Why The 2 Idiots Recommend exploring Livorno and Pisa
When we visited Pisa, it was through a Mediterranean cruise – the best of the three cruises we took when we went around the world with our son. Having wanted to see the Tower of Pisa since she was a child, Natasha was especially excited about the visit, but we discovered the port is actually in the city of Livorno and that you’ll need to travel inland to find Pisa. It’s a place everyone should see and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but we were surprised to discover Pisa isn’t much a city to visit; it’s truly just a square for tourists. However, we still enjoyed our day in Pisa, with some extra time to wander in Livorno, a very pretty town. Where Pisa is touristy, Livorno is not. Just as we like it!
Creating an Ideal Itinerary
Pisa, Italy, is located in Tuscany. With an eight-hour port stop, you can fully enjoy Pisa, as well as the quaint town of Livorno, especially on your own. Skip the expensive cruise excursionsand follow our recommended itinerary.
Negotiate with a taxi to for the entire day. Excursions charge $125 – $150 per person but you can find taxis for the day will accept $100 for the entire family – significantly cheaper than the excursion. We recommend you request a taxi for 7 hours (9 a.m.-4 p.m. in our case) so you can get 5 hours in Pisa with some wiggle room, in case you need some extra time.
|Take a taxi from Livorno to te Square of Miracles in Pisa|
Visit the Square of Miracles in Pisa (€5 for visiting Baptistery)
Have a picnic lunch or at an area restaurant
Take taxi back to downtown Livorno
Walk around Livorno
Take taxi back to port
Enjoy a Leisurely Morning and get to Pisa (9 – 9:45 a.m.)
When arriving in Livorno, the entire ship is going to disembark to visit Pisa, crowding the exits and filling shuttle buses at the crack of dawn. Take your time and enjoy breakfast and let the crowds pass. You can leave by 9 a.m. and enjoy a wonderful day. Before you go, request a packed lunch to bring with you in Pisa – the restaurants are extremely overpricedand crowded and nothing you’ll really miss. Taxis will be plentiful in Livorno and in Pisa, so grab a taxi and request it drop you at the Square of Miracles, or the Piazza dei Miracoli, home of the Tower of Pisa.
Visit the Square of Miracles (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
Ever since Natasha was a child, she has wanted to see the tower. For me, I thought it’s a bit silly that so many people want to go see an architecture mistake – the tower leans because construction was done wrong! Yet, hordes of people go to see the structure, which is smaller than we thought. Instead of craning our necks to look up, it was more of a “huh, so that’s the tower?” Natasha, did however, love seeing it.
It doesn’t cost a thing to visit the square, which is nearly 9 hectares and walled with a large grassy area, but you will need tickets into the Baptistery. Grab those first, as most people head straight to the tower and lines build later. Tickets to the Baptistery also provide entrance into the cathedral without a fixed time slot, so it’s like a two-for-one. Pisa’s Cathedral was constructed in 1064 and is ornately made of black and white marble, while the round Baptistery of San Giovanni was constructed in 1152. A three-year restoration project just finished on the cathedral in May 2018, so it’s a stunning church to see on your visit.
Young kids are not allowed to climb to the top of the tower, so we liked enjoying the square with our son running and playing. Of course, you’ll want to take the obligatory picture of your family “holding up” the tower – be sure to take one of all the people doing the same thing! It’s pretty tough to find a spot where people won’t be in the background of your photos; it’s very crowded! Find a spot on the grass to enjoy a picnic lunch with the tower as your background.
After seeing the sights, you can enjoy the shops around square, with lots of trinkets and souvenirs, then make your way to the nearby River Arno for a photo op. From here, meet your taxi for a ride back to Livorno (3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m), requesting a drop off at Quattro Mori, the Monument of the Four Moors.
Stroll Through Livorno (3:30 p.m. – 5p.m.)
Quattro Mori is a monument celebrating Tuscany’s victory over the Ottomans in the 1600s. Here, you are in Livorno’s old port of Livorno, which is filled with small sailboats and nautical-themed shops and completely charming. They call the 17thcentury old quarter the Nuova Venezia, or the New Venice, due to the canals with many bridges. You can walk along the seafront, where there is a fortress, and walk up the Via Grande, Livorno’s main shopping street, where you can do some great shopping.
When you hit the Piazza de Republica, a super-large square buzzing with energy, stop for a snack, such as a slice of pizza, a fresh gelato and an Italian coffee. You just need an hour and a half in Livorno to get a feel for the port, and then you’ll need a to get a new taxi back to the new port, about 10minutes away.
- The tower sits in a large, grassy square that provides a ton of room for kids to run around; use it to drain their energy. Even better, bring a ball or toys for the kids to play with while you’re there.
- There are areas around the tower that are restricted for children, so be sure to keep an eye on the kids.
- Kids under the age of 8 are not allowed to go to the top of the Tower of Pisa, and there is always a big line. We didn’t think there was much to see in Pisa from the height of the tower so skip this and enjoy the views from below, instead.
- Bring a good stroller,as you will be walking a lot, especially in Livorno. In Pisa, there are no restrictions on where you can go and what you can see with a stroller.
- There is a stroller line at the cathedral and Duomo. Find this line, as it also gets you ahead of the main lines.
- Don’t take an excursion or cruise shuttles, you can do this day on your own. We’ve provided a step-by-step guide – read How to Do a Cruise Excursion on Your Own.
- Potentially pack lunch for the day from the cruise ship so you can enjoy a lunch on the gardens in Pisa’s square – the Leaning Tower makes a great backdrop. Plus, the restaurants near the square are overpriced and not the best taste of Italy.
- In Italy, never miss an opportunity to have a fresh gelato – it is absolutely amazing.
We just got back from a cruise! We did one day on our own and one day with a cruise excursion. Both days were fantastic, but there are definitely pros and cons to doing excursions on your own versus with the cruise line. When everything works out well, excursions on your own cost less, are more relaxed and provide more flexibility. However, if anything goes wrong – the car breaks down, there is an accident, someone gets sick/hurt, the cruise will not wait for you and you risk the expense and hassle with catching up with the ship! This is… Read more »
Yeah that’s most likely the biggest risk is that you might miss the cruise if you don’t show up on time. That’s why we always recommend to aim to come back an hour prior to departure so you have a buffer incase something happens.