In January, wasted with an overwhelming amount of work and terrible weather, I decided to book a weekend trip. The choice fell on Pisa. Tickets were really cheap, I always loved Italy and never get a chance to visit Pisa and its surroundings. Although the trip was quite spontaneous, thanks to Couchsurfing I managed to organize the whole stay at the very low budget. Before my trip, I heard a lot about how boring and not worth visiting Pisa is, but I can’t agree with that opinion. If you’re interested in what does it offer, besides the Leaning Tower, here you can find what you’re looking for!
My plane landed in Pisa at 9:30. Perfect time for a full day of sightseeing, but terrible when it comes to waking up before the flight. After 5 a.m. wake up I didn’t have much energy, but the first time in a new city always gives extra motivation. The great thing about Pisa is the location of the airport. 2 km from the city center, with the cheap and easy 5 min mini-metro transfer, perfect for
Walk around Pisa
I set up a meeting with a fellow traveler, who was also visiting Pisa for the first time, at 10 at the Central Station. Although as I was a bit late, he moved our meeting point 200m further to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s an oval plaza, surrounded by the street, with a small green area and the Vittorio Emanuele statue.
From there, we began our trip around the city. Instead of going straight to the Tower, we decided to start from smaller attractions. Talking all the way we headed towards the Giardino Scotto (known also as Cittadella Nuova) – an old fortress, located on the south bank of the river Arno. It has a really nice medieval architecture and supposedly a beautiful garden inside the fortification. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to find an open entrance, maybe it was too early?
After a short visit
Across the Arno river
After crossing the Arno river, we checked out a few smaller churches. Starting from the Chiesa di San Michele in Borgo, headed further to Piazza dei Cavalieri with the Chiesa di San Sisto. Then, strolling around the narrow streets, visited Chiesa di Santa Caterina. That one was not only empty but also very dark, we even had to use flashlights to see what’s inside the side aisles. Still not sure if it really was open for the visitors…
To the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
Next, came the time for the main attraction – the Leaning Tower and the rest of the complex. You don’t have to pay for the entrance to the Cathedral, but first, you need to get a free ticket from the ticket office. There you can also decide on visiting some paid attractions – either buy a single ticket or a whole pack for 2-3 attractions. We decided to skip climbing the Tower, but instead visited the whole Duomo complex – Cathedral, Baptisterium, and Campo Santo style Cemetary.
The Square of Miracles, also known as Piazza del Duomo with the whole Duomo complex is one of
Duomo di Pisa
Pisa’s Cathedral is a Roman church built in the XI-XII century. Maybe not as impressive as Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, or Milan Cathedral, but it has some magic. I especially liked its surroundings – a huge green area, instead of the usual square placed between buildings. Also, the marble facade with bronze elements is very interesting and makes a beautiful composition with green grass.
While the Baptistery looks quite impressive from the outside, the interior can be a disappointment. Huge, two floors space, with only
The Campo Santo cemetery feels more like a church’s courtyard than the actual graveyard. Only some sarcophagi were left inside the galleries. Beside them, you can admire beautiful frescoes covering the walls – unfortunately not fully restored after WWII’s bombings.
As I was heading to my host in Empoli and my companion was moving further to Siena, we finished our sightseeing around 3 p.m. with a late lunch after the visit to Piazza dei Miracoli. But there are also other things to see. I came back to Pisa for the last day of my trip and between spending time with my hosts, I managed to see few more spots.
Orto Botanico di Pisa
First Sunday’s of the month in Italy are days with free entry to many museums. As I didn’t have enough time for galleries, I decided to check out the Botanical Garden instead. Dating for the XVI century, it is the first university botanical garden in Europe, with a huge collection of different plants from all around the world. Despite in winter, it wasn’t so impressive as it could be in spring or summer, I really enjoyed that place. Especially liked the small bamboo groves and the succulents garden.
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina
Unquestionably one of the Pisa’s hidden gems! Tiny gothic church, built just on the riverbank. The smallest church I’ve ever seen, yet outstanding beautiful with its rich facade and lovely location. Interior is quite empty, but that place definitely shouldn’t be missed by anyone!
Citadella di Pisa
The Old Citadel with its Guelph Tower is situated a bit off the tourist track, by the “last” bridge of the historical Old Town. The building may look a bit neglected, but it makes a nice element of the riverside view. You can also climb the tower – the view from the top should be really amazing, but sadly, I didn’t get a chance to check it on my own.
Pisa is also quite known from its street art. Besides the famous Tuttomondo mural painted by American artist Keith Haring, you can admire lots of smaller, yet still interesting graffiti and paintings.
As you can see, Pisa is much more than just the Leaning Tower. While planning a visit to this city, it’s worth to take more time for sightseeing. Don’t waste your visit only on a quick run from the airport to the Tower and departure to another city.
Interested in the social Couchsurfing part of this trip? Check my post about Couchsurfing in Toscany!