When talking about Pisa the first thing that comes to mind to anyone is the Leaning Tower, the symbol of the city. But in this article, we’ll lay out the best things to do in Pisa apart the wonderful Leaning Tower. But first you need to get to Pisa.
How to get to Pisa
You can get to Pisa very easily by train (Trenitalia) from Siena, Lucca, Livorno or Florence, travelling time 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on where you are travelling to. The two main stations are San Rossore station, close to Piazza Duomo, or Pisa Central station. If you are travelling from Rome, Milan, Naples or any other major cities in Italy, you need to change in Florence. Some regional or intercity trains go directly to Pisa.
Where to Stay in Pisa
If you are travelling by plane you need to get to Pisa Gallileo Gallilei airport and then to get to the centre you have few options, a train to San Giusto/Aurelia station €2.70 one way, the local bus (line E3) cost €2.50 one way, or with a taxi from €10.
If you are doing a tour of Tuscany you may want to consider to rent a car to be able to visit wineries and the countryside you do need a rental car.
Now that we know how to get to Pisa let’s dive in and discover the best things to do in Pisa.
The Top 7 Things To Do In Pisa For First Timers
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
One of the most famous and photographed Italian monuments in the entire world, this is the number one thing to see in Pisa. The Leaning Tower of Pisa actually originated as a bell tower for the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta located nearby.
The construction began in 1173 and lasted for more than two centuries because of its inclination, which manifested itself from the beginning. The tower is in fact on a sandy ground and began to hang from the third floor, so much so that the construction then continued in the opposite direction to the slope to prevent it from tilting even more.
The inclination has been going on for many years, until the renovations ended in 2002, (when the Tower re-opened the doors to the public again), and is now stable at 5%. To get to the top of the Tower (56 metres high) you need to climb 294 steps to enjoy incredible views.
Opening times 8.30am to 6pm entry fee €18
Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta
The Duomo a Romanesque masterpiece dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta is also the city’s cathedral. The Duomo was built starting from 1063 under the project of the architect Buscheto, who fused classical, Norman, Byzantine, paleo-Christian and Arab elements, imitating the style of the Islamic countries that entertained flourishing maritime trade with Pisa.
Since its construction, the Duomo wanted to represent the prestige and wealth achieved by the Maritime Republic of Pisa at the time of its maximum expansion and this is undoubtedly testified, on the outside, by the rich decorations with multi-coloured marble, mosaics and objects in bronze, and inside by the use of fine white and black marbles and grey marble columns.
After the Tower, the other building that will immediately catch your eye in Piazza dei Miracoli is certainly the Baptistery a Roman Catholic monument dedicated to San Giovanni Battista. We are talking about the largest Baptistery in Italy (107.25 meters in circumference), built in 1153 by Diotisalvi and completed by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano in 1390.
The Baptistery has a quite unique truncated cone-shaped dome like the church of the Hospitallers in Pisa, done by the same architect, which only covers the internal circle of pillars. Diotisalvi’s plan was to mention architecturally the Rock Mosque on the outside, and the Anastasis of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher on the inside, both in Jerusalem. The works were continued by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano who modified the Gothic-style baptistery with the loggia and the hemispherical dome.
The Monumental Cemetery
Also located in Piazza dei Miracoli the Monumental Cemetery also known as an Old Cemetery a Gothic monument. The construction started in 1278 by the architect Giovanni di Simone, the completion was only achieved in 1464.
The legend says that the holy field, (the meaning of “campo santo”) was built from sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa by Ubaldo Lanfranchi from the Third Crusade in the 12th century that helped the bodies buried to be rooted in just 24h. The cemetery also has three chapels and a huge collection of Roman sarcophagi, 84 left today.
The Royal Palace
Located not far from Piazza dei Miracoli, if you walk along the Lungarno river, you’ll find in front of you the Royal Palace, today is the house of the Museum Nazionale which collects the works of the families that followed one another inside the Palace, including masterpieces made by Raphael, Canova and many others.
This incredible large building was built in 1159 by the Caetani family and then passed on to the Medici family who ordered the reconstruction between 1583 and 1587. From the Torre del Cantone (part of the new building) Galileo Galilei showed the use of the telescope he invented to Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici.
Between the 18th and 19th centuries the palace continued to be the residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and, after the unification of Italy, it was also used by the Savoy’s.
Piazza dei Cavalieri
After Piazza dei Miracoli, Piazza dei Cavalieri is the second most important square in Pisa. The square was built by the most talented and famous architect of that time Giorgio Vasari instructed by Cosimo I De Medici. Located in the square is Palace Carovana, today the house of one of the most prestigious universities in Italy, also Palazzo dell’Orologio, the church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, and the Statue of Cosimo I De Medici.
Lungarni of Pisa
The Royal Palace is not the only attraction along the Lungarno, or in plural Lungarmi as there are different streets along the river that take different names. This is one of the most important meeting places for tourists and locals alike, not just for the many beautiful Renaissance buildings, towers and churches that face the river, but also for the many bars and restaurants to enjoy La Dolce Vita overlooking the river.
The most famous stretch is the Lungarno Mediceo, which houses the major historical buildings of Pisa, such as the Palazzo dei Medici, the Palazzo Toscanelli and the Church of San Matteo in Soarta. Along the Lungarno Gambacorti there is a small jewel, the church of Santa Maria della Spina not to be missed.
Other places to consider depending on how long you will be in Pisa are:
Tuttomondo Of Keith Haring
If you are actually staying in Pisa you may want to consider a day trip to Florence, Siena, San Gimignano or Lucca. We hope that our simple guide on the best things to do in Pisa will help you to enjoy this incredible place.