Pisa is a beautiful city and it’s the perfect place to spend a short city break. There is plenty to see within the city and the surrounding area. Here’s what you need to know before visiting Pisa.
Take a bus to and from the airport
Pisa Airport is really close to the city centre, unlike many other European cities, where you can land 30 minutes to an hour from the central areas.
Pisa Airport is also very small, but one of the prettiest I have ever seen – lots of greenery and lawns outside. It looks more like a shopping centre than an airport!
There are taxis lining the pavements when you exit the building, but don’t fork out 20 Euros for a 10 minute drive. Buses leave every 10 minutes and go to the railway station (6 minutes) and to the centre of Pisa (the ‘Torre-Ospedale S.Chirara’ stop) in less than 15 minutes.
In fact the Tower, the railway station and the airport are all on the RED bus line, so look for this and you won’t go far wrong. Tickets cost between 1-2 Euros and can be purchased from local tobacconists (and also at the airport). Remember to stamp your ticket when you get on the bus to validate it!
If you’re worried about getting on the wrong bus after a long flight and just want to get to your accommodation, at least get the bus back to the airport to go home. You’ll have got your bearings by then and will be a bit more familiar with the city. Save yourself some money and catch the bus!
Walk, don’t drive
If you’re staying in Pisa, don’t hire a car. You can walk everywhere! The streets are very narrow and windy too, with lots of one way systems so I imagine walking would actually be quicker than driving around the city. There are great bus routes if you don’t fancy walking around too much.
Even if you do feel like exploring a little further afield, there are very reasonable bus and train routes in and out of the city to places like Lucca, Florence, or even the beach.
Visit a nearby town
Pisa is beautiful, but fairly small. Once you’ve done the Piazza dei Miracoli and shopped along Corso Italia and Borgo Stretto, you may find yourself wondering what to do next! Take a trip to Florence or spend a day at the beach. We went to an old Tuscan town called Lucca for the day – read about our day trip to Lucca here.
Spend a day in Piazza dei Miracoli
Piazza dei Miracoli is where you will find the Leaning Tower, Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistery, the Campanile and the Camposanto Monumentale, amongst other historical buildings, all conveniently located in one place!
Walk around, take some photos, go inside all or some of the buildings and learn about some Italian and Pisan history. Try to avoid going between 11:00-14:00 as it will get pretty crowded, expecially in the summer. The streets leading off the Piazza Dei Miracoli are lined with cute resturants and cafes which make the perfect lunch spot to take a break from sightseeing to people watch, before heading back out to the Piazza.
Most of the buildings have an entry fee – including the Leaning Tower, which costs about 20 Euros if you want to climb to the top!
Catch a football game
A.C Pisa aren’t a high flying team in Serie B, but don’t let that stop you catching a home game if they are playing when you’re in Pisa.
The ground is very central, and easy to walk to from anywhere in the centre. Tickets are a little harder to come by though. We tried a few shops and tobacconists (usually good for public transport tickets) and even took a walk round the ground in the afternoon before the evening game to find a ticket office. We eventually found tickets sold at the Q petrol station adjacent to the main entrance to the ground! So head there to buy your tickets in advance for about 20 Euros per person. Don’t forget your ID for the game though, as you’ll need a Passport or driving licence to get in.
The game we watched ended 4-1 to Cittadella, so a bad result for Pisa, but the passionate Italian crowd kept us entertained and the open air stadium was nice in the warm evening. We were surprised how many fans turned out for a relatively low key end of season game. I don’t think many football teams offer their home fans this view either! Can you see the Leaning Tower in the background?
Take a leaning tower photo
Yes, it’s a cliché! But it has to be done. Walking around the tower you can see people contorting themselves into all kinds of positions to get the best perspective for a fun photo with the tower. Here’s my attempt! It’s a Pisa tradition, give it a go.
Drink the house wine
Italy is of course generally famous for its wine, but we had some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted in Pisa. We didn’t splurge out on expensive bottles either – the house wine offered by restaurants was amazing and really reasonable – sometimes just 10 Euros for a litre to last a couple of you a long lazy lunch. Give it a try, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised! If you can’t quite leave the bottle though, go for a Chianti, Brunello or Montepulciano which are all local to the Tuscany region.
Enjoy a buffet with a drink and save on dinner
We’ve enjoyed cicchetti in Italy before, but we noticed the prevalent aperitivo culture in Pisa more than we had in other cities.
Many bars offer a free mini buffet style food – or aperitivo – when you buy a drink – making a very cheap meal! The mini plates of food are basic, but delicious and variety varies from place to place, but you’ll normally get tasty bruschettas, olives, quiches and some sweet treats too. You can help yourself, and enjoy as much or as little or you want of hot and cold nibbles with a few glasses of wine – perfect if you’ve had a big lunch earlier in the day.
Escape the tourists and grab a cocktail in Piazza delle Vettovagile
This square is just off Via Notari which runs parallel to Borgo Stretto, just up from the River Arno. The Piazza holds a cluster of bars – most serving aperitivos and cheap drinks – in a large open air setting. The different bars seating mingles together so its crowded and you might need to wait a few minutes for a table, but the atmosphere is really lively and it’s a great way to spend a few hours people watching and experiencing Pisa with some locals. The bars here offer a good selection of aperitivo snacks, so it’s a great way to spend a warm summer evening!
Pisa is a great place to spend a few days both as a city break and as a base for exploring Tuscany. Enjoy!