Pisa Attractions and Tourist
Attractions in Pisa
Pisa has one of the world’s most talked about and admired attractions, The Leaning Tower. But there are plenty of other great things to see in Pisa and many of them are in the wonderful Campo dei Miracoli square (see photo). Here you get an overview of the best the city has to offer.
Torre Pendente (The Leaning Tower)
Not only Pisa’s main landmark, but one of the most famous buildings in all of Italy, yes worldwide, for that matter. Started in 1173, this incredibly beautiful tower was intended to be the cathedral’s bell tower. Because it was built on unstable ground, it soon began to lean over. In 2001, the tower was finally secured to collapse and is now safe to visit.
The tower is about 56 meters high and has 298 steps to the top where it leans 4.5 meters out of the vertical axis. The tower receives a maximum of 50 visitors every half hour, so if you plan to go there during the peak season, it is recommended to pre-book a minimum of 15 days in advance on the website, although it costs a few euros extra. If you have not pre-booked, you should be prepared for a wait of one hour or two.
Price around 200 kroner. Opening hours vary, but are usually from 2 p.m. 0800 to 2000 at summer time and from 7 am 0900 to 1700 in the winter. Children under the age of 8 have no access, and children between the ages of 8 and 12 must be held by an adult at all times.
Duomo di Pisa (Pisa Cathedral)
Pisa’s majestic medieval cathedral is the real centerpiece of Campo dei Miracoli. It was begun in 1064 and has a beautiful facade of gray marble and white stone, with giant bronze doors. Here rests the mummified remains of Pisa’s patron saint St. Ranieri, and the church has a magnificent pulpit from the early 1300s.
You can see the influence of both Muslim and Byzantine architecture, and large frescoes on the roof of the dome. The cathedral also leans lightly to the side, not just the tower.
Camposanto is located a few meters north of the cathedral and is a walled cemetery. The tombstones are in the marble floor around a green garden, and hundreds of years-old sarcophagi and marble busts surround both sides of the walkways.
In a separate section, several enormous frescoes by an unknown artist from the 16th century have been restored close to their original condition.
Campo dei Miracoli’s fourth attraction is this white, round building, used for baptismal ceremonies, which began in 1153, but was not completed until the 13th century. You can walk up to the gallery near the perfectly curved dome, which is very simple and aesthetic in design. Every full hour and a half, one of the staff demonstrates the amazing acoustics.
Piazza dei Cavalieri
At Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knight’s Square), Pisa’s forum lay during Roman times, and was the political center of the Middle Ages. The square is dominated by the Palazzo della Caravona, with its impressive façade, which now houses the prestigious Scuola Normala Superiore di Pisa. In the center of the square is a statue of Florence’s great man Cosimo I de Medici (see photo).
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina
This Gothic little 12th century church is located on the south shores of Arnos in western Pisa, and will probably house a tower from the crown of Jesus. The address is Lungarno Gambacorti.
Orto Botanico di Pisa (Botanical Gardens)
The Orto Botanico di Pisa is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, created by the city’s university in 1544. It is free of charge, and it is a beautiful and peaceful place to take a stroll after the constant hum of the crowds around Campo dei Miracoli.
You can find the entrance to Orto Botanico di at Via Luca Ghini, 13
Tourist in Pisa
Given that most attractions are located on Campo dei Miracoli, most of us will feel no need for a guided tour of the city.
But if you are one of those in need of a guide in Pisa, there is, as in most other cities, a double-decker tour bus with information in headphones in any language. The bus runs a route with 11 regular stops where you can get on and off as you please all day.
Day 1 in Pisa
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we start today’s tour of Pisa in the square in front of the train station. Go north, across the great Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II and continue into Pisa’s most modern shopping street, Corso Italy. When you reach Piazza XX Settembre, turn right instead of crossing the bridge. As you stroll along the Lungorno Galileo Gallilei river promenade, you have Arno on one side and several beautiful Renaissance houses on the other. Among these is the house where the English poet Shelley lived and worked in the period before he drowned in 1822.
At Giardino Scotto Park, cross Arno over the Ponte della Fortezza bridge and turn west again along Lungorno Mediceo. You will now pass both San Matteo, Italy’s second largest church art museum, and the City Archives, which was the poet Lord Byron’s palace during his stay in Pisa.
When you reach Pisa’s main bridge Ponte di Mezzo, you are at Piazza Garibaldi. It may seem like most Italian cities have a place of the same name, but this was actually the place where Italian national hero Guiseppe Garibaldi stepped ashore during his 1860 gathering campaign. Take the opportunity to refresh yourself with ice cream from Pisa’s alleged best gelateria, La Bottega del Gelato.
From here, continue north into Borgo Stretto, the main street in Pisa’s historic medieval districts. Most sidewalks here are covered with arched arcades, with street vendors standing in close proximity. This is also the most expensive street in the city, including the Galileo Gallilei’s house. It may be time for lunch, and there are many alternatives. You can stop at Caffe Federico Salza in Borgo Stretto 4, best known for its cakes and chocolates. Or you can buy some pizza slices from one of the many oysters and put yourself in the Piazza Martiri della Liberta park, which is to the right in Via San Lorenzo. At the same time bring the beautiful church of Santa Catarina close by.
Back at Borgo Stretto you can now turn left into Via Ulisse Dini. You will soon reach the beautiful open square Piazza dei Cavalieri. The place is dominated by the magnificent Palazzo della Carovana, which houses the prestigious Scuola Normala Superiore di Pisa. Here is also the Ugolino Tower, which is mentioned in Dante’s “The Divine Comedy”.
Cross the square and enter Via Corsica. This will lead you to Via Santa Maria, and from here you will be able to see one of the world’s most famous and characteristic buildings a few hundred meters further north. Just follow the path of sovereign merchants and tourists, and you’ll soon find yourself at the UNESCO-protected Campo dei Miracoli. We will cover the whole area closer tomorrow, but if you do not have pre-booked tickets for the Tower online, you may want to visit the ticket office in the yellow building just behind the Tower.
Continue south again down Via Roma and you will reach Pisa Botanical Garden on your left. Just below you will find the Natural History Museum. Please spend some time here before continuing downhill. You will come to Piazza Solferino and the Ponte Solferino Bridge. Continue a few hundred meters west along Lungarno R. Simonelli. Here lies Arsenale Medicei, the place where Pisa’s mighty fleet once sailed from. Today you can see three nearly intact Roman galleys found here in 1998, including all the objects found on board.
If you cross Arno over Ponte della Cittadella and go east again, you will come to the little Gothic church of Santa Maria della Spina. It was built in the 13th century and houses a thorn that supposedly dates from the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head during the crucifixion.
Now you are probably ready for a trip to the hotel to relax, take a shower and change clothes. Italians eat very late dinner compared to Scandinavians, and many of the restaurants do not open until around 20 o’clock. If you are staying on the south side of Arno, where you will find many of the better hotel deals, consider trying Ristorante Lo Schiaccianoci. Located in Viale Vespucci, a few hundred meters east of the train station, it will have the best gnocchi in the city.
Afterwards it is still not far to go to Pisa’s nightlife center, go to Piazza delle Vettovaglie square just west of Borgo Stretto.
Day 2 in Pisa
Today we concentrate on Campo di Miracoli, where you will find most and major sights in Pisa. Most tourists take the course directly here on arrival and leave again. Tickets to enter the Leaning Tower you should definitely book in advance on the website, otherwise you risk waiting for hours, or being told that it is fully booked all day.
A maximum of 50 visitors are admitted every half hour, which can climb the 298 steps to the top of the 56-meter-high tower. From here you have a great view of the square and Pisa. Be aware that someone may get a feeling of dizziness due to the bias in the floor at the top, and because of the height.
The other four attractions at Campo dei Miracoli are the Cathedral, the Cathedral Museum, the Camposanto Cemetery and the Baptistery, and if you visit more than one of these attractions, it will definitely be worthwhile to buy a combo ticket. It visits significantly less per piece if you buy ticket to several of the attractions.
If you finish Campo dei Miracoli this morning, consider spending the afternoon at nearby Viareggio, which is a delight for both children and adults. Here are great beaches and a long boardwalk with many ice cream bars. Also Tirrenia, a few kilometers south of Pisa, has nice beaches and opportunities for all kinds of water activities.
It is recommended to return to Campo dei Miracoli in the evening. After 6 p.m. In 2000 the space for tourists is cleared and you can get some great night pictures of The Leaning Tower and the cathedral.