Planning a trip to Italy and wondering – Is Pisa worth visiting?
Pisa, Italy is a charming city which features the iconic, world famous, Leaning Tower of Pisa. This historic Unesco world heritage site is unmissable but it often steals the spotlight from the rest that the city has to offer.
We have been to Pisa 3 times, and while the tower is a must-see, there is so much more to Pisa. From the opportunity to walk its historic city walls to the beautiful piazzas scattered through, this compact city is a super inviting short stop off on your Italy trip.
Here are 10 reasons why Pisa is definitely worth visiting.
Is Pisa Worth Visiting?
Yes, Pisa is a great city which is absolutely worth visiting. It has the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, a landmark attraction. But beyond that, the central, more local, areas of the city are also lots of fun to explore.
This is a perfect day trip from Florence or Lucca, as one day in Pisa is usually sufficient to see many of the highlights.
10 Reasons to Visit Pisa, Italy
1. The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The iconic Leaning Tower is a globally recognized symbol and arguably one of the most famous landmarks in Italy. Its iconic tilt, caused by the uneven setting of the structure’s foundation, is amazing to see and perfect for a corny (but necessary) photo op.
You can visit the exterior of the tower and snap your photos quickly, but it is also possible to go inside and climb up the tower. If you plan to do this you should set aside no less than 30 minutes for your visit.
The climb up is 251 steps — and all of them are at a tilt up a tight, spiral staircase. While it’s not a strenuous climb it can cause some people to feel a bit ill simply due to the incline of the entire building.
Tickets: The tower is part of the cathedral complex, which includes the Pisa baptistery and Duomo di Pisa. All tickets must be bought as a multi-pass. While there are several options, we suggest booking the complete+tower combo, so you can climb the tower and visit all of the sights.
Good to know: All tower visits are timed and if you arrive late you will not be permitted entry. It is strongly advised to book your tickets in advance. If you arrive without a ticket it is very likely you will not be able to go inside. Tickets go on sale about three months in advance.
Book your tickets online at the official website.
2. Fantastic day trips
Located along the southwest coast of Italy, Pisa is a great place to locate yourself to take day trips around the region.
The small walled city of Lucca can be reached in about 30 minutes on the train. You can take a trip to the Renaissance capital of Italy — Florence — with just an hour on the train.
Or the Cinque Terre is also a close day trip which you can access in another short hour or so train ride.
The Chianti wine region is just east of Pisa and is a great day trip for wine lovers. The possibilities of day trips are many — there is also San Gimignano, Montecatini, and more.
Pisa is a smaller city which still has a lot to offer and one of the best things about that is that it all comes at a considerably lower price when compared to other spots in the region. Florence or Cinque Terre for example will run up a much higher vacation bill than PIsa.
Base yourself in Pisa for a few days and take day trips to some of the places we mentioned above to save money on accommodation and food.
4. Local Feel
So many people only visit Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. And there is no question that you should see the tower, but because people are so often in and out of the city, the rest of the areas have a decidedly local feel.
If you spend more than a half day in Pisa you can go beyond the Cathedral complex and the Leaning Tower and you’ll be amazed at what you can discover. This is a perfect opportunity to take in a more local side of Italy.
5. Walk the city walls
Construction on the Pisa city walls began in the 12th century as a layer of protection for the city. They now stand as one of the oldest and most intact walls in all of Italy.
In recent years, sections of the walls have been renovated and you can now walk along them. The length that is walkable totals about three kilometers.
The walk offers a great perspective with views across the city. You can enter the walls at a few different points: the Santa Maria Tower in Piazza Duomo, Piazza delle Gondole, Piezometrica Tower, or Wood Tower.
Tickets: The walls are only open during daytime hours so timing fluctuates slightly depending on the season. Tickets are timed, full price costs €5, and they can be bought online about three months in advance.
Purchase your tickets online at the official website.
6. Aperitivo along the Arno River
Indulging in an early evening aperitivo is a must during your time in Italy. In Pisa, the perfect place to do it is at one of the many bars along the Arno River.
If you want to have the most authentic aperitivo experience, order an aperol spritz and a bowl of chips (but really there are no rules, order what you like!).
During summertime there are a few bonus bars that open along the river’s banks. Check out the outdoor, waterfront seating at Argini Margini.
7. Local Food
Like other cities in Italy, Pisa has a thriving food scene as well as a selection of dishes which are unique to this city. There are many dishes you should look out for while you’re in town.
For example, try a plate of baccalà (codfish). This could come prepared in a number of different ways, but baccalà alla Pisana, or dried cod which has then been fried, is a popular one which you can try at Ristoro Pisano.
If asked, many Pisans might say that one of the most traditional dishes from their city is bordatino. This is a cornmeal based soup that has a strong bean presence. It’s a hardy dish that was developed by traditional Tuscan farmers. Grab a hot bowl at Hostaria Le Repubbliche Marinare.
Another local must try is pecorino cheese. This is a great option to complement your aperitivo as part of a Tuscan antipasto board.
This hard, salty cheese comes from sheep in the region and there is just about nowhere else in the world where you can get it quite so fresh. You can usually find these types of dishes at traditional Italian spots like Ristorante Tora Tora.
8. Walks along the Arno River
The Arno River cuts through the middle of Pisa and provides a great place to go for walks on a nice day. As you walk along the banks you’ll have the chance to see quite a few of the city’s landmarks.
The Church of Santa Maria Della Spina, for example, is a small, 13th-century church nestled right along the riverbank — one of the most unique churches in Pisa. You’ll also pass by the campus of the University of Pisa and the unique design of the Blue Palace.
9. Beautiful Piazzas
Pisa has quite a few piazzas (or squares). The most famous being The Piazza dei Miracoli — also known as the Piazza del Duomo.
This is where both the Pisa Cathedral and the Leaning Tower are located. This piazza is actually more of a complex and it encompasses a total of nearly 22 acres.
After that you’ll find Piazza dei Cavalieri, the second most important square in the city. The history of this square dates back to the middle ages, but it is now a part of the University.
You can also visit Piazza XX Settembre which is a small square just in front of the river and right next to the beautiful arched building Logge di Banchi.
10. Hidden Italian Gems
Pisa has some amazing hidden gems that so many people pass right by. Don’t make that mistake!
At the University of Pisa you can visit the oldest university botanic garden in the world. The gardens have been in operation since the 16th century. There you can stroll through a bamboo forest, see water lilies, and visit the oldest resident of the gardens — a fan tree which has been growing in this spot since 1783.
Keith Haring House is another spot not to be skipped. Keith Haring is actually an American, but he is an artist who has a tendency of covering his homes in doodles. Here you can see the brightly colored mural of doodles on the side of his Pisa home.
If you took the Arno River walk you’ll have passed by the Palazzo Blu — or Blue Palace — which contains an art gallery. The artwork and furniture displayed in the gallery’s collections spreads from the 14th to the 20th centuries.
The Church of San Francesco is another spot to stop off at. It’s a small church dating back to the 13th century. Its exterior has a beautiful marble facade and inside you can see a mixture of Romanesque and Italian Gothic architectural styles.
5 things to know before you go: Pisa travel tips
The Leaning Tower is very busy
Be prepared for a certain level of touristy chaos at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is after all one of the most iconic landmarks in Italy. People come from far and wide just for a chance to see the tower and take a photo with it.
This is not to encourage you to skip the tower by any means, you should absolutely go see it on your trip to Pisa, but you should be prepared and you should be strategic.
Try to visit first thing in the morning or right before closing (opening hours fluctuate slightly depending on the season so make sure to check the website ahead of time). These two time slots are usually the best to avoid the crowds of people who are just visiting on day trips.
And of course, make sure to buy your tickets well in advance if you plan to climb the tower. While you can visit the exterior at any point, access to the inside is allowed based on timed reservations only.
It’s a long walk from the train station to the tower
The Pisa train station and the Leaning Tower are on opposite sides of the river. The walk from one to the other is about 25 – 30 minutes.
Other options are to get a taxi — the drive is around 8 – 9 minutes and the cost is around €9 – 10. Or you can take a bus which will get you closer (though not directly in front of the tower) so you only have to walk a final five minutes or so.
Avoid tourist traps
As mentioned, many people come to Pisa only to see the Leaning Tower, that means that they concentrate in that area and never go farther afield which translates into everything surrounding the tower being very touristy.
Don’t get sucked into going to any of the restaurants or shops near the Leaning Tower, they are tourist traps.
After you’ve visited the tower, walk just a few minutes away and you’ll find a much more authentic atmosphere. Spend time wandering through the city after your visit and plan to eat closer to the city center — the food, as well as the experience, will be much better and more authentic.
Book a tour for the best experience
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is more than a fun photo op, it has a rich history which highlights the power that Pisa once held. The very best way to really understand the history of the tower along with the history of the city is on a tour.
Make sure to choose a tour that won’t just bring you from spot to spot and drop you off. There are amazing options of guides who are incredibly knowledgeable, can share their passion for the area’s history, and answer any questions you may have about it.
Book this small group tour with an expert guide of Pisa’s main attractions.
Pisa has an international airport
Flying into the Pisa international airport is a convenient way to access the city as well as the surrounding region. From there you can quickly get to other areas of both Tuscany and the Ligurian region. This includes other major Italian cities like Florence and Genoa.
There are 20 airlines which service the Pisa airport including budget options like AerLingus and RyanAir, as well as higher end choices such as British Airways. Flights come in daily from locations throughout the UK and Europe.
Best Time to visit Pisa?
The best time to visit Pisa is during the shoulder seasons. These include spring — April and May, as well as autumn — September and October. During these months you can expect decent weather as well as far fewer crowds.
We have been to Pisa in April, May, and September. The weather was a bit gloomy, but the crowds weren’t too bad during these months.
The summer months are incredibly crowded and visiting popular attractions can be quite a challenge. You may find yourself having to push through throngs of people. That being said, summer months do have beautiful, sunny days for exploring if you can stand the crowds!
Winter is also an option, with minimal crowds, but the weather isn’t as comfortable with cold days and a decent amount of rain.
How many days in Pisa is enough?
One full day in Pisa is a good amount. This allows you time to visit the Leaning Tower and explore the rest of the city.
However, you might also consider setting up base in Pisa, taking advantage of the slightly more affordable rates, and taking day trips to other nearby spots. If you add Lucca, Cinque Terre, or the Chianti region to your itinerary for example, then between two and four days in Pisa would be ideal.
Suggested Pisa 1-day itinerary
If you are spending a half-day in Pisa, then you will only have time to visit the main cathedral complex. However, we recommend spending a full day to see more of the sights around the city.
Here is a 1-day Pisa itinerary to help you plan your day trip:
- Morning: Pisa Cathedral Complex
- Afternoon: Walk along the Arno River, visit the Church of Santa Maria Della Spina, visit the Palazzo Blue, see the Keith Haring House, and wander around the city.
- Evening: Walk the city walls, enjoy aperitivo along the Arno River, and grab dinner at a local restaurant.
Is Pisa Worth Visiting: FAQ
Is Pisa or Florence nicer?
Pisa and Florence are very different cities. Pisa is much smaller while Florence is a buzzing hub with a lot of historical sights to see.
Ideally you should make time to visit both, but overall, spend more time in Florence.. That is easily done as Pisa is a nice half or full day trip from Florence.
Is it worth it to go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Absolutely, you won’t want to miss a chance to go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is a bit of a workout, but very doable with a reasonable level of fitness (note that there is no elevator), and the views from the top are phenomenal, making the climb worth it.
Why is Pisa so popular?
The main reason for Pisa’s popularity is the famous Leaning Tower — a landmark most visitors to Italy don’t want to miss. But the city also has a fascinating history dating back to Roman times, which you can learn more about during your visit.
Is Pisa a walkable city?
Yes, Pisa is a very walkable city. Especially throughout the center areas where you will likely spend your time. It is easy to get around with only a few minutes of walking from one point of interest to the next.
More Information for your Trip to Italy
- Pisa to Cinque Terre day trip
- Is Venice Worth Visiting?
- Is Bologna Worth Visiting?
- Things to do in Bologna
ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE
Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.
Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.
Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.
Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.