Pisa is is one of the most visited cities in Tuscany, because of its famous Leaning Tower. Most visitors only go for a few hours to have a look and of course take a classic picture with this popular sight. But this beautiful city has much more to offer. After spending a few days there myself, I would like to share my tips with you. Here you will find the best things to do, perfect to spend one day or several days in Pisa
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Pisa is the capital of the province of Pisa, one of the 10 provinces in beautiful Tuscany. Tuscany is one of the most visited regions in Italy because of its dazzling landscape that includes the Chianti vineyards and impressive, historic cities such as Florence, Siena and Lucca.
Pisa is located in western Tuscany a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea where the river Arno flows. The Arno divides the city of Pisa into two parts.
Pisa is best known for its Leaning Tower and therefore attracts many visitors.
It is also a convenient city to travel to Tuscany. Many low cost airlines fly to Pisa from different destinations. The city is also a very good base for further exploring Tuscany and you can also easily travel by train to various places in Italy.
But above all that, Pisa is also just a very pleasant city to travel to.
How to travel to Pisa?
Traveling to Pisa can be done in different ways. For a short trip I would recommend traveling by plane. From Belgium you can fly to Pisa with various airlines companies from Brussels Airport or Brussels Charleroi Airport.
From the airport you can take the Pisa Mover or taxi to the city center. If you buy a ticket for the Pisa Mover (5 euros per person) for two people, it is about the same as the price of a taxi. So on the way back from our hotel to Pisa airport we opted for a taxi. We paid 12 euros for this ride.
If you have plans to make a road trip through Italy you can also travel to Pisa by car.
Are you traveling from another destination in Italy? Then Pisa is very easily accessible by train. This time we traveled from Verona to Pisa by train. In the past we already traveled from Pisa to Florence and Cinque Terre by train. In general, we think train traffic in Italy is well organized.
Pisa is not a big city, so you can easily visit everything by walking around. If you’re not a fan of walking, you can always opt for a shared floating scooter. If you want to experience more of the area around Pisa, you can also rent a bicycle or Vespa.
When is the best time to travel to Pisa?
Tuscany generally has a mild climate. The period with the best chance of sun starts from April to October. During the summer months of July and August it can get very hot there and of course it’s often busier because of the summer vacation.
If you want to explore the city in peace, I advise you to plan a city trip to Pisa in the spring or autumn. I was already there twice. Once in February when it was very cold and once at the end of June when there was a heat wave, so I experienced two extremes. All in all, I thought it was just a bit more fun to stay in Pisa in June because I could already enjoy that pleasant summer vibe.
Besides that, we were just in town during Il Gioco del Ponte. This is a large folk festival that takes place annually on the last Saturday of June. This local tradition goes all the way back to 1568.
The city of Pisa is divided into two parts by the Arno. There is a healthy rivalry between the north ‘de Tramontana’ and the south ‘de Mezzogiorno’ On the Ponte di Mezzo, which connects the two parts of the city, the strongest men of the 12 regional districts come together every year. They challenge each other in the battle for the bridge. Here they measure their strength by pulling 7-ton carts across the bridge.
Thousands of spectators gather along the banks of the Arno to cheer on their favorite team. The festival is accompanied by parades in traditional clothing. It’s so beautiful to see! There is a vibrant and cheerful atmosphere in the whole city. I think it’s definitely worth visiting Pisa during the this festive weekend.
Where to stay in Pisa?
Hotel La Pace
Let’s take a look the best places to stay in Pisa. Last June, we stayed at hotel La Pace as it was part of our 5 days road trip through Tuscany with the Vespa. For the sake of convenience, we decided to book a few more extra days here so that we didn’t have to move from one location to another.
Hotel la Pace is a simple hotel. It’s the perfect option if you don’t have a big budget and still want to stay in a good location, near Pisa station. You have everything here you need for a short stay in Pisa. And bonus: the breakfast is very extensive and delicious.
Rinascimento Bed & Breakfast
In Rinaschimento Bed & Breakfast you stay in an authentic medieval building in the heart of Pisa. The design of the rooms with the long curtains makes you feel like you’re in a medieval palace. From the B&B you have a view over the oldest shopping street in Pisa, Borgo Stretto. So you are within walking distance of all the main sights in Pisa.
La Perla del Borgo B&B
La Perla de Borgo B&B is also located near Borgo Stretto and therefore within walking distance of the best things to do in Pisa. This B&B is located in a historic building, but has recently been renovated. You can see this in the beautiful, spacious rooms that have everything you need for an unforgettable stay.
B&B Di Camilla
B&B Di Camilla is also located in the historic center of Pisa, near the main sights. The building has a cozy courtyard garden that you see from your room. You can also have breakfast in the garden in the morning, which is super cozy! This accommodation is definitely recommended if you travel by car, because at B&B Di Camilla you can park your car in the private parking for a fee.
One day in Pisa: the best things to do!
Piazza dei Miracoli
The most famous sights in Pisa are the buildings in Piazza dei Miracoli. You will find the famous Leaning Tower, but also the Cathedral, the Baptistery and Camposanto there. It’s therefore one of the most important centers of medieval art in the world. It comes as no surprise when I tell you that in 1987 the entire square with all the buildings was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On Piazza dei Miracoli you can visit the different buildings separately, but you can also choose different combinations. But I will come back to that in a bit.
Fun fact: the name ‘Piazza dei Miracoli’ comes from a book by Gabriele d’Annunzio whose house we visited in the Gardone Riviera on Lake Garda. He described the square as a meadow of wonders.
And so it seems a bit, there is a large lawn around the historical buildings, where you can relax in the shadow of the ancient city walls on sunny days. Next to Piazza Dei Miracoli there is a huge market square where you can find plenty of souvenir stalls, but also refreshing drinks and delicious gelatos. Perfect to for a break in between your visits.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The first building you notice in Piazza dei Miracoli is definitely the impressive Leaning Tower of Pisa. Not just because it’s so skewed, but because it’s usually surrounded by a crowd of people who are posing in the craziest ways for a photo with the popular tower. Super funny to watch! Would you like to photograph the building in its full glory, without spectators? Then I advise you to go around sunrise.
When the tower of Pisa was built, it was intended to become a separate bell tower for the Duomo. Due to the unstable ground, one side of the tower began to sink almost right away. Because this only became visible after the construction of the third floor, construction stopped.
After a period of 200 years, 2 more stages followed in which the tower was further completed. In the 1990s, the tower was restored to reduce its slope to ensure the safety of visitors. So don’t be afraid when visiting the tower. It’s completely safe.
Duomo Santa Maria Assunta
Although almost everyone comes here for that cliché photo with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the other buildings on Piazza dei Miracoli are also worth a visit.
Next to the former bell tower you will find the stunning Duomo Santa Maria Assunta, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy.
All of the buildings on Piazza dei Miracoli have a long building history with different master builders. This was no different for the Duomo of Pisa.
Absolutely no money was spared on the construction of the Duomo. Both the exterior and interior are richly decorated with expensive raw materials such as different colors of marble and beautiful artworks such as the Byzantine mosaics.
The cathedral is built in the typical Pisan Romanesque style. But also Byzantine, Lombard and Arabic elements were integrated.
When you have time, be sure to visit the Duomo. You’ll be blown away by the beautiful interior decorated with the most impressive mosaics and stunning frescoes. The absolute showpiece of the cathedral is the ornate pulpit of Giovanni Pisano.
Battistero di San Giovanni
Besides the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Duomo, there’s another building in Piazza dei Miracoli that stands out. It is the magnificent Battistero di San Giovanni. This impressive circular building is Italy’s largest baptistery.
The Baptistery also has a long building history with various master builders. This resulted in a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The interior of the Baptistery is rather simple. There is little decoration except for the original octagonal baptismal font that dates all the way back to 1246.
The size of the building provides unique acoustics. During visiting hours, this is demonstrated by closing the doors of the building at certain times and singing a short song. It’s so great to hear!
You also have a beautiful view of the Duomo from the Baptistery.
A place that you should not miss in Piazza dei Miracoli is Camposanto. This is a walled cemetery and is a bit hidden behind the other impressive buildings in the square. You can recognize the cemetery by the gigantic outer wall that is decorated with 43 high, blind arcades.
Inside you can walk around the courtyard through the dazzling Gothic corridors and see the most impressive tombs and Roman sarcophagi.
Camposanto is known for its beautiful 14th century frescoes. However, these were heavily damaged during the second World War. After the war, the restoration immediately started. Over the years, the Camposanto has been restored to its original condition as much as possible.
If you would like to visit one or more buildings on Piazza dei Miracoli, be sure to check out the best deals below for the most fun and unique tours of Getyourguide. You can also find fast track tickets here, so you don’t lose time queuing.
Wandering on the city walls
Do you want to admire Pisa from above? Since 2019, you can take a walk on the ancient city walls of Pisa. These are by the way, one of the best preserved city walls in Europe.
Via the Camminamento delle Mura di Pisa you can also see the beautiful buildings of Piazza dei Miracoli from a different perspective and even without the struggle to get a good spot.
A ticket costs 5 euros. Please note, this ticket can only be used once. Start your walk at Torre Santa Maria on Piazza dei Miracoli and end at the Torre del Piagge. You can also leave the city walls at various places along the way.
Piazza dei Cavalieri
Piazza dei Cavalieri is an impressive square in the heart of Pisa. During the Middle Ages, this square was the political center of Pisa. You can still see this in the architecture. The square is surrounded by beautiful palazzos. One of these buildings stands out because the facade is decorated with murals of coats of arms. The military order was established here in the 16th century. Today it serves as a university building.
Orto e Museo Botanico di Pisa
Orto e Museo Botanico di Pisa is the oldest botanical garden in the world. Dating back to 1544, this garden was originally located along the banks of the Arno. In 1591 the garden was moved to its final location just 300 m from Piazza dei Cavalieiri. That is why there’s an ongoing debate whether this is actually the oldest botanical garden in the world.
Are you a flower and plant lover or do you want to relax in a peaceful and green environment? Then this is the perfect place!
The Borgo Stretto is the busiest shopping street in Pisa, but also the most pleasant one! It runs from Piazza dei Piazza Garibaldi on the banks of the Arno towards the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What makes the street so wonderful are the 14th-15th century porches under which many local boutiques, cozy bars and restaurants are located.
Don’t forget to explore the maze of narrow streets, alleys and cozy squares around Borgo Stretto. It is wonderful to just get lost here while enjoying refreshing gelato and to immerse yourself completely in the vibrant atmosphere of this city.
Do you like shopping? Then you should be on the other side of the Arno. Cross Ponte di Mezzo and continue walking along Corso Italia towards Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. There you will find many contemporary shops as well as slightly smaller boutiques.
Mural Tuttomondo (Keith Haring)
Near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II you can also admire the famous Tuttomonde, a mural by Keith Haring. This one was made in 1989 on the wall of ant’Antonio Abate church.
This artwork is unique because it is one of Keith Haring’s few outdoor public works. And it is also one of Keith Harings’ last murals before his death.
Along the banks of the Arno
Don’t forget to take a walk along the banks of the Arno. Not only will you have stunning panoramas with the mountains on the horizon, but you’ll also find more wonderful and interesting things to do in Pisa.
On the south bank of the Arno you will find Palazzo Blu, a striking building due to its beautiful blue facade. This palace dates back to the 16th century and was originally called Palazzo Giuli Rosselmini Gualandi. The building was renovated in the 19th century and then the facade got its blue color. Subsequently, the building was given the new name, Palazzo blu.
Palazzo blu serves as a museum and cultural center. In the museum you can admire the permanent art collection. It consists of paintings by local artists from the 14th to the 20th century, but you can also admire archaeological finds from the Etruscan, Roman and Hellenistic periods.
The cultural center also showcases temporary art collections and organizes cultural activities. So it is definitely worth taking a look at which collections are on display during your stay.
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina
A little further along the Arno you can admire a fine example of Pisan Gothic, the little church Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina. This church served as a prayer room and as a reliquary where a thorn from Jesus’ crown of thorns was kept. You can unfortunately no longer admire the thorn here, but the church is completely worth seeing because of its location besides the river and the impressive architectural style.
In 1871 this church was completely demolished because it was too close to the water. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina was then completely rebuilt a bit further away from the water.
San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno
Not far from Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina you can visit San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno or the Duomo Vecchio or the old cathedral. This church was used during the construction of the Duomo in Piazza dei Miracoli.
The beautiful Romanesque church dates from the 9th century, but has since been reconstructed several times. The last time was after the Second World War. This area was hit hard by bombings.
Across the Arno along the north bank, you can see the impressive Torre Guelfa. The original tower was built in the 15th century during the Florentine rule. It served as a watchtower and, together with the city walls and other towers, formed the ramparts of the historic citadel.
Torre Guelfa was also bombed during the Second World War. The tower was completely rebuilt after the war. From the top of the tower you have a great view of Pisa, but unfortunately this attraction is currently not open to visitors.
Museo di San Matteo
Also along the north bank of the Arno you can find Museo di San Matteo. This museum houses an extensive collection of local sculptures and paintings from the early Middle Ages to the 16th century. Here you can admire masterpieces by sculptors Giovanni Pisano and Nicola Pisano and paintings by Simine Martini, Nino Pisano and Masaccio.
Get to know Pisa even better through one of Getyourguide’s original and unique tours.
Things to do outside Pisa
Pisa is a good base to discover even more of the region. With the super fun day trips from Getyourguide you don’t have to worry about the organization and transport and you can enjoy beautiful Tuscany without stress. View the offers below.
Of course you can also plan your own trips to some of the stunning Tuscan cities such as Siena, Lucca and Florence. Do you like it a bit more adventurous? Then a 5-day road trip through Tuscany with The Vepsa Trip might be the perfect trip for you.
Are you staying in Pisa for a few days and would you like to take a refreshing dip in the sea? Rent a bike or Vespa and head off to Mare Vecchiano near the beach bar Bagno Oasi Zero Marina di Vecchiano. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area and is only 15 km from Pisa.
Delicious addresses in Pisa
For lunch you absolutely have to go to L’Ostellino. Here you can taste the typical Tuscan sandwiches with fresh local ingredients. This small, authentic establishment is located just a 5-minute walk from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. So even if you are only there for a short visit, you can quickly get a sandwich.
Choose a sandwich à la carte or ask the waiter to make their favorite sandwich. During both visits we were surprised by completely different, but delicious flavors. Oh yes, we went there twice because it was so good!
Have a culinary dinner at Pero! This restaurant is situated on one of the many pleasant squares in Pisa, Piazza Chiara Gambacorti. This square is filled with various terraces and it is especially nice in the evening when it is less hot. You will also find the most photogenic alleys around this square.
You will undoubtedly experience a unique dining experience at restaurant Pero. Chef Simone Princi mainly works with raw, local ingredients. With this, he creates the most surprising combinations and these are finger licking good! Besides to delicious dining, you can also enjoy a delicious cocktail here.
Cocktail argini e Margini
For tasty cocktails or quick snacks, Argini e Margini is the place to be. This uber cozy outdoor bar is located on the banks of the Arno. Take a seat at the long tables and meet new people or find a cozy corner in one of the seats by the water. From here you can admire the beautiful sunset over the Arno.
I really enjoyed staying in Pisa for a few days this time and really getting to know the city. Even if you only stay for one day, this city has much more to offer than just the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Hopefully my tips can help you for an unforgettable city trip to Pisa.
Which sights would you visit when you would be only one day in Pisa? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!
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