When in Pisa, drink in views of a certain leaning tower, and dawdle over to these drinking dens afterwards to rub shoulders with chattering locals and sip on celebrated Tuscan wines.
There’s so much more to Pisa than a tilting tower: it is a lively university town with an exquisite cathedral, lovely pastel architecture along the Arno River and plenty of intriguing stories around one of its most famous sons, Galileo. The art galleries and museums here don’t require the secret-service-level planning that those in Florence do, and you’ll find them quieter and more relaxed places to dig into Italian culture and Renaissance-era riches. Between your cultural fixes, take a breather at one of these convivial drinking dens to try Tuscan wines and meet the locals.
Shots are downed and group selfies are snapped at this small, sociable bar, where the owners distil their own liqueurs and stock up on the most interesting wines from the region. Bowls of plump olives and delicate wafers of cured ham are on offer for the peckish, served in rustic ceramic ramekins and dishes. The hip, dishevelled space is all exposed stone, scrawled-upon blackboards and chunky wine barrels, attracting a trendy crowd.
The craft beer lover’s choice in town, this ramshackle, yellow-painted pub has hand-doodled beer names and tasting notes above the bar. Its own, namesake beer is a hit with most. Buy some to take home as a quirky gift, or ask your barmen which taps they recommend. In summer, the whole glass-doored front is opened up for drinkers to flow in and out freely. Mingle on the pavement to meet native Pisa residents and get their city tips.
A down-to-earth set up on the banks of the Arno, this bar uses wine crates as makeshift chairs and tables, adding plump cushions and metal lanterns to give it a casual but stylish look. Perch by the waterfront under pergolas of fairy lights to hear live acoustic guitarists and singers, ordering icy-cold Aperol spritzes and glasses of wine as you go. The sunset reflected in the river and the city lights illuminating the banks create a romantic setting for an aperitif.
Right in the thick of Pisa’s food and nightlife scene, around Via Guglielmo Oberdan, this youthful bar, painted in primary colours, is a lively hangout later in the evening. Students and twenty-something professionals loiter in skinny jeans and trainers, sipping bottled beers and negronis and admiring the sketched nudes on the wall. Rock and indie tunes blare from the speakers, and everyone’s letting their hair down after a day of work or lectures.
Chupiteria keeps count of how many shots the bar has served since first opening, hinting at the student core of its party-loving fans. There are more than 250 flavour options for shot-glass-sized tipples, from ones layered like the Italian flag to special editions styled to look like Marvel superheroes or spooky Halloween scenes. Yes, it’s a little weird that there aren’t any long drinks to mix it up a bit, but it’s a fab, novelty stop to get the party started on your night out.
Sit up at the bar to chat to the friendly staff at this bohemian watering hole, famous among locals for its ample aperitivo buffet and occasional live music. Painted sunflower yellow, with one wall covered in loaded bookshelves, it has an informal, artsy vibe and highly rated Negronis. Order a couple of drinks, and you can tuck into the boards of focaccia fingers and parma-topped toasts, guilt-free.
This sharp riverside social hub will draw your eye with its Aperol-orange parasols and hum of boisterous Italian chatter. With tables lined up along the riverbank as well as a floating deck, it serves great Italian wines by the bottle, alongside tapas-style dishes of octopus, salt-cod fritters and well-seasoned prawn-mayo rolls. Live bands sometimes soundtrack your night, but it’s still a mellow, grown-up affair that attracts a crowd of local professionals.
Dying for a proper gin martini or a zesty whisky sour? Make a beeline for this slinky, low-lit hotspot, with the New York skyline muralled on the walls and a groaning table of aperitivo snacks laid out each night. Load up a plate of crudites, pizza slices, fries and cold cuts to soak up those potent spirits. You’ll be surprised at how affordable a couple of rounds are. This is a good shout for a friendly, unpretentious first-of-the-night cocktail.
Looking for more insider tips? After a long day of sightseeing, you can grab a bite at one of the best restaurants in Pisa. Then, make a plan to leave the city behind – if you’re not convinced, here are our top reasons why you should explore Tuscany. To help you plan your itinerary, here are the must-visit attractions in Tuscany that you absolutely have to check out. For a restful night of sleep, we recommend one of the best hotels in Lucca, or, if you find yourself a little further afield, one of the best hotels in San Gimignano.
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