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Top of Tower of Pisa 1
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Every city has its must-see sights.  Sometimes they are built up to be the most amazing thing you’ll ever see and sometimes they’re completely underrated.  One example of an amazing sight is Il Duomo, Sante Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy.  It’s towering, it’s beautiful and is an amazing feat of architecture.  You know what’s not as impressive?  The Space Needle in Seattle.  Also, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Pisa Italy pinI know, they both have such fame.  Both are nifty in their own way, but neither is epic.  The Tower is in a magical setting, and that’s to be fully appreciated.  It’s in a beautiful city and it is absolutely worth some time.  Here are our thoughts on Pisa and how to be speedy.

Arrival in Pisa

The primary train station isn’t close to anything.  Anything.  So, to start your visit on the right foot, use the distance from the train station to your ultimate destination to grab a bite and an espresso.

If you’re early, FYI, Pisa isn’t an early morning city.  It’s kind of funny actually.  You walk around and think to yourself “Um, did the apocalypse happen?  Are we the sole survivors?”  Eventually you’ll find coffee, so don’t be too discouraged.

Tip:  don’t take a taxi when you get off the train.  It’ll be tempting, but do the walk.  This is when you’ll get the best impression of the town and its beautiful antiquated charm.  …continue reading, please.

There is another train station you may arrive via, but we did’t.  We came into town from La Spezia into the Pisa Centrale so that’s our frame of reference.

The Trek

Arno River in Pisa 1Like we said, the train station is nowhere near the standard Pisa sights.  So, you start… you walk… you cross the beautiful Arno river (which you’ll also cross in Florence)… you walk past narrow streets and tiny churches… you hear bells everywhere.  It’s actually amazing.

As you walk though, it’s surprising to see how much less touristy the city is than what you’d expect.  Pisa is what a functional, non-tourist town looks and feels like.  You actually get to see Italy without tour buses.

Tip:  arrive later in the morning to be able to shop, as Pisa is actually an Italian shopping paradise yet to be discovered by tourists.  True, you’re thinking that Florence is where the shopping happens, and that’s true too, but Pisa will surprise and impress you.

Why you’re in Pisa

Top of Tower of Pisa 1Once you’re there, there’s also the baptistery and cathedral, Santa Maria Assunta.  The three structures are in a line and are impressive from all angles.  There is a cost to tour, of course, but all can be enjoyed from the outside too.  There are sculptures strategically placed throughout the area and places to rest and take in the view.

If you’re feeling spirited, you can climb the tower.  You do need to book it in advance (we didn’t book it) and you’ll not want to be carrying a massive backpack.  And since you’re in Tuscany, you’ll most likely be visiting Florence too, so…

Tip:  if there’s only one thing you’re going to climb, save your strength for the bell tower at Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.  It’ll provide you a greater thrill with more breathtaking views.  Think about it:  the main attraction in Pisa is the tower, so climbing it will lose you the view of it.  Just a thought.

Tip 2:  everybody is expecting everybody else to be doing the ridiculous “supporting the Tower of Pisa” pose.  Just do it.  It hurts nobody and give a great reason to look silly.

There are many more things to do and see directly surrounding the Field of Miracles, but if your goal is being speedy and seeing just the most monumental and touristy things, you’re already good to go.

Romulus and Remus sculpture in Pisa 1Tip:  if you’re into purchasing tourist swag, unfortunately this is the place to do it.  It would be nice to visit the cathedral and baptistery without the eye-pollution, but it’s there.  Truth be told, this was the only place we could find patches of Italy to sew onto the infamous travel bag.

Tip 2:  if you’d like to enter the cathedral, you’ll need to be dressed appropriately, meaning shoulders covered (and maybe some other areas).  There are paper mantles provided to ensure tourists are being respectful of the setting.

Pisa is an amazing city with a whole lot more than the leaning tower, but if you're on a tight schedule, here's how to experience Pisa and its beauty.There are, of course, many other sights in Pisa and many ways to approach the city.  If you’re looking for a way to be speedy and not feel like you’re missing out, here are the take-aways:

Arrive early

Walk to your destination to experience the quiet city

Do visit the most famous site

Take your time resting and enjoying the view

Get back on that train.

 

Do you have any other cannot-miss sights in Pisa?  How did you maximize your time in this Tuscan gem?  Share in the comments below or email us and we’ll add your tips!


Can you spare a share?

Comments:

  • November 8, 2015

    Hi there!

    Great read – very fair review. I was pleasantly surprised about Pisa. I was expecting another tourist trap, filled with pickpockets. But hey, gotta have your picture with the leaning power, right? There’s actually a train stop close to the tower, perfect for a quick Click ‘n Run photo trip. You can even stay at the much more relaxed Lucca and do a half day trip. Like you’ve said, the Tower is part of a fantastic complex, a masterwork of architecture. And do keep the cash for Florence because tickets are outrageous.

    cheers – rik aka tapir tales

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  • February 2, 2016

    I am SO happy you liked Pisa! Loads of people love to hate it, but I think Piazza dei miracoli is stunning -full of touristy junk for sure, but so beautiful I have no difficulty seeing through it. if you don’t feel like walking, there is a decent bus stopping just outside the piazza and going to the station and then the airport (can’t remember which one though) 😉

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  • February 3, 2016

    I didn’t hit Pisa on our trip to Italy. We planned around it naively thinking that there is only the leaning tower to see. Looks like we missed out, but that means something more to check out next time.

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    • Rob Taylor

      February 3, 2016

      We’ve been looking at keeping it on our itinerary for our next trip and think we’ll opt for two nights in Pisa. Florence and Cinque Terre is still our favorite spots, but Pisa is special too.

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  • Brooke

    April 18, 2016

    Is there a safe place to store luggage near the train station?

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  • May 14, 2016

    I’ve always wanted to visit Pisa! I didn’t get to visit when we recently went to Italy and was so disappointed. I see how much I missed now 🙁

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  • May 15, 2016

    I haven’t been to Italy but Frank went as a kid- he remembers it being very touristy. I still want to go for the romance and beaches:)

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  • July 24, 2018

    Pisa is one of those famous destinations that keeps alluding us. We want to see it, we talk about seeing it, but we keep postponing it. Sound like we could get in and get out and finally cross it off our list. Thanks for pointing this out.

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  • March 19, 2019

    Great post! I’ve been in Pisa few weeks ago and really enjoyed my stay. Heard so many opinions about how boring and not worth seeing the city is, but definitely can’t agree with them – despite the Leaning Tower, Pisa has lots of hidden gems. Besides the mentioned places, also the Botanical Garden is really nice (the oldest one in Europe!) and if you have a possibility it’s great to move around the city on a bike.

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    • 2td-admin

      March 19, 2019

      Great ideas! Yes to the biking. Pisa is wonderfully flat with interesting spots you can easily reach by bike. Good to know about the Botanical Gardens too. Why in the world did we skip them?!

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    • Martin Brownhill

      June 2, 2019

      Just back from an Italian holiday. Spent the day in Pisa, expecting a wonky tower. How wrong was I?. Found Pisa an unexpected gem. Bought an 8€ tourist ticket to get into 3 places & 18€ to climb the tower. Great gelato too.

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      • 2td-admin

        June 5, 2019

        That’s fantastic! Yes, Pisa is so much more than just looking at the bell tower. Glad you enjoyed! I can’t wait to get back!

        reply...

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