This post is all about Pisa, a fascinating city in Italy’s Tuscany region, based on public facts and information. In this all in one travel guide, learn about Pisa’s rich history, iconic landmarks, cultural heritage and local sightseeing as well as provide practical tips on commuting and transportation, day trips.
Summary of Historical background and Famous Landmarks of Pisa
Pisa is a city with a rich and fascinating history that goes back to the Etruscan civilization in the 6th century BC. During the Roman period, it was an important port and commercial center in the Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages, Pisa emerged as a powerful maritime republic that rivaled Venice, Genoa, and Florence in the Mediterranean trade. It reached its peak in the 11th and 12th centuries when it controlled a vast trading empire that extended from Spain to Palestine. Many of Pisa’s iconic landmarks, such as the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and the Baptistery, were built during this period.
However, Pisa’s power waned in the 13th century due to internal strife and military defeats. The city was conquered by Florence in 1406, and it remained under Florentine rule until the unification of Italy in 1861 when it became a part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In the 19th century, Pisa became a center for education and research with the establishment of the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, which is now one of Italy’s leading universities.
Today, Pisa is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. It is known for its rich history, historic landmarks, beautiful architecture, and cultural heritage. When you visit Pisa, there is no shortage of interesting places to explore. One of the best things to do is to get lost in the squares of the medieval city. If you are a night owl, and like going out in the late hours, it’s worth spending an evening at the bars in Piazza delle Vettovaglie or Piazza della Pera where you will find crowds in big numbers, especially the younger generation that keep the Restaurants, Pubs, Bars and Night Clubs lively.
As you meander along the labyrinthine alleys and stroll alongside the picturesque riversides, you’ll discover a plethora of breathtaking architectural marvels. It’s hard not to be drawn to the enchanting allure of Piazza dei Miracoli, which boasts one-of-a-kind features and endless marvels. Start your exploration of Piazza dei Miracoli from the Baptistery, which boasts startling acoustics, and then move towards the Camposanto Monumentale. This impressive structure is 130 meters long and has 43 blind arches, offering a stunning view of the square. Don’t miss the chance to marvel at this architectural wonder during your visit to Pisa.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, an impressive Romanesque-Pisan architectural wonder established in 1063, is also a must-visit place. As you continue your journey in the nearby block just behind the cathedral, you will find the the Leaning Tower that has drawn millions of visitors every year. In addition to the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and the Baptistery, other must-see attractions include the Palazzo della Carovana, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, and the Palazzo Blu. Pisa also offers delicious cuisine, with many restaurants and cafes serving traditional Tuscan dishes such as pasta, seafood, and wine. Visitors can easily explore the city on foot or by using public transportation, which includes buses and trains.
Discover PISA visually in this Travel Video Guide by Travel Max
Best Time to Visit
As per my Knowledge and Information, I found that the best time to visit Pisa is during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) and fall (September to October). In May the weather is lovely, not too hot and not too cold. There are still a few tourists around, but it is not as crowded as it would be during the peak season. It allows you to explore the city at your own pace and time, and one can explore its landmarks without feeling overwhelmed by the crowds.
Visiting Pisa during the summer months (June to August) can be an option for those who don’t mind hot and sunny weather. However, it’s essential to note that this is peak season, and you may encounter large crowds of tourists. Additionally, accommodation options tend to be more expensive during this time, so it’s important to factor this into your travel budget.
Winter (November to March) can be cold and rainy, and some of the city’s attractions may have reduced operating hours. However, the winter months offer a quieter, more peaceful atmosphere with fewer crowds, which can be an excellent time to experience the city’s authentic side.
Arriving in Pisa (To and From Airport and Rail Guide )
Pisa has an efficient public transport system, including buses and a local train network. The central train station, Pisa Centrale, is located just outside the city center and provides connections to major cities in Italy. The airport, Galileo Galilei International Airport, is located just outside the city (around 1 Kms) and is easily accessible by bus or train. If you’re arriving in Pisa by plane or train, below are the details on how to get to and from the airport and rail station:
From Pisa International Airport:
- By Train: The airport is located just 2 km from Pisa Central Station, and there’s a train station inside the airport. You can take the PisaMover shuttle train from the airport to Pisa Central Station. The train runs every 5-8 minutes and the journey takes about 5 minutes. The Single Ticket Cost is 5 Euros and Return Ticket Costs 10 Euros. You can book your tickets online here at the Company Website Link.
- By Bus: There are several bus services that operate between the airport and Pisa city center. The most popular is the “LAM Rossa” Bus Line 1, which runs every 10-15 minutes and takes about 15 minutes to reach the city center. The ticket is valid 70-minute ride and you can ride on multiple buses as well. You can purchase tickets from vending machines, or you can also buy them onboard. You will have to validate your ticket onboard using the stamping machine.
- Rent a Car at PISA International Airport: Pisa Airport has its own Car Rental Terminal, which is located a mere 500 meters from the passenger terminal and accessible via a shuttle service as well as on foot – it takes just 5 minutes to walk to the Car Rental Terminal, where a large number of car hire companies have their counters.
From Pisa Central Station:
- If arriving in Pisa by train, the city has two main train stations – Pisa Centrale and Pisa San Rossore. Pisa Centrale is the main station, and it connects to several major Italian cities, including Florence, Rome, and Milan. Pisa San Rossore is a smaller station and is located closer to the City Center, making it convenient for travelers who are staying in the area.
- From either train station, Travelers can easily access the City Center by Bus, Train or Taxi using several bus lines that operate in Pisa, including the LAM Rossa and LAM Verde lines, which connect the train station to the city center.
Important Sights and Attractions
Pisa is renowned for its major attractions and landmarks such as:
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa: A bell tower that leans to one side. It is a renowned tourist attraction known for its unique inclination, caused by the unstable soil and poor foundation during its construction in the 12th century. Standing at 56 meters tall, it originally had eight floors but a ninth was added later. The tower continues to attract millions of visitors annually. Visitors can ascend to the top for a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.
- Walls of Pisa: Dating back to the Renaissance era, the Walls of Pisa are an ancient defensive barrier encircling the city. Walking along the walls offers visitors breathtaking panoramic views of Pisa’s iconic landmarks and beautiful surrounding countryside. This is a unique way to explore the city’s rich history and architectural wonders.
- Piazza del Duomo : Piazza del Duomo is a square located in the heart of the historic center of Pisa, Italy. It is one of the most famous and visited places in the city, and it is known for its stunning Romanesque and Gothic Architecture, cultural heritage and historical significance. It houses four magnificent buildings: the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Baptistery of St. John, and the Camposanto Monumentale. Piazza del Duomo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Pisa.
- Piazza dei Cavalieri: The second main square in the city of Pisa is a significant historical landmark known for its breathtaking architecture. Situated in the heart of Pisa, this picturesque square was once the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen after the mid-16th century. Originally named Piazza d’Armi or “Square of Arms,” it was later renamed Knight’s Square in honor of the Knights of St. Stephen. Today, the square has become a hub of education, serving as the main building for the Scuola Normale di Pisa, a prestigious higher learning institution affiliated with the University
- Museo Nazionale di San Matteo: This museum showcases a splendid collection of Italian Renaissance art, featuring sculptural masterpieces by by artists like Nicola Pisano and Donatello, which are sure to leave visitors in awe of their incredible craftsmanship. The museum is also home to collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts and a rich array of antique paintings by renowned artists such as Berlinghiero Volterrano, Giunta Pisano, Simone Martini, Lippo Memmi, etc. This cultural gem is a must-see destination for any art enthusiast or history buff.
- Palazzo Blu: It is a magnificent 14th-century palace transformed into a cultural hub showcasing a diverse collection of art located in the heart of Pisa, Italy. It hosts a wide range of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing works by some of the most famous artists of all time.
- Botanical Garden and Museum: A botanical garden located near the city center that boasts a wide range of plants and trees from around the world. Founded in 1543, it is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world and is home to a diverse collection of plant species from around the globe that includes over 6,000 different plant species, including many rare and exotic plants from around the world.
- Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina: A small church situated on the Arno River’s banks, which exhibits a Gothic façade with intricate stone carvings. The church has a rich history dating back to the 13th century, when it was built to house a thorn believed to be from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ. It is just a short walk from other popular attractions in Pisa, such as the Leaning Tower and Piazza dei Miracoli.
- Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II: This is a large and bustling public square located in the heart of Pisa, Italy. This square is located on the east side of the city and features a lively market selling fresh produce and local crafts. The square is home to a variety of restaurants and cafes. The square is just a short walk from other popular attractions like the Leaning Tower and the Piazza dei Miracoli. It is easily accessible by foot or public transportation.
- Museo delle Sinopie: This museum is located in the Camposanto Monumentale and houses a collection of frescoes and sinopias (preparatory sketches for frescoes) from the 14th and 15th centuries. Visitors can see the restoration process of the frescoes and learn about the techniques used by the artists.
Food and Drinks :
Pisa is located in the heart of Tuscany, a region known for its delicious cuisine which includes hearty pasta dishes, flavorful meats, and locally grown produce. Pisa is famous for its pasta dishes, including spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), pappardelle alla lepre (pappardelle with hare sauce), and tagliatelle al tartufo (tagliatelle with truffle sauce). Here are many local food specialties to try in Pisa, including:
- Ribollita: A hearty vegetable soup made with bread, beans, and kale.
- Cacciucco: A seafood stew made with a variety of fish and shellfish, tomatoes, and spices.
- Pappa al pomodoro: A simple tomato and bread soup that is perfect for a light lunch.
- Bistecca alla fiorentina: A thick, juicy T-bone steak cooked over an open flame.
- Schiacciata: A savory flatbread that is similar to focaccia, often topped with olive oil and salt.
- Lampredotto: A traditional Tuscan street food made from the stomach of a cow and served in a sandwich with a spicy sauce.
The Mercato delle Vettovaglie is a popular Indoor food market where visitors can find fresh produce, seafood, cheese, and other local products. The market is open daily, except for Sundays. The Piazza delle Vettovaglie is another popular market that features a variety of food stalls and vendors. Visitors can try local specialties such as lampredotto, a traditional Tuscan sandwich made from the fourth stomach of a cow. There are also several gelaterias and bakeries in the city where visitors can sample local sweets and desserts.
Other Places to Explore in Pisa (If you have more time)
If you have time to explore beyond the city center, here are a few hidden gems to check out:
- San Michele degli Scalzi: This church is located just outside the city center and features a beautiful baroque façade and stunning frescoes inside.
- Giardino Scotto: The Cittadella Nuova, now called the Giardino di Scotto or Giardino Scotto is an old fortress in Pisa that houses a beautiful park is located near the city center and is a great place to relax and enjoy nature. The park is named after the Scotto family, who were a prominent family in Pisa during the Middle Ages. The park was originally the site of the family’s villa, which was built in the 16th century.
- Borgo Stretto: This narrow street in the city center is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants and is a great place to explore.
- Palazzo Gambacorti: This 14th-century palace sits elegantly along the riverfront and features an array of stunning murals and intricate plasterwork that adorn its walls and ceilings. Visitors can tour the palace’s stunning courtyard and frescoed halls.
- Lungarni: These riverside promenades offer stunning views of the Arno River and the city’s historic buildings. Take a stroll along the Lungarno Mediceo to see the Palazzo Medici and the Ponte di Mezzo.
1-2 Day Trips from PISA
Pisa is a stunning city located in the Tuscany region of Italy, which is renowned for its picturesque countryside, delightful villages, and remarkable cities steeped in history. There are a plethora of fantastic day trips that you can embark on from Pisa to explore the surrounding region. Here are some of the most noteworthy day trips from Pisa:
- Florence: No visit to Tuscany is complete without exploring the captivating city of Florence, which can be reached in just one hour by train from Pisa. Florence boasts an array of world-famous art and architecture, such as the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Ponte Vecchio.
- Lucca: The charming walled city of Lucca is situated only 20 minutes from Pisa by train. Lucca is celebrated for its stunning historic center that encompasses the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, the Torre Guinigi, and the Cathedral of San Martino.
- Cinque Terre: The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cinque Terre is nestled along the Ligurian coast, and it’s a two-hour train ride from Pisa. Cinque Terre is home to five enchanting villages perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea, and it’s a well-liked spot for hiking and swimming.
- San Gimignano: The lovely medieval town of San Gimignano is situated in the heart of Tuscany, and it can be reached in just one hour by car from Pisa. San Gimignano is renowned for its 14 medieval towers and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
- Volterra: The ancient Etruscan city of Volterra is nestled in the hills of Tuscany, and it’s only an hour away from Pisa by car. Volterra is celebrated for its stunning architecture, including the Roman Theatre and the Palazzo dei Priori.
- Siena: The charming medieval city of Siena is situated in the heart of Tuscany, and it can be reached in just an hour and a half by train from Pisa. Siena is well-known for its historic center that encompasses the Piazza del Campo, the Duomo, and the Palazzo Pubblico.