From the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the Botanical Gardens and Torre Guelfa, the Italian city of Pisa has an abundance of exquisite attractions that deserve to be discovered – and appreciated – by curious travellers. Here’s our list of must-visit places to see in Pisa, Italy.
Built in the 12th century, making them the oldest intact walls in Italy, these medieval ramparts are now open to the public along a 3km (2mi) section – providing spectacular views over the city. They’re open over the weekend: Friday to Sunday from 10am to 8pm, with free tours on Friday evenings.
You can’t say you know Pisa without a visit to the Cattedrale di Pisa. This superb basilica is in the Square of Miracles, near the Leaning Tower. It is one of the most important churches in Italy – famous for its white-marble façade adorned with columns and statues.
Another underrated building near the Leaning Tower is the Battistero di San Giovanni. The baptistery – one of the largest in Italy – is a masterpiece of Pisan-gothic architecture, often used as a concert hall due to its incredible acoustics.
The Camposanto – or sacred field – is a large rectangular cloister near the Piazza dei Miracoli with a gallery of arches decorated with gothic tracery that open onto a courtyard. Construction began in 1278 and continued for several centuries. If you want to visit a spot without huge queues of tourists, this is the place for you.
One of the best designed museums in Tuscany, the Opera del Duomo Museum is also one of the quieter attractions in Pisa. This is probably because it’s very near the famous tower and the cathedral, so it’s often overlooked by tourists who go there instead. Even if the museum artefacts don’t thrill you, the views of the Leaning Tower from the second floor are pretty superb.
Piazza delle Vettovaglie, which translates as supply square, is one of the oldest squares in Pisa: it’s also the heart of the city nightlife. It was formed by a succession of arcades comprised of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes. Nearby each morning is the Vettovaglie market – where you can shop like a local.
This small gothic church – dating from the early 13th century – is one of the tourist hotspots in Pisa, on the banks of the River Arno. Santa Maria della Spina is unfortunately closed to the public but it’s worth a visit outside just to admire its white-marble façade.
This palace in Palazzo Mediceo was designed by architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, for Francis I of the Medici. Now a museum, it showcases artworks from the collections of some of the most important European families. It was also the residence of the Lorraine and Savoy families – and hosted famous Italian artists and scientists, such as Galileo Galilei and Francesco Redi.
Palazzo Blu is one of the most exciting art galleries in the city – with recent shows featuring Salvador Dalì, Amedeo Modigliani and Toulouse-Lautrec. The palace also includes a cool cafe and bookshop at the back for an afternoon spent with an espresso and a good book.
Crossing the River Arno after a little walk in Borgo Stretto – a street with several shops – you’ll reach the rounded Piazza dei Cavalieri: one of the most important squares in Pisa. This place is home to Pisa Normal School and Torre della Muda, made famous by Dante’s Inferno.
Pisa, like many Italian towns, has plenty of beautiful churches to visit. The church of San Paolo, founded in 805CE, is one of the oldest in town and was expanded in the 11th and 12th centuries. It contains a Roman sarcophagus but it’s the Pisan-Romanesque-style façade that is well worth the visit.
One of the most beautiful and less touristic squares of Pisa is Piazza Dant – a nice place located near the Faculty of Law in the heart of Pisa. A few tourists come here to sip a coffee, while students come here to relax between classes.
The oldest botanic gardens in Italy are in Pisa, just down the main street from the Leaning Tower. It’s maintained by the University of Pisa and hosts rare plants, which are used by students for research and study. The added bonus for budget travellers is that a visit here is free.