If you’re planning a trip to Italy and you’re wondering if you should visit Pisa, the answer is yes. Not just because of the Leaning Tower – that oh-so powerful tourist magnet. Pisa has tons to offer visitors; from art collections to a lively historical centre, quirky churches. Plus the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of a university town that is a hop, skip and a jump from the Tuscan coast. Read on to see what you’ve been missing.
Reasons why you should visit Pisa in Italy
SQUARE OF MIRACLES
The Square of Miracles is definitely the biggest attraction here. It is easily one of the most impressive squares in the whole of Italy. Conceived and built at the time when Pisa was making its fortune in the Mediterranean sea. The Maritime Republic of Pisa wanted a Cathedral to match its power and wealth. The building work started in 1064 with the Cathedral, and was followed by the Baptistry. Last came the bell tower, that today still manages to steal the limelight.
It’s touristy. It can be crowded. But a visit here is an absolute must. Take your time. The square is full of beautiful architectural detail to drool over and photograph, and the sight of the white marble shining against the background of the green field is a sight to behold.
For some, part of the fun is just watching the tourists trying to out-selfie each other.
CATHEDRAL, BAPTISTERY & CAMPOSANTO
Visit Pisa Cathedral to see the Byzantine-style mosaic and the famous carved pulpit. Next to it there’s the oversized Baptistry, the largest in Italy, which is famous for its acoustics. There’s a staircase that leads you to the upper level, from where you can take fabulous photos of the Cathedral front.
The forth element of the Square of Miracles is the Camposanto Monumentale – the cemetery. A legend says that Pisa’s crusades brought back some sacred soil from the Holy Land to lay it in the cemetery. It is a suggestive spot, with ancient statues and a vast gothic decorated marble arcade. It’s also quieter than the rest of the square, if you need place to escape the crowds.
Is the Leaning Tower a good reason to visit Pisa?
Many people come to Pisa just to visit the Leaning tower, and who can blame them? It’s a truly miraculous sight with a fascinating history. The construction of the bell tower began in 1173, and it started to tilt soon after. There were several interventions that managed to decrease its lean, and the tower is today open to the public.
If you want to make the climb to the top, you have to stand in the (often long) queue, so be there early and get a ticket (18 Euro) that will allot a time for your visit. Expect a steep climb (around 300 steps) in a confined space. Though you may find you’ll get more enjoyment out of examining it from below.
What else can you see when you visit Pisa
WALKING THE HISTORIC CITY CENTRE
Pisa is a friendly town. Home to one of Italy’s most prestigious universities. So step away from the madding crowds of the Square of Miracles and venture into the historic centre. Here students ride their bikes and you find plenty of pretty spots. One of the highlights is Piazza dei Cavalieri, that’s pretty unique even by Tuscany’s standards.
The Palazzo della Carovana a.ka. “dei cavalieri” in Piazza dei Cavalieri is home to the prestigious university Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. It was designed in 1562 by Vasari. It’s covered in black and white ‘sgraffito’ – decorative design etched into the wet plaster.
Walking around Pisa city centre you’ll get a feeling that this is an authentic town, and the further you go from the Piazza dei Miracoli, the more the tourists thin out. Borgo Stretto is the core of Medieval Pisa, a small, busy street with plenty of shops and cafes.
⇒ Check out our Pisa’s Walking itinerary
THE LUNGARNI, WHERE THE ARNO RIVER FLOWS
The Lungarni river walks are a delight, a line of lovely buildings with pastel colours and ornate facades. Exploring the Lungarni, beyond Ponte Solferino, you find a tiny church built very close to the river, Santa Maria della Spina. This small and perfectly Gothic church is decorated with pinnacles, spires and marble statues. A great spot for a picture.
You can easily spot the Palazzo Blu, a blue edifice that today hosts art exhibitions, and the Caffe’ dell’Ussaro, a historic cafe’ that used to be a hang-out for artists and intellectuals, a great place to grab a coffee and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the past.
SEE SOME ART WHILE YOU VISIT PISA
From Medieval to contemporary, there’s no shortage of things to do in Pisa for art lovers. Visit the underrated (and very quiet!) San Marco Museum for an extraordinary collection of Medieval sacred art.
But there’s something for contemporary art lovers too. The artist Keith Haring loved Pisa and, wanting to leave his mark here, painted his mural “Tuttomondo”. You’ll find it on the external wall of Sant’Antonio Abate Church. It’s a hopeful message about a future characterised by unity and peace.
Where is Pisa in Italy- Which part of Italy is Pisa in?
Pisa is located in the region of Tuscany in central Italy. It’s a few kilometres (12 ) from the coast, and 86 kms. from Florence, and 30 from Lucca. The nearest sea resort is Marina di Pisa, and the popular Versilia coast is only a few kilometres away.
You can visit Pisa easily by train if you’re based in Florence, (it takes one hour) or drive there in less than an hour.
Pisa airport is a few minutes by the new Pisamover shuttle system from the city centre. To reach Piazza dei Miracoli, the closest train station is Pisa San Rossore.
Did you know this about Pisa?
It was Gabriele D’annunzio, the Italian writer, who gave the square the name of “Campo dei Miracoli” or Square of Miracles in 1910.
Why does the tower tilt? The soil underneath it is rich in sand. In fact some of the other buildings in Pisa lean too.