Travel better with our tourists' guide to Pisa
Hello and welcome to our Pisa Travel Guide. We're here to help you travel better in this historic, iconic city and learn about all the things to do in Pisa.
Once a powerful maritime city state, modern Pisa is a small town packed full of culture, with a long and interesting history. Although many will know it from its world famous Leaning Tower, there's so much more to see and do in Pisa than this one landmark; with friendly locals, great food and classic architecture, it's one of our favourite places to visit in Italy. It's also 152 miles from Venice and 42 miles from Florence, which we've just got back from. Check out our travel guides for Florence and Venice too.
If your time in Pisa is brief, it can be easy to miss some of the city's hidden secrets that could help you travel better, such as where to find the best pizza in Pisa and how to navigate the Square of Miracles! Fortunately, you're in the right place to be in the know and make the most of the things to do in Pisa.
In our Pisa Travel Guide, we'll cover:
- How to get to Pisa
- The best ways to travel around Pisa
- Art and culture in Pisa
- Where to eat in Pisa
- Do you need to be able to speak Italian to enjoy Pisa
- How to make the most of your money in Pisa
So grab your camera and phrasebook, and come with us on a tour of history, culture, amazing architecture and Pisan charm!
How to get to Pisa
We think the best way to travel to Pisa from the UK is by plane. Pisa airport is the main gateway into Tuscany, receiving almost 5 million passengers every year. Flights from London to Pisa take roughly 2 hours, and once you arrive it's just a short journey to the city centre, giving you plenty of time to enjoy all the things to do in Pisa.
While you're at it, if you book yourself an airport lounge, you can squeeze in a last-minute flick through your Italian phrasebook, while indulging in the peace and quiet with a complimentary glass of prosecco in hand. Magnifico!
If you've never booked an airport lounge before, take a look at some of the secrets of UK airport lounges and find out how you could get in on the action.
How to get to Pisa from Pisa Airport
Let's take a look at some of the options for getting to Pisa's city centre from Pisa Airport:
How to get to Pisa by shuttle?
New for 2017, the Pisa Mover shuttle will pick you up from the airport and costs €2.70 each way. Taking only 5 minutes to reach Pisa Centrale on fixed tracks, this is definitely our pick for the best way to get into the city.
How to get to Pisa by taxi?
If you're looking to travel in private luxury, you can also get to Pisa by taxi. Costing €10 (with an additional €2.55 charge on Sunday and bank holidays), this is the quickest way to get to the city. What's more, you can get dropped off with your bags at your hotel - nice and convenient if you're willing to splash out a little more!
How to get to Pisa by bus?
Since we visited Pisa, the city have stopped running the LAM Rossa service from the airport, replacing it with the Pisa Mover line. You can still get to Pisa Centrale if you're willing to walk to the nearest bus stop on the LAM Verde route, however this isn't as practical as the other ways of getting to Pisa, especially if you're carrying luggage.
Alternatively, why not treat your holiday to a better start and book an airport transfer from airport? You'll have peace of mind, knowing your transport is sorted and booked for you before you've even stepped on the plane. Take the stress out of getting to your hotel, you know you deserve it!
What are the best ways to travel around Pisa
Now you've arrived in Pisa, dropped your bags off and perhaps grabbed a macchiato, it's time to start exploring this resplendent, historic city. Let's take a look at some of the best options available:
Should I travel through Pisa on foot?
Pisa is a small city, and we think one that's best enjoyed on foot. In fact you'll find that it's usually quicker and easier this way, as a walk from Pisa Centrale to the Leaning Tower shouldn't take longer than 25 minutes.
Take the time to really enjoy the city. We walked as much of the city as possible and got a much more insight into all the things to do in Pisa.
Should I travel through Pisa by bus?
The bus service in Pisa uses three main lines; red, green and blue. The red line (LAM Rossa) is the one that takes you to the Leaning Tower. Tickets are available in tobacco shops, the station and airport. Just make sure to you buy your ticket before you travel and then validate as you board. Also note that after 9pm the buses switch to a reduced night service until midnight, something worth remembering if you're looking to use the bus on a night out.
Here's a breakdown of the bus ticket prices in Pisa:
- 70 minutes - €1.20
- 120 minutes - €1.60
- 240 minutes - €1.90
The 70 minute ticket is also available in books of 4 or 10.
Should I travel through Pisa by car?
Driving in Pisa is similar to other popular Italian cities, in that it has a limited traffic zone called the ZTL. Be aware that driving an unlicensed vehicle in this zone will incur a fine between €60 and €100 for each time you pass a traffic camera. That means you can get multiple fines for driving along the same street. Gulp!
Don't bother. Driving is notoriously nightmarish in most European cities and public transport is affordable. In fact do the environment a favour (and save yourself a few euros for gelato) and walk as much as you can.
If you do decide to hit the road to Pisa, there are a couple of free car parks and several paid car parks outside the ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato). The paid car parks should be no more than €20 per day and you can keep your car there overnight. To really travel better on your European road trip, we think a hire car is the best option for crossing the continent; leave your car at home and take the stress of of driving abroad.
Not rented a car abroad before? Take a gander at our guide on how to book car hire abroad.
What art and culture is there in Pisa?
Pisa has a wealth of culture and history, and that isn't limited to its famous Leaning Tower! Here's a just a selection of the things to see and do in Pisa.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
We couldn't start anywhere else, could we? The Leaning Tower of Pisa is without question the city's most famous landmark; no trip to the city is complete without visiting its tower.
Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean?
The Leaning Tower of Pisa's characteristic lean is caused by a combination of its small foundations and the soft soil on which it was built. It started to appear during construction in the 12th century and gradually increased in the following decades.
Can I enter the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Yes! After a programme of structural strengthening was completed in 2001, the tower is now safe to enter.
When buying tickets you'll be given a time slot to return to enter to the tower, which can be up to 3 hours after purchase. To travel better and avoid the long wait, we recommend booking your tickets in advance.
Only 40 people are allowed inside at any one time, and children under 8 are not permitted at all - something to bear in mind if you're looking for things to do in Pisa when travelling with small children. It's also worth remembering that no bags at all are allowed in the tower, however you can take a camera (providing you leave its bag in the free security deposit).
You're allowed 35 minutes inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa after entering. Opening times are varied, and can be found on the official website.
The Square of Miracles
While the Leaning Tower of Pisa dominates the tourist scene, there's plenty of other really interesting buildings and things to do in Pisa too. The Tower is situated in an area called in the Square of Miracles, which also features Italy's largest baptistery, a magnificent cathedral and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Locals say it's one of the most beautiful urban areas in the world.
If you happen to be visiting on the 16th June, then we think one of the best things to do in Pisa is attend the Luminara Festival. Celebrating the patron saint of Pisa, San Ranieri, this festival of light sees Pisa illuminated with tens of thousands of candles, with the celebrations culminating in a dazzling firework display over the river Arno. If you're looking to book a getaway to Pisa in the Summer, we think it's worth trying to be a part of this unique experience.
Other things to do in Pisa
While you're in Pisa, it's also worth visiting the Camposanto Cemetery located near the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The mausoleum houses many Roman sculptures and remarkable frescos, the most famous of which being Buffalmacco's The Triumph of Death.
Be sure to also try and find the Tuttomondo mural on the wall of St. Antonio church by American pop artist Keith Haring. The vibrant, multi-character piece has been a staple of Pisan culture for nearly 30 years.
Should I book a tour through Pisa?
We recommend booking a tour with Pedicab Pisa and asking for Roberto to get an expert, insider view on all of Pisa's hidden treasures. We think local knowledge is invaluable when visiting somewhere new, so dive in, book a tour and experience Pisa like a pro. Roberto works solely for donations, so make sure you give generously as his insight is definitely worth it.
Where to eat in Pisa
There's plenty of amazing restaurants and eateries throughout Pisa, catering for all tastes and dietary requirements. Here's a few of our favourites:
Where can I get the best pizza in Pisa?
Located in the city centre, Trattoria Pizzeria Il Montino was the first pizzeria in Pisa, opening in the 19th century. It's lasted so long with good reason, as 'Il Montino' serves the best pizza in the city; we recommend trying their delectable calzones.
Where can I get the best ice cream in Pisa?
No Italian holiday is complete without sampling some of the country's amazing gelato! We found the best ice cream in Pisa at La Bottega del Gelato; no matter what flavour's your favourite, you'll be catered for with friendly staff and mouthwatering frozen delights.
Where can I get the best sandwiches in Pisa?
With all the things to do in Pisa, sometimes you just don't have time to sit down for a meal. We stumbled upon Il Crudo Panineria and were really impressed by their huge selection of delicious paninis, which were perfect for on-the-go.
Do I need to be able to speak Italian to enjoy Pisa?
We found that most restaurants and tourist attractions in Pisa spoke English, so you don't need to become fluent in Italian overnight. With that being said, we think it's a good idea to learn a few key phrases and words to help immerse yourself in the culture and authentically enjoy all the things to do in Pisa. It also never hurts to show off your linguistic skills to friends and family!
What phrases should I learn for my Pisan holiday?
- Hello - Ciao (informal) or Buongiorno (formal)
- Goodbye - Ciao (informal) or Arrivederci (formal)
- Yes - Si
- No - No
- Please - Per favore
- Thank you - Grazie
- I don't understand - Non ho capito
- Do you speak English? - Parla inglese?
How to make the most of your money in Pisa
We've established how to get to Pisa, as well as the wealth of things to do, culture, and places to eat during your Italian holiday, but to enjoy all of these things it helps to know how many euros to bring.
Here's some of our tips for making your money go further on your Pisan holiday:
How much money should I bring to Pisa?
Like the rest of Italy, Florence's currency is Euros, however prices in the city's tourist hotspots can be pretty high compared to the rest of the country. We think it's a good idea to purchase tickets to attractions such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa before your holiday, so you can spread the cost and avoid carrying a lot money.
If you're still unsure about carrying money on you through the busy Pisan streets, we recommend picking up a currency card, such as the FairFX money card before you leave. You can load the card up with your travel money before you set off for Pisa, meaning all your funds are readily accessible wherever you are.
What's more, the exchange rate will be set there and then at the best rate for you. Then you can travel with peace of mind, knowing you're protected from the volatility of the currency market.
Where can I get the best deals in Pisa?
As with most popular destinations, you can expect to pay a lot more when sitting out on the main squares of Pisa. For a real bargain, head out of the tourist areas; Pisa is a university town with roughly 60,000 students, and prices at student bars and restaurants tend to be far lower.
We also found that accommodation was much cheaper outside of the centre, and with excellent public transport connecting the city centre, airport and surrounding area, it might be worth venturing further afield. For example, the Hotel Milano is located two minutes from the main train station in Pisa, with affordable rooms starting around ₤1940.
How much did we spend?
Here's a breakdown of some of the costs of our Pisa trip:
- Return flights - ₤60pp
- Pizza - €8
- Pasta - €8.50
- Coffee - €2.50
- 3-Bed apartment - ₤111 per night
That's it from our short time in Pisa, and as you can see there's so much to see and do this enchanting city than just it's Leaning Tower. Make sure you spend the time to explore it properly, you won't regret it. Arrivederci Pisa!
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