Pisa is located in Tuscany and is 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 take their super cliched picture with the tower (I’m not judging. I took one too.). There’s so much more to the city than just the tower. I urge you to spend a night or two in the city and roam around. Few tourists stay in the city or roam outsider the tower area so, when you do, you’ll have the city to yourself and get to see the real local side!
Hostel prices – There aren’t many hostels in Pisa. If you come off season, you’ll pay is around 16 EUR a night for a 4-6 bed dorm room but around 25-35 EUR in the high season. Expect to pay around 50 EUR for a private room in the low season (70 EUR in the high season).
Budget hotel prices – A night in a 2-star budget hotel starts around 27 EUR for basic, small room with a private bathroom. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms starting around 16 EUR per night and entire apartments starting around 40 EUR per night. During the high season, prices double.
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 EUR a day. Most restaurant meals with wine will cost around 25 EUR per person. In tourist hot spots, add about 12 EUR to that. Quick eats like pizza, paninis, and light snacks will cost between 3-5 EUR. Fast food will cost 9 EUR for a value meal. At all restaurants, add 1-3 EUR for the “coperto” (sit down fee) and bread. If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, expect to pay 60 EUR per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods. If you find a discount grocer like Eurospin, In’s Mercato, LD Market, Lidl or Penny Market, you’ll pay a lot less.
Transportation costs – The bus fare is 1.50 EUR for a single ride ticket that is purchased on board. It’s possible to get tickets as low as 1 EUR if you buy from a ticketing machine in advance. Taxis are very expensive (like everywhere in Italy), so it’s best to avoid them and walk through the city instead.
Suggested daily budget – 40-70 EUR / $51-81 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget and assumes you’re staying in a hostel, eating out on the cheap, maybe cooking, and using local transportation. If you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more, expect this to be higher! You can use the budget tips below to save some money. The big range takes into account low and high season.)
Money Saving Tips
- Avoid the summer – Summertime is hot, crowded, and expensive. Tourist 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 around February when the weather is a perfect 70 degrees and you have the town to yourself.
- Pass on the bread – Some restaurants will charge you extra for bread or breadsticks on the table but not tell you about it until the check comes, and you’ve polished it off. Send it back if you don’t want to be tempted.
- Drink the tap water – Ask for tap water or you will automatically get expensive bottled water included on your bill. Moreover, you can refill your bottles of water at any of the drinking fountains throughout Italy. The water is fine to drink.
- Eat a panini & pizza – Eating out every meal in the popular cities of Italy is an expensive affair. Buy paninis and pizza by the slice for just a few dollars, and save a lot of money.
- Couchsurf – Accommodation is quite expensive in Italy. Use Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds and couches for free, get a kitchen, and make a local friend! I use the service a lot and find it not only saves me money, but I meet great people too.
- 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. AiroTour Pisa has a tour that can show you what the city has to offer. Advance reservations are required.
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 to the top 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! Going inside and to the top costs 18 EUR and it’s open 9am-8pm with abbreviated hours in the winter.
- 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. Note: This is currently closed for extensive renovations. Check when you arrive to find more information.
- See Piazza dei Cavallieri – This square was at one time the center of the medieval Pisa. It has tons of detail and is 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 dose of off the beaten track, morbid tourism!
- See Museo di San Matteo – This is an art and history museum with a special collection of art 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. Admission is 5 EUR and it’s open daily (except Mondays) from 8:30am-7:30pm with abbreviated hours on Sundays.
- Attend a local cultural event – The Gioco del Ponte is a historical reenactment that occurs every summer when 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 architecture. 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 take in. The oldest academic botanical garden, known as the Orto Botanico di Pisa, can also be found here and dates back to 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 along the old fortified walls, explore the medieval and renaissance buildings in the center, and absorb the city’s atmosphere. (This is also a good day trip from Florence too!)
- 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 artworks ranging from the 14th to 20th centuries. Entry is free and open daily (except Mondays) from 10am-7pm with extended hours on the weekends.