What to do in Pisa
Pisa is in your face.. you can see the vivid history it has had over the 100s of years but most of all it so Italian. It is full of colour, delicious food, the old way of life and the most famous of all, its tower which leans a bit to the side.
I first went to Pisa when I was 13 and it was a miserable rainy day full of cranky people, this time around it was a glorious sunny day and I was able to explore what Pisa had to offer.
Pisa is a small town with not alot to see, it is worth a half day trip there including enjoying a lunch in one of the old tavern restaurants. Be warned there are alot of tourist that head to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, just remember to be patience and take your time enjoying the architectural wonders.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower is the famous icon to visit in Pisa. It is such a wonderful feet of architecture. It started construction in 1174 and took 176 years to make being on the wee bit of the crooked side due to the foundation it was build on with one side being too soft. Over the years it began to lean further until the 20th Century when it was stabilised and partially correct.
You are able to climb up to the top of the Tower (293 steps), seeing the interior of the tower and the views across Pisa. Tickets to climb the tower can be bought around the Piazza dei Miracoli but I would suggest booking online beforehand, it will save you time queuing as well as having a time slot which will not cause you to wait around most of the day.
Cattedrale di Pisa
The Cathedral is a beautiful example of Italian Architecture. Covered in detailed carved stone work, marble as well as divine artwork and icons, it is a fine example of Romansque Architecture. Entry to the Cathedral is free but you need to have a ticket for a time slot. If you only want to visit the Cathedral you are only able to get tickets on the site at the Museo delle Sinopie. You are also able to buy a deal online including all the sights or just the Tower and the Cathedral.
The Baptistery was build in the Romansque style dedicated to St John the Baptist. It is the largest Baptistery in Italy. It is absolutely beautiful and was one of my favourite building in Pisa with such beautiful detail skirting the edges. The local Celebrity Galileo was baptised here. You are able to climb to the top of the baptistery, tickets can be bought at the sight but like above it is easier to buy online before hand for saving time, the baptistery can be an add on along with the Tower and Cathedral.
The Camposanto is the prestigious cemetery in Pisa. Build in the 12th Century it is said to have been built around sacred soil from Calvary that was brought back to Pisa in the Third Crusade. It is full of beautiful architecture from Arches to Frescoes to Roman Sarcophagi. Becareful not to sleep there as legend claims that the ground is so sacred a body will rot in 24 hours. Tickets can be bought using the link above.
Piazza dei Carovana
Piazza dei Carovana is known as the Knights Square, it was the political square in Pisa, then became the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen, now it is the centre of education. The square is covered in beautiful buildings dating from all centuries including the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri and Palazzo della Carovana. On the second weekend of the month it host a Antique Flea Market.
Santa Maria della Spina
Santa Maria della Spina is a tiny little church which is on the banks of the Arno River. The church was built around 1230 then enlarged in 1325. In 1871 it was dismantled and rebuilt on a higher level due to the water rising. It is a beautiful Gothic Church being made of carved marble, inside it is a simple room with green marble weaved throughout. It is most certainly worth the visit.
Tuttomondo di Keith Haring
This mural was painted by Keith Haring in 1989 just before his Death. This mural's theme was peace and harmony in the world which is represented through the puzzling links and divisions of the 30 figures painted on the side of a Church. Opposite is a great bar/cafe Flu Societa' Cooperativa Scrl where you can sit and enjoy the atmosphere and admire this beautiful art piece. It is located off the Piazza V. Emanuele II on Via Riccardo Zandonai.
Where to Eat in Pisa
Never eat anywhere near the Leaning Tower of Piza, it is all over priced and not at all yummy. The best place to eat is in the Old Quarter in Pisa which is located around Piazza Garibadli. It is all old fashion Tuscan food and every bite is delicious. I asked the Restaurant Owner what was his favourite dish was and what a feast I got. Here is a list of places to try out.
If you are coming Pisa via the train station is it about a 20 minute walk to the iconic sights. I walked up through the pedestrian area along Corso Italia across Ponte di Messo through the Old Quarter up to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and came back down Via Roma across Ponte Solferino then down to the train station. This way I got to see both sides of Pisa, the old and the new.
Pisa is a main hub for planes to fly into to reach Tuscany from across Europe and the world. The best way to travel around Tuscany is using a train, but to get to the main train station (Stazione Pisa Centrale) you need to grab the Pisa Mover which is a shuttle between the Airport and Train Station, it cost €5.40 for a open return ticket.
As I said above that Pisa is a great Half Day Trip so either you are coming back from somewhere in Tuscany or heading off you can find a Baggage Storage at the Train Station in Pisa. It is open 24 hours and cost €5 (cash only) for the day, it was just perfect to leave by bag there while I explored Pisa and not worried about the hassle of dragging my luggage while waiting for my plane.
I hope you get to enjoy all the unique parts of Pisa and see what this town is really all about.