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Tuscany, Italy

A very popular cruise port on most every cruise company is Livorno.  It is considered the gateway to the Tuscany region of Italy.  The “stars” of the cruise line excursions will be visits to Florence and Pisa.  They are wonderful excursions and we had spent time at both in previous visits.

After watching the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, many times, it made me want to explore more of the Tuscany region in Italy.  The last time we visited, we passed some tennis courts in Florence. We thought, how fun would it be to play tennis in Tuscany. This time, we brought our tennis racquets!

At the time of our visit, Uber was only working inside Rome and Milan.   Upon review of the Port of Livorno and it’s amenities…  We discovered that there were car rental companies at the port.  None had very good reviews, however there were some recognizable names of companies we have experience with.  With a long day available to us, it seemed like a good fit to see a bit more of Tuscany on our own in a car rental.

Livorno Port, Livorno, Italy -

Livorno Port, Livorno, Italy –

Tuscany on our Own

Upon disembarkment from our Cruise, we made our walk through the Cruise Port Terminal and were surprised that a couple of car rental agencies had pop-up counters.  (Avis, EuroCar)  That was nice because the local offices listed a later time of opening and we were prepared to wait an additional hour to get our car.  If we had chosen Avis, because of the pop-up counter inside the Cruise Port Terminal we would have saved over an hour of time! (that is why you read these reviews!)  We ended up paying 5 Euro each for a shuttle bus who’s first stop was directly in front of the rental cars.  The 5 Euro gave us return passage as well.  We took the shuttle and then found our rental agency inside the Ferry Terminal at the port.  We did have to wait for our Hertz counter to open but we were soon on our way!  (travel tip:  don’t forget your international driving permit, it is necessary for driving in Italy.  It is only asked for if you get stopped by local authorities or are involved in any kind of accident.  It was $20 USD and a 30-minute trip to the local AAA travel office.  Many people we talked to didn’t do this, however I mention it as it is listed as mandatory!)

car rental - livorno, italy -

car rental – livorno, italy –

We had two possible itineraries…

  1. A drive and visit to San Gimignano, Sienna and possibly Monteriggioni.  The drive was reasonable for the period we had available and Sienna was highly recommended.  The drive allowed for possible tennis opportunities near Florence on the return.

  2. A drive and visit to Cinque Terre, followed by a visit to Lucca on the return.  Cinque Terre is a special place and although Italian trains are risky when trying to make your ship, the Cinque Terre trains are a dedicated line!

Cinque Terre, Italy

After the short delay with the car rental, Cinque Terre was selected for our day!  We drove to La Spezia and parked directly at the train station.  There is a dedicated train line serving the Cinque Terre region and you can purchase a ticket that includes bathroom access and WIFI.  The train travels to each of the small villages, you can get on and off as you like.  We chose to spend our time at Vernazza which was spellbinding.  A leisurely late morning spent sitting in a beautiful little bay looking back into the iconic italian fishing village.  There was some shopping to be done!  We eventually headed back towards La Spezia on our train to make way for the second part of our day.

Vernazzo - Cinque Terre, Italy -

Vernazzo – Cinque Terre, Italy –

Tennis in Tuscany

After our morning in Cinque Terre, we drove back towards the port of Livorno in our rental car.  One of many amazing sites seen while driving was the views of Carrera, Italy.  The Tuscany region has many special cities and Lucca, Italy was just a short deviation from a direct drive back. Lucca, Italy is known for their walled city.  We found a tennis facility near the center of town, the Centro Sport Le Vele San Donato. ( We didn’t have a tennis court reservation, so we stopped by hoping that we would be able to book a tennis court.  After quick introductions and our poor attempt at speaking Italian, a court was eventually made available for us to rent.  If you decide to do Italy on your own, it would be highly advisable to learn a little bit of the Italian language.  If you go on a ship excursion, the tour guide typically speaks your language, in our case English.  It was very interesting trying to explain that we would like to book a court right now.  We were finally successful in booking a court for an hour, with the help of the very nice Italian speaking receptionist.  (A couple of the teenagers sitting in the lobby did help as they understood English)  We typically will set up either a lesson or court time prior via emails, however this is a first for us to merely drop in.  It worked!

Centro Sport Le Vele San Donato, Lucca, Italy (tennis facility) -

Centro Sport Le Vele San Donato, Lucca, Italy (tennis facility) –

This tennis facility was nestled in a neighborhood, next to a small farm (on one side of the tennis court was a fence with a small horse grazing next to the court).    On the far side of the courts was a very old, beautiful church. Besides the two outdoor red clay courts, the facility had a large bubble which housed two indoor clay courts.  All the courts were being played on. There was a children’s tennis clinic going on outdoors on one court, as well as indoors in the bubble. It is possible to set up a private tennis lesson or hitting session in advance, by contacting the tennis center.  The great thing about tennis is that it is the same everywhere you go, a universal language! As the two singles players walked off their court, they said “ bongiorno!” I loved the Italian accent, the language of love! Of course, we said “bongiorno” in response, as we walked on to our tennis court.  

We were super excited to play tennis on the red clay court.  Red clay courts are rare in the United States. After injuring my ankle, we weren’t sure if I would be strong enough to play.  My new ankle brace provided great support and it was pure joy to play tennis on the Italian red clay tennis court, on a beautiful day.

Perfect Day In Tuscany

It was the perfect way to end our day in Tuscany.  We imagine our next visit to this area will be much longer, as there are so many more places to visit, and play tennis!

Our drive back was uneventful.  We were met at the rental car facility by the same Hertz agent and he quickly processed our return.  We caught our shuttle bus and were back with an hour to spare.

A Final Thought!

During our drive through Tuscany, we used our phones quite a bit for driving instructions and for information about the area.  Our carrier T-Mobile provides free cell service and unlimited 2G data while in Italy.  Although slow, the data access was crucial to our success.  Plan ahead and make sure that you can use data on your phone if you choose to venture off yourself!

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Tennis Point of interest:

Tennis facility: Centro Sport Le Vele San Donato

Address: Via S. Donato, 847, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy



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