The main Pisa attractions are the Leaning Tower and Piazza dei Miracoli. People often come and see little else. But the city has other hidden qualities, with historic churches and pastel-tinged buildings along the River Arno.

A visit to Piazza dei Miracoli could fill up a whole day, depending on how interested you are in history and architecture. It’s the star of Pisa’s show, and one of the icons of Tuscany, but a walk through the city centre still has a few surprises in store. You won’t find any major sights, but there are plenty of splendid buildings and small tucked-away churches that deserve a closer look.

It’s a city with a relaxed pace of life. Locals get around on bikes, students chat in the squares. And in the background, grand monuments show off the city’s past as a powerful maritime republic.

For any traveller ready to listen, Pisa is a city with many stories to tell. For centuries it was at the centre of the Mediterranean sea, first as a proud independent Republic, and later under the rule of the Medici.

Piazza dei Cavalieri

Piazza dei Cavalieri

Pisa attractions – See the Leaning Tower and more

Leaning Tower and the Square of Miracles A visit to the Cathedral Complex includes the Cathedral, the Baptistry, the Cemetery and the iconic Leaning Tower. If you have time, make sure you climb the tower. It’s an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.

Piazza dei Cavalieri is an elaborate creation by Giorgio Vasari, the artist favoured by Cosimo de Medici. Cosimo himself poses in front of the splendid Palazzo della Carovana, showing off his victories on land and at sea. On the opposite side, is the graceful Palazzo dell’Orologio, its soft colours concealing a turbulent history. Here, the treacherous Count Ugolino was locked up and starved to death, as Dante recounts in the “Divine Comedy”. The Church of the Knights of Saint Stephen (Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri) has exotic traces of the city’s maritime past.

The lungarni (or river walks), may not be as impressive as their Florentine cousins, but they make for a pleasant stroll. They’re less crowded, and flanked by the colourful facades of elegant Renaissance buildings. You’ll notice the Blue Palace, which today is a good place to see free art exhibitions.

Churches and Medieval Pisa

On the Lungarno Gambacorti, there’s a tiny but exuberant Gothic church in the form of Santa Maria della Spina.

Other nearby churches are also worth a visit: San Paolo a ripa d’Arno, built in Pisan Romanesque style, and the fascinating Church of the San Sepolcro (Holy Sepulchre). San Francesco, San Nicola and San Pietro in Vinculis are the city’s other notable churches.

Church of Santa Maria della Spina

Church of Santa Maria della Spina

A favourite area for a stroll is the Borgo Stretto near the river, that leads to the Romanesque Church of San Michele in Borgo. Corso Italia is the another, more modern, shopping area. Logge dei Banchi, near the Ponte di Mezzo, built in 1605 as a silk and wool market exchange, still hosts markets.

Art in Pisa – Medieval paintings to modern graffiti

The Museo Nazionale San Matteo is one of the Pisa attractions that no art lover should miss. Visitors will enjoy an excellent collection of paintings and sculptures from 12th -15th centuries.

A touch of Contemporary art is to be found in Piazza Sant’Antonio, in the form of a huge mural known as “Tuttomondo” . It was created by American street artist Keith Haring in 1989, and is dedicated to World peace.

Planning the perfect day in Pisa? Have a look at our itinerary.