Pisa: What is there to see beyond the tower?
Most people have heard of the leaning tower of Pisa, completed in 1372. Fewer have heard about the history or seen the other awe-inspiring buildings that can be found in Pisa. Here are some tips on what to see in Pisa, where to stay close to Pisa and good places to eat.
Guide to Pisa, Tuscany
Where is Pisa?
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Italy and it is largely known for the famous leaning tower.
The city is on the Tuscan coast, at the end of the river Arno that flows past Florence and ends here, in Pisa.
Getting to Pisa
Pisa is the main airport for Tuscany so is where many people will land when they visit Tuscany. The Airport is named in honour of Galileo Galilei, the famous Tuscan scientist. The Airport code is PSA and flights arrive here from all over the UK and Europe - but there are not many flights from the USA. At the moment you can get some flights from JFK direct for Pisa, but generally you will be flying to Milan or Rome then travelling to Tuscany from there.
From the UK there are daily flights with BA, EasyJet, Ryanair and others. Skyscanner can be a useful way to find out more about flights to Pisa.
You can also arrive by train – the train connects to:
- Lucca in 30 minutes
- Florence in under an hour
- Siena in under 2 hours
- Rome in around 3 hours
For useful train information have a look at Trenitalia
If you decide you'd like to drive down to Italy from the UK, we have a page of useful advice here: Driving down to Italy from the UK.
What to see in and around Pisa
Leaning tower of Pisa
Pisa, known to the World because of its famous leaning tower and Campo Santo, has very much to offer the traveller. Settled since at least 1000 BC. it was an important Etruscan town which expanded further under Roman rule. Pisa not only has the beautiful and extraordinary Campo Santo with the baptistery and leaning tower, it also has masses of places to visit – from churches and bridges over the Arno river, to beaches and national parks on the coast, and nearby hill-towns.
If you do decide to visit Pisa, then there are a few gems we feel you should see. The first of these is The Field of Miracles, or Campo dei Miracoli, which has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1987. At the far side of this grassy square is the leaning bell tower, as it’s part of the beautiful Roman Catholic Duomo di Pisa built in the imposing Pisan Romaneque style and a vision in white marble. The square also houses the domed baptistery, where Galileo was baptised, and the Camposanto Monumentale which is the final resting place of notable Italians including Fibonacci. This square takes visitors through every stage of the lifecycle – from birth and baptism, through a life within the church, and to death – a miracle indeed.
Buying tickets for the Tower of Pisa
You can buy your tickets online before your visit to the tower but beware! - you cannot buy them more than 20 days before your visit and neither can you buy them less than a day before.
The Opera di Pisa is responsbile for selling tickets and their website is https://www.opapisa.it/en.
Admission to the Cathedral is included with any ticket to the other attractions - so a ticket to the leaning tower, to the baptistery, the camposanto (cemetery), Sinopie museum, Opera del Duomo museum - will also get you into the Cathedral.
Notes on visiting the Tower of Pisa
From the Opera del Duomo di Pisa website: "Reduced-price tickets are not available. Admission is free only for disabled visitors with their helper, upon presentation of suitable certification to the cashier. For safety reasons, children who will not have turned 8 by the end of this year are not permitted to enter. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. ID may be requested to certify the age. Please check the time of your visit. If you are late you will not be allowed in and you will not be refunded. Hand bags/bags/luggage must be left at the cloakroom before the visit and picked up at the end of the visit.
The visit takes about 30 minutes. The climb is on foot and there are 251 steps.
The staff will welcome the visitors with a brief description of the history of the Tower.
The visit is not recommended for people with cardiovascular and muscular disorders.
The floor is uneven and slippery."
See this page to buy tickets to visit the tower of Pisa
Piazza dei Cavalieri
This beautiful square is a short walk away from the Tower of Pisa. It was once the harbour of Pisa, later the political heart of the city, where the seafaring population would gather to discuss victories and strategies. The present appearance of the square owes more to work done by the victorious Florentines, after they conquered Pisa in 1406. The large Palazzo with ‘sgraffito’ decorations (the white and black intricate patterns) was re-modernised by Giorgio Vasari, when he rebuilt the square in 1558. The statue by the Palazzo is of Cosimo de’Medici, from the same period.
Today the large and imposing Palazzo della Carovana is home to the scuola normale di Pisa, a university founded by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is famous for the quality of its mathematics and physics graduates, which include Enrico Fermi.
Church of San Francesco
The next must see is not quite as beautiful on the outside – and could be discounted at first glance. However, the Church of San Francesco is not one to be missed. It was built (and re-built) in the 1200s, with another restoration occurring in the 1600s when its marble frontage was added. Early renaissance painter,Taddeo di Bartolo, painted frescoes for the church in the 1300s and several of its paintings were stolen during a period of Napoleonic looting and are now housed in the Louvre, including the Maestà by Cimabue. If you want to feel part of Italian history – then a visit here is a great way to do it.
Museum of San Matteo
For art lovers who want to escape the crowds, a visit to the peaceful and relatively quiet Museum of San Matteo is a fantastic way to while away an hour or two. The museum is housed in a 13th Century Benedictine monastery on the banks of the River Arno, and showcases paintings and sculptures from the 12th-18th century. Here you can find sculptures by Donatello, religious paintings by Giunta Pisano, and the 1320 Saint Catherine of Alexandria Polyptych by Simone Martini.
Good Restaurants in Pisa
Seaside at Marina di Pisa
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in and around Pisa, you might like to take the short drive to the coast, and eat al-fresco, facing the sea. The photo above was taken in April and it was already sunny and pleasant to be out!
In Marina di Pisa, try:
Osteria Marina Il Peschereccio
Via della Repubblica Pisana 62, 56128 ,Marina di Pisa
Via Litoranea, 18, 56128, Marina di Pisa
If you’re looking for somewhere in Pisa itself, try:
Trattoria la Tortuga
Via Lucchese, 33A, 56123 Pisa
or if you want somewhere closer to the Tower (keeping in mind that many of the closest restaurants are a bit touristy) this might be a perfect fit – a short walk away:
Vicolo delle Donzelle 9-11, Pisa
If you’d like more help in planning your visit to Europe, then please get in touch.
Write to us today