Pisa is an easy day trip from Florence and many other Tuscan and Umbrian towns. A visit to the famous leaning tower is a must, but there is much more to see in this other Tuscan town located on the river Arno. Here are our recommendations for what to do in Pisa.
Piazza dei Miracoli. The Square of Miracles is home to some of Pisa’s most important and famous monuments. In the boundaries of the walled and grassy space you will find four incredible monuments; the Cathedral- Duomo, Bell Tower – Campanile, the Baptistry and the Camposante. The entire area is a UNESCO protected site.
The Leaning Tower. Known in Italian as the Torre Pendente, of course you have to see this iconic site. A poorly constructed foundation built on too-soft soil, in the 1100‘s, made the tower lean from the very start. Climb to the top and get a sense for the rest of the town. Make sure you take the silly picture of you or your traveling friends, propping up the tower. You will regret it when you get home if you don’t.
Duomo. The gleaming gray and white medieval cathedral sites at the heart of Pisa’s main piazza. This striking building, built in 1093, is a prime example of what is now known as Pisan Romanesque style.
Camposanto. Located on the edge of the main square, this space is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. The vast white building was designed by the same architect that designed the famous leaning tower and constructed on soil that was brought back from the crusades in the 1200’s. See traces of the original frescoes and the remaining Roman statues.
Baptistery. This round, romanesque structure is often overlooked. It was constructed in the mid-12th century in honor of St. John the Baptist. It is the largest baptistry in Italy and if you count the statue on the top, is taller than the nearby leaning tower.
Keith Haring Mural. It is not all medieval architecture to see in Pisa. American street artist Keith Haring painting his last public work in the form of a large mural on a convent wall. the name of the piece is “Tuttomondo”, meaning the entire world. You can find this artwork at the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate on the other side of the river Arno.
New Years in March? the Pisans have followed a different calendar than the rest of the world since the year 1200. On March 25, at 12:00, ray of sunlight coming through a stained glassed window in the Duomo strikes a specific spot where a marble egg sits, marks the start of a new year. There is a historical parade with Pisans dressed in medieval costumes, concerts and special exhibits for the days before and after the ceremony..
La Luminara and The Regatta of San Ranieri. June 16-17 marks the feast days for the patron saint of Pisa. On June 16 is La Luminara, an enchanting festival of lights where buildings, streets and all along the river and bridges are illuminated by thousands of flickering candles. Late in the evening there is a spectacular fireworks display. On June 17, the feast of San Ranieri is celebrated with an elaborate boat race along the Arno river. The cities four different neighborhoods compete not only by racing in 8 man boats, but the winner is decided at the finish line where the is a rope with a large silk flag attached. A montatore, climber, must climb the rope and grab the correct flag that corresponds to his team.
Borgo Stretto. This is for the shoppers and is the most elegant shopping street in Pisa. This where you can find all of Italy’s big name designers and chic independent boutiques.
Palazzo Agostini. It is not just the famous tower that leans in Pisa. This 14th century red brick building is one of PIsa’s oldest structures.
Botanical gardens. Established by the Medici family in the 1500’s this was Europe’s first university botanical garden. There is an arboretum, an impressive succulent collection and a very interesting section dedicated to pharmaceutical plants.
Take a Ride.
Don’t have a lot of time or maybe you are you tired of walking? Pick up the CitySightseeing bus at the Piazza Arcivescovado and you can hop on and off at the numerous sites or relax and see everything in seated comfort with an english language audio guide.