An old maritime republic, Pisa retained much of the old pride from those medieval times when the Saracen raids made it mandatory for the city to become a naval power, launch its thriving trades and expand its control to other territories such as Sardinia, Palermo and Reggio Calabria. Let’s be clear, a day trip from Florence to Pisa will not be enough to dig deep into what its long and stormy history left us, from its port status during ancient Roman times to the battles with the other naval powers Genoa and Venice to the organization of the city life, but trust us, it’s a charming beginning.
Often overshadowed by the heavy presence of the more famous Florence, Pisa is also a top destination in Tuscany, and if you are privileged enough to afford some more days in this beautiful Italian region, do plan a trip to the hometown of Galileo Galilei, astronomer, mathematician and father of modern science, and of the great mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci, you won’t regret it.
How to plan a perfect day trip from Florence to Pisa
For many of us a day trip to cities with a rich culture such as Pisa or Siena might be too short but obviously, if we want to see more of a region, this stays the best option. After spending three days in Florence and taking a lovely day trip from Florence to Siena, we decided to make another short excursion, this time from Florence to Pisa. We weren’t sure whether a day trip to Pisa would be enough or not, but after staying there all morning and afternoon, we were happy we did it.
The most popular things to see in the Pisa are all located in Piazza del Duomo, or Campo dei Miracoli, so for a quick jaunt, a day trip from Florence to Pisa is enough.
How to get to Pisa from Florence
Florence to Pisa trains leave from Santa Maria Novella Train Station roughly every hour and the train ride takes from an to an hour and a half.
Florence to Pisa train ticket price: One-way ticket from Florence to Pisa is € 8.40 if booked through Trenitalia.
How to get to Piazza del Duomo to visit the main things in Pisa
Not sure why, but in Pisa, the Google map app wasn’t giving the right directions in either of our phones, so we asked locals and got to the point the old-school way. If you are arriving by train, here is how to get to Piazza del Duomo, or commonly called Campo dei Miracoli, from Pisa Centrale train station.
The main gate of Pisa train station opens on a fairly wide street called Viale Antonio Gramsci, right in front of it. Walk Viale Antonio Gramsci to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, walk to the left side of the piazza to the short road called Largo Padri Della Costituzione then turn right to Via Francesco Crispi and from there it is a long straight road where you will cross the Solferino bridge “Ponte Solferino” along the Arno river. Then walk on Via Roma that finally connects to Piazza del Duomo.
Note: It’s 25 minutes walk from the station and can be pleasant if it’s not too hot, otherwise I recommend you go with taxi or bus. You can take the bus from Pisa Stazione FS and get off at Piazza Manin stop.
Weather in Pisa: when is the best time to visit Pisa
The city and in general the Tuscany region have all the four seasons. In some parts, in winter it snows, while from mid-May to September the weather in Pisa can get pretty hot and the city is crowded. I recommend springtime, from March to May, as the best time to visit Pisa: the weather is very pleasant and the city is not too packed with tourists yet.
Things to do in Pisa
Leaning Tower, “Torre Pendente“. The famous 55-meter-tall Torre di Pisa is located next to Pisa Cathedral (Duomo di Pisa) in Campo dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) and was used as the cathedral’s bell tower. Its leaning structure is considered by some as an architectural miscalculation while others believe the soft soil is the cause of its leaning a few meters toward the south. It was built between the 12th and 14th century by Bonanno Pisano, Gherardo di Gherardo, Giovanni di Simone and Giovanni Pisano.
Whatever the reason, this tower made the city famous all over the world.
If you want to go up the tower, make sure to reserve the ticket online, unless you are there off season then you can walk to the ticket office and buy your ticket. Children under 8 are not allowed to climb the tower and under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. You need to turn in the bags at the cloakroom.
Leaning Tower of Pisa ticket: 17€ on site, 18€ if you book online, official website http://www.opapisa.it/en/tickets/prices/
Leaning Tower opening hours: 8.30 am-10 pm in summer, 9 am-7 pm in autumn, 10 am-4.30 pm in winter.
Official website: http://www.opapisa.it/en/ for more information on opening hours in the different seasons and changes due to renovation works.
Duomo di Pisa. Pisa Cathedral was built in Roman-Gothic architectural style between the 11th and the 12th centuries. The construction underwent two phases, one with the work of architect Buscheto mainly for the nave and the interior, and the second one when architect Rainaldo brought about the expansion of the building and took over the works of the facade. A fire in the 16th century destroyed much of the cathedral that had to undergo renovation works for the roof, the bronze doors of the facade.
Cathedral Admission: The admission is free. You can buy a ticket for other monuments in the square and you get a free pass to the cathedral, not subjected to a fixed time. If you want to visit only the Cathedral, you still need the pass from the ticket office on the site, even if it’s free.
Pisa Cathedral opening hours: 10 am-7 pm.
Battistero di San Giovanni. The Baptistery of Saint John was built between the 12th and the 14th century by masters such as Diotisalvi and Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni. With 12 columns and more than 107 meters in diameter, it’s considered Italy’s, and Europe’s, biggest baptistery.
Battistero di San Giovanni admission fee: The Baptistery is part of the Campo dei Miracoli, for all the landmarks how it works is: 1 landmark, 5 euro; 2 landmarks, 7 euro; 3 landmarks, 8 euro. You can always add the Cathedral because it’s free but you need to include it in the pass otherwise you won’t be able to go through the ticket barrier.
Battistero di San Giovanni opening hours: 8 am-10 pm in summer, 9 am-7 pm in autumn, 10 am-4.30 pm in winter.
Campo Santo, also known as “Cimitero Monumentale” (Monumental Cemetery). Located next to the Duomo and Baptistery, in the same Campo dei Miracoli square, the cemetery was the last monument to be added to the complex. It was built in 1277 by Giovanni di Simone, the purpose of this cemetery was to move there the tombs previously hosted in the cathedral. The large grass-covered, roof-less outside is said to be a huge reliquary containing the sacred land brought from Palestine in 1146 during the Second Crusade.
Cimitero Monumentale di Pisa admission fee: The Monumental Cemetery is part of the Campo dei Miracoli, for all the landmarks how it works is 1 landmark, 5 euro; 2 landmarks, 7 euro; 3 landmarks, 8 euro. You can always add the Cathedral because it’s free but you need to include it in the pass otherwise you won’t be able to go through the ticket barrier.
Cimitero Monumentale di Pisa opening hours: 8 am-10 pm in summer, 9 am-7 pm in autumn, 10 am-4.30 pm in winter.
Museo delle Sinopie. The first stage of the frescoes work, the sinopia is the drawing made on the first layer of the plaster, and the Museum of the Sinopie is a fascinating display of how the artists worked, jotted down the first sketches of their future masterpieces.
This one-of-a-kind collection was discovered almost by chance after the bombings on Pisa during World War II caused a huge fire within the Cemetery. This is when citizens were forced to pull the frescoes from the walls in the hope to save a large of them. This is how the stunning, “hidden” part of the frescoes was revealed.
Museo delle Sinopie admission fee: Museo delle Sinopie is part of the Campo dei Miracoli, for all the landmarks how it works is: 1 landmark, 5 euro; 2 landmarks, 7 euro; 3 landmarks, 8 euro. You can always add the Cathedral because it’s free but you need to include it in the pass otherwise you won’t be able to go through the ticket barrier.
Museo delle Sinopie opening hours: 8 am-8 pm in summer, 9 am-7 pm in autumn, 10 am-4.30 pm in winter.
Keith Haring Mural. It was 1989 when a young Keith Haring painted his famous “Tuttomondo” mural on the exterior wall of Sant’Antonio church. “One of the most important projects of I’ve ever embarked on”, are the artist’s words about his last public project devoted to the harmony men should reach in the world, among each other and with nature.
Huge and colorful, it’s one of those works of art that you can’t miss if you visit Pisa. Did I mention it’s free?
Keith Haring Mural address: Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, 18
Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights Square). Not in the immediate surroundings of the more famous Campo dei Miracoli, often hasty tourists overlook this beautiful square. Commissioned to Giorgio Vasari by Cosimo I in 1558 with the aim to reorganize the buildings that, in his own words, were a chaos.
Directly overlooking on the piazza are the Palazzo della Carovana, Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri church, the Palazzo della Canonica, devoted to accommodate the Knights/priests of the Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen, the Palazzo del Consiglio dei Dodici, the Palazzo Pluteano, San Rocco church and the Palazzo dell’Orologio, the outcome of merging two medieval buildings in the 17th century, one of which of the so-called “Hunger Tower” where, in 1288, the count Ugolino della Gherardesca was condemned to die from hunger and thirst along with his sons and nephews.
If you have more time and are still wondering what to do in Pisa, this is definitely one of the most fascinating attractions shrouded in mystery. The “Hunger Tower” has been recently open to visitors so you can also go inside.
National Museum of San Matteo. The Museo Nazionale di San Matteo displays the artwork taken from Pisa’s most important civic and religious buildings and palaces from the early Middle Ages to the 16th century, with names of the likes of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Donatello and Andrea della Robbia. On display also a rich collection of paintings from the 16th to the 18th century with famous painters such as Giunta Pisano, Berlinghiero, Volterrano, Simone Martini, and from the 15th century with great painters such as Beato Angelico, Ghirlandaio, Masaccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Benozzo Gozzoli. If you are an art lover, this is definitely one of the things to do in Pisa.
National Museum of San Matteo address: Piazza San Matteo in Soarta, 1
National Museum of San Matteo admission fee: 5€, free every first Sunday of the month.
National Museum of San Matteo opening hours: Daily 8.30 am-7 pm on weekdays, 8.30 am-1.30 pm on Sundays and holidays. Closed on Monday, January 1st, May 1st, December 25th.
Where to eat: Restaurants in Pisa
La Sosta dei Cavalieri. Small and cozy, the wood interior design is the perfect surrounding for a traditional Tuscan meal both seafood/fish and meat-based washed with a good local wine. The restaurant is in Via San Frediano 3.
Ristorante La Clessidra. Serving both fish and meat dishes, La Clessidra suggests also two sampling menus, one with fish and one with meat, to give guests the chance to try different dishes. La Clessidra restaurant is located in Via del Castelletto 26/30.
Yame Yame Kebab & Pizza. If you are on a budget, stop at Yame Yame Kebab & Pizza, where you have a good choice of Turkish-style kebab, deal menus, vegetarian options and some pizza by the slice. The restaurant is 2-5 minutes walk from “Stazione Pisa Centrale” train station in Viale Antonio Gramsci.
How to get to the beach from Pisa
One of the things to do in Pisa if you are traveling in summer and staying more than one day is to visit its beaches. Pisa is connected to the coast with public transport, and the beach is 15-20 minutes far from the city. Among the best beaches to visit near Pisa are the beautiful, sandy Viareggio, 15 minutes with the train, or the pretty little town of Castiglioncello that has nice rocky and sandy beaches, and it’s some 30 minutes ride with the train.
Another beach near Pisa that you might want to consider is Marina di Pisa, at some 30 minutes (12km) ride with the bus from Pisa.
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