Say the name Pisa and people picture the Leaning Tower. But are there other things to do in Pisa besides visiting this tilting treasure? Oh yes. Think fascinating churches, walks along the Lungarni, art to marvel at and food to salivate over. Here are a few things to do that will make your experience of Pisa perfect.
Things to do in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
1. Marvel at the Leaning tower
This said, we can hardly start a list about Pisa without mentioning the wonderfully wonky architectural masterpiece that has become one of Italy’s iconic symbols. It has a long history (the construction started in 1173 and carried on until mid 14th century) and has been through a series of complex interventions to prevent it from tilting any further. The bell tower of Pisa Cathedral can be admired, climbed (but who really needs to do that?), and photographed from every angle. The tourists posing for selfies have become part of the panorama in Piazza dei Miracoli but even that can’t spoil this spectacular monument.
2. Make sure you visit Pisa Cathedral
In any other city this church would get top billing, but in the glorious setting of the Square of Miracles it’s just another attraction. Still, visiting the interior of the Cathedral is a must, and considering that it’s free you shouldn’t miss the opportunity, with all those golden mosaics, columns and arches. What we love the most is the marble pulpit by Pisano and having a guide explaining all the stories you’ll see carved in this amazing work will surely add some colour to your visit.
You still to need a ticket to book the time of your visit – We visited with a tour guide, you can read all about our experience here
3. Check out the Baptistry
Pisa Baptistry is the largest in Italy. A round domed building that looks a bit like a meringue, it’s a masterpiece of Pisan Romanesque-Gothic architecture. The details and decoration are prodigious, and once you enter, you can climb to the viewing level to take more pictures of the square from a privileged position. The edifice is famous for its acoustics, Every 30 minutes there’s a demonstration in which one of the attendants sings a few notes.
4. See the Square of Miracles at night
Still on the subject of the Square of Miracles, we find that visiting in season can be quite overwhelming for the amount of people that gather here during the day. Even if you like the fun and the excitement of the crowds, come back after dinner when the complex is beautifully illuminated.
5. Take a stroll along the romantic Lungarni
The river Arno flows through Florence and Pisa on its way to the Tyrrhenian sea, and in both cities it famously reflects the ancient buildings reflect in its waters. The pastel coloured edifices along the river Arno in Pisa make it an atmospheric setting for a relaxing stroll. Poets and artists used to live here and appreciate the view, Byron rented an ancient palace on the lungarno and and Romantic Italian poet Leopardi used to write his verses right here. Don’t miss S.M. della Spina Church, a tiny Gothic church set right on the bank of the river.
Discover the best things to do during your Tuscan trip!
On the Lungarno Pacinotti nr. 27 is one of the historic locals of Pisa, the Caffè dell’Ussaro. It’s hosted on the ground floor of the ancient Palazzo Agostini, that boasts an impressive red brick facade that’s beautifully decorated.
The Caffè was founded in 1775, at the time when Pisa was an obvious stop on the European Grand Tour. Literary cafes were a trend throughout the 19th century and Pisa, seat of the prestigious university La Normale, was an important cultural centre. Get a coffee where intellectuals, artists and scientists once held their animated debates.
⇒ To help you navigate the world of coffee delights, here’s some helpful tips on how to order a coffee in Italy.
6. Take in the Art at Palazzo Blu
Another notable palace along the Arno is the Palazzo Blu, literally meaning “Blue Palace.” It’s been an institution in Pisa since Medieval times, experienced many renovations and at the end of the 18th century it was given its impressive colours and interior decoration. Today it hosts art and photography exhibitions. The permanent exhibit includes paintings (from 14th to 20th century) and period furniture (18th century) – see official site.
7. Admire the buildings in Piazza dei Cavalieri
The second most important square in Pisa after the Square of Miracles, the Knights Square won’t fail to impress you with its decorated buildings, the proud statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici standing in front of the Palazzo della Carovana. It used to be the political core of the town, and it was here that the Florentines proclaimed the end of Pisa’s independence in 1406. Later it was redesigned following in Renaissance style by Vasari, the architect of the Medici family, who also planned the Church of the Knights of Saint Stephen.
8. See two more leaning towers
The famous Leaning Tower is not the only building in Pisa that isn’t straight. Because of its sandy clay soil, many buildings in Pisa tend to tilt more or less visibly. Check the bell towers of the churches of San Michele degli Scalzi and San Nicola to add to your collection of leaning towers.
9. Taste the local cecina
Things to do in Pisa include a very tasty speciality. If you’re in Pisa, you must try cecina. A flat bread made with chick pea flour, it’s a typical treat of this area. For an authentic local experience, join the students at the Pizzeria Il Montino that makes a delicious cecina. Other spots loved by locals include: Bagno di Nerone (very informal, cheap, rustic), Da Filippo Pizzeria (near the station) or Da Pancino Pizzeria that makes delicious pizza and cecina.
10. Borgo stretto – Take a stroll in Pisa historic centre
The heart of Pisa historic centre is Borgo Stretto, the most picturesque street with its portici, lovely buildings, shops and open-air cafes. Check the wooden statue of the Madonna guarded in a 15th century tabernacle (above the portici) and see Piazza delle Vettovaglie, the food market square that gets very lively (and noisy!) with students and tourists in the evening.
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