We don’t usually suggest just a day trip for any given place, but that was all we had when visiting the beautiful city of Pisa in Tuscany, Italy. So, here is our break down of what to do with just one day in Pisa.
1. Walk The Streets
We came in on the train and started heading in the general direction of the well known “Leaning Tower” because our ultimate goal was to see the structure and take a bunch of goofy photos in front of it. We were amazed by the beautiful cobble stoned streets and the gorgeous architecture around us. The city has a very old feel. The structure of the buildings, the shutters and windows, and the columns will all pull you into an older time. The city is just fun to walk around in. It’s not too big so that you get lost, but just winding enough to make you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere magical. As a bonus there are plenty of street performers and musicians to help you slip into the vibe of the city. Take a break and let the entertainment move you.
One of the first things that you’ll notice while following the advice of step number one is that Pisa is a city for shopping. The city may have an old feel with its narrow streets and architecture, but it certainly attracts a lot of modern labels. We came across a number of the usual suspects from Coin and H&M to Desigual and Yamamay. On the non-clothing side there were watch stores, toy stores, and an abundance of gift stores.
Pisa is a great place to pick up a gift or two for your friends and family. Because there are so many gift stores and stalls throughout the city the prices are low. You’ll find all sorts of trinkets to bring back from the famous masks you’d find in Venice to bottle openers and magnets with he famous tilted building of the city.
Another great part about shopping in Pisa is that you don’t have to go out of your way to get it done. The shops seems to be perfectly placed around every main thoroughfare. Italy is famous for their street markets and Pisa seems to have them at every turn.
After the long train ride and some wandering and shopping you may began to get hungry. After all, you only have one day in Pisa so you may as well enjoy some of the food! Take a little bit of time to sit, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere of the streets. During our travels we found the food in Tuscany to be amazing and Pisa is no different.
As with every city in Italy there are numerous cafes and gelaterias. Pick one of them. Just go sit down and order your favorite drink. Maybe use this time to get out of your comfort zone and order something unique? The pizza above is a local specialty. It’s a normal cheese and sauce pizza with balsamic vinegar and arugula (or Rocket as it’s called over here). It sounds strange, but it was delicious!
4. Museums and Churches
As with many cities there are museums and churches. The most popular ones in the city are the ones around the Leaning Tower, but you will have to pay to enter those and will be given a specific time to go into them. The way to make the most out of your day would be to get your tickets in advance or early on in the day so you can schedule your time slot. When we went we had to wait nearly two hours to get into the church pictured above and that really didn’t fit into our plans.
Around the basilica and tower there is a fenced off grass area that you are not allowed to walk on. However, on the far end of the courtyard there is one large grassed area that people are allowed to be on and believe me they take advantage of this. There you will find families frolicking, sunbathers reading or just laying out, and people picnicking. Go ahead, lay on the grass, and take in the lively atmosphere around you.
This is a great place to enjoy a snack or a packed lunch in the sun. There are so many people around, but there seems to be plenty of room on the green. You get to sit in the shadow of the famous Pisa baptistry and take a break after following the advice from our next tip.
6. The Leaning Tower
You knew this piece of advice was coming. No trip to Pisa would be complete with out seeing the Leaning Tower and taking one of those silly pictures of you trying to hold it up. Don’t worry, you won’t look that strange because literally everyone around you is doing the exact same thing. People go to great lengths to play with perspective and hold up the tower. You’ll find people standing on posts or each other’s shoulders just to get their perfect picture with the tower.
As travelers we set up our tripod and remote and started snapping away. We started “leaning” against the tower, holding it up, and just plain going crazy. This will be the highlight of your day. It’s one of the only monuments that we can think of that provides its own entertainment.
Maybe after your photo op you’ll climb the 294 steps up to the top and take in the views of Pisa from such great (tilted) heights. If you do nothing else from your time in this iconic city you need to go spend some time around the tower. Most of our day was spent doing interesting things in the shadow of this monument. The tower was our only primary objective and we were pleased to find that there was plenty to do all around. From the tower you can easily check off the other items on the list all you need to do is pick a direction and start your adventure.