I talked about train travel in Italy in a previous blog, and want to expand on that theme today by talking about one of my favorite day-trips by train, to the amazing city of Pisa.
Personally, I think Pisa is a lovely place to stay for a few days. It gets filled with visitors wanting to see the famed Leaning Tower, but the city itself is wonderfully Tuscan, and if you move away from the main thoroughfares is not touristy like you might expect. It also affords easy day trips to Lucca, Viareggio, and the Cinque Terre.
But clearly visiting the Leaning Tower is one reason why you go, so here are some travel tips on how to take a Pisa day trip.
First, how to get there? Train is the easiest way. If you haven’t traveled by train in Italy, check out our blog on train travel. The train from Florence to Pisa is only about an hour, and you can get there easily enough from Rome, Venice, or Milan in around three hours.
Be sure to get a train to the Pisa Central station (Pisa Centrale). The train will be a regional train, so don’t forget to validate your ticket before boarding, and keep in mind that “Pisa” might not be displayed on the departures board (only the final stop will be displayed).
And once you arrive? You probably aren’t in Pisa just for the shopping – you want to see the Leaning Tower, right? So you need to head to the “Piazza dei Miracoli” (also called the “Campo dei Miracoli”), or “Field of Miracles,” and you have a couple options for how to get there.
I’m a fan of going on foot, which takes around 20-25 minutes. You get to see a bit of the city, stroll along the shopping district, cross the Arno River, and even peruse the open-air market stalls.
If you don’t feel like walking, however, there is a city bus you can take to the tower. Purchase the bus tickets (one for the return as well) at the station or at the news kiosk in front of it.
The bus you’ll need is the “LAM ROSSA” bus (the bus will not be red!) in the direction of the “Torre.” The stop is in front of the Pisa central station’s main exit. You can always ask for help: Italians are friendly! Just say “L’autobus per la Torre?” and someone will point you to the stop. The bus will take you to the Tower in about 10 minutes. (The bus stop for the return is across the street from where it will drop you off.)
The Piazza dei Miracoli is the beautiful field that houses the Cathedral, the bell tower (the leaning one!), the baptistry, the Camposanto (cemetery) and the Ospedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito, home to two museums (Museo delle Sinopie and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo). They are all worth seeing, and they all require a ticket. The ticket to the Cathedral itself is free, but you still have to get the ticket from the ticket office (biglietteria).
The Tower requires its own ticket, with a timed entry. For the rest of the sites, you can choose how many you want to see and purchase a ticket accordingly (i.e. the “Cathedral + three monuments” will get you into the baptistry, the camposanto, and the Sinopie Museum).
A note on the Tower: children under the age of 8 are not permitted to climb, and children up to 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The tower has 251 steps, and it takes a bit over half an hour to climb up and down it. Be forewarned, it is not easy! Also, if you do want to climb the tower, purchase your tickets in advance (between 1 and 20 days in advance) here.
Even if you only have a few hours in Pisa, it is well worth it. The tower is even more stupefying that you anticipate, no matter how many times you have seen it in pictures. The Camposanto, largely destroyed during World War II is a beautiful and heartbreaking testament to the costs of war. The Cathedral and baptistry are as majestic and inspiring as you would expect of a place called the “Field of Miracles.”
We can organize a custom stay in Pisa, or you can easily add a day there to many of our Tuscany cooking vacations including:
- Living the Real Tuscan Dream – a fabulous 6-night getaway in the Chianti region
- Classic Tuscan Table at Villa Casagrande – 4 nights in a wonderful small Tuscan town and 2 in Florence
- Florence for the Food Lover – what we consider the best Florence food tour and cooking vacation you can find!
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