First Visit to Europe: Pisa

This is my third post about our first-ever trip to Europe. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the educational US travel our family has done here.


On the morning of Saturday, April 6, we left our hotel to wait for our ride to Civitavecchia, the port town for Rome. Our driver, Marco, apologized profusely for a slight delay due to a protest in a nearby street. It delayed us by 2 minutes at most. We didn't know it at the time, but we were in for significant inconvenience due to a protest later in the trip - in fact, I wouldn't have even remembered the Rome protest if I hadn't journaled daily. I'm glad I am in that habit, particularly on vacation. With the action-packed way we travel, there's no way I could keep things straight without my detailed daily notes.

Anyway, the drive took us out of Rome and into the gorgeous Italian countryside. The landscape was so familiar. We saw so many of the same plants, topography, etc. as back home in our part of California. It took about an hour to reach Civitavecchia. We enjoyed learning about and seeing this interesting coastal town that dates back to the 2nd century.

As lovely as Cvitavecchia was, our main reason for going there was to board our floating hotel for the next ten days, the Sapphire Princess

I've mentioned many times that cruising is our favorite way to travel with my family. Not only is the salt air therapeutic for my nephew's cystic fibrosis, but it allows our group of nine to do the tours, contests, and entertainment we want on our own schedule, and still meet up for meals or other activities. We also love that it gives us a taste of many different places without the inconvenience of constantly packing and unpacking. And there's so much more time to explore a city when you don't have to use your waking hours to get to the next place. You really can't beat a hotel room that floats to your next city while you sleep!

We spent some time exploring the ship, then went to the youth room open house. We learned that there were 49 kids aboard (2600 total passengers), including 6-year old Allison and 12-year old Trevor. Big Cousin Timothy is 18 now, so he's no longer a kid. Crazy! 

While Steve and I unpacked, Trevor did a bunch of homework. He missed 12 school days for this trip to Europe. I'll be doing a separate post in a few weeks about everything you need to know about taking your kids out of school for educational travel, including whether or not you should in the first place.

We had a delicious dinner, then enjoyed some of the many activities on board the ship. We went to bed somewhat early though, eager for our first port.


We woke up on Sunday, April 7 docked in our first port, Livorno. Rather than stay in Livorno, we opted to take a shore excursion to Pisa. We had a 30 minute bus ride, then a leisurely stroll through lovely downtown Pisa to the Square of Miracles. Sure enough, the Tower was still leaning.

The cathedral and baptistry were absolutely stunning. 

Our guide took us to the Palazzo dell'Orologio next.

Then we had time to wander through the streets and shops of Pisa.

Our guide encouraged us to sample Amedei Chocolate, known as among the world's finest. It was delicious indeed. And pricy!

Speaking of eating, not only were there multiple gelato stores on every block, but there were dozens of restaurants with outdoor seating. Each had a sample plate of their most beloved dish. Mom and I both had a hard time not taking a bite out of an enormous calzone on display! It smelled so good.

All too soon, it was time to head back to the ship. We all really enjoyed Pisa.

Arrivederci, Italy! We will be back someday.


  1. Loving the photos!! Everything looks amazing!!

  2. Amazing looking trip! Never got to Europe myself...might look into the cruise idea! Love it, thanks for sharing.

  3. How interesting...a cruise! I did my first Europe trip via a tour bus..haha.
    I remember how out-of-the-way the Leaning Tower of Pisa was...and how disappointed I was when I saw it. My fave city in Italy is Florence.


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