You don’t need much time to feel like you’ve really experienced Pisa, but there is more to this Tuscan town than a bell tower with a serious inherent defect. Matt and I stopped off on our way to Florence, and with direct flights into the city, it can be a great place to kick-off an Italian adventure.
If you do decide to do just an overnight stay in Pisa, you’ll want to make the most of it. Here’s my advice on how to spend it.
Pack a Picnic
It might be surrounded by tourists looking like they were frozen while performing “thriller”, but the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa (or campanile) is worth a visit. The 14th-century tower, built on soft foundations, is leaning much more drastically than a photo will do justice, and that is after its recent “straightening” in which it was corrected from a 5.5-degree tilt to 3.99. But rather than elbowing your way through the tour groups, pop over to the nearby L’ostellino Panineria for an amazing sandwich with high-quality Italian meats. Find a spot on the Piazza dei Miracoli and take in the architectural masterpieces, while enjoying a masterpiece of a sandwich. While you are there, check out the domed Baptistry and Cathedral.
Explore the Piazzas
Pisa is home to some amazing architecture, but it’s not concentrated in Piazza dei Miracoli alone. Take some time to wander around, discovering its many piazzas, including Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights’ Square), the second largest square in the city, featuring sites such as the Statue of Cosimo I, the Palazzo dell’Orologio, and the Church of the Knights of the Holy and Military Order of St. Stephen.
Browse the shops on Borgo Stretto
A lovely part of the city, Borgo Stretto is lined with elegant shops, including pricey boutiques, a sprawling book shop, plenty of places for gelato, and the ever-popular pastry and sweet shop Salza. A great place to spend a few hours in the city (and walk off the sandwiches earlier).
Have Dinner on the River Arno
We took full advantage of the concept of aperitivo while in Italy, the concept of free snack food while enjoying an Aperol Spritz is something I really wish more places in the world would take part in. My hands-down favourite was in Pisa, La Spiaggetta di Argini Margini, tucked right along the River Arno. Expect a casual and atmospheric experience, and make sure to order one of the seafood platter, which almost reminded me of home, except with infinitely better wine.
End the evening with a gelato from La Bottega del Gelato and a walk along the river.
The need to knows:
Getting there: Pisa has its own airport, served by major European airports such as London, Barcelona and Paris and it is easily reachable by train from Florence, Siena and Lucca.
Visiting Italy for the first time? Check out my travel tips here.