On any Western Mediterranean itinerary, Florence is an absolute highlight -- the gem of the early Italian Renaissance. In the 15th century, when great artists like Giotto, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo worked there, they created magnificent examples of painting and sculpture that today still fill Florentine churches, civic buildings, grand palazzi and world-class museums like the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia. Architecture prospered in Florence, too. The city's signature work of art is the masterful Brunelleschi-designed dome of its cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as the Duomo.
No question, Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, for cruise travelers with just one precious day on a six-hour port of call, it's impossible to see it all.
We should note that, as lovely as Florence's famous River Arno is, it's nowhere near big enough (and its bridges are far too low) to allow any kind of ship inside the heart of the city -- and here we include low-slung river vessels along with more traditional cruise ships. As such, it can be confusing to see a cruise itinerary that calls on Florence when ships actually dock at the huge commercial port of Livorno, a good hour-plus drive from the Renaissance City.
However, the charmless city of Livorno (it was badly bombed during World War II) serves as a jumping-off point for daytrips elsewhere. And while Florence is no doubt the richest destination of all, Livorno's north Tuscan locale means that other cities -- Pisa, with its famous leaning tower; the walled city of Lucca; and San Gimignano, with 14 of its medieval towers still intact -- are also options.