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Pisa Piazza dei Miracoli

Day Trip to Pisa

After Florence, Pisa may be the most famous city in Tuscany, thanks to its iconic leaning tower that attracts thousands of tourists every year. However, the small city of Pisa has long been a hub for intellectual life and is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1343. In the Middle Ages, Pisa was one of Italy’s four maritime republics—political powerhouses that used their position on the Arno river to dominate trade and build wealth—and today, its riverfront makes for a scenic stroll during your visit.

Start your day at the tower before the crowds roll in, or save your photo op for the golden hour right before sunset. While you’re there, see the other sights of the Piazza dei Miracoli, including the Baptistery and Camposanto Monumentale. Visit a museum like Palazzo Blu or the oldest botanical garden in Italy, the Orto Botanico, and stop for lunch or dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants. Don’t leave without a scoop of gelato from Il Gelato de Toto and a stroll along Pisa’s riverfront streets, collectively called the Lungarni.

Whether you’re popping in for your leaning tower picture on the way to Lucca or making a full day of it, choose from our top picks in Pisa to plan the perfect day trip for you.

Getting Around

While many choose to drive here as they make their way across Tuscany, Pisa is only an hour’s train ride from Florence and a half-hour from Lucca, making it an easy day trip from either location. (Or, make our local hotel pick, Bagni di Pisa, your base for exploring all three cities!) By train, you’ll arrive at the Pisa Centrale station and can walk around the small city. The Piazza dei Miracoli and the leaning tower are about a 20-minute taxi ride from the train station or a 25-minute walk. If you’re driving, there is a free park-and-ride lot outside the city walls and paid parking within the city.


   Trattoria Sant'Omobono

This unpretentious trattoria is loved by locals for its simple, no-frills Tuscan fare. The brief, handwritten menu includes antipasti like burrata and prosciutto e melone, primi like spaghetti with wild boar ragu, and secondi like tripe and vittelo tonnato. The small restaurant is usually full, so we recommend reserving a table at least a day in advance.

Piazza Sant’Omobono, 6
+39 050 540847

   Osteria del Tumi

Osteria Del Tumi outdoor seating

If you’re looking for a slightly more elevated option, Osteria del Tumi serves Tuscan cuisine with a Peruvian twist (the owners are from Tuscany and Peru), so you can find fresh pastas, bistecca fiorentina, and ceviche all on the same menu. The restaurant is hidden on a side street with outdoor seating in the quaint alleyway, and each artfully plated dish is a feast for the eyes as much as for the stomach.

Vicolo del Tinti, 26
+39 050 620 3533

   Ristorante Osteria dei Mille

Osteria dei MIlle facade exterior

Just a stone’s throw from the leaning tower yet tucked away from the tourist crowds is this cozy local gem. Order a pasta dish like tagliata with porcini mushrooms, truffle ravioli, or the very typical Tuscan pici with wild boar ragu, and pair it with a glass of wine from their extensive wine list. Most importantly, save room for the pistachio semifreddo for dessert!

Via Dei Mille, 3
+39 050 556263

   Il Gelato de Toto

Gelato cone from Il Gelato de Toto Pisa

This artisanal gelato shop is run by Cristiano Scarpellini, who grew up watching his father “Toto” making gelato at their family restaurant. Their signature Crema di Toto flavor is a gelato made with ricotta from Tuscan dairy farmers in the village of Seggiano, pine nuts and bitter orange jam, but they also offer classic and seasonal flavors like fior di latte, pistachio, and limone di Sorrento. There are several locations throughout Pisa, including a few stores that are steps from the river, so order a scoop and make your way to the Lungarno for a leisurely passeggiata.

Borgo Stretto, 15
+39 345 636 5852


   Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Everyone goes to Pisa to take their obligatory photo holding up the leaning tower, but if you’re reading this guide, we know you’re looking to go beyond the basics. If you want to climb the Campanile’s 250 spiral steps, we suggest grabbing your tickets online in advance to reserve your entry time slot. Access was closed for more than 20 years while engineers undertook a serious stabilizing project, but today a limited number of visitors can make the dizzying ascent to the top in about 10 minutes and look out at the grassy piazza dotted with tourists down below.

Piazza del Duomo
+39 050 835011

   Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles)

In the same square as the tower are the Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery, and Camposanto Monumentale, an ancient cemetery building. Construction on the Baptistery was begun in the 12th century and finished in the 14th, so you can see how architectural tastes changed over time: the lower levels are blunt and romanesque, while the domed top has the rich detail of the later gothic style. Listen for the guard who sings a few notes every half-hour to demonstrate the domed building’s surprising acoustics! At Camposanto Monumentale, you can see marble burial markers, ancient sarcophagi and funerary statues. It’s built around a central grassy field said to sit atop sacred soil brought to Italy from Golgotha during the Crusades.

Piazza del Duomo
+39 050 835011

   Lungarni di Pisa

Situated along the same Arno River that winds its way to Florence, Pisa is known for its similarly strollable riverfront and its series of bridges that have been successively rebuilt over the centuries after flooding and WWII destruction. A source of inspiration for many artists and poets, the picturesque lungarni (waterfront streets) are lined with hotels, residences, palaces, and museums. Be sure to take a break in your day of exploration for a scenic stroll along the river.

Ponte Solferino

   Palazzo Blu

Palazzo Blu Pisa facade

For a dose of both classical and modern art, you can’t miss the sky-blue façade of this palazzo on the riverbank. Initially built in the 11th century and inhabited over the years by the only doge of Pisa and multiple aristocratic families, the building’s residential history has been maintained in many of the gallery rooms, which are furnished as though they could still be in use today. The museum has a permanent collection of art from the Renaissance and is also a home for traveling exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.

Lungarno Gambacorti, 9
+39 050 916 950

   Orto e Museo Botanico

The oldest botanical garden in Italy, this oasis managed by the University of Pisa is a gorgeously green respite from the bustle of the city. Stroll the grounds among fountains, greenhouses, and ponds, all surrounded by plants from around the world, some of which have been growing here for hundreds of years. The adjoining museum holds gorgeous wax models and watercolor paintings of flowers used as teaching tools in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Via Luca Ghini, 13
+39 050 2211310


   Bagni di Pisa Palace & Thermal Spa

Bagni di Pisa Pools

Situated about 15 minutes from Pisa’s city center and only 20 minutes from Lucca, the 5-star Bagni di Pisa hotel is the perfect base for day trips to these two neighboring Tuscan cities. It’s the former palace and summer residence of the grand duke of Tuscany, beautifully restored to showcase its original frescoed vaults, Tuscan terracotta floors, and Carrara marble bathrooms. Today, it’s a luxurious resort and spa with thermal pools fed by natural hot springs that have been a source of wellness since the times of the Etruscans and Romans. Even if you don’t need a place to stay, you can visit the spa for the day without being a hotel guest. Take a dip in their indoor and outdoor pools, steam bath, or the thermal grotto carved into stone by hand centuries ago.

Largo Percy Bysshe Shelley, 18
+39 0578 572333

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