With a wonky tower that firmly put this small city on the map, Pisa is everything you would expect from a location in the Italian region of Tuscany. Everywhere you look, the charming architecture of days gone by is enchanting. Vespa’s zoom down narrow streets and locals drink their morning Espressos on outdoor tables outside characterful cafes. The famed leaning tower of Pisa is a tourist hotspot, where you’ll spot ambitious visitors attempting to get the perfect Instagram selfie of themselves pushing back the tower.
Pisa is also famed for being the home of Galileo Galilei, credited as being the father of modern physics. There are plenty of great reasons to visit this amazing Italian city. In this ultimate guide to Pisa, we will show you everything you need to know in order to plan your visit to Pisa. Our guide includes what to do, where to say, what food to indulge in and plenty of helpful travel tips for your trip to Pisa.
This ultimate travel guide to Pisa will show you all the most beautiful places in Pisa, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Pisa and things to do in Pisa which will help you in planning a trip to Pisa.
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Table of Contents
How to get to Pisa
Pisa is easy to reach, being a well-connected city in Italy. The city has its own airport, and by bus, you can reach the center in roughly 5 minutes.
Pisa Central railway station connects the city to important train routes throughout the country, making traveling to and from here easy.
There are also various bus services that have affordable routes to Pisa from across both Italy and also from other European destinations.
What to expect in Pisa
In Pisa, Italian is the spoken language. As the city is a very popular tourist destination, English is well spoken and understood too.
Similar to many other European destinations, you will find the currency in Pisa is the Euro. ATM’s are widely available throughout the city, and credit cards are often accepted at both restaurants and hotels.
At restaurants, most locals do not leave a tip, but it is common for visitors to leave 10 to 15 percent if a service charge is not included. At cafes, it is encouraged to ‘leave a coin’ if you had your coffee at the counter, or tip 10 percent if you had a table.
When taking a taxi in Pisa, it is suggested you round up your fair to the nearest whole euro.
How to get around Pisa
As Pisa is a relatively small city, getting around is often quick and easy. Walking is a great way to see the sights and experience the ambiance of the city. As an example, it takes just 20 minutes to get from the main train station to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
There is a local bus service that operates in Pisa. Like other bus services across Italy, it is important to note that you will need to buy your ticket from a ticket office or newsstand before boarding the bus.
Similar to many popular tourist destinations, in Pisa, you will find a Hop on Hop Off Bus. You can purchase a 24-hour ticket which will give you unlimited access to the buses two routes, and a total of 15 stops.
The best time to visit Pisa
In order to avoid the crowds at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it is worth visiting the city outside the main tourist season. Instead, look to visit Pisa between April and June, or September and October. You will find the weather to be relatively good, but the city will be much less crowded than it is in the main summer months of July and August.
For an extra special event, in June each year, Pisa holds the Luminara San Ranieri. Over two days, this annual festival lights up Pisa with over 70,000 candle lanterns.
Things to do in Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Of course, the Leaning Tower Of Pisa is one of the highlights when it comes to things to do in Pisa. This freestanding bell tower has pretty much become the icon of the city, known worldwide for its dramatic lean. The tower took roughly 344 years to build, and just a few years into its construction one side began sinking into the soft ground, hence it’s lean.
Tickets to visit the tower can be purchased online until the day before you plan on visiting. Buying your ticket online will also help you avoid the long lines. Keep in mind you are only allotted 30 minutes to climb to the top of the tower, enjoy the great views of Pisa, and clamber back down the 294 steps again. The entry cost of the leaning tower of Pisa is roughly 32.45 Euros.
The tower is located in the cities main square, the Piazza dei Miracoli, where Pisa’s other main sites such as the cathedral of Pisa, The Baptistery and, Camposanto Monumentale are all also located.
Dedicated to St John the Baptist, the Baptistery is the largest of its kind in Italy, and a must see in Pisa. Its construction began in the 12th century, replacing an older baptisery that was once here. This is also where Galileo Galilei was baptized in 1564.
One of 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites found throughout Tuscany, the Camposanto Monumentale houses sunning frescoes from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This cemetery is both a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and a historically important site in central Pisa. The Camposanto Monumentale is, therefore, a must visit site when visiting Pisa.
Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta
With strong influences from the Byzantium period, the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta represents the past wealth of the city of Pisa. Like the leaning tower, the cathedral has also notably sunken into the ground.
Museo Nazionale of San Matteo
Full of works taken from the historic building found around Pisa, the national museum of San Matteo grants visitors a look into the array of historic art from the city. Here you will find antique paintings, sculptures, and ceramics.
Santa Maria della Spina
This small Pisan Gothic church has recently been restored and open to the public. Fascinatingly, the name of this church actually comes from the reliquary the church acquired in 1333, containing a thorn from Jesus’ crown.
Piazza dei Cavalieri
The Piazza dei Cavalieri, also known as Knights Square, is the second main square of Pisa. This was the medieval political center of the city. Later, it became the base of the Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen. Nowadays, it is home to Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, a university founded by Napolean.
Shopping in Borgo Stretto and Corso Italia
For shopping in Pisa, Boro Stretto and Corso Italia are the two best areas of the city. Both these streets are bustling with gelateria’s, cafes and various stores selling all kinds of goods. These are both great places to take a leisurely stroll. Here, you’ll also find lots of great places to eat when in Pisa. Window shopping in both of these areas is also a great free thing to do in Pisa.
Be wowed by the spectacular interior of the historic Verdi Theatre in Pisa. As well as being extremely aesthetically pleasing, the theatre still hosts many performances, including concerts and Opera.
You may think it unusual to find a piece by an American muralist in the heart of Pisa, but this is exactly what you will discover. This creation happened by chance after artist Keith Haring met a Pisan student on the streets of New York. That chance meeting led to this bright puzzle like mural, created to represent world peace, on the church of Saint Anthony in the center of the city.
What to eat in Pisa
Pisa has taken traditional Tuscan cooking, and put its own hyperlocal spin on it, creating some flavors very unique to the city. You’ll find the cities staple ingredients are game meat, foods from the sea and the river, and many simple vegetables. Below you will find out more about what you should eat when visiting Pisa. Life doesn’t get much better than when it involves authentically cooked, local Italian food.
Hearty Soups – Pisan’s love to eat frog, and frog soup is a popular local dish. Another soup eaten widely in Pisa is made from San Michele White Beans.
Pisan Pesto – Unlike its popular Genoese counterpart, Pisan Pesto also includes pine kernels. Make sure to try it while in Pisa. It’s especially good with spaghetti.
Meat and seafood – Game meat is a popular main in Pisa. Particular favorites are pheasant meat, rabbit and wild boar. Fish is also a big staple of the Pisan diet. Try grilled grey mullet, Mediterranean spiderfish or sweet and sour cod. A local dish that is seafood based is Spaghetti o tagliolini, a pasta meal that has river clams.
Torta co’ Bischeri – This is a dessert dish that is a particular local specialty. This pastry is a tart made with rice, pinenuts, chocolate pieces, candied fruit, spices, raisins, and maraschino liqueur. This is the traditional ‘cake’ of Pisa.
Where to stay in Pisa
The Santa Maria neighborhood is a great place to stay when visiting Pisa. This neighborhood is both central and quiet. All of the cities historical sights are easily accessed from here, making it a great base for avid sightseers. In the cobbled streets of this neighborhood, you’ll also find little bars, quaint boutiques, and tasty restaurants.
Another great part of the city to stay in is Sant’ Antonio. Its close proximity to the central station is great for anyone coming with a lot of luggage or arriving late at night or early in the morning. This neighborhood is also close to Pisa’s main shopping areas. Airbnb is a great option for short and long stays.
Tours to do in Pisa
Pasta making class
Leave Pisa with more than just memories with this immersive class teaching you the secrets of the Italian craft of pasta making. The best part about this experience is your lesson is taught by local resident Cesarina, who will guide you through the recipes of three of the regions authentic and delicious pasta dishes.
Guided walking tour of Pisa
Taking a walking tour will allow you to see the sights, whilst learning all about their history and significance. You’ll be lead by a knowledgeable local guide, who will be full of hints and tips to help you see the best of the city.
Pisa Food Tour
Explore the city with a local guide, who will help you eat your way through the tastiest cuisine Pisa has to offer. Not only will your taste buds be delighted as you explore the wonders of Tuscan cooking, but your guide will also teach you all about the culture and history behind each dish, adding an extra layer onto your culinary experience.
Pisa Segway Tour
Zip around the city on a segway in a tour that combines historic sightseeing with epic fun. Over three hours, you’ll glide around, taking in all of Pisa’s top sights, such as Piazza dei Miracoli and Sapienza Palace.
One of the best things about Italy is its wine, its so good it can make grown men cry. Get a taste of some of Tuscany’s best wines by taking part in a guided wine tour.
Day trips from Pisa
Cinque Terre Tour
The colourfull and dramatic coastal villages of Cinque Terre are picture perfect, after all, they are famed for their beauty and charm. Take a day trip from Pisa to the coast and experience the magic of Cinque Terre for yourself. The best thing is Cinque Terre can be reached from Pisa by train in roughly an hour an a half. Alternatively, you can always take part in a day tour leaving from Pisa.
Visit the villages of Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Monterosso, and Manarola, all of which are perfect places to explore. Whilst there, enjoy a swim in the piercing blue sea or try a taste of limoncino, a popular local lemon liquor.
When in Tuscany, why not visit Siena? You can reach Siena from Pisa in under 2 hours by train. Many have referred to Siena as Italy’s loveliest medieval city, and it’s easy to see why. The grand Piazza Del Campo, or the main square, is at the very heart of the city. Away from this unique shell-shaped plaza, there are plenty more historic sights to see, including the Torre del Mangia and the Duomo of Siena.
Another incredible Tuscan city to visit is Luca. Taking a day trip from Pisa is quick and simple. There are great transport links between the two, which are only 17KM apart, meaning you can reach Luca in 30 minutes by train or bus.
The city sits on the banks of the Serchio river, but what it is most well known for is the well-preserved renaissance walls that run around the city. Due to the incredible amount of religious structures found in Luca, the city has earned itself the nickname the city of a hundred churches. Make sure to visit Lucca Cathedral, San Michele in Foro and Guinigi Tower during your visit.
Home to many artistic gems of the Renaissance period, Florence is the capital of the entire region of Tuscany, and well worth a visit from nearby Pisa. By train, it only takes around 1 hour to reach Florence from Pisa. That’ll leave you with plenty of time left to sightsee and explore.
One of the highlights of Florence is its stunning dome topped cathedral, which towers over the city. For art lovers, Florence houses work from artistic greats such as Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Recommend tours in Pisa
- Cinque Terre Tour by Minivan from Pisa
- Pisa Off-The-Beaten-Path 2-Hour Small-Group Walking Tour
- Small Group Pisa Day Trip to Siena and San Gimignano by Minivan Including Wine Tasting
- Pisa Food Tour
- Skip-the-line Leaning Tower of Pisa Guided Small-Group Tour
- Pisa Segway Tour
- Lucca Barga and Garfagnana Hills Full-Day Trip by Minivan from Pisa
- Half-day Wine Tour in the Tuscan’s Hills from Pisa
- Monumental Complex of Pisa Cathedral Square
- Leaning Tower of Pisa Entry Ticket
- Best of Pisa Guided Walking Tour with Leaning Tower Entry Ticket
- Private pasta-making class at a Cesarina’s home with tasting in Pisa
- Local market visit and private cooking class at a Cesarina’s home in Pisa
- Night Tour of Pisa Must-see Sites with Local Guide
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