A day trip to Pisa is one the most popular tourist itinerary that people take while touring Italy. Pisa falls in the Tuscany region of Italy which is considered as one of the most picturesque parts of Italy. Although people recognise this place with its iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa but this place has quite a few tourist attractions that you can visit and the best part is that all of them are located with a hundred meter radius. A trip to Italy would honestly be incomplete without a trip to Pisa and Florence. In this blog, I have listed the best touring option and also listed the various tourist sites that you must visit during your trip.
How to Reach
For most people touring the country they would either be coming from Rome or if you are travelling from the north then will be coming from Milan, for both the cases you have to first come to Florence or as the locals might call it Firenze. The most common mode of travel is by train and in Italy broadly there are two types of long distance trains, the high-speed one and the regular one. The high-speed ones cost more and are obviously fast whereas the regular trains are relative slow with multiple stops. If you are tight on time factor then your best bet would be to take a high-speed train. The price difference can be significant but remember the earlier that you book the cheaper the tickets thus plan ahead.
Alternately you can take a short flight to the either Florence Airport or directly to Pisa through Galileo Galilei International Airport.
We took a morning high-speed train Frecciarossa 9504 from Rome (departure 6.20 AM) to Florence (arrival 7.51 AM) early in the morning since we wanted to go to Pisa as well as Florence. Remember that Florence station is known as Firenze S. M. Novella thus when you are booking the train tickets search for this name.
The journey is a one of the most picturesque that I had taken in Italy with a landscape of lush green hills and add a sunrise to it making it one of the most beautiful train journeys ever.
Since we had already checked out of our rooms thus we were carrying all our luggage to Florence and for sure we did not want to carry them around Pisa and Florence. To avoid this we kept our luggage at the luggage (cloak) room at Florence station except a small travel backpack that we carried along. The luggage room will be indicated with a signage Deposito Bagagli and is located at the end of the track 16. You will see a McDonald’s restaurant, just walk ahead. The luggage room operated between 6 AM and 12 Midnight and the charges depend on the timing.
Price (per baggage / 20 Kg per baggage) = First 5 hours: € 3.80 / 6 to 12 hours: € 0.60 (per hour)/ after 13 hours: € 0.20 (per hour)
Florence to Pisa
To reach Pisa you can either take a regional train from Florence to Pisa or can come out of the station where you will find many cab and minivan drivers waiting for passengers to take them for a round tour of Pisa. I would recommend the train ride as it’s comfortable and very cheap. Some would recommend you to book the regional train ride from Florence to Pisa in advance but I would recommend you not to and to book it once you reach Florence so that you have much flexibility in your hand for deciding to tour Pisa first and then Florence or vice versa.
Upon arrival, we purchased our ticket to Pisa and boarded our train. Note the name of Pisa station is actually Pisa Centrale thus you need to book accordingly. We took the 8.28 AM train and took just an hour to reach Pisa Centrale.
Pisa Station to Monument Site
Once you reach the station you have three options to reach Pisa monument site.
Bus = This is one of the most popular ways of transportation and maximum tourist avail the bus service. There is only one bus route and the bus (Lam Rossa) departs from right opposite side of the station. Right opposite to the station you will find a hotel and the bus stop is right in front.
Remember to buy your bus tickets costing around € 1.30 each way (buy return as well) from the newspaper vendors located at the train station exit. The bus tickets can also be purchased directly from the bus driver but it would be bit expensive € 2.00 each way.
Taxi = There will be taxi drivers outside the station who would take around € 6 for a one-way ride to Pisa and similarly you will find them on your return journey as well
Walk = It’s a twenty-minute walk each way so if you have ample amount of time then you can walk through the picturesque landscapes of the city. There are signboards all through so navigating won’t be a problem.
We took the bus ride and within ten minutes were outside the Pisa monument (Piazza di Miracaoli). We were so engrossed looking out of the window marvelling at the beautiful houses that we almost missed our stoppage. A local gentleman guessed that we are a tourist from our obvious appearance and indicated with his hand that the leaning tower stoppage has come. The stoppage is right outside the group of monuments.
Tip: Remember to validate your bus tickets once you board the train in one of the ticket validating machine on board the bus. If you don’t and if your luck is bad you might get caught by a ticket checker and get heavily fined.
What to See
You actually do not need to buy any tickets if you want to just roam around the compound (Porta Nuova) which includes Leaning Leaning Tower of Pisa, Battistero di San Giovanni, Cattedrale di Pisa etc. If you want to climb up Leaning Tower of Pisa then you have to buy a ticket and also would need to wait as people are allowed only in batches and you would be given a particular time slot within which you have to show up at the queue outside the tower and wait for your turn. There is also a luggage restriction and only small backpacks or camera bags being allowed. This can take a long time thus if you want to climb up the tower do keep time in your hand.
Note: All historical information taken from Wikipedia
Walking Route across Porta Nuova Covering All Tourist Spots
Pisa Baptistery of St. John (Battistero di San Giovanni)
As you enter first you will find Battistero di San Giovanni (Pisa Baptistery of St. John) to your left. This is a Roman Catholic ecclesiastical building in Pisa, Italy. Construction started in 1152 to replace an older baptistery, and when it was completed in 1363, it became the second building, in chronological order, in the Piazza dei Miracoli, near the Duomo di Pisa and the cathedral’s free-standing campanile, the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The baptistery was designed by Diotisalvi, whose signature can be read on two pillars inside the building, with the date 1153.
Pisa Cathedral (Cattedrale di Pisa)
The next and the grandest building is the Cattedrale di Pisa (Pisa Cathedral). This is a medieval Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, Italy. It is a notable example of Romanesque architecture, in particular, the style known as Pisan Romanesque. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Pisa.
This is a functional church and we happened to be there on a Sunday and were lucky to find the church in service. Photography is restricted inside the church and you would be politely asked to stay quiet after all this is a church of great importance.
Monumental Cemetery (Camposanto Monumentale)
To the left of the Cattedrale di Pisa is Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery). “Campo Santo” can be literally translated as “holy field”, because it is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa from the Fourth Crusade by Ubaldo Lanfranchi, archbishop of Pisa in the 12th century. A legend claims that bodies buried in that ground will rot in just 24 hours. The burial ground lies over the ruins of the old baptistery of the church of Santa Reparata, the church that once stood where the cathedral now stands. The term “monumental” serves to differentiate it from the later-established urban cemetery in Pisa.
The walls were once covered in frescoes; the first were applied in 1360, the last about three centuries later. The first was the Crucifixion by Francesco Traini, on the southwestern side. Then, continuing to right, in the southern side, the Last Judgement, The Hell, The Triumph of Death and the Anacoreti nella Tebaide, usually attributed to Buonamico Buffalmacco. The cycle of frescoes continues with the Stories of the Old Testament by Benozzo Gozzoli (15th century) that were situated in the north gallery, while in the south arcade were the Stories of Pisan Saints, by Andrea Bonaiuti, Antonio Veneziano and Spinello Aretino (between 1377 and 1391), and the Stories of Job, by Taddeo Gaddi (end of 14th century). In the same time, in the north gallery were the Stories of the Genesis by Piero di Puccio.
Palace of the Opera (Palazzo dell’Opera)
This is located on the northern side to the right of Campo Santo and was home to the offices of the ‘ Opera della Pisana Primate, or the’ organisation that manages the Cathedral of Pisa and his monumental complex. Currently, only it preserves the offices of the monitoring and supervision sectors and technical ones. The administrative offices and the Chapter of the Primatial have moved to new premises in the Archbishop’s Square (2012). From 2014 it has temporary art exhibitions.
The Capitoline Wolf (Lupa Capitolina)
This can be seen right behind Cattedrale di Pisa. This is considered as the symbol of Rome. Out here you will also find a bronze statue of Fall of Icarus. Even though Pisa is right next to it do give some attention especially at Lupa Capitoline which has a legend which goes like this, it is a bronze sculpture of the mythical she-wolf suckling the twins, Romulus and Remus, from the legend of the founding of Rome. When Numitor, grandfather of the twins, was overthrown by his brother Amulius, the usurper ordered them to be cast into the Tiber River. They were rescued by a she-wolf who cared for them until a herdsman, Faustulus, found and raised them. The Capitoline Wolf has been housed since 1471 in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Campidoglio (the ancient Capitoline Hill), Rome, Italy.
Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa)
This is undoubtedly one of the most recognised structures in the world. A trip to this is incomplete without photographing yourself leaning against the tower. You will find hundreds of tourists taking selfies or getting photographed in this position. Clicking a clean photo is almost impossible since you will find someone or the other posing against the tower in the backdrop.
Construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. It is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt. Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leant at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from the centre.
If you have time in your hand do climb the tower else you might skip it. We obviously did not climb up the tower as we did not have time for that.
Fountain with Angels (Fontana dei Putti)
As the name suggest it’s a small fountain located near the tower which has three angels on top.
Museum of the Opera of the Cathedral (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo)
This was previously an Episcopal Seminary which had been converted into a museum in 1986. This museum has a good collection of sculptures and paintings.
Museum of the Sinopie (Museo delle Sinopie)
This is a museum which is located on the right side of other sites. The frescoes, work of several artists, including Buffalmacco , Andrea Bonaiuti , Antonio Veneziano , Spinello Aretino , Taddeo Gaddi , Piero di Puccio , Benozzo Gozzoli and others, once covered the walls of the cemetery and they were destroyed or very damaged by ‘ fire of 1944 due to an allied bombing.
Since we already had our return bus tickets we waited at the bus stop opposite side to the entrance and within a couple of minutes, Lam Rossa bus arrived at the stop. Once we reached the station we purchased our return train tickets on a regional train back to Florence. There are many shops at the station selling cakes and bread and would recommend to try them as the cake that we purchased was really tasty.
Many of you might ask me what the optimum time one should spend at Pisa is. Well, that all depends on your interest in history and architecture. Some stay for just a couple of minutes clicking their pictures against the backdrop of the Leaning tower of Pisa while some stay for hours. Honestly, I would recommend a full day if you really want to feel the history of all the buildings and structures in this region.
If you are adventurous enough then I would recommend to stay a couple of days in Pisa and include a short trip to the Tuscany countryside I am sure you will fall in love with this place and stay forever.
Hope you have enjoyed a trip with me to Pisa, my next blog will be on Florence. Till then bon voyage.
Walking Routes of All the Pisa
Click here to open route on Google Map
Book Trains in Italy = http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
Action Camera Video of the Tour