20 Things To Do In Pisa

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Many visitors to Italy stop off in Pisa to see The Leaning Tower on their way to Florence. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and is full of museums and art galleries. However, Pisa is more than worthy of a more extended stay. You won’t be disappointed with the historic buildings, over 20 churches, fascinating museums, great food and wine. The city’s highlight is the Piazza dei Miracoli, a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering a massive 22 acres (9 ha), where you will find The Leaning Tower, Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery, and the graveyard, the Camposanto. You will need a full day to explore these historic and legendary sites.

Pisa is a relatively small city located on the River Arno, with a population of just 91,000 people, and it can easily be explored on foot. It is in the region of Tuscany on the west coast of Italy, just a 20-minute drive from the Ligurian Sea. It has a harbour network of sea and river ports, accounting for some of its income. 

Because of its connection with the sea, many traditional Pisan dishes are based on seafood. So, if you enjoy fish and seafood, you will be in your element here. Try spaghetti con la anelle which is spaghetti with clams, or grilled salt cod with leeks. Of course, pizza is popular here and the most famous pizza produced, the Pizza Pizana, is made with anchovies, capers, tomato sauce, and parmesan cheese. It is a total explosion of flavours.

The best times to visit Pisa are in the spring and early autumn when the weather is warm but not too hot. There also aren’t as many tourists around. Conversely, winter can be cold and wet, and the summer is very hot, with many tourists. While Pisa might not be that large, there is plenty to do, and I have chosen 20 things to do in Pisa during your visit.

Pisa, Italy

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20 Things To Do In Pisa

1- See The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower Of Pisa In A Sunny Day In Pisa, Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is famous worldwide for its tilt and many people have their photographs taken standing by it, looking as if they are pushing it over.

However, look beyond this, and admire the beautiful structure made of white marble with six rows of stone arches.

It was built in the 12th century and began to lean soon afterwards.

This is believed to be due to weak and shifting soil underneath it.

Measures have been taken to keep it stable and it has managed not to collapse for many centuries.

It was closed for a significant straightening project between 1990 and 2001, where the tilt was decreased by 44 cm (17 inches), but it still leans.

It is now open, and you can climb to the top for an unusually tilted view of the Piazza dei Miracoli.

You must book in advance as only 40 people are allowed inside the tower at any time.

A legend about the Pisan scientist Galileo Galilei has been passed down through the centuries.

He would climb up to the top of the tower to conduct his experiments on gravity.

Whether this is true or not is another matter.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is at Piazza del Duomo 56126. Skip the line and reserve your entry ticket here.

2- Visit Pisa Cathedral

Pisa Cathedral And San Giovanni Battistero, Piazza Del Duomo

Pisa Cathedral was constructed in the mid-11th century and was the first building to be erected in the Piazza del Miracoli.

It was built to celebrate the Pisan victory over the Muslims.

The Cathedral’s facade is spectacular and made of polychrome marble with bronze portals.

It has five naves, and when you go inside, the cathedral is breathtaking.

It has granite columns from the Italian island of Elba and a wooden ceiling decorated with gold.

The basilica’s dome has a beautiful fresco depicting the Assumption of Mary, painted in the 17th century by artist brothers Orazio and Girolami Riminaldi.

Behind the altar are 27 paintings depicting stories from the Old Testament and about the life of Jesus Christ.

Other artworks in the cathedral include a mosaic by Cimabue.

San Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa, is buried in Pisa Cathedral.

He was a merchant who spent many years in the Holy Land, where he died in 1161.

His mummified body is kept in the chapel to the left of the altar.

His Names Day is 17 June, and, on this day, there is a regatta on the River Arno.

The day before, a festival is held in the city to celebrate his life.

Pisa Cathedral is at Piazza del Duomo 56126. Skip the line and join a guided tour with optional tickets for the Leaning Tower.

3- Visit The Baptistery of San Giovanni

Opposite the Cathedral is the Baptistery, an enormous round-shaped structure with a circumference of 100 metres (328 feet) and a height of 55 metres (180.4 feet).

It is the largest baptistery in Italy and was built in the 12th century, around the same time as the Leaning Tower.

The architect was Dotislavi, but Nicola Pisano was responsible for the magnificent pulpit.

The Baptistery has a double dome, the inner one being a truncated cone and the outside one a hemispherical dome.

This has given it amazing acoustics; every half hour, the guardians sing a few notes, allowing the reverberation of the dome to do the rest.

You won’t want to miss this.

Climb to the second floor from where your reward will be beautiful views of the Cathedral.

The Baptistery is at Piazza del Duomo 23 56126.

Recommended tour: Pisa: 2-Hour Walking Tour

4- See The Graves Of Famous Italians At Camposanto

Pisa Cathedral And The Leaning Tower In A Sunny Day In Pisa, Italy

The last building to visit in Piazza dei Miracoli is Camposanto, a final resting place for such famous Italians as Fibonacci, who created the sequence featured in ‘The Da Vinci Code, as well as some members of the Medici family.

Legend has it that it was built on sacred soil from the Holy Land during the Crusades.

The Camposanto is built around a beautiful, peaceful courtyard with a well-kept lawn and flower beds.

The corridors contain works of art, including sculptures and Ancient Roman sarcophagi.

There are also magnificent frescoes about life and death by such famous artists as Francesco Traini and Buonamico Buffalmacco.

Camposanto is at Piazza del Duomo 17 56126.

Recommended tour: Pisa: Square of Miracles Monuments Ticket with Leaning Tower

5- Learn About History In The Museo Nazionale

If you want to learn more about the history of Pisa, head to The Museo Nazionale on the banks of the River Arno.

It is situated in a building that used to be a monastery.

There are many exquisite pieces of artwork housed in the museum.

You will find original sculptures from Pisa Cathedral and the Baptistery, ancient manuscripts, and religious relics from the churches in the city.

A highlight is the Crucifix of San Ranieri by Giunta Pisano, painted in 1250.

Another impressive painting from the 14th century is the polyptych of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Simone Martini.

It came from the Church of Santa Caterina in the city.

At the museum, you can also view artwork by Donatello, Benozzo Gozzoli, Toddeo de Bartolo, Giunta Pisano, and Francesco Trenni.

Everything in the museum dates from between the 12th and 16th centuries.

The Museo Nazionale is at Lungamo Mediceo 4 56127.

6- Shop Along Borgo Stretto

Snow In Borgo Stretto, Pisa
Wandering along Borgo Stretto is one of the fun things to do in Pisa.

If you enjoy shopping, head to Borgo Stretto in the city’s heart and elite shopping street. 

It is mainly pedestrianised and is filled with shops ranging from book and souvenir shops to designer stores, some of them the most exclusive in the city.

Leading off the street are arcades which are supported by spectacular Corinthian columns.

Even if you aren’t interested in shopping, the architecture is worth coming for.

You will find more shops, bars, and restaurants in these arcades to stop for a coffee, a drink, gelato or lunch.

You will find reasonably priced bars at the end of the arcaded Piazza delle Vettovaglie market area, but you may have to compete for seats with university students.

7- Stroll Around The Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens belong to the University of Pisa, and they are a wonderful place to take a break from the hubbub of city life.

It is a few minutes walk from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and covers three hectares.

The Botanical Gardens are split into different sections.

In the water gardens, you will find fountains and ponds with water lilies and other aquatic plants that will induce a feeling of relaxation.

The well-kept gardens have beautiful flowers, including the hybrid tea rose.

There are greenhouses and an arboretum where you can find ancient Ginkgo trees, which were planted as far back as 1787.

The Botanical Gardens also house a museum created by Ferdinando 1 de Medici.

Seven rooms on two floors display paintings of famous botanists and of the founder of the Gardens, Luca Ghini.

The Herbarium is the most spectacular exhibition in the museum.

It has over 350,000 samples collected from the 18th century onwards.

The Botanical Gardens are at Via Luca Ghini 13 56126

8- Enjoy A Winery Tour In The Tuscan Countryside

Tuscan Vineyard With Red Grapes

If you enjoy a glass or two of wine, why not take a winery tour from Pisa into the Tuscan countryside?

Famous wines from this region include Chianti, Trebbiano, and Sangiovese.

A typical organised tour will take you to a couple of different wineries so you can taste the differences between the wines.

You will be able to tour the wineries and learn about the ancient techniques still used to make the wines.

You will then be able to taste a selection of wines with locally produced olive oil and home-baked bread.

You might also be served cheese and salamis to accompany the wines.

At the end of the tastings, you will have the opportunity to buy your favourites.

Recommended tour: From Pisa: Winery Tour in the Tuscan Countryside

9- Take A Market Tour And Cooking Class

If you want to get an authentic flavour of Tuscan cuisine, this market tour and cooking class will suit you down to the ground.

You will be taken to a local food market by an expert Tuscan cook who will tell you about the products.

It is then up to you to choose between three and five ingredients you want to cook with.

Then it’s back to your host’s home for a cooking class while he or she guides you through the cooking process.

You can cook two Italian-inspired dishes with your ingredients and basics such as flour, eggs and milk.

You can even name the dishes you create.

When the dishes have been prepared, you can enjoy them accompanied by local red and white local wines.

Many cooking classes can accommodate vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free diet requirements. 

Recommended tour: Pisa Market Tour, Cooking Class, and Name Your Recipes

10- Visit The Santa Maria Della Spina Church

The Santa Maria Della Spina, A Gothic Church In Pisa
Admiring the stunning architecture of Santa Maria Della Spina is one of the things to do in Pisa.

This small church is one of the most beautiful in the city and is in a lovely location right by the River Arno.

It was designed in the Gothic style in the 13th century and got its name because it housed the relic of a thorn from the crown of Jesus Christ.

Now, however, this relic is in the Church of Santa Chiara. 

The outside of the church is divided into two symmetrical parts, both are intricately decorated with spirals, rose windows, marble inlays and statues.

The exterior is well worth a photo or two while the church’s interior is elegant and simple.

The highlight is the Gothic sculpture of ‘The Madonna of the Rose’ by Andrea and Nino Pisaro.

The Santa Maria della Spina Church is at Lugarno Gambacorti 56125.

Recommended tour: Pisa: All-Inclusive Guided Tour with Optional Leaning Tower

11- Enjoy The Treasures In The Museo Dell Opera Du Duomo

If you love art or history or, indeed, both, this museum is a must-see.

For some unknown reason, it isn’t visited as much as other museums in the city, but this can work to your advantage as you won’t have to fight through the crowds to admire the treasures within the museum.

The Museo dell Opera du Duomo, within the walls of a 15th-century convent, houses 380 works of art and decorations from the buildings in Piazza del Miracoli.

You will find embroidered items, sculptures, tombs and silversmith work.

There are also some relics relating to the naval history of Pisa and some religious artefacts dating back as far as Roman times.

On the top floor, there is a cafe that serves delicious pancakes.

You can enjoy a picturesque view of the Piazza del Miracoli from here.

The Museo dell Opera du Duomo is at Piazza Duomo 17 56126

12- Walk Along The River Arno and Climb The Guelph Tower

The River Arno stretches for 241 km (149.75 miles) and is one of the major rivers in Italy.

The section that runs through Pisa is beautiful and makes for a lovely walk.

There are five bridges, and the architecture of the buildings along the river is stunning.

They make an excellent backdrop for a photo or two.

Along the river Arno, you will find the Guelph Tower constructed in the 15th century in the ship-building area of Pisa to be part of the city’s fortifications.

It was destroyed during WWII but was rebuilt in 1956 to look as it did originally.

The Tower is open to the public, and if you feel ready to conquer the 200 steps, you will have fantastic views of the city, the Learning Tower, and the river.

Inside the Guelph Tower is a dazzling coat of arms display belonging to Florentine commissioners and military captains.

There aren’t usually many people here so you can enjoy the experience at your leisure.

The Guelph Tower is at Piazza Tersanaia 56125.

Recommended tours:

13- Go Truffle Hunting In Tuscany

Truffles are often used in Tuscan cuisine, so why not book a day out with an experienced truffle hunter and their dog who will help sniff out the truffles?

You will head out into the woods close to Pisa, and your guide will tell you about the secrets of truffle hunting.

You will be able to touch, smell, and collect the truffles.

When you have collected enough truffles, you will be taken to a professional kitchen where the chef will teach you how to cook with them.

You will gain tips and secrets you can take home with you and use when you cook with truffles.

You will learn how to bring out the flavour and aroma of these delicacies and will be able to impress your dinner guests.

The experience doesn’t end here.

You will then be presented with various dishes containing truffles to enjoy with fine wines.

Typically, you will be served with appetisers, tagliolini with truffles and even a truffle tiramisu.

Yes, truffles do go with sweet dishes.

This experience is immersive, and I feel sure you will enjoy it, that is, if you like truffles!!

Recommended tour: Florence: Truffle Hunting Tour, Wine Tasting, and Lunch

14- Enjoy The Artwork At The Palazzo Blu

The Palazzo Blu is in a pretty location by the River Arno, close to the Ponte de Mezzo Bridge.

It was built in the 14th century but wasn’t painted blue until the 18th century.

Because of this, it stands out from other buildings in the area.

The Palazzo Blu is now a museum and art gallery.

There is a permanent exhibition of 14th to 18th-century paintings, including works by Orazio, Gentileschi, and Cecco di Pietro.

You will find archaeological artefacts from the Etruscan, Roman, and Hellenistic eras in the basement.

On the first floor is an impressive reproduction of the Palazzo Blu as it would have been in the 19th century.

In addition, a photographic exhibition represents life in Pisa in the second half of the 20th century.

The museum also holds temporary exhibitions and cultural activities.

The Palazzo Blu is at Lungarno Gambacorti 9 56125.

15- Take A Guided Food Tour

If you want to escape the tourists and eat like a local, this tour is for you.

You will have a knowledgeable guide who will take you to different restaurants, taverns, and wine bars to taste the local specialities, accompanied by wine, beer or soft drinks.

Typical foods you may enjoy include a cold salami and cheese plate, focaccia cecina made from chickpea flour, and Ribollita, a thick Tuscan soup made from day-old bread, vegetables, and beans.

You may also have Uccelletto, the Tuscan take on baked beans packed with punchy garlic, earthy sage, and tomato passata.

It is vegan and made with cannellini beans, but some taverns may add bacon and sausage.

Of course, you will end the tour with gelato and learn how it is made.

Traditional gelato flavours include custard, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and lemon but new flavours have also emerged, including pineapple, tiramisu, zabajone, and yoghurt.

Recommended tour: Pisa Food Tour

16- Explore The Sinopie Museum

The Sinopie Museum is in the Piazza dei Miracoli and is different and well worth visiting.

It is inside the 13th-century Spedale Nuova, a historic pilgrimage hospital.

It houses a collection of sinopies, which are drawings traced on the plaster’s first layer when painting frescoes.

In the museum are sinopies by such artists as Benozza Gozzoli, Pietro de Puccio, Francesco di Traino, and Buffalmacco.

‘The Crucifixion’ by Francesco di Traino is particularly outstanding as are the engravings by Glan Paolo Lasinio.

The Sinopie Museum is at Piazza del Duomo 56126. Skip the line and book your tickets here.

17- Admire The Buildings In The Piazza De Cavalieri

The Piazza de Cavalieri is on the site that used to be the Roman Forum and later, the Piazza Della Sette Vie, the political hub of Pisan life.

Cosmo 1 de Medici named it the Piazza de Cavalieri (the square of the Order of the Knights).

If you are interested in architecture, you should visit this square as it is filled with amazing buildings.

In the middle of the piazza, your eye is drawn to the statue of the Grand Duke of Tuscany sculpted by Francavilla at the end of the 16th century.

Behind the sculpture is the Palazzo Degli Cavalieri which is covered with drawings and busts of the Medici family.

It is now the home of the university, Saula Normale Superior, where many top Italian professors studied, such as Rubbia, Pascoli, and Carducci.

To the left of the Palazzo Degli Cavalieri is the Palazzo dell’ Orologia, which was used as both a hospice and prison.

It is where Count Ugliono Della Gherardesca, a politician and naval officer from the 13th century, was held, together with his four sons.

He was accused of treason; his captors locked the family in a room and they all died of starvation.

Also in the square is the Palazzo del Carisiglio which used to be the Magistrature of the Republic.

Inside, there are 18th-century paintings.

18 – Eat The Best Pizza In Town

The Pizzeria Il Montino is down an alleyway near the Piazza dei Cavalieri.

It has been around for over one hundred years, and although it doesn’t look like much, it serves great food as can be seen by the long queues.

However, it is worth waiting for.

It does have a changing menu of specials, but it is best known for its crispy and cheesy pizzas and cecina, the chickpea flatbread.

One of their most popular pizzas is the Pizza Pisina which explodes with flavours of tomato, capers, anchovies, and Parmesan cheese.

Another great thing is that the food is reasonably priced.

The Pizzeria Il Montino is at Via del Monte 1 56126.

Recommended tours: Pisa: Private Pasta-Making Class at a Local’s Home

19 – Enjoy The Nightlife In The Piazza Delle Vettovaglie

The Piazza delle Vettovaglie is a great place to spend the evening during your stay in Pisa.

It is a small square dating back to the 16th century and has a beautiful double-arched loggia representing the architecture of the time.

During the day, the square becomes a market selling fresh produce but in the evening, it transforms into a lively space with bars and restaurants attracting both locals and tourists.

The bars spill out onto the square with outdoor seating in good weather.

A popular wine bar is Cecco Rivolta which serves excellent wines from Tuscany paired with plates of cold cuts and cheeses.

If you are looking for an aperitivo, something which the Italians love, head to the Ristoro delle Vettovaglie, where you can try an Aperol Spritz, a cocktail or some Tuscan wines.

The great thing is that when you have an aperitivo, you get free food.

Here, you can choose anything from a huge buffet of pasta, salads, cold meats, bruschetta, and crostini.

You can go up as many times as you want to fill up your plate.

You probably won’t need dinner after this!

20 – Admire Keith Haring’s Giant Mural

This is a different type of artwork but it is well worth seeing.

Keith Haring, an American, was a world-renowned artist famous for his wall murals.

His gigantic mural, which he painted on the wall of the 13th-century church, Sant ‘Antonio Abate, is one of his best and also his last, completed just months before he died in 1989.

It is a mixture of 30 colourful figures in various poses, representing a peaceful world.

It offers excellent photographic opportunities.

Recommended: Pisa: E-Scooter Rental with Self-Guided Tour App

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Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.