see below). At the end of the tour, we returned the machines to Italy by Segway offices, said goodbye to Cristina and our new friends and departed for the walk back to the cruise ship transfer meeting point. We have done a lot of Segway tours in many European cities and the Florence Segway tour is one of the best we have done. Cristina is an excellent guide, the Audio Vox was a nice touch, and Florence has so much to see that it really lends itself to a Segway. We can highly recommend the Florence Segway Tour from Italy by Segway.
For more information, check out their website at http://www.italysegwaytours.com