Pisa is known for the Leaning Tower but there’s a whole complex of beautiful medieval buildings in the Campo dei Miracoli and a pleasant medieval town beyond the tourist sights. The Arno River flows through town and Pisa also has a university, museums, shops, and restaurants, making it a good place to spend a day or more.
Plan Your Visit to Pisa
Pisa can be reached by train from Florence in 45 minutes to 1 hour. From Rome, it takes about 3 hours on the west coast rail line. It’s also a short train ride from Lucca on a regional train. If you’re just coming for the day to see the Leaning Tower and nearby buildings, the closest train station is Pisa-San Rossore although from the main station, Pisa Centrale, it’s a nice walk through town.
Aeroporto Gallei, Pisa’s airport, has flights from Italian and European cities. A short train ride connects the airport to Pisa’s main train station or you can take the bus to the city center. If you’re arriving by car, park in one of the parking lots outside the city center, where traffic is restricted.
Pisa can be visited as a day trip from Florence but because many tourists come only for a few hours, spending the night allows you to enjoy the sights later in the day when the crowds are gone or in the morning before they arrive.
- Find a hotel in Pisa
- Book train tickets on Rail Europe
- Pisa Weather and When to Go
- See Tuscany Maps for Pisa’s location
- Where to eat: Pisa has some very good restaurants once you get away from the main tourist area. Several good places are near the outdoor market toward the river,
We had a great meal at Cucciolino Osteria, Via Rosselmini 9, on the other side of the river from the Leaning Tower.
What to See in the Field of Miracles
Some of Italy’s most magnificent Romanesque monuments are in Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo, also called Campo dei Miracoli, or Field of Miracles, a large grassy square built around the cathedral that’s just inside the ancient city walls dating from 1155. The buildings in the square reflect life’s path from birth to death in the middle ages.
- The centerpiece of the piazza is the beautiful Duomo, or cathedral, in use since 1063. Bronze panels with 16th century bas-reliefs decorate the doors. Highlights of the interior include a stunning marble pulpit, the sixteenth century wood ceiling, and several important art works.
- Construction on the Baptistery, the round white-marble building in front of the cathedral, started in 1152 and was completed in the late 14th century. Decorated with scenes from the life of Christ, the pulpit is supported by lions resting on columns. Gothic sculptures, originally from the exterior, are now kept inside.
- One of Italy’s most famous monuments is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Construction on the tower started in 1173 but it also wasn’t finished until the late 14th century. The tower is about 184 feet tall and has eight stories and a spiral staircase with 251 stairs to climb to reach the top. Visitors can only enter at the time given on their ticket. Bags, backpacks, luggage, and large purses are not allowed inside the tower, so check them at the cloakroom before your visit. Lines to get in the tower can be very long during high season, so it’s best to buy Leaning Tower tickets in advance so you have a specific entrance time.
- Camposanto is a cloistered cemetery used by the upper class residents of Pisa in the Middle Ages. Inside are carved funerary monuments and the floor is covered with tombstones. The beautiful frescoes were damaged during WWII but remnants can still be seen and some have been restored.
- The Museo delle Sinopie, across the square from the duomo, has a display of preparatory drawings used to create the frescoes in the Camposanto. A ticket office for the monuments is in the same building.
- Tickets for the above monuments can be purchased online from 1 day to 20 days before your visit. Tickets can also be purchased at the ticket offices by the Sinopie Museum or opposite the tower. Prices vary depending on which monuments you wish to visit. Visiting the cathedral is free with the purchase of a ticket to any of the monuments. Opening and closing times vary by date and are shown on the web site.
- See the OPA Pisa web site for tickets, hours, prices, and more information.
More Things to See and Do in Pisa
- Piazza dei Cavalieri was the center of Pisa in its days as a republic and became the Medici symbol of power in the 16th century. The Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri and Palazzo dell’Orologio (clock building), with two ancient towers joined by an arcade, are the principal 16th century monuments on the square.
- By the river is the picturesque little church of Santa Maria della Spina with ornate spires and pretty statues in its niches. Walking paths on both sides of the river make it a pleasant place to stroll or ride a bike.
- In the 15th century palazzo at Lungamo Pacinotti 27 is Caffe dell’Ussuro, first opened in 1794.
- Piazza delle Vettovaglie holds an open air market in the mornings and has several food shops. On the square, Trattoria Vineria di Piazza, popular with locals, is a good place for an inexpensive lunch. Read more about it.
- In the former Benedictine convent of Saint Mathew on Piazza San Matteo in Soarta near the river, the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo has displays of paintings and sculptures from the 12th – 15th centuries and medieval ceramics. Closed Mondays.
- Palazzo Blu houses more modern displays of art.
- Pisa University has museums and a botanical garden, one of the oldest in Europe, that can be visited.