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The Tuscan city of Pisa is synonymous with its most famous attraction—the leaning tower—but there's so much more to this historic city than a teetering building. While Pisa is one of Italy's most popular destinations for day tours from nearby Italian destinations—especially if you have your eye on posing on the Piazza dei Miracoli pretending to hold up the iconic leaning tower—few realize the tower is actually the bell tower for the adjacent 11th-century cathedral, and that the piazza's enormous baptistery is the largest in Italy. And while Florence might be the bigger draw today, visitors who explore beyond the tower of Pisa are rewarded with history and art. Giorgio Vasari designed the lovely Piazza dei Cavalieri and a church on the square, inside of which there's a piece by Donatello. The tiny 13th-century church of Santa Maria della Spina sits right on the Arno River in the city center. Keith Haring's last public work is a huge mural on the wall of the Church of Sant'Antonio. You can discover these and more lesser-known sights on a walking tour, or easily reach other Italian cities with an organized day trip that handles the logistics. Heading out into the countryside from Pisa, visitors can wander the medieval streets of historic Siena, circle the town of Lucca walking atop its city walls, go wine tasting in the Chianti hills, or hike the trails linking the five towns of the Cinque Terre.
Pisa is best visited in spring and early fall, in the months of April, May, June, September, and October. These months can be busy and expensive, but they offer temperate weather and the conveniences of peak travel season without massive crowds. Travelers visiting in June can partake in the Feast of St. Ranieri, also called the Luminara of San Ranieri, when the city is illuminated with lamps and candles on the Arno River and with midnight fireworks.
Given that Pisa’s main attractions are clustered on the Piazza dei Miracoli, the city is best explored on foot. Walking from the Pisa Centrale train station to the piazza takes roughly 20 minutes, but bus lines Nos. 120 and 140, among others, cut the travel time in half. Also, bikes are great for exploring the city and traveling further afield—the Ciclopista del Trammino route takes bikers along the Arno River to Marina di Pisa on the coast.
A little-known fact: Pisa has more than one leaning tower. The obscure Basilica San Nicola is located on Via Santa Maria just north of the National Museum of the Royal Palace, a stone’s throw from the Arno River. Pay attention as you pass and you’ll notice that the church’s bell tower is tilting, albeit slightly. Also, the bell tower is unusual, consisting of circular, octagonal, and hexagonal sections.
Pisa is home to much more than just its iconic bell tower, as travel writer Rebecca has discovered on her many visits to this Tuscan beauty.
book your tickets to the Leaning Tower. You’re going to visit sooner or later, so you may as well be smart about it and avoid the hassle of a long line.
is spent far away from the crowds in Piazza dei Miracoli and instead involves exploring the narrow lanes lined with shops and eateries in the historic quarters of San Martino and San Francesco.
the Leaning Tower. Sure, it’s a travel cliché, but this listing bell tower seems to defy gravity and will stop you in your tracks no matter how many photos you’ve seen of it.
explore the city’s bookshops. Pisa is home to one of the world’s most prestigious universities and has long been a cultural and literary hub. Browse its many landmark “librerie” to mix with local Pisani and students.
take a walk along the medieval walls that circle the old town and overlook rooftops and gardens from about 35 feet (11 meters) above ground for a unique perspective of the historic center.
is assuming that there is nothing in Pisa beyond Piazza dei Miracoli. This historic city has a lively center with cafè-lined squares, funky shops and galleries, and an authentic feel that seems worlds away from the tourist hubbub.
Pisa houses one of Italy’s most iconic landmarks, known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This famed 12th-century bell tower tilts about 4 degrees due to a faulty foundation and is part of the city’s cathedral complex on Campo dei Miracoli that includes the church, baptistery, bell tower, and cemetery....More
You can visit Pisa’s Campo dei Miracoli—site of the Leaning Tower and cathedral complex—plus the city’s old town in a single day. Keep in mind that you must reserve timed tickets to the Leaning Tower in advance, so choose an early morning entry to make the most of your day....More
Begin at the UNESCO-listed Campo dei Miracoli with a visit to Pisa’s cathedral, baptistery, and—of course—Leaning Tower (book tickets in advance to climb the tower). Afterwards, take a stroll through the city’s handsome old town to admire its landmark churches, palaces, and squares plus the storied university district....More
Part of the UNESCO-listed Pisan Romanesque cathedral complex, Pisa’s gravity-defying bell tower is both an architectural treasure and a souvenir-snapshot must. The tower’s remarkable tilt is fun to photograph as an optical illusion, with a person in the foreground “propping” the tower up with their hand....More
Pisa has one of Tuscany’s most captivating old towns, with lively squares that bustle with locals and students of the city’s historic university, plus a collection of landmark churches. Take in the Santa Maria della Spina Church, sip a cappuccino in Knights’ Square, and marvel at Keith Haring’s final mural....More
Teen visitors love to climb the vertigo-inducing Leaning Tower, so begin there (prebooking is essential). Then, head to the old town, buzzing with university students. Check out street art by Keith Haring, get your fill of thrills and chills at the Museum of Veterinary Anatomy, and browse the edgy streetwear shops....More