Pisa

Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Italy, that is best known for its world famous Leaning Tower. But the Tower isn't the only thing to see – there are other architectural and artistic marvels in this beautiful city. The half hour walk from the Campo dei Miracoli to the train station runs through a pedestrian street with many interesting sights, shops, and restaurants. The best way to visit Pisa is walking the streets, as the city center is very small, and enjoy the sight and the atmosphere.

Understand

The leaning tower

Pisa would not be Pisa without the University. The city is animated by the students, who organize parties, shows, and cultural events, and fill the central street of the city at night. The University of Pisa has 60,000 students in a city of 90,000 inhabitants (200,000 in the metropolitan area). You'll notice the student flair in the city once you leave the touristy campo dei miracoli.

Get in

Pisa Centrale train station

Pisa has regular trains to and from Florence (usually three per hour), to and from Lucca (usually every hour) and is also accessible by bus, and has an international airport.

By train

  Pisa Centrale is the main train station of Pisa. Rome to Genova trains stop at Pisa Centrale. If you are planning an in-route visit to Pisa, it is also convenient since Pisa Centrale has Left Luggage service open from 6AM-9PM. Each baggage deposited costs €3 for 12 hr. Else, if you are in the city just to see the Leaning Tower, you could also get down at the   Pisa S. Rossore train station which is much closer to the tower. Do check the train schedule, as not all trains stop there. However there are regional trains to Florence every hour at the 46th minute (as of 9 July 2012).

By plane

  Pisa International Airport (IATA: PSA), also known as Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport, is the main airport of Tuscany and is served by several airlines operating hundreds of weekly flights to national and international destinations. Numerous companies offer charter flights to and from a number of European and non-European destinations. Flying to Pisa is really cheap and easy: the most recognized low-cost airlines serve Pisa. The airport is close to the city center (about 1km) - it takes only a few minutes to reach the center by bus, train or taxi. The airport is also within easy walking distance of the center, which takes around 20 min.

Do not expect the airport to be open 24/7, though. Many smaller European airports do have opening hours, so don't expect to stay overnight or hang out until late.

You can purchase bus and train tickets from the information desk in the arrivals hall. The trains are the fastest way to get to the city but run only twice per hour. The tickets cost €1.10 and the ride takes only about 5 min.

The bus (The Red Line or LAM Rosso towards Jacobo) has a regular service every 15 min and it takes about 15 min to get to the city. The bus runs to Piazza dei Miracoli and the central station. Since the ticket machine at the bus stop "speaks" only Italian, it's better to get the tickets from the information desk if you don't speak the language. Single fare is €1, but if you buy them from the driver on the bus, you pay double that. All convenience and book shops also sell the ticket. You may need two tickets since each ticket is valid for only 30 min.

The bus terminal is directly in front of the airport, on the right side when coming out of the terminal building. Once you are in the city, its main sights are easy to locate and are all within walking distance. If you are boarding the bus from the Train station, cross the road in front of the station and walk a few feet to the right.

If you prefer a more convenient method of travel, a taxi to the city centre will cost around €6-10 (plus a €2.55 surcharge on Sundays, bank holidays and at night between 22:00 and 06:00).

By carpooling

One of the most convenient ways to arrive in Pisa is by carpooling, . You can split the costs and make the journey cheaper.

Get around

There are regular buses around town, including from the train station to the Field of Miracles. Attractions are within a half hour walk of each other. Local bus tickets are available at tobacco shops; there are also vending machines both at the station and the airport.

Many car rental agencies are at the airport. While you will not need a car in the city itself, it can be a good choice if you want to go around Tuscany from Pisa. To get to the car rental offices take the shuttle bus in front of the airport's arrival hall to the right, close to the city bus stop.

See

The Campo dei Miracoli from above: The leaning tower is on the left, the Duomo is in the center, the Baptistery is on the right, and part of the Camposanto is in the right foreground

Monuments and museums

Pisa is divided into 4 historical quarters. There is much more than the Leaning Tower in the city and several different walking itineraries are available.

The Museo Nazionale di San Matteo (St Matthew Museum)

When you have done the main attractions of Pisa, there is still one little gem left: Marina di Pisa, the harbor of Pisa at the Mediterranean sea. It hosts a beach, not with sand, but with little marble pebbles. The pebbles are smooth, and will not harm your feet, but since they are slightly unstable near the water, sea water compatible footwear is recommended for walking along the beach and getting in or out of the water.

Do

The Arno river in the daylight

Annual Events

Nightlife

For nightlife, there aren't many clubs or live music places in Pisa: the usual night in Pisa is having a dinner of pizza or a cheap kebab, having a beer in Borgo Stretto, or Piazza delle Vettovaglie or a pub in the surrounding areas, and having a walk in Piazza Garibaldi and Lungarni, where the "spallette" (the low brick walls around the river) are full of students.

Some alternative clubs (hard rock, alternative, funky) in the center are:

Italians really loves to sing. You can find many talented local singers at the Millie Bar. The fun energetic lounge is located in city center not far from Piazza Garibaldi. Every Tuesday night is Karaoke Night. Who knew the Italians have a deep passion for singing.

Less alternative clubs are found at the seaside, about 8 km from Pisa, in Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia. For instance

Spas

Learn

Buy

The central shopping area is centered around the Corso Italia, between the railway station and the Ponte di Mezzo (the central bridge) and also in the Via Borgo Stretto, north of the bridge. However, many specialized shops are sprinkled around the city.

The area around the leaning tower is geared toward tourists: There are lots of small souvenir kiosks, stands and "flying merchants", selling all kinds of souvenirs from small statues to hour-glasses - of course the general motif is the leaning tower.

Beware: it is an offense to buy from one of the "flying merchant" that sell fake replicas. They are very persuasive and if you buy anything you must haggle – they'll drop their prices significantly.

Every two weeks there is a bazaar with quite cheap books, records and old household items.

And don't forget to try some of Pisa's famous biscotti (biscuits or cookies). Bakeries all through town will sell multiple varieties, for a low price.

For the budget option, if coming from the Airport, there is a Coop supermarket on the left, on Via Pasquale Pardi.

Eat

Santa Maria della Spina, façade

As a general rule, try not to eat near the Leaning Tower where prices are high and quality low. Head instead to the central area (5-10 minutes walking from Piazza dei Miracoli): you can find very good, cheap restaurants there. For example, there are excellent, friendly and reasonably priced cafeterias in the busy small vegetable market, Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Also Via San Martino, close to the south bank of the river, offers some places with good quality and low price.

This said, near the Leaning Tower, in via Roma, there's a good Indian Restaurant, with a beautiful atmosphere and really good, though not always cheap, dishes. In Piazza dei Miracoli, there's a quite good restaurant-pizzeria, cheap enough, the Kinzica.

In any case, don't miss Salza, in Borgo Stretto, with high prices but absolutely gorgeous chocolate, sweets and pastries of all kinds. Don't sit down inside, though, because you end up paying €10 for two coffees.

If you have access to transport, an alternative to eating in Pisa is to take the relatively short drive to Marina di Pisa, the harbor of Pisa at the Mediterranean sea some 15 km from central Pisa. Just follow the SS224 road west on the south side of River Arno and you are there in 20 minutes. There are several restaurants by the seafront, and having your dinner here, outside and when the sun sets in the west, is a rewarding experience. Parking and tables may be out if you arrive late, so check the opening hours (many restaurants do not open until around 19.00) and be there early. Even better, spend an hour or two just walking along the beach before the restaurants open. Try Roca de Mar.

Finally, there's a good pizzeria near the Youth Hostel, too, on the road that leads to the Leclerc, on the left then you must go in the tunnel.

Here are some good spots for eating:

Drink

During summer nights, everybody stays around the banks of the rivers, sipping drinks bought from the several bars in the area. A few very good wine bars are also available for colder, winter nights.

Coffee

Sleep

The Pisa hills were already a popular destination for enlightened travellers in the first half of the 1700s, due mostly to the popularity of the thermal spa of San Giuliano, which quickly became a fashionable spot for the upper classes. The mansions on the road along the hills, already renowned as places of idleness and relaxation in the heart of the countryside, soon assumed the characteristics of true leisure resorts, just like those narrated by Carlo Goldoni. Stay at Bagni di Pisa ('health-giving' waters are still offered to an international clientele) and then visit Pisa during one of the city’s festivals, staying at the Agostini Palace to enjoy the best view of the festivities. The Villa has hosted many illustrious guests such as Gustavus III of Sweden, Christian II of Denmark, the Royal Family of Great Britain, Benedict Stuart Cardinal of York, General Murat, Luigi Buonaparte, Paolina Borghese, Carlo Alberto of Savoy, the poets Byron and Shelley, and various other personages from the history books.

Budget

Mid-range

Stay safe

Pisa is a safe city. You do not need to worry about your safety (except in some zones at night, such as the area surrounding the station). However, you should take the obvious precautions (like, if you stay in a very cheap hotel, take your valuables with you) and watch out for pickpockets in the touristy areas.

As stated in the Buy section, avoid purchasing sunglasses, umbrellas, and other trinkets from illegal sellers. Definitely steer clear of counterfeit luxury goods. Upon arriving to Pisa, it is not uncommon for tourists to be swarmed by vendors. Some vendors can be pushy or even downright aggressive. Even saying "no thank you" can bring unwanted attention. It's much better to ignore them entirely. Don't worry about being rude.

Even though cheap prices are tempting, especially when traveling on a budget, please remember that recently the Italian police have fined tourists for buying from illegal sellers. These fines can be very steep (up to €1,000). In front of the Tower, there are several legal vendors who have permits to sell items to tourists or anyone else. Be responsible and buy from them. Legal vendors have stalls lined along the main road whereas illegal vendors keep merchandise in a sack, cardboard boxes, or (in the case of fake purses) on their arms.

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