Pisa Destination Guide
Let’s get this straight - there’s more to Pisa than a leaning tower. Sure it’s the city’s main attraction but even it leans less these days thanks to a multi-million dollar engineering work to straighten things up. Glance further at this vibrant Tuscan town and you’ll unravel a wealth of Romanesque buildings, Gothic churches and Renaissance piazzas. Of-course there’s no denying that the Leaning Tower is for good reason why many people visit Pisa and even if the climb is too much for you, no trip to Italy is complete without a least a glimpse at one of Italy’s leading attractions.
Closed to the public for nearly 10 years, the extraordinary engineering project to reduce the Leaning Tower’s lean is now complete. Scaling the 293 steps may not be for the feint hearted but those that make the journey are rewarded by the view of Piazza dei Miracoli and, if you’ve timed your ascent well, the ringing of the bells. Pisans will of-course tell you that the Leaning Tower is not the city’s only attraction and those that spend longer than average in town will be rewarded at The Knights’ Square, Duomo Pisa and St. Ranieri cathedrals, Camposanto cemetery and The National Museum of San Matteo.
Pisa has no shortage of places to eat and drink and being such a small town means most places are centrally located. As a general rule, prices tend to be dearer and quality lower near the Leaning Tower, so walk a few minutes towards the centre of town before taking your pick from the many trattorias. Wander farther and you’ll find fashionable Borgo Street, close to the river and home to the popular Bar Pasticceria. Being near to the centre of Tuscany’s wine-growing region means great things for your drinking options and while there’s few nightclubs or live music venues in Pisa, the city’s lively student population means there are plenty of smalls bars and restaurants scattered around at which to enjoy a drink at.
Where to Stay
Pisa’s small size means that accommodation options lean towards petite family-run hotels, pensions, and B&Bs, giving your stay in Pisa a nice personal touch. Lovers of luxury are still catered for in Pisa, though it’s hot competition for a room at Hotel Cavalieri, Hotel Relais Dell’Orologio and Hotel Bologna come peak season. A good alternative location is to stay at the Pisa hills, which give you close access to the thermal spa of San Giuliano a few kilometres northeast of central Pisa. There you’ll find the charming Bagni di Pisa Palace and Spa, which was once used as a retreat by the Lorenzo family.
Designer fashion is synonymous with Italy and though lacking the store volume of Rome and Milan, Pisa still has plenty of places for you to splash out on clothes and shoes. Corso d’Italia and Borgo Steet, linked by the Ponte di Mezzo are Pisa’s main shopping streets, while tourist souvenir stores around the edges of Piazza dei Miracoli is where you’ll find your Leaning Tower model. Roaming merchants are abound in the main tourist areas but try and steer clear of them, or at least haggle for a better price if you insist on buying something from unlicensed salespeople.
Pisa Like a Local
Are you feeling a little old compared to the locals? You probably are. Ever since the 1400s, education has been Pisa’s main industry and approximately 60% of the town’s 100,000 population is made up of students. The result is a vibrant feeling town and an affordable café and beer scene frequented with fresh-faced Italians from all across the country. Come ‘aperitivo’ time, Leningrad Café and La Borsa are two good places to say ‘buongiorno’ to the locals. Because many students go home on weekends, Thursday rather than Friday and Saturday tends to be the busiest night of the week to go out.