When travelling in Italy, it makes sense to add Pisa to your itinerary even if you can only spend a short amount of time here.
After all, the leaning tower of Pisa is such an iconic image of Italy!
Now, I’m not going to lie to you – Pisa is a very small town so you shouldn’t feel the need to spend very long here. If you’re planning to marvel at the Leaning Tower, Duomo and Baptistry, do a little bit of shopping and grab a bite to eat, then just one day in Pisa is more than enough.
Here’s all you need to know about making the most of your one day in Pisa itinerary…
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Recommended one day in Pisa itinerary
Stop #1: Leaning Tower, Duomo and Baptistry
With Pisa being quite a small town, I suspect your main attraction pulling you in is to see the Campanile (Leaning Tower), Duomo and Baptistry. Now, all these places just so happen to be very conveniently located on the same plot – so your day just got easier!
From the train station, you’d be walking into town for about 20 minutes before you start seeing the boutiques, bars and cafes on offer in Pisa.
Keep walking through all of this and take a left along the main road Via Cardinale Pietro Maffi. After walking along this main road for just a few minutes, you will suddenly be hit by tourist shops and hundreds of people, so you’ll know you’re in the right place.
Keep on walking and you will see the three buildings facing you in all their intricate Pisan glory, (plus you’ll likely spot tons of people doing the “I’m pushing the tower over” photography trick).
I’d urge you to take your time wandering around these buildings. As this is the main attraction in Pisa, you have plenty of time to take in all sides of this plot, both inside and out.
But be prepared for large queues during peak times!
There are public loos here, but I was easily waiting in a queue for 30 minutes before I had the chance to pop inside, so you can imagine what the entrance queues for the buildings are also like.
Insider Tip: Head to the opposite side of the park from where you arrived. This will be the best shot of the buildings as it really does look like the tower is just popping its body around the other buildings. It’s quite comical to see!
Stop #2: Pisa Shopping District
Once you’ve spent your time wandering around the historic part of Pisa, your next stop should be to head back into the centre to check out the various boutiques you saw earlier.
Pisa is a good place to come for shopping (although it’s nothing compared to Milan), and this will be a good way for you to work up your appetite ready for some delicious Italian food.
Stop #3: Al Signor Mimmo
My hidden secret of food in Pisa is a little place that is off the beaten track called Al Signor Mimmo.
I stumbled across this restaurant by accident as I was getting lost in the small Italian side streets, but it was the canopied tables outside hidden behind bushes that drew me in.
You can find the restaurant along Via Domenico Cavalca. On the surface, it just looks like an old Italian building but look out for the white canopies in the al fresco dining area.
The food here really is delicious and the staff are super friendly. It’s the perfect place to come for some homemade lemonade and a stonebaked pizza. But they also serve fresh seafood (including octopus and salt cod) as well as plenty of meat dishes – they even have boar on the menu!
You are more than welcome to sit inside if you wish, but my advice would be to choose a table outside next to the bushes. The canopy overhead will keep you in the shade ready for your own siesta and the bushes around will stop nosy onlookers staring at you while you eat. Bon appetit!
How to get to Pisa
Pisa, located within the Tuscan region of Italy, is easily accessible by train from major cities. For instance, Florence to Pisa by train takes just an hour, so you may want to consider making Florence your base like I did. Look here for prices for Italian rail fare.
Pisa also has its own airport, which major airlines like Ryanair, Easyjet and British Airways fly to from many cities across the UK. I was able to fly from Bristol to Pisa in just a few hours and then hop on a train to Florence to get to my hotel. Aside from the UK, there are many more major cities flying you to and from Pisa, including Amsterdam, Madrid and even as far afield as New York City.
As with most main destinations in Italy, it is also possible to rent a car in Pisa. However, based on my own experiences of how fast, cheap and reliable Italy’s rail network is, I’d urge you to consider getting around by train rather than car. After all, we’re all about saving the planet right now, aren’t we?
Fun facts: why does the Leaning Tower lean?
Okay, now here is the “scienc-y” bit so that you can act smart around your friends.
Work on the tower started in 1173 but the geniuses behind the design had built on sandy silt subsoil. Basically, they chose to build on a clay-like soft substance — not a good plan for a building that has eight storeys, (or any building for that matter).
By 1274, (three storeys in), the tower was already leaning until some very smart people intervened to decrease the lean by 38 cm … allowing adventure seekers such as yourself to enter the tower once again.
Pub Quiz Moment: Did you know that Galileo climbed to the top of the leaning tower to conduct experiments on the velocity of falling objects? Well, now you do.
Well, there you have it – my guide to making the most of one day in Pisa. I hope you have fun marvelling at historic sights and eating delicious Italian food.
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