Located in Tuscany, most people visit Pisa as a day trip from Florence to see the Leaning Tower and take those cheesy but fun photos of them pushing it over or holding it up.
But there’s a lot more to Pisa than just the tower. There are beautiful historic churches, tons of outdoor activities, delicious food, and lots of history. You can easily spend a couple days here without getting bored.
Because it’s a day trip destination, few tourists stay in the city — or even visit beyond the tower area — so when you do, you’ll have the city to yourself.
This Pisa travel guide can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in this underrated destination!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Pisa
1. See the Leaning Tower
2. Admire the Duomo
3. Visit Camposanto
4. Tour the Museo di San Matteo
5. Take a day trip to Lucca
Other Things to See and Do in Pisa
1. Take a free walking tour
One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new city is take a free walking tour. It’s the best budget-friendly way to see the highlights and connect with a local guide who can answer all your questions. Free Walking Tour Pisa offers regular tours that cover all the main sights. Just be sure to tip your guide!
2. Visit the Baptistery of St. John
Located right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Baptistery of St. John is a religious building that’s actually taller than the Leaning Tower. Construction of the Baptistery began in the 12th century. The exterior is highly ornamental with intricately carved reliefs. Its unusual stacked domes and bronze John the Baptist statue make it one of the most interesting pieces of architecture in Pisa. Because the interior is very plain, it may not be worth battling the crowds to go inside. If you do, it costs 7 EUR.
3. 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 Duomo and Baptistery. The ivory sculpture of Madonna and Child carved by Giovanni Pisano in 1299 is one of the museum’s best highlights. Admission is 7 EUR.
4. See Piazza dei Cavalieri
Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights’ Square) was once the center of medieval Pisa and likely the site of the city’s Roman Forum. Here you can see the ornate Palazzo dei Cavalieri (Palace of the Convoy), which was once the headquarters for the Knights of St. Stephen (a Catholic military order). Today, it’s home to the Normale di Pisa University, a university founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1810. The Palazzo dell’Orologio (Clock Palace), once the seat of the government in the Middle Ages, is now the university library.
5. Attend a local cultural event
The Gioco del Ponte (Battle on the Bridge) is a historical reenactment that occurs every summer when teams of 20 attempt to battle across the Ponte di Mezzo. Everyone dresses up in 16th-century costumes and plays out battle scenes, including the march of the troops and a “call to arms.” On June 16th, the Luminara Festival takes place, when all the lights along the river are dimmed and thousands of candles are lit in honor of patron Saint San Renieri. Check the local tourism office to see what other events and festivals are happening during your visit.
6. See the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina
Originally built between 1223-1230, this church is located on the Arno riverbank and is an awesome example of Gothic architecture. The exterior is extremely ornate and covered in statues and tabernacles. The main attraction, the Madonna of the Rose by Andrea and Nino Pisano, is located inside. Sometimes there are temporary exhibits inside too. Admission is 1.50 EUR.
7. Check out the University of Pisa
First founded in 1343, this is one of the oldest universities in Italy and one of the most respected in Europe. The campus is beautiful, with lots of interesting architecture to admire. The oldest academic botanical garden, known as the Orto Botanico di Pisa, can also be found here. It dates back to 1544. Admission for the garden is 4 EUR and includes access to the university’s Botanical Museum, too.
8. Get your art fix for free
Palazzo Blu (the Blue Palace) lies along the river in the historic center. It is home to over 300 works of art ranging from the 14th to 20th centuries, many created by famous Pisan artists. Entry is free, but there are sometimes temporary exhibits here that cost 3 EUR. The Palazzo Blu has been known to host exhibits from masters like Salvador Dalí and Toulouse-Lautrec.
For more information on other destinations in Italy, check out these guides:
Pisa Travel Costs
Hostel prices – For a bed in a dorm with 6-8 beds, prices range from 18-20 EUR per night. For a private room, expect to pay 45-70 EUR. Free Wi-Fi is standard but self-catering facilities and free breakfast are rare.
Budget hotel prices – There aren’t any two-star budget hotels in Pisa. For a three-star budget hotel, prices range from 55-95 EUR per night. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi, TV, and AC. Some include free breakfast.
On Airbnb, you can find private rooms starting at 35-65 EUR per night. Entire homes/apartments cost closer to 100 EUR per night.
Average cost of food – Italian cuisine is beloved around the world, though every region in Italy offers its own distinct flavor. Tomatoes, pasta, and olives and olive oil form the backbone of most meals, with meat and fish and various cheeses rounding out the menu. In Pisa, seafood is very popular, owing to the city’s location on the coast. Don’t miss trying fried eels, crostini toscani (chicken liver pate), and tagliatelle al tartufo (pasta with truffles).
Quick eats like pizza, paninis, and light snacks cost between 3-7 EUR. Fast food (think McDonald’s) costs 7 EUR for a value meal.
Most mid-range restaurant meals with wine and an appetizer cost around 25 EUR. Expect to pay more for meals bought in touristy areas of the city. For a more casual pasta or pizza meal, expect to pay closer to 10-15 EUR.
Beer costs around 4.50 EUR while a latte/cappuccino is 1.50 EUR. Bottled water is less than 1 EUR.
If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, expect to pay 50-60 EUR per week for groceries. This gets you basic staples like pasta, rice, seasonal produce, and some meat or seafood.
Backpacking Pisa Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget of 55 EUR per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook all your meals, limit your drinking, take public transportation to get around, and stick to mostly free activities like seeing the Leaning Tour and taking free walking tours. If you want to enjoy a couple of drinks, add 5-10 EUR to your daily budget.
On a mid-range budget of 125 EUR per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb, eat out for most meals, enjoy a couple drinks, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like climbing the Leaning Tower and visiting the museums.
On a “luxury” budget of 240 EUR or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, drink as much as you want, take more taxis or rent a car, and do whatever tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in EUR.
Pisa Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Pisa is a tourist hotspot thanks to the Leaning Tower, which means it can be kind of pricey to visit. Here are some ways to save money in Pisa:
- Avoid the summer – Summertime is hot, crowded, and expensive. Tourists flock to the city as they stop by on their way through Italy, so accommodations are pricier and harder to come by. Consider going in the off-season when the weather is still nice and the crowds have thinned.
- Pass on the bread – Some restaurants charge extra for bread or breadsticks on the table — but they won’t tell you about it until the check comes. Send it back if you don’t want to be tempted.
- Eat cheap – Eating out every meal is an expensive affair. Buy paninis and pizza by the slice for just a few dollars to save money. Additionally, if you’re on a tight budget, cook most of your meals. Groceries are affordable and you’ll save a ton.
- Stay with a local – Accommodation is quite expensive in Pisa so use Couchsurfing to stay with locals for free. Not only will you save money but you’ll get to connect with a local who can share their insider tips and advice!
- Go on a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and to avoid missing any must-see stops. Just be sure to tip your tour guide at the end!
- Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Pisa
Pisa doesn’t have many hostels so be sure to book early if you want budget accommodation. With that in mind, here are my recommended places to stay in Pisa:
How to Get Around Pisa
Public transportation – Pisa is a very small city, so it’s easy to get around on foot. Most of the major attractions are within walking distance but there is a small network of buses in Pisa that can take you just about everywhere you need to go. Bus fare is 1.50 EUR for a single ticket and tickets are purchased on the bus.
Taxis – Taxis are expensive here so it’s best to avoid them. If you do take them, base rates are 3.15 EUR and then 1.52 EUR per kilometer. They add up fast so stick to the bus!
Bike rental – Pisa has lots of bike routes in and around the city. You can find bike rentals for around 15 EUR per day.
Car rental – Car rentals are super affordable here, costing as little as 15 EUR per day for a multi-day rental. That said, you don’t need a car to get around Pisa so I’d skip the rental unless you’re heading out to explore the region. Just be cautious as Italian drivers are known to be aggressive.
When to Go to Pisa
Peak season in Pisa is during the summer, from June to September. Although it’s very busy during these months, the weather is fantastic. There’s almost constant sunshine and the skies are clear and blue. Temperatures hover between 26-30°C (78-86°F).
April to May is the shoulder season, and (in my opinion) this is the best time to visit. It’s warm, prices are lower, and all the sites are uncrowded. The average temperature is 18°C (64°F) per day.
Winter in Pisa is from October to March. Temperatures rarely drop below 5°C (41°F) and February can sometimes to be rainy. This isn’t the best time to visit, but the city is quieter and a bit cheaper.
How to Stay Safe in Pisa
Pisa is a very safe place to backpack and travel — even if you’re traveling solo and even as a solo female traveler. Your biggest concern here is going to be pickpocketing, which unfortunately is a common occurrence at the Leaning Tower. Keep your valuables safe and out of sight and always be vigilant.
Make sure your valuables are tucked away on public transportation too as pickpockets can strike on crowded buses.
As in any city, always make sure you keep an eye on your drink when out at the bar. Additionally, never walk home alone if you’re intoxicated.
While scams here are rare, if you’re worried about getting ripped off you can read about common travel scams to avoid right here.
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones, so they’ll know where you are.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Pisa!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Pisa Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Pisa. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or in their spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can share the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- ItaliaRail – A great resource to use when planning your trip via train around Italy is ItaliaRail. You can compare prices, routes, and schedules and save up to 60% on your tickets.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B in the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, and boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – Flixbus has routes between dozens of European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR. Their buses include Wi-Fi and electrical outlets too.
- BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by paying a small fee. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way to travel than by bus or train!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Pisa Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Pisa Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Inferno, by Dante Alighieri
Inferno is the first part of Italian writer Dante’s 14th-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. It tells the story of Dante’s journey through Hell, guided by the ancient poet Virgil. Here, Hell is depicted as nine circles of torment located within Earth. It’s a dense read, but it’s also incredible. This version is a beautiful translation of Dante’s masterpiece. You can also get your hands on the full volume with all three epic poems. It’s been inspiring people for 700 years!
City Of Fortune: How Venice Ruled The Seas, by Roger Crowley
Crowley explores Venice’s fascinating 500-year-old journey to become a city unrivaled for drama and majesty. City of Fortune traces the Venetian imperial saga, from the Fourth Crusade to the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503, which eventually led the Ottoman Turks to become the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. You’ll also learn how a small city of “lagoon dwellers” became the richest place on the planet. This isn’t a boring history book — it’s a vivid, detailed account of Venice and its people through the ages.
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon is summoned to an assignment at a Swiss research facility to analyze a symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist…and discovers the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati. Then the brotherhood announces they’ve left a time bomb inside Vatican City, and Langdon must take off to Rome to find it. Even if Dan Brown (who wrote The Da Vinci Code) isn’t your thing, this book will get you pumped to go sightseeing in Rome.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes
Have you ever dreamt of buying up a crumbling villa in Italy and restoring it to its former glory? That’s exactly what Frances Mayes did 20 years ago with an abandoned property named Bramsole in the Tuscan countryside. This story recounts her restoration journey, along with what it’s like adjusting to life in rural Tuscany. Mayes is a poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer; you will literally be drooling over her prose and evocative language. Mayes paints the dreamiest picture of life in Italy. You have to read this book before visiting Italy.
La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind, by Beppe Severgnini
Written about Italians by an Italian, Beppe Severgnini wants you to forget all the romantic notions of Italy and its people. This laugh-out-loud book takes you beyond the historical attractions and scenic areas, and into places where Italians are at their best and worst: including the highway, the airport, and the small town. Severgnini describes the chaos of the roads and the “theatrical spirit of the hypermarkets” in a way that will give you some deep insight into the Italian psyche.
A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
This is a funny, satirical read that takes the English notion of respectability and turns it on its head. Well-bred Lucy Honeychurch sets out on an adventure touring Italy with her overbearing cousin and soon falls in love with the handsome (but entirely unsuitable) George Emerson. Yet somehow, she becomes engaged to Mr. Cecil Vyse. Lucy is easily lured away from the upper-middle-class Edwardian society by her longing for the man she left behind, creating a good amount of chaos in the process. This is Forster’s most beloved book!
Pisa Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Italy and continue planning your trip: