Exploring Italy Family Style Map
We had never been to Italy as a family, and I had not been there since I was in the Navy many years ago, so the concept of going there and exploring it was exciting for all of us. Especially exciting due to the wide range of locations we selected to visit!
Note that we only rented a car while in Florence, during the other time frames of this trip we utilized the Italian Rail System. Yes it may not be considered as good as the French Rail System, but we had no issues, the trains were on time, clean and got to our destination(s) at the time(s) advertised. We did not see a way to cover all of the places we wanted to visit while in Florence without a vehicle, as each of those destinations were not only widely separated (ie; Florence to Siena, Siena to Livorno via country roads, Florence to Pisa and Florence to Maranello) but we did not want to be tied to a train schedule. As you will read on this page, this allowed us to stop anywhere we wanted, and to remain there for as long as we wanted.
Note also that we were keenly aware that our children were not going to be completely excited about a constant diet of historic buildings, churches, etc. So we planned a surprise for them; click here to read about that surprise.
Some Fun Facts about Italy
- Italy has a free wine fountain, found in Caldari di Ortona.
- Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world.
- All three of Europe’s active volcanoes are in Italy.
- Italians invented pizza in Naples.
- Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world.
- Italians have eaten pasta since the 4th century B.C..
- There are over 1,500 lakes in Italy.
- Italians consume 14 billion espressos each year.
- One-fifth of Italy is covered in hills and mountains.
- Italy is the world’s largest wine producer.
- Italy has a low birth rate and the oldest population in Europe.
- Tourists throw €3,000 into the Trevi fountain every day.
- Rome is over 2,000 years old – but Italy is one of Europe’s youngest countries.
- The Italians have over 2,500 types of cheese.
Leonardo da Vinci International Airport Arrival
Due to the very diverse locations we had decided upon for this trip, our planning had to take into account a number of factors; accommodations, transportation & which type, to rent a car or not, what to do & see in each location, etc. The research we performed took place over several months, as we would develop tentative plans and then discuss them. Once we had decided that a rental car could be isolated to "only during our stay in Florence", our focus then shifted to determining train station locations and train schedules.
I am not going to describe how we flew to Rome, suffice it to say that we had a pleasant flight and got there jet-lagged. Yes, it is difficult to sleep in an airplane seat and yes, we all arrived feeling like we had to find coffee immediately!
Note that we flew into Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, which is 32 kilometers from our apartment rental near the Vatican. Using a taxi would have been very expensive, so we arranged to use a "hired car" (remember this is pre-Uber). As you can see in these two images, the airport was very crowded and it was a good decision to use a hired car!
We encourage you to click here to be taken to our "Exploring Rome" page, where you will find a number of beautiful pictures and informative descriptions & maps of what we saw.
Our Visit to Florence
The next stop (and the first stop after Rome) on our Trek through Italy was Florence a beautiful city; full of amazing architecture, historical sites and amazing art collections residing in various museums.
Yes, Florence is only 270 kilometers north from Rome on the Italian E35 Autostrada, but the train service between the two cities is frequent & fast and our game plan called for us to rent a car only while in Florence.
Click here to visit our Florence Page.
Our Visit to Siena & Monteriggioni
Our first day-trip from Florence, was to drive to Siena so we could see the famous horse race there. The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a horse race that is held twice each year, on 2 July and 16 August.
Click here to visit our Siena & Monteriggioni Page.
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls, form "an unforgettable skyline". Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples of secular buildings as well as churches.
Click here to visit our San Gimignano Page.
Livorno is a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Livorno, having a population of 158,493 residents in December 2017. It has traditionally been known in English as Leghorn.
The construction of the Roman road "Via Aurelia" in 241BC, coincided with the occupation of the region by the Romans, who left traces of their presence in the toponyms and ruins of towers. The natural cove called Liburna, later transformed into Livorna, before becoming Livorno certainly in eighteenth century.
We had decided to visit Livorno (after our visit to Siena & San Gimignano) partially because I had visited it repeatedly while in the Navy. The other reason was because it has a beautiful beach and we were in the mood for some relaxation after our drive from Siena.
The route we selected was SR68 to the Italian Coast from San Gimignano, turned north on the Italy SS1 and drove to the Livorno area. This was a nice drive along the Italian coastline, and took us through some interesting villages as we proceeded north.
Calambrone Beach, Italy
We decided that since it was such a nice day, that a beach outing would be a really good idea. However, we soon found out that there is no such thing as a "free" beach chair, everything has to be rented from whomever "owns" that section of the beach. This beach is near Calambrone, 9.6 kilometers north of Livorno.
Even though the beach was initially sparsely populated when we arrived (image to the left), by mid-afternoon it had become packed (image to the right). However, since it was such a nice day and we had already paid for our beach chairs, we hung out longer. The Mediterranean water temperature was comfortable and all of us enjoyed our time here before driving back to Florence.
Click here to see a Google Images set of pics from the Calambrone beach & vicinity.
Calambrone Beach Crowd Expansion
The crowd continued to grow throughout the day, and by the time we had to depart, the beach was covered with beach-goers!
You should not let the crowds convice you not to visit this beach - it is a great way to cool off after visiting the Tower of Pisa, or to just kick back and enjoy the day. Be warned though - all of the beach equipment shown in any of these images is "rented" from the beach owner. This is common in most of Europe, the concept of beaches belonging to the public is purely a United States concept.
Driving to Pisa was straightforward, however the final miles were on city streets and conditions were very crowded. Parking was a major challenge, as the tourists had already taken up every available parking place for blocks surrounding the Piazza del Duomo. You will need a good source of information about where to go and you should have your mobile mapping device set - or you might wind up driving aimlessly around Pisa!
Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa [ˈtorre di ˈpiːza]) is the campanile, or
freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt.
The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city's Cathedral
Square (Piazza del Duomo), after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry. The "lean" started during
construction in the 12th century, due to an inadequate foundation. There have been numerous attempts
to correct the "lean" but none have been successful.
The tower is 183.27 feet on the "low side" and 185.93 feet on the "high side", and there are 294 steps from the base to the top.
Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from the centre.
There is a limit of 45 people on the tower at any point in time, due obviously to their desire not to stress the "leaning" anymore than they need to. So the tickets (which are expensive) are issued for a specific date and time. You have to amuse yourself until your time comes up.
Piazza del Duomo Grounds
The views of the area surrounding the Pisa Cathedral and the Leaning Tower as you ascend the Tower are excellent. However, if you stand on the "down-hill side" of the Tower the feeling is a little worrisome, because you are leaning at an angle that is very noticeable!
The view of the horizon is 16.6 miles from this height of 183.3 feet, and the views of the city of Pisa are also very good.
Pisa Baptistery of St. John
A Roman Catholic ecclesiastical building in Pisa, Italy. Construction
started in 1152 to replace an older baptistery, and when it was completed in 1363, it became the second
building, in chronological order, in the Piazza dei Miracoli, near the Duomo di Pisa and the cathedral's
free-standing campanile, the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The baptistery was designed by Diotisalvi, whose
signature can be read on two pillars inside the building, with the date 1153.
The largest baptistery in Italy, it is 54.86 meters high, with a diameter of 34.13 meters. The Pisa Baptistery is an example of the transition from the Romanesque style to the Gothic style: the lower section is in the Romanesque style, with rounded arches, while the upper sections are in the Gothic style, with pointed arches. The Baptistery is constructed of marble, as is common in Italian architecture.
An Aqueduct Recreation
On the drive back to Florence from Pisa (Italian E80/A11/E76), we were surprised to see an aqueduct crossing the Autostrada! This is not a "Roman Artifact", it is the Medici Aqueduct of Asciano and construction started in 1592. This aqueduct contains 900 arches and is over six kilometes long. It was constructed to provide the city of Pisa with water from the Pisan Mountains near Lucca.
Since we were already in Florence, a drive north across the Appennine Mountains to Maranello, Italy to visit the Ferrari Factory seemed like a fantastic idea. We decided to drive the A1/E35 route which resulted in a 140 kilometer trek (one way, 173.984 miles round trip).
The drive through the mountains was spectacular, but then the navigation to get from the Autostrada to Maranello was a challenge (think country roads & no signs), but well worth it.
Ferrari in Maranello
In image # 2 we had arrived at the Ferrari Factory in Maranello and had expected to be able to find a place where we could acquire tickets to a "factory tour". However, we immediately found out from security personnel that this was possible only if you were a current Ferrari owner, or you were awaiting delivery of one you had purchased - or - if you were a prior owner. In other words, no public access. The security people were kind enough to suggest that we ought to visit the Ferrari Museum (image # 1).
Post Note: Since our trip to Maranello, Ferrari now offers a Factory Tour via a tour bus. Visitors are not allowed to depart the bus, and no imagery or video is allowed. Click here to go to their tour web page.
Although we at first thought that this Museum was somewhat of a "consolation prize" it turned out to be entertaining, informative and we got to see a large number of Ferrari race & street cars. The Museum has quite a few exhibits, combined with documentation regarding each vehicle.
Click here to go to the Ferrari Museum (Maranello) Website.
Ferrari Museum Exhibits
The Ferrari Museum was located only a block away, and it is populated with every race car Ferrari ever raced, as well as just about every street car that Ferrari ever produced.
As the museum was also on the way to the Ferrari Test Track, and since it also had a deli, we decided to head over there and make the best of being in Maranello.
Everybody got a chance to sit in any of the Ferrari race cars in the exhibit. They did not allow people to climb into any of the "street cars". These are all legendary race cars and are famous for various reasons, including winning Formula One Championship the year they were active.
Ferrari Museum Exhibits
Each of the modern era race cars Ferrari had constructed was present in the Museum. They vary what is exhibited from time to time, adding cars as they develop new models, etc.
Image # 1 (left) is the legendary #27 Formula 1 race car driven by Gilles Villeneuve. Image # 2 (right) is the Ferrari 155 a rare 1950's era car.
Ferrari F-40 Exhibit
Perhaps one of the most famous street cars Ferrari ever produced! This Ferrari F40 (Type F120) is a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car built from 1987 to 1992, with the LM and GTE race car versions continuing production until 1994 and 1996 respectively. As the successor to the 288 GTO, it was designed to celebrate Ferrari's 40th anniversary and was the last Ferrari automobile personally approved by Enzo Ferrari. At the time it was Ferrari's fastest, most powerful, and most expensive car for sale.
The F-40 is beautiful from any angle! The F-40 debuted with a planned production total of 400 units and a factory suggested retail price of approximately US$400,000 (5-fold the price of its predecessor, the 288 GTO) in 1987 ($900,000 today). One of those that belonged to the Formula One driver Nigel Mansell was sold for the then record of £1 million in 1990, a record that stood into the 2010s. A total of 1,311 cars were manufactured with 213 units destined for the United States.
1956 Lancia Ferrari D50
The Lancia D50 was a Formula One racing car designed by Vittorio Jano for Lancia in 1954. The car's design made use of many innovative features, such as the use of the engine as a stressed chassis member, the off-centre positioning of the engine to allow a lower overall height, and pannier fuel cells for better weight distribution and aerodynamics. Six of the cars were built, and two of them are displayed in Italian museums.
The D50 made its race debut toward the end of the 1954 Formula One season in the hands of two-time World Champion, Italian driver Alberto Ascari. In his very first event Ascari took both pole position in qualifying and fastest race lap, although his car's clutch failed after only ten laps.
Click here to go to the Ferrari Museum (Maranello) Website. The Museum has gone through several upgrades since we were there, and there are even more cars to be seen now.
Next stop Venice
After Florence, our next stop is Venice: We had decided during
our trip planning that it would be logical to turn in the rental car in Florence, and take the train to Venice. This is because cars are not allowed in Venice, and the only place to park is on the mainland and no parking anywhere else.
Click here to visit our Venice Page.
And so this trip comes to a conclusion - we caught the train back to Rome, so we could get onto our return flight to Virginia. This was an excellent way to have seen quite a bit of Italy, and even though we did not see everything, we plan to return on some future trip and see what we missed.
- The 2007 Italy Trip Overview & Guide We started in started in Rome, took a train to Florence where we rented a car to see more of central Italy, then took a train to Venice. Click here to read more.
- Rome, Italy Rome was our first stop on this trip, and it is a historic and fascinating to explore, click here to read more.
- Florence, Italy We took a train to Florence from Rome and then explored Florence, Sienna, Livorno, Pisa and Maranello & the Ferrari facilities there. Click here to read more.
- Venice, Italy Turned in the rental car in Florence and took the train to Venice. Click here to read more.
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