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.
I 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.
Like 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
Once 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.
Tip: 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.
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!