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Our accessible Mediterranean cruise vacation (Part 4)

January 10, 2019

This multi-part post describes a recent trip my husband, Charles, and I took earlier this year to celebrate our first wedding anniversary — a week-long Mediterranean cruise that included stops in three Italian ports. I have posted this information because I hope other people who have been diagnosed with MS — or who have a close connection to MS — will read it, and it will help make their life journey easier.

After I was diagnosed with MS in 1998, I began having problems with my balance, so my doctor recommended that I use a cane. I cannot walk long distances, even with a cane, so when we travel, I use a three-wheel mobility scooter. Because I use the scooter, we plan accessible vacations.

When we plan trips to Europe, we work with Sage Traveling. For this trip, the company provided accessible transportation to and from airports, suggested accessible hotels and provided knowledgeable tour guides.

Our third and final tour in Italy focused on Tuscany and included Pisa, Florence and the Fattoria San Michelle a Torri, a winery in the Tuscan countryside. Once again, my scooter came in handy, as we traveled long distances at all three locations.

We began the tour in Pisa, a city on the western coast in central Italy. Pisa straddles the Arno River. We were fortunate to see Pisa in the early morning before any other tourists arrived. We saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is a freestanding bell tower affiliated with the Pisa Cathedral.

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Our guide explained that the bell tower began to lean during its construction in the 12th century. The tilt was caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased before the tower was completed in the 14th century, but the tilt has been partially corrected in recent years.

The bell tower and cathedral are located in the city’s Cathedral Square, along with the Pisa Baptistery.

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The Pisa Cathedral

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The front of the cathedral, with its stone and marble arches and bronze doors.

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Charles and our tour guide talk in front of the Pisa Baptistery.

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Inside the baptistery is a highly decorated font and pulpit.

Later that morning, we went to Florence, also located on the Arno River. A cultural and historic city, Florence is the capital of Tuscany and the birthplace of the Renaissance Movement.

We began our tour of Florence at the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is located on a high hill overlooking Florence and offers the best views of the city.

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Florence, as seen from the Piazzale Michelangelo.

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A  bronze replica of the statue of David stands in the center of the Piazzale Michelangelo, while vendors and artists sell their works at the edge of the square.

We also went into the old city, which was crowded with tourists, and toured historic buildings and squares.

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Possibly the most celebrated cathedral in the world, the Florence cathedral is known as the Duomo.

We enjoyed pasta for lunch in Florence and headed to the Tuscan countryside, where we toured the Fattoria San Michelle a Torri farm and winery, and tasted organic olive oils, Chianti and super Tuscan wines made from grapes raised onsite.

 

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Two of the wines we tasted at the winery. 

We learned that Chianti is a traditional Italian red wine made with Sangiovese grapes, which are indigenous to Tuscany. Most Chianti wines are 100-percent Sangiovese grapes. Super Tuscan wines are red wine blends that, in addition to Sangiovese grapes, may include non-indigenous grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

After our trip to the winery, we returned to the cruise ship. The ship docked in Nice, France, the next day, but it didn’t dock in a harbor, Those who chose to get off the ship were transferred to small boats called lighters, and the lighters took them to shore. It wasn’t safe to me to transfer to a lighter, so we spent another day onboard and docked at Barcelona the following morning. We spent the next night in Barcelona and boarded a flight home the day after that.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Mediterranean cruise vacation, including our three day-tours in Italy. Thanks to our knowledgeable tour guides from Sage Traveling, I was  able to get around easily and enjoy the sights on our tours of Barcelona and Italy.

Especially convenient were the handicapped-accessible vans that Sage provided. The vans had ramps that I could use to drive my scooter into and out of the vans as needed.

We will be sure to contact Sage again when we plan our next European vacation.

 

 

 

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