Pisa is best known for the world famous Leaning Tower, but those who come here with their mind already made up that the Tower is the only thing to see may miss the rest of the architectural and artistic marvels of this beautiful city.
The half hour walk from the Campo dei Miracoli to the train station runs through a pedestrian street with many interesting sights, shops, and restaurants. The best way to visit Pisa is walking the streets, as the city center is very small, and enjoy the sight and the atmosphere.
Pisa would not be Pisa without the University. The city is animated by the students, who organize parties, shows, and cultural events, and fill the central street of the city at night. The University of Pisa has 60,000 students in a city of about 100,000 inhabitants. You'll notice the student flair in the the city once you leave the touristy campo dei miracoli.
Pisa is a safe city, you do not need to worry about your safety (except for some zone at night, such as the area surrounding the station). However you should take the obvious precautions (like, if you stay in a very cheap hotel, take your valuables with you) and watch out for pickpockets in the touristy areas.
Pisa Airport "Galileo Galilei" is the main airport of Tuscany and is served by several airlines operating hundreds of weekly flights to national and international destinations. Numerous companies offer charter flights to and from a number of European and non-European destinations. Flying to Pisa is really cheap and easy: the most recognized low-cost airlines serve Pisa. The airport is close to the city center - it takes only a few minutes to reach the center by bus, train or taxi. It is even possible to walk to the center, which takes around 20 minutes.
Do not expect the airport to be open 24/7, though. Many smaller European airports do have opening hours, so don't expect to stay overnight or hang out until late.
You can purchase bus and train tickets from the information desk in the arrivals hall. The trains are the fastest way to get to the city but run only twice per hour. The tickets cost €1.10 and the ride takes only about five minutes.
The bus has a regular service every 15 minutes and it takes about 15 minutes to get to the city. The bus runs to Piazza dei Miracoli and the central station. Since the ticket machine at the bus stop "speaks" only Italian, it's better to get the tickets from the information desk if you don't speak the language. Single fare is €0.95, but if you buy them from the driver on the bus, you pay double that. The bus terminal is directly in front of the airport, on the right side when coming out of the terminal building. Once you are in the city, its main sights are easy to locate and are all within walking distance.
If you prefer a more convenient method of travel, a Taxi to the city centre will cost around 6-8 Euro.
There are regular buses around town, including from the train station to the Field of Miracles. Attractions are within a half hour walk of each other. Local bus tickets are available at Tobacco shops; there are also vending machines both at the station and the airport.
There's a vast collection of car rental agencies at the airport. While you won't need a car in the city itself, it can be a good choice if you want to go around Tuscany from Pisa. To get to the car rental offices take the shuttle bus in front of the airport's arrival hall. It's to the right, close to the city bus stop.
Pisa is divided into 4 historical quarters. There is much more than the Leaning Tower in the city and several different walking itineraries are available.
The Piazza dei Miracoli or Field of Miracles is to the north of central Pisa. It's an UNESCO World Heritage site and contains the city's most famous sights:
Torre Pendente (Leaning Tower) The structure was originally conceived as the cathedral's bell tower. Construction began in 1173 and the tower started leaning soon afterwards due to subsidence of the ground underneath its base. A project to keep the tower from leaning more and tipping over finally reached a successful conclusion in 2001, and the tower is again open to those wishing to climb it. Climbing the tower requires a reservation-based ticket for 15 Euro. Expect 45 minutes to 2 hours wait, but there is a lot to see while you wait. It is better if you buy tickets online for €17 well in advance at . Warning, the tickets are non-exchangeable, effectively non-refundable, and only good for the Torre, so they're a bit of a risk to purchase in advance. Make the effort to climb, though, and you'll be rewarded by the view.
Duomo di Pisa, (Cathedral of Pisa) the splendid cathedral, contains artwork by Giambologna, Della Robbia, and other major artists. Fine Romanesque style with double aisles and a cupola, a huge apse mosaic partly by Cimabue, and a fine pulpit by Giovanni Pisano in late Gothic / early Renaissance style.
Battistero (Baptistry) large round Romanesque dome with many sculptured decorations and a fine view up top; climb this if you want a great view with the Leaning Tower visible in your photos. Arabic-style pavement, pulpit by Nicola Pisano (father of Giovanni), and fine octagonal font. At regular intervals, the ticket-checker-guard at the entrance comes into the baptistery and gives an audio-treat of echo-effect. The guard shouts out few sounds which when echoed sound like pure beautiful music. Do not miss it. You can also cast your inhibitions to the wind, stand by the wall, and sing long notes that turn into chords by yourself, as the echoes go round and round the dome of the building.
Campo Santo Monumentale (Cemetery) a huge cemetery building with lots of interesting art, including a collection of ancient Roman sarcophagi and splendid medieval frescoes by the "Master of the Triumph of Death".
Museo del Opera del Duomo has sculptures and paintings formerly preserved in the Cathedral and the cemetery. Some of the more unusual are bronze griffins from Syria captured by the Crusaders.
Museo delle Sinopie Skipped over by many visitors, this museum is a treat for art lovers. After WWII many of the surviving murals and pieces of murals from Pisa's Campo Santo were detached from the walls to try to preserve them. It was unexpectedly discovered that the artist sketches underneath survived. These were moved to this museum.
Piazza dei Cavalieri a small town square with many historical buildings that hosted the political powers of the city in the middle ages and Renaissance, but most of them are not accessible to tourists, as they are now property of the University of Pisa or Scuola Normale Superiore (a prestigious elitary school).
Palazzo della Carovana, the main Scuola Normale Superiore building, with an elaborate façade, by the important Italian Renaissance artist and architect Giorgio Vasari - who is also said to be the first historian of art.
Palazzo dell'Orologio (Clock Palace), a XIV century building that has replaced the Torre della Fame (tower of hunger), where the Conte Ugolino della Gherardesca was imprisoned and left to die of hunger with his sons, as cited in the Dante's Divina Commedia
Chiesa di Santo Stefano, designed by Giorgio Vasari in the XVI century for the Ordine dei Cavalieri di Santo Stefano (Order of Chivalry of Saint Stephan), a chivalry order founded to fight piracy in 1561.
other historical buildings include the Church of San Rocco, the Rectory, Palazzo Carovana and Palazzo dei Dodici.
Lungarno Mediceo and Lungarno Pacinotti on the north side of Arno river, Lungarno Galilei and Lungarno Gambacorti on the south side: these riverside streets give a distinctive character to Pisa, especially at night when the lamplight reflects on the Arno river. Along the Lungarni stands intresting places like:
Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza XX Settembre, two opposing town square, one at each end of Ponte di Mezzo (middle bridge), and are considered the center of the city. From Piazza Garibaldi starts Borgo Stretto, an old street with lots of shops that, together with Corso Italia starting in the opposite direction from Piazza XX Settembre, create a pedestrian area (interrupted only by the bridge) that is considered the center of the city. In Piazza XX Settembre you can find the Logge dei Banchi, a building created to host textile market in 1600, and the town hall, in the Palazzo del Comune.
Museo di San Matteo, on Lungarno Mediceo, a small history and art museum, but one of the biggest for Tuscan Renaissance art, hosted in the rooms of the San Matteo monastery. Address: Piazza San Matteo, 1, lungarno Mediceo Tel. +39 050 541865
Santo Sepolcro, on Lungarno Galilei, a Romanesque octagonal church with conical spire by Diotisalvi, who also built the baptistry - a Templar church, striking and forceful. Usually is not open to the public.
Ussero Café founded on 1775, lungarno Pacinotti 27, . A monument to Italian culture in the 1400's Palazzo Agostini, on Lungarno. In 1839, it was seat of the meetings of the first Italian Congress of Scientists.
Santa Maria della Spina, on Lungarno Gambacorti, a very small Gothic church built in 1230 to house a thorn from Jesus's crown, it's considered one of the best expressions of Italian gothic. It is so small it moved from the river of the Arno, in 1800, to a place some meters above, one stone at time, to protect it from flooding. Usually it's not open to the public.
Giardino Scotto, on Lungarno Fibonacci at the end of Lungarno Galilei, is a fortress converted to a public park which opens in summer for open air cinema, music shows and other events.
La Cittadella, at the end of Lungarno Simonelli, is a fortress built to guard the access by the river Arno and the shipyard in the middle age, when the sea was closer to the city.
University botanical garden, via Luca Ghini 5, is the first university botanical garden of Europe, created by the will of Cosimo de Medici in 1544. It is open weekday mornings and is free to the public.
Fine Romanesque churches - San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno, San Michele in Borgo, San Paolo with a sculpture gallery inside, Sant'Andrea - not all are open every day; double-check the hours if you want to visit.
Tuttomondo, Keith Haring mural . Keith Haring visited Pisa and fell in love with the town, so he decided to paint this amazing mural as a gift to Pisa. Though extremely large, it is easy to miss so look out for it; it is located between the train station and Corso Italia.
On June 16th Pisa holds the Luminara festival, held for the patron saint's day (San Ranieri). At sunset, all the lights along the Arno are dimmed and more than 10000 candles are lit, which makes for some spectacular sights from the Ponte di Mezzo. Various activities are organized in the streets and the night ends with a big fireworks.
Another summer attraction is the Gioco del Ponte (Game of Bridge), a historical manifestation held yearly on the last Sunday of June, in which the two sides of the city (Tramontana and Mezzogiorno, geographically split by the Arno river) participate in a historical procession, with 709 walk-ons, then challenge each other to a physical match in which their teams, each composed of 20 members, try to conquer the "Ponte di Mezzo" (the main bridge in Pisa) by pushing a trolley in order to force the rival team off the bridge.
For nightlife, there aren't many clubs or live music places in Pisa: the usual night in Pisa is having a dinner of pizza or a cheap kebab, having a beer in Borgo Stretto, or Piazza delle Vettovaglie or a pub in the surrounding areas, and having a walk in Piazza Garibaldi and Lungarni, where the "spallette" (the low brick walls around the river) are full of students.
Some alternative clubs (hard rock, alternative, funky) in the center are:
Take a photo of yourself holding or leaning against the leaning tower of Pisa.
As a general rule, try not to eat near the Leaning Tower where prices are high and quality low. Head instead to the central area (5-10 minutes walking from Piazza dei Miracoli): you can find very good, cheap restaurants there. For example, there are excellent, friendly and reasonably priced cafeterias in the busy small vegetable market, Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Also Via San Martino, close to the south bank of the river, offers some places with good quality and low price. This said, near the Leaning Tower, in via Roma, there's a good Indian Restaurant, with a beautiful atmosphere and really good, though not always cheap, dishes. And in Piazza dei Miracoli, there's a quite good restaurant-pizzeria, cheap enough, the Kinzica. In any case, don't miss Salza, in Borgo Stretto, with high prices but absolutely gorgeous chocolate, sweets and pastries of all kinds. Don't sit down inside, though, because you end up paying €10 for two coffees. Finally, there's a good pizzeria near the Youth Hostel, too, on the road that leads to the Leclerc, on the left then you must go in the tunnel.
Here are some good spots for eating:
Osteria di Culegna, Via Mercanti (on the main road). Reasonable price in a friendly environment, good food and research of the tuscan typical recipes, nice and smiley service. Closed on Sunday.
Numero 11, 47-49,Via San Martino. Quite cheap prices, good food and generous portions in an informal setting. You can find any kind of food there.
Vineria di Piazza, Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Serves great wine and very few dishes (but they are good and cheap). You can find very traditional food here.
Il Montino, Via del Monte. Great place to get fine pizza and excellent focaccine at a very cheap price. You can eat there or grab your food to go.
La Stanzina, Via Calvalca close to Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Has very good food at reasonable price in a cozy environment. Many of the recipes come from southern Italy.
Osteria dei Cavalieri, Via San Frediano very close to Piazza dei Cavalieri. Quite expensive but very good. You can find typical and traditional recipes from Tuscany.
La Mescita, Via Cavalca very close to Piazza delle Vettovaglie. An expensive but very good choice. They serve both traditional and more sophisticated food.
Funicolì, Via L. Bianchi 33. An excellent pizzeria just outside the walls, not far from the Leanining Tower. It is not a touristy place and the prices are reasonable. Pizza is very good and the appetizers (antipasti) are even better. The place is not very big so it is best to pop in early and reserve a table, especially during week-ends.
LA LUPA GHIOTTA, 050.21018, Viale francesco bonaini, 113, (from the station walk towards piazza vittorio emmanuele, than turn right in Viale Francesco Bonaini), Has very good food at reasonable price in a cozy environment
During summer nights, everybody stays around the banks of the rivers, sipping drinks bought from the several bars in the area. A few very good wine bars are also available for colder, winter nights.
Pisa Caffè dell'Ussero, Lungarno Pacinotti, 27, It is a monument to Italian culture in the 1400's Palazzo Agostini, on Lungarno. Its walls are covered with glorious mementos from its most famous visitors of the Risorgimento when they were students: Carlo Goldoni, Gacomo Casanova, Vittorio Alfieri, Filippo Mazzei, John Ruskin, Domenico Guerrazzi, Giuseppe Giusti, Renato Fucini, Giosuè Carducci, Cesare Abba, Giuseppe Montanelli. In 1839, it was seat of the meetings of the first Italian Congress of Scientists.
Babette (food and art café) , +39 050 9913302/3, Lungarno Mediceo 15, Pisa, This nice café is on Lungarno Mediceo, really close to the center of the city. The place has a strong personality; you can tell it's owned by art and culture lovers. You can pick up a book and read while having a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate, or even have a meal here, at a good price. You'll be warmly welcomed, feeling like at home. Some concerts also take place in this café sometimes, and there are also evening dedicated to special themes.
LA LUPA GHIOTTA, 050.21018, Viale francesco bonaini, 113, from the station walk towards piazza vittorio emmanuele, than turn right in Viale Francesco Bonaini, Has very good food at reasonable price in a cozy environment
Pizzeria Tavola Calda La Tana, 12hrs-15 & 19hrs onwards, V. San Frediano, 6, 56126 Pisa, Italy, This is a restaurant which is frequented by locals. The food is good and reasonably priced compared to other restaurants in Pisa. It was nice to see the staff welcoming all the locals and pampering the tourists.
The Pisa hills were already a popular destination for enlightened travelers in the first half of the 1700s, due mostly to the popularity of the thermal spa of San Giuliano, which quickly became a fashionable spot for the upper classes. The mansions on the road along the hills, already renowned as places of idleness and relaxation in the heart of the countryside, soon assumed the characteristics of true leisure resorts, just like those narrated by Carlo Goldoni. Stay at Bagni di Pisa ('health-giving' waters are still offered to an international clientele) and then visit Pisa during one of the city’s festivals, staying at the Agostini Palace to enjoy the best view of the festivities. The Villa has hosted many illustrious guests such as Gustavus III of Sweden, Christian II of Denmark, the Royal Family of Great Britain, Benedict Stuart Cardinal of York, General Murat, Luigi Buonaparte, Paolina Borghese, Carlo Alberto of Savoy, the poets Byron and Shelley, and various other personages from the history books.
Ostello della Gioventù (Il Convento), +39 050 890622, Via Pietrasantina, 15 56100 - Madonna dell'Acqua, A youth hostel with dorm beds and private rooms.
Airone Pisa Park Hotel , +39 050822284, +39 050822284, via Sant'elena, 4 , San Giuliano Terme, Located along the road to San Giuliano Terme (Pisa). Outdoor swimming pool, free internet access, restaurant, bar, English cable TV, bicycle, free car parking and family rooms.
Claudia Ferri B&B , +39 050 533868, Via II Settembre, 15 / D, Porta a Mare, Marina di Pisa, Nice apartment with 4 B&B rooms, close to Pisa city center. Prices per room range from €45 per night (single room) to €125 (4-bedded room).
Hotel Francesco , +39050555453, +39050555453, Via Santa Maria, 129, Relatively inexpensive hotel with a great location near the tower, offering rooms with private bathrooms; check for special offers on the website.
S. Croce in Fossabanda , P.zza Santa Croce 11, Pisa, Located in a medieval monastery, recently converted to a hotel with 67 rooms. True to its origin, the rooms are somewhat sober, but this is made up for with a relaxing courtyard and garden. No need to set an alarm, since the next door monks ring the bell at 7:30.
San Ranieri Hotel Pisa (Hotel in Pisa) , +39 050 971951, +39 050 971951, Via Mazzei, 2 , Cisanello, 4 star hotel in Cisanello, some rooms have sky view, all rooms have wi-fi internet. There are also a restaurant, ample parking space and conference facilities
Villa Kinzica, +39 050 560419, Piazza Arcivescovado 2, A well-located hotel in the center of town, offering en-suite single, double, and triple rooms.
, A small, charming hotel with a range of rooms available.
The central shopping area is centered around the Corso Italia, between the railway station and the Ponte di Mezzo (the central bridge) and also in the Via Borgo Stretto, north of the bridge. However, many specialized shops are sprinkled around the city.
The area around the leaning tower is geared toward tourists: There are lots of small souvenir kiosks, stands and "flying merchants", selling all kinds of souvenirs from small statues to hour-glasses - of course the general motif is the leaning tower!
Beware: it is an offense to buy from one of the "flying merchant" that sell fake replicas. They are very persuasive and if you buy anything you must haggle – they'll drop their prices significantly.
Every two weeks there is a bazaar with quite cheap books, records and old household items.
And don't forget to try some of Pisa's famous Biscotti (cookies). Bakeries all through town will sell multiple varieties, for a low price.
Lucca. You can travel by train to this other beautiful Tuscan city.
Florence. Very easily reachable by train from Pisa Centrale.
Cinque Terre by train to La Spezia and Genova
Volterra by bus
Calci monastery and the Natural History Museum of Pisa with the biggest whale bones in Europe. Easily reachable by bus
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