Pisa Travel Guide
Pisa is located in Tuscany and world-renowned for its leaning tower. While the city has historical churches, tons of outdoor activities, delicious food, and history, most visitors simply make this place a stopover to see the tower. If you have more time, stay a day to explore a city no one else bothers to ever really see.
Hostel prices – Hostels are on the more expensive end in Pisa, with dorms ranging between $30-40 USD per night or $20 USD in the low season. Private rooms start at $80 USD in the high season, and $60 USD in the winter.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels start at around $60 USD per night for a double room or $50 for a single.
Average cost of food – It’s easy to have a great (and expensive) Italian meal here, but it’s also easy to eat for less than $15 USD a day. Most restaurant meals with wine will cost around $27 USD per person. In tourist hot spots, add about $13 USD to that. Quick eats like pizza, paninis, and light snacks will cost between $4-5 USD. Fast food will cost $10 USD for a value meal. At all restaurants, add $2-3 USD for the “coperta” (sit down fee) and bread.
Transportation costs – The bus fare us about $1.75 USD for a single ride ticket. Taxis are very expensive (like everywhere in Italy). It’s best to avoid them, and the town is walkable.
Money Saving Tips
Avoid the summer – Summertime is hot, crowded, and expensive. Tourist are plentiful, stopping in on their way through Italy, and accommodations are pricier and harder to come by. You could go in late February and be there for perfect 70 degree weather, so it’s worth considering off season.
Top Things to See and Do in Pisa
Take your cheesy photos of the Leaning Tower – The Leaning Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in Europe. Come take a look at the tower, walk up it if it’s not closed for restoration, and take the quintessential picture of you trying to hold it up (or push it over) with the hundreds of other tourists on the lawn!
Visit the Baptistery of St. John – Located right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Baptistery of St. John is actually slightly taller than the Tower. Construction of the Baptistery began in the 12th century. The exterior is highly ornamental, with intricately-carved reliefs. Because the interior is very plain, it may not be worth battling the crowds to go inside.
Admire the Duomo – The largest and main feature of the Piazza del Duomo, this is the cathedral to which the Leaning (bell) Tower belongs. Construction of the cathedral began in the 11th century, but some of its most-prominent features, including the bronze doors created by Andrea Pisano, weren’t added until the 16th-century. The building is stunning, and you could spend a long time admiring all of the artistic details built into the design.
Check out the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – At the east end of Piazza del Duomo, is the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. This building houses an art collection related to the religious structures in the plaza.
See Piazza dei Cavallieri – This square was at one time the center of the medieval Pisa. It has tons of detail and a good place to see medieval architecture.
Visit Camposanto – According to legend, this cemetery was built on the spot where the Crusaders placed the soil they brought back from the Holy Land. It was the site of many pilgrimages during the Middle Ages. A bit of off the beaten track, morbid tourism!
See Museo di San Matteo – This is an art and history museum with a special collection of original art, collected from the churches of Pisa. Despite its somewhat petite size, this museum is host to one of the biggest exhibits of Tuscan renaissance art in all of Europe.
Relax in a natural spa – The thermal waters that run through the baths here have been used for thousands of years. Rich in various minerals, they are said to have healing and rejuvenation properties. Many people utilize the pools for relaxation in addition to rehabilitation, respiratory, and cardiovascular treatment.
Attend a local cultural event – The Gioco del Ponte is a historical reenactment that occurs every summer, where teams of 20 attempt to battle across the Ponte di Mezzo. On June 16th is the Luminara festival, when all the lights along the river are dimmed, and thousands of candles are lit in honor of patron saint San Renieri.
See the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina Originally built between 1223-1230, this church is an awesome example of Gothic architectural. The outside of it is extremely ornate and covered in statues and tabernacles. The main attraction, the Madonna of the Rose, can be found inside.
Check out the University of Pisa – First founded in 1343, this is one of the oldest universities in Italy. The campus is beautiful, with lots of interesting architecture to see and take pictures of. The oldest academic botanical garden, known as the Orto botanico di Pisa, can also be found here. It originally opened in 1544.
Take a day trip to Lucca – Lucca is a beautiful, small city that is only a 25 minute train ride from Pisa. Walk or bike atop the old fortified walls, explore the medieval and renaissance buildings in the center, and just absorb the city’s atmosphere.
Get your art fix – Palazzo Blu (the Blue Palace) lies along the river in the historic center. It is home to over 300 artworks, ranging from the 14th to 20th centuries. Entry is free.