10 Unusual Things to Do in Pisa, Italy

Pisa | ©Neil Howard/Flickr
Francesca Masotti

With its iconic leaning tower, Pisa is one of the most-visited cities in Italy. But the town has much more to offers to visitors and for those who want to avoid the crowds, here’s a list of city’s hidden gems that worth a look.
Visit the Natural Park of San Rossore

Pisa is a green city surrounded by gardens and parks. The largest natural park is San Rossore, which stretches from the town to the coast. There are several ways to explore it, by walking or cycling but the most romantic way is to discover the park on a horse-drawn carriage. Then, to continue your day surrounded only by nature, you can have a cool picnic on the fields in the free-access area and enjoy these autumn sunny days.

See the Other Leaning Tower

Did you know that Pisa is home to another leaning tower? Well, the most known torre pendente is the one located in Square of the Miracles, but also the bell tower of the Saint Michael Church leans. This interesting building is situated in a beautiful green area, viale delle Piagge, near the Arno River, five minute by walking from the centre of Pisa. If you want to admire a leaning tower without crowds, you have to come here. It might not be as beautiful as the other, but it has its charm.

Sip a Coffee in Piazza della Pera

Avoid the tourist traps behind the tower and go straight to Piazza della Pera, one of the nicest squares in Pisa. This spot is popular among the locals and completely unknown by tourists. The real name of the square is Piazza Gambacorti, its unofficial name derives from an Etruscan votive stone shaped like a pear and located at the entrance of the piazza. You can admire the medieval and renaissance buildings in here while sipping a coffee at one of the bars located in the square.

Museum of Human Anatomy

Forget Palazzo Blu and its fancy exhibitions: If you want to discover something authentic and not touristy you have to buy a ticket and visit the Museum of Human Anatomy, one of the oldest museum’s in Italy, housed in the Medical School of Pisa. The museum hosts skeletons, mummies, skulls, but the highlight collection is the one which contains anatomical models of wax, plaster or plastic used by the students to learn. Also the Veterinary Anatomy Museum is part of the Human Anatomy Museum with a large collection of anatomical models of animals.

Enjoy an Aperitivo in Piazza delle Vettovaglie

Forget fancy and expensive restaurants, Pisa has a lot of places where you can eat good food for just few euros. One of the best places to experience the spirit of the city and have fun is Piazza delle Vettovaglie, a square frequented mostly by local students. This old square is surrounded by stores, bars and street food, where you can buy something to eat for a quick meal and enjoy an excellent aperitivo with your friends.

Visit the Church of San Francesco

No church in Pisa is comparable to its spectacular cathedral famous for its white-marble façade. But the town has a lot of churches which deserve to be seen, like San Francesco’s church, a 17th century marble church with stunning frescoes in the choir, as realized by Taddeo Gaddi, one of Giotto’s disciples, and the tomb of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, made famous by Dante’s Inferno. The church is avoided by tourists, and you can easily visit it without spending time in lines. A curious info: Cimabue’s Maestà, which is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, was originally made for this church.

Relax in Giardino Scotto

As we said, Pisa is full of parks and gardens. One of the most beautiful is Giardino Scotto, a peaceful garden inside an ancient fortress built by Florentines on 1440 during the second occupation of the city. This place is usually used by locals for walking, running, studying or simply to rest in the sun. The entrance is free, and, during the summer months, the garden hosts an open-air cinema and few music festivals.

Buy a Book at Caffè Letterario Volta Pagina

If you know Italian, or if you are learning the language, the best thing you can do is to buy a good book and spend some of your time reading it. One of the best bookshops of Pisa is Caffè Letterario Volta Pagina, a nice spot located just a two-minute walk from Corso Italia, which is the main street of town. You’ll find interesting books and also have a nice snack with pies and teas.

Visit the Certosa of Calci

If you have time and want to see a beautiful place far from tourists, take your car and reach the Certosa of Calci. Many areas of this spectacular and enormous place (there are 1,500 rooms) are unfortunately close to the public, what is visible today is only a small portion of this building. The area hosts the Natural History Museum, an antique pharmacy and, recently, also opened an aquarium.

Piaggio Museum

Another unknown location near Pisa is the Piaggio Museum, located in Pontedera, a small village in the province of Pisa. The museum was inaugurated in 2000 and occupied 3,000 square meters from the company’s former tool shop in an industrial complex in Pontedera, where Piaggio started its production in the early 1920s. The museum explains the history of Piaggio and the development of Italian industry, economy and society from the period.


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