Pisa offers visitors a lot more than just photo ops of a failed piece of architecture. Once a Renaissance maritime power rivalling Venice for Italian pre-eminence, Pisa has now come to terms with its role as sleepy – at least until the sun goes down – student town.
There are many ways to enjoy Pisa, from shopping atVia Borgo Stretto to indulging in a thermal bath at Gasciane Therme. And what these folk lack in architectural planning they make up for with excellent cuisine. La Mescita is a contemporary take on Italian classics, and if you’re down for eating rabbit, Osteria dei Cavalieri is Tuscan cuisine at its finest. If you leave without getting a photograph of yourself pretending to hold up the tower, you honestly won’t even be that disappointed.
Pisa’s Top 10
10. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Holds the works of art that once hung in the cathedral. They even snagged the griffin off the top!
5. Baptistry of St. John Now this is quality design. Constructed over two centuries, this white-domed church is a perfect example of Romanesque marble architecture.
9. Cittadella Nuova Home to a public garden, and an ancient stadium. So not that ‘new’.
4. Camposanto This cemetery was built around one of the holiest piles of dirt in the world – brought back from the Holy Land by crusaders.
8. Piazza dei Cavalieri The city’s second town square is a bustling hub, with the people-watching almost as fascinating as the architecture.
3. National Museum of San Matteo Holding a large collection of 12th to 15th century art, even the walls of this former convent are covered by old paintings.
7. Palazzo Blu Yes, the Blue Palace is actually blue. It’s also a cultural haven, housing an auditorium and exhibition hall filled with the best and newest Italian art.
2. Piazza dei Miracoli Home to the four most dominant marble monuments of the city, three of which are slightly overshadowed by a certain tower…
6. Orto Botanico di Pisa The first botanical garden purpose-built for a university in Europe.
1. La Torre di Pisa Famous the world over thanks to photographs of people trying to hold it up, the ‘Leaning Tower’ is as iconic as icons get.
- Leaning Tower of Pisa – This famous, 180ft-tall tilting tower was built in 1173 and attracts visitors from around the world.
- Pisa Cathedral – View the stunning architecture of this ancient cathedral on Via Pietrasantina.
- Camposanto – A historic cemetery at Piazza dei Miracoli is set on soil that crusaders brought back from the Holy Land.
- National Museum of San Matteo – It is worth a visit just to see the Benedictine monastery it is housed in.
- Piazza dei Cavallieri – View the old buildings here that survived the World War II bombings.
Pisa Art & Culture
- National Museum of San Matteo – 12th- to 18th-century paintings and Pissano School sculptures are all here.
- Museo delle Sinopie – Houses a large collection of frescos in Piazza del Duomo.
- Teatro Verdi – Watch ballet, concerts, drama and opera at this theatre on Via Palestro.
- Cinema Arsenale – Shows Italian films and runs a film club at this independent cinema.
- Keith Café – A popular modern abstract art gallery and café on Via Zandonai.
- Corso Italia – Pisa’s high-street and busiest shopping destination.
- Bon Bon – The ultimate sweet shop can be found on Via S Francesco.
- Food Market – A popular market selling Italian culinary delights and fresh produce.
- Borgo Stretto – The medieval street that houses all the designer stores, the luxury heart of Pisa.
- Via Buonarroti Mercato –This Wednesday and Saturday market has some unique clothing and gift stalls.
Gay & Lesbian Pisa
- Grand Hotel Bonanno – This is a popular gay-friendly hotel on Via Carlo Francesco Gabba.
- My Keta – A lively gay nightclub on Via Sancasciani.
- Colors – There are regular special event nights at this gay club on Via Ottaviano Mossotti, perfect for those looking for a wild time!
- Il Giardino Di Alice – A gay-friendly, affordable bed and breakfast.
- Siesta Club 77 – A discreet sauna with a café and cinema on Via di Porto a Mare.
- Orto Botanico di Pisa – These botanical gardens have an impressive cactus collection and they are the oldest in Europe.
- Parco Regionale Migliarino –This coastal nature park is a delight to walk around.
- Horse-drawn carriages – Available for hire from different points across the city.
- Association of Pisa – Every June, the Association of Pisa offer guided tours of the city’s hidden walled gardens.
- Giardino Scotto – This public park often houses an open-air cinema and has a delightful children’s playground.
- Go canoeing on the Arno River.
- Watch local team A.C Pisa play at the Arena Garibaldi.
- Play the holes at Pisa’s Cosmopolitan Golf & Country Club’s luxurious course.
- Book a place on one of the many bike tours of Pisa and cycle round the sights instead of walking.
- Go for a dive at the Piscina Comunale swimming pool.
Kataklo’s Love Machines is far more family friendly than it sounds, being a dance extravaganza featuring performers from around the world (March).
So science can be fun! Following in the footsteps of Galileo, people from all over Italy participate in large open-air experiments during March-April’s Experiments Under the Tower.
Apparently you’re never too old for a game of Dungeons and Dragons, although Pisa’s residents call this mock medieval battle Gioco del Ponte (June).
Palio del Papero is a duck festival featuring quacking competitions between neighbourhoods every October.
November’s White Truffles Festival celebrates of one of the rarest culinary treats, attracting an audience of food buffs and hungry tourists alike.
When To Go
June is easily the busiest month in Pisa. If you’re up for daily parties and feasts then this is the month for you.
September to October is the low season, with lows in both temperature and crowds.
From November to February, Pisa’s weather is harder to predict than the lottery, so prepare for everything!
Buses are reliable and safe. Just remember the name of your stop in Italian and English and you’ll be fine.
Once within the city centre, the easiest way to get around is on foot.
Cars are good for getting out of the city, although European parking is haphazard at best.
Is there any other city in the world more inseperable from a popular landmark that bears the same name? Who after all, has not heard of the Tower of Pisa, with that distinctive, stubborn lean? To put it another way, can you identify another famous attraction in the Tuscan city on the Arno River?
While the Tower hordes all the attention in Pisa, the fact of the matter is that the city of 87,500 people is a fun town, replete with other marvels that deserve more than a cursory glance. The Tower in truth, is one of many landmarks in the Piazza del Duomo, also known as the Piazza dei Miracoli. Others include the Baptistry of St. John, Duomo and Camposanto Monumentale. It is well worth it however, to walk around Pisa, well beyond the usual suspects. The town contains a treasure trove of beautiful little chapels, gardens and palaces, in addition to some excellent restaurants and bars.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
While Pisa can be quite chilly and rainy in the winter months, the obvious time to visit is during the splendid summer season.
- Winter (December to February) 2-12°C
- Spring (March to May) 5-22°C
- Summer (June to September) 14-29°C
- Fall (October to November) 6-21°C
Pisa On Wikipedia
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