10 Things You Need to Know About Pisa, Italy

picture of pisa, italy

Join our Introduction to Pisa Tour to learn about this remarkable town's historic context

Pisa’s rich history extends far beyond its most famous landmark – the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There are so many things to do in Pisa, Italy, like viewing historical masterpieces, museums, churches, palaces, and more.

Nestled in the Tuscany region, Pisa offers the fun of the modern world (nightlife, great food, etc.) set inside a charming city studded with beautiful examples of Medieval architecture. Whether you’re planning an extended stay or just a day trip to Pisa, here are our insider tips and tricks to make the most of your time in Pisa, Italy.

Getting to Pisa

Planes, trains, and automobiles! These are all options when it comes to traveling to Pisa.

One of our best tips is to plan your transportation and save yourself the stress of navigating a train station at the last minute. Put together your Pisa itinerary and research your travel options so you have a game plan when you’re ready to hit the road.

There are several great options, including:

  • Plane – the Galileo Galilei Airport (also known as the Pisa International Airport) offers direct flights from many major European cities and some cities in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Train – Pisa is well-connected by train, so you can travel from most major Italian cities, including Florence, Rome, and Milan. You may also be able to travel directly to Pisa from outside Italy, as Nice and Geneva also offer direct train rides. Pisa’s main train station is Pisa Centrale, located within walking distance of Pisa’s city center.
  • Car – Driving in Pisa can be a bit of an adventure, so be prepared! The city has limited parking options, though you can find parking lots outside the city walls.
  • Bus – The bus station is conveniently located near the train station, and there are several bus companies that offer transportation to Pisa from other Italian or European cities.

Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Instantly recognizable and undeniably iconic, the Leaning Tower of Pisa draws millions of visitors every year.

But where is the Leaning Tower of Pisa located in Italy? You can find it in the Piazza del Miracoli. Contrary to popular belief, the Tower just didn’t lean over time – it started leaning soon after construction started.

Commissioned by wealthy merchant Bonanno Pisano, construction on the Tower started in 1173. This landmark was initially intended to be a bell tower for a cathedral, but constant construction interruptions due to wars, financial struggles, and engineering issues hampered the Tower’s progress.

The soft ground under the Tower quickly presented a problem. The lean continued to become more prominent, and ongoing stabilization efforts began. Architects and builders started adding weight to the opposite side of the Tower, as well as digging channels around the base to help with soil drainage.

Extensive restoration efforts were completed in 2001, and the Tower reopened to the public soon after. While the Tower is safe, a limited number of visitors are allowed at a time and they must wear special shoes to protect the marble steps.

Today, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Italy's most popular tourist attractions. Despite its pronounced lean, the tower remains a symbol of the ingenuity and creativity of the Medieval builders who constructed it.

One of the best things to do in Pisa is a guided tour, which allows you to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of this historic city.  Due to the popular and photogenic Piazza dei Miracoli (home to the Leaning Tower), day-trippers flock to the city on a daily basis but are typically limited to a small slice of the city.

On our half-day Introduction to Pisa Tour, an excursion beginning from Tuscany or a variety of other Tuscan towns, you can explore not only the religious structures of the city, but also delve into its dramatic political history as a republic, its significance as a Medieval art center, and its present-day status as a university town.

Exploring Pisa's Other Landmarks

Once you’ve taken one of those famous, classic pictures at the Leaning Tower of Pisa (we’ve all done it!), take some time to adventure around and find other things to do in Pisa – and there’s quite a bit to do.

Pisa Cathedral

This stunning cathedral is one of the most beautiful in all of Tuscany. While its Leaning Tower may steal the spotlight, the cathedral is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. The detailed, elaborate exterior is a sight to behold, and the reflective, awe-inspiring interior includes gold accents. Make sure to look up – the cathedral’s golden ceiling is an impressive piece of art, added during the 16th century under Medici rule.

Pisa Baptistery

Located front and center in the Square of Miracles, the Baptistery’s extradordinary exterior is reminiscent of a crown. It is the largest baptistery in Italy and was built prior to the Leaning Tower. While not as pronounced as the Tower, the Baptistery also has a slight lean. The artistic centerpiece is a carved marble pulpit by Nicola Pisano depicting Mary in various phases.

Camposanto Monumentale

Also known as Campo Santo – which translates to “holy field” – this historical edifice is located in Cathedral Square. According to local legend, Campo Santo is built on sacred soil shipped from Golgotha in the 12th century. This incredible cemetery embodies Gothic architecture with large columns and archways spread across its oblong structure.

Understanding Pisan Culture and Customs

Festivals, traditions, and an emphasis on food and family color the beautiful Pisan culture. The people of Pisa place a high importance on education and history, and they are very proud of their city’s important role in Tuscany’s past and present.

The riposo is Italy’s version of a siesta, a midday break when churches, museums, businesses, and shops close down for a few hours of rest. Whether it’s a long lunch or time to relax, this is an excellent opportunity to soak in all you’ve seen and enjoy a stroll down the quiet streets. Research your destinations and plan ahead – then you won’t face an unexpected afternoon closure.

Eating and Drinking in Pisa

Savor Pisa’s local specialties to truly experience this magical city. There’s no shortage of delicious food and wine to enjoy amongst spectacular historic buildings. Common specialties found in restaurants in Italy include:

  • Cacciucco – a stew made with various types of seafood, including fish, squid, and shellfish.
  • Pappardelle alla lepre – a pasta dish with wide noodles covered in a slow-cooked, rich sauce made from hare meat.
  • Trippa alla Pisana – a tripe dish cooked with tomatoes, onions, and herbs.
  • Lampredotto – a street food made from the fourth stomach of a cow slow-cooked with onions, tomato sauce, and herbs.
  • Cecina – traditional Italian flatbread made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt.

The hallmark of Pisan cuisine is simple, flavorful dishes made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Experience the city’s rich cultural heritage the way it was meant to be experienced – through delicious, unforgettable meals.

Staying in Pisa

In Pisa, Italy, you can find accommodations for nearly every budget. Pisa has a range of hotels, from luxury hotels to more budget-friendly lodging. Some popular hotels in the city include Hotel Galilei, Grand Hotel Bonanno, and NH Pisa.

Looking for a more personal experience? Stay at a bed and breakfast in Pisa. Often located in historic buildings, these boutique B&Bs provide amenities like breakfast, the expertise of a local, and other charming benefits. There’s no better way to get to know a city than over an espresso at breakfast with a local.

For budget-conscious travelers, there are several hostels in Pisa offering shared dormitory-style accommodation. Hostels in the city include Hostel Pisa Tower, Hostel Villa Giulia, and Pisa Central Station Hostel.

Pisa also has a range of vacation rental options, including apartments, villas, and guesthouses. Vacation rentals offer the opportunity to stay in a private space and experience life like a local. If you want a kitchen to cook in or a place to do laundry, this could be a great option.

If you’re interested in more rustic accommodations, try a campground! Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy campgrounds in and around Pisa, including Camping Village Torre Pendente, Camping Village Torre Rinalda, and Camping Maremma Sans Souci.

Money and Tipping in Pisa

Pisa uses the euro for currency, and there are currency exchanges located throughout the city. If you need to exchange currency, check rates as they vary between banks, hotels, and train stations. Taking a few moments to shop around can help you save on your exchange rate.

As with most places in Europe, American-style tipping isn’t customary in Pisa. If you feel the service has been particularly good, you can leave a small tip, but it isn’t expected. There are rarely tip lines included on receipts, so ensure you have some coins handy for tips. It’s also nice to leave a small tip for the hotel cleaning staff, around one or two euros per day of your stay at the hotel.

Weather and Seasonal Considerations

Pisa’s Mediterranean climate features rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. Keep the season in mind when planning your trip to Pisa to ensure you maximize your time in this beautiful city!

The coldest month is usually January, and August tends to be the hottest time of year. In the heat of the summer, the temperature can hover close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, often with muggy humidity.

Safety and Security in Pisa

Pisa is considered a safe place to travel, but there are a few things to remember. Pickpockets can be a risk in any metropolitan city, and Pisa is no different. Stay aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close (especially on public transit), and avoid getting distracted by your cell phone. If you are traveling by car, don’t leave luggage or other personal items in the car or within sight.

Tourist scams are prevalent as well, like unofficial tour guides, unauthorized ticket “helpers” who ask for a tip after helping you buy a train ticket, and people who attempt to hand you small items (like a rose or a bracelet) and then request money in exchange for the item.

Plan Your Trip to Pisa, Italy

Make the most of your time in Pisa and create your dream itinerary! With so much to see, you’ll have no trouble bringing to life the Italian vacation you’ve always imagined.

Save yourself some time and let us do the planning for you with our guided tour of Pisa. This expertly crafted experience is designed to help you make the most of your time in the fabled city of Pisa, Italy.

If you want a little sneak peek of what to expect, check out Context Learning! We have great online courses that will give you a jump start on your adventure.

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