Pisa is in the northwestern part of Italy. You can visit it for a day trip from Florence but make sure to go early to avoid the huge crowd. Take an early train, instead of going on tourist buses. It’s an hour and a half – depends which train you’re taking – from Florence and it’s a comfortable ride.
There are three main landmarks or tourist attractions to see in Pisa. They are: the Leaning Tower, the Pisa Cathedral / Duomo and the Baptistery where Galileo was baptized. They are located few steps from each other, no need to worry about public transport from one to another. In fact, you can take a shot of them in one photo frame. They all can be seen in half a day or less, depends on what your interests are and how long you wanna stay.
How to get there
As soon as you exit from Pisa Central Station, you have two choices on how to get to the three main attractions in the city: take a bus or walk. There are two buses that go or pass by the famed tower.
I’d suggest to take the bus when you arrive early in the morning to see the sunrise and to beat the crowd. But, on your way back to the train station, you better walk. It a nice way to get to know a bit of the Italian city. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Open your Google Map steps away from the leaning tower and it gives you a route where it passes through squares, cafes and shopping lanes. When you reach the bridge, stop by and take selfies. It’s a nice view. And the bridge is also your landmark that you’ve almost arrive at the station. The leisurely stroll took me an hour and a half. But, if you’re intent on going back fast, it should take you between 20-30 minutes only.
What I did – A Night in Pisa
I stayed for a night in Pisa because my next destination was to La Spezia, an hour train ride north. It would be impractical to go back to Florence. I arrived in Pisa in the afternoon and saw these three landmarks at its crowded peak. Tour buses from nearby cities filled the parking lots and streets. Boy, it was hard to find a space to do selfie without a throng of people in the background. The next day, I went back early morning and it was only me and these UNESCO World Heritage Sites together in unspeakable silence. 😀 By 8:30, solo travelers came in one by one. And that’s when I went back to my hostel, checked out and took a train to Cinque Terre.
Of course, the first to see is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a beautiful architectural accident.
You see, if you go in the morning, the place is quiet and the view is stunning.
I was the first one to arrive here – and I had a blast taking selfies with my tripod.
You’d really appreciate the beauty of the tower when you’re in silence, not distracted by the silly poses tourists are capable of. 😀
And yes, you can climb the Tower. The ticket booth is across the lawn on the left, behind the Fallen Angel statue. You can bring your camera and cellphone to the top but not your bag, no matter how small it is. They have free lockers, next to the booth.
This cathedral has a long name in Italian: Cathedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta. In short, the locals call it, Duomo Pisa.
And of course, the archbishop of Pisa lives here.
Its architectural style is Romanesque. When you go inside, don’t miss the wonderful Pulpit, a masterpiece of Giovanni Pisano.
Also known as Pisa Baptistery of St. John, this piece of architecture is both Romanesque and Gothic in styles.
It is known as the place where Galileo was baptized on February 19, 1564.
It is Italy’s largest baptistery.
And believe it or not, this landmark is actually slightly taller than the Leaning Tower across the lawn. And since it’s built on the same marshy land as the campanile, this batistero is also a bit leaning (.6) towards the cathedral.
Don’t miss: Every thirty minutes, one of the guards here would stand in the centre and sing aloud. You could hear how perfect its acoustics are – the echoes are smooth and clear.
The best hostel I’ve stayed in Italy is. It’s a bit pricey (not your regular hostel price) but it’s worth it for a night of stay. There’s really not much to do in the city, except the area around where the leaning tower is. The hostel is clean and the staff are amazing. They have a restaurant/cafe that turns into a bar at night. They’ve got a small souvenir shop, too. Wifi connection is ok all over the hostel and they have a small elevator. It would take 20-30 minutes walk to the leaning tower, passing through a bridge and seeing numerous local shops. I’d recommend you to walk because it’s a great way to get to know the city and its people.