When planning our Italian adventure, Pisa didn’t even feature on the destination list. We had decided that we quite liked dual city holidays after last years successful trip to Krakow and Prague, and so were pretty set on Rome and Naples with a train ride in between.
But Pisa has had me fascinated from a young age, and I’d already missed an opportunity to hop across there when visiting Florence. It definitely wasn’t wasn’t a city we’d go to on a single trip, but I put it to the back of my mind as we had our itinerary planned out.
Until we didn’t! I realised, just before booking our flights to Rome that I would be flying on my Birthday, and as someone who is more than a little averse to flying, that made me rethink. Before you know it, I was planning to wake up in Pisa on my 34th Birthday and our one day adventure was on the cards.
We flew from Stansted late on a Friday night with Ryanair for a pretty decent price (it was around £38 per person), and because of our late landing we splashed out on a Taxi via Rideways for £20 to take us to the hotel. I wouldn’t usually do that, but I did not want to be messing around at the airport in Pisa at 11pm.
A lot of tourists arrive in Pisa via the central train station from places like Lucca and Florence, as it is such a doable day trip from other Tuscan cities. Instead we actually left by train to get to Rome, which was about a 2.5 hour journey booked via trainline.eu.
The rest of our day in Pisa was spent on foot – it’s compact enough to easily stroll round and see everything in a 10am – 3pm day.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of low cost hotels in Pisa, and we stayed in Hotel Roma for £47 a night including breakfast. The hotel was minutes walk from the Leaning Tower, with a bus stop directly outside to the airport. Whilst I’m sure there are fancier places to stay, for a room where we were effectively spending just 7 hours sleeping it didn’t seem worth spending more.
Spend a bit of time using map view on Booking.com to find the most conveniently located hotel for your itinerary.
Our day in Pisa
There’s no getting around it – the Leaning Tower is the thing that everyone wants to see, but believe me when I say there is so much more to this beautiful city!
Here’s my one day itinerary for exploring ALL Pisa has to offer!
Piazza Dei Miracoli
Formerly known as the Piazza del Duomo, this is where you’ll find all the big ticket sights in Pisa. Literally translated as the Square of Miracles, it contains around six major sights, and has a simple ticketing system to visit them. We visited four of them as below:
- The Leaning Tower – you can climb up the Tower (all 293 steps!), but we decided to view this from afar. It’s honestly the most mind-bending thing you’ll ever see – super beautiful but your eyes will be constantly trying to correct the lean!
- The Baptistery – a circular domed structure lying just outside the entrance to the cathedral, it’s an intricate building both inside and out. It won’t take long to visit, but it’s worth climbing the stairs to the gallery view! Did you know Galileo was baptised here?
- The Cathedral – the only building that is free to enter in the square. It might not be as decorated as other famous Duomo, but it is rather a beautiful. Worth an explore both inside and out.
- The Camposanto – established in the 12th century, this is a monumental cemetery that holds many famous Pisan’s and Medici’s. The unusual structure is covered in detailed frescos depicting life and death, all around a central courtyard. It’s said the ground is so sacred that a body will rot in 24 hours. So don’t fall asleep here!
In the same area you can also visit the Palace, Museum and Sinopie Museum.
Cost: 18EUR to climb the tower. 5EUR for one site, 7EUR for two, 8EUR for three. Cathedral is free. Ticket info can be found here.
Lunch at Caffeteria Dantesca
After exploring all that the Piazza dei Miracoli had to offer (and attempting to take LOADS of those mad tourist pictures with the tower), we’d worked up quite the appetite. We wandered off the tourist track to Caffetteria Dantesca, located on Piazza Dante Alighieri, 8.
We consume so two of the largest pizzas I’d ever seen (margherita for me, tuna for Mr S), washed down with ice cold cokes and a cheeky Aperol Spritz for me. It came in at 36.50EUR including the cover charge, which didn’t seem too horrendous for a Italian city centre.
Piazza Dei Cavalieri
After a decent and filling lunch, it was time to set off again, this time in search of some of Pisa’s slightly more hidden gems. A lot of people come to Pisa to see the Tower and Duomo and leave without ever experiencing the beauty of the Piazza dei Cavalieri. The Knight’s Square is the second main square of the city and was its political centre in medieval Pisa.
It’s now an educational base, hosting the main building of a university founded by Napoleon Bonaparte (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa) and it definitely has a smaller, less grand feel than the Square of Miracles. But the buildings are not less beautiful, with the square playing host to the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, the Church of St. Rocco and the statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici.
Wandering the banks and bridges of the Arno is something you could do on many times and not get bored. The Arno is beautiful (one of my favourite bits of Florence) and you get some excellent views from the bridges, most notably Ponte di Mezzo.
Gelato at La Bottega del Gelato
I had decided long before arriving in Italy that if I walked enough, my treat would be a gelato a day. In Pisa I chose La Bottega to avail myself of my ice cream cravings and it was delicious. At just 2EUR each for two scoops in a cup, I chose Fragoli and Chocolate and Mr S chose Limon and Chocolate Mousse.
Grab some before strolling along the banks of the Arno and try and keep the smug grin off your face!
Santa Maria della Spina
Blink and you’ll miss it, the Santa Maria della Spina is a tiny gothic church that was erected around 1230 on the bank of The Arno. Despite its small size, it really is a thing of beauty, and absolutely worth have a good look at whilst in Pisa.
Tuttomondo di Keith Haring
This beautiful mural lies not far from Pisa Centrale Stazione, making it perfect to visit on our way to catch the train to Rome. Tuttomondo was the Keith Haring’s last public work of art, painted in 1989 before his premature death.
It is located on one entire wall of the Sant’Antonio Abate, a Roman Catholic Church and translates as “all world”. Go and find out what it means to you!
I loved my day in Pisa – just enough to keep myself occupied and not too much to be overwhelmed. It’s the perfect size to explore in a day, and the wonder of looking up and around such amazing examples of Italian architecture (and THAT iconic tower!) in close proximity is awesome.
I’d absolutely recommend a visit to Pisa – next time you are planning an Italian adventure, why not add Pisa to your itinerary?