Things To Do In Pisa
Pisa is a small province in Tuscany, but it has one of the most visited attractions in Italy. The Tower of Pisa is the official symbol of the town. It is a unique monument created by an Italian genius during the time when Italy is contending for world recognition (established as a bell tower for the Pisa Cathedral in 1173 AD). It started to lean even before it was still being built because of the soft land beside it. It is always a common sight for visitors to shoot pictures beside this inimitable leaning tower. Not only the tower, but the entire attractions around the Square of Miracles is fantastic.
You can buy tickets to climb the top and during the climb you can feel the slope of the tower and once at the top you can enjoy the magnificent view of Pisa. There are so many steps to climb, but be patient because it is all worth the effort. The nearby Miracle Square is definitely a marvel and the Leaning Tower is a sight not to be missed at least once in a lifetime. You can get there from the surrounding narrow streets and arrive at the Piazza Duomo and the imposing tower. At night, the square is surrounded by dazzling lights and truly breathtaking.
When To Go:
The high season months of September to October and April to May are the ideal time to go around the town of Pisa. In these months, the climate has an agreeable temperature and the famous sights are not as crowded. Despite the humidity, the summer month of June is also the busiest month for tourism and when there are lots of things to do and see in Pisa. It is also the best time to explore the attractions and easily roam around from one tourist spot to another and there is not much traffic because of the school vacation.
The low season months are November and March when the temperature drops into the low 30s. It is hard to make reservations or hotel accommodations during this time because most of the hotels and dining places prefer to stop operation and give their employees a vacation for a month or two. However, if you are not into big crowds and long lines in every tourist spot that you visit, this can be a perfect time to explore Pisa in peace.
Here are the major attractions and things to do in Pisa:
Leaning Tower Of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the jewel and pride of Tuscany. It is situated in a very neat square with lots of places to eat and drink. The tower is within walking distance of downtown, direct walk from the train station in about 20-25 minutes. For € 18 you can climb all the way to the top through its winding staircase. The white marble of which the tower is made alone is wonderful and the pillars give it a little lace-like effect.
It is a world famous monument that draws tourists from all around the world and an obligatory point while visiting Pisa. Depending on which side you look at the tower, it is very oblique. It is fun to see the hordes of tourists who want to take a picture while pretending to stop the tower from falling with their hands. However, it will take according to its team of structural engineers 300 years before it actually falls over, hopefully it does not come!
Duomo di Pisa (Pisa Cathedral)
The Duomo di Pisa or the Pisa Cathedral is located at Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles); a wide square where the main attractions of Pisa are located and always crowded. This Duomo must be visited as it is beautiful outside and inside as well. Pisa Cathedral is the greatest example of Tuscan Romanesque style with pillars and columns of colored marbles and is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. This beautiful cathedral was designed by architect Buscheto and began its construction in 1064, but due to lack of funds, the construction was paused until the Byzantine Emperor donated the amount for the rest of the work needed to finish its construction. Several reforms have been done on this Duomo over the years, but it has preserved the bronze doors designed by Italian sculptor Bonanno Pisano (made in 1602 and illustrating various scenes from the Bible) in perfect condition. The cathedral is beside the Tower of Pisa and inserted in a beautiful lawn. Once you get there, observe carefully the magnificent architectural details of the Duomo di Pisa.
Inside the beautiful pulpit, you can see one of the last masterpieces of architect and painter Giovanni Pisano and Galileo Galilei’s bronze chandelier lamp (replica) where he got the inspiration for the law of the pendulum. The dome ceiling has an incredible painting with complexity of details that fill the eyes. It is very interesting to analyze all the architectural details and wander around the cathedral and be in awe of the talent and artistic side of the Italian architects and engineers who shared their work for this Duomo. The most famous part of the city is undoubtedly the Leaning Tower, but the contribution of this cathedral, the Piazza and the baptistery should also be considered. It is beautiful, imposing and with a very attractive interior. Visits are by appointment, but the entrance is free.
Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles)
The Piazza dei Miracoli is the main public space in Pisa and where the Tower of Pisa is located. This square is always full of tourists and the major landmark of Pisa. The side streets here are full of stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs. The square portrays the beautiful design of local society through its history and through the years. There is also the museum that displays frescoes depicting ancient life in Pisa.
The Square of Miracles is the most important artistic and tourist center of Pisa and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO. Within its proximity is where you can find all the most important religious monuments of the city, the Cathedral (Duomo), the Baptistery, and the Camposanto. Right across these important sights is the Museum del'Opera del Duomo and the famous Leaning Tower. The buildings are all done in white marble and provide great contrast to the green grass and blue sky.
The Battistero or the Baptistery of Pisa is a work of art with an incredible acoustics. Try to visit this with a guide and during an opera and you will be in awe of its amazing acoustics. Just like the tower it is slightly tilted. The Baptistery is the second oldest building in the Square of Miracle and it was dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It is the largest Baptistery in Italy that is made of all white marble and located in Piazza dei Miracoli right near the famous Tower of Pisa and in front of the Duomo Cathedral.
This was built by architect Diotisalvi during the 12th century, resulting in a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. Despite its grandeur inside, the truth is that it is extremely simple and devoid of any lavish decoration (except for the octagonal fountain). Outside, the facade looks wonderful and inside leaves much to be desired. A few steps will lead you to the second level where you can hear a woman singing from time to time. The monument is beautiful, and from the top you can make great photos with the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower in the background. It has no significant work of art, but what attracts tourists is the acoustic phenomenon that occurs when it emits a tone, there is a fairly long lasting repetition.
Camposanto (Holy Ground)
The Camposanto or the Holy Ground is one of the major attractions of the Piazza dei Miracoli and it is an old cemetery where the many important people in the history of Pisa are buried. The Camposanto is also known as the monumental cemetery of Pisa was the fourth building to be constructed in the Square of Miracles. It has a beautiful Gothic cloister named the Sec XIII, built by Giovanni di Simone and where the main personalities of Pisa are buried, from Deans and Professors of the most prestigious City University, to the governors and the most important families.
Inside there are three beautiful chapels, the oldest is the Ammannati Chapel (where lies Lido Ammannati, professor of medicine at the University of Pisa) and the Chapel Aulla (where the Galileo Galilei incense lamp is kept), most recent is the Chapel Dal Pozzo (with ancient relics that were brought from the Cathedral). Despite being a cemetery - the Camposanto houses a collection of Roman sarcophagi, a collection of sculptures, and Etruscan and Roman urns. The walls were once covered with frescoes, but today some are still clearly visible.
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina
The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina is a Gothic architecture style church that stands on the banks of the Arno River and was built in 1230. Aside from the beautiful architecture, what draws the most attention are the green bronze doors and its architectural works. The imposing church is hard to miss as it stands right in the middle of the Piazza dei Miracoli (in the walking path between the train station and the Tower of Pisa).
Built in 1230, the name Spina (thorn) refers to the presence of the thorn from the crown that Jesus Christ used on the day he was crucified. It is a small church (about 21 meters long) but if you go through the city to visit the famous tower, include a visit to this church in your itinerary.
Basilica Romanica di San Piero a Grado
The Basilica Romanica di San Piero a Grado is a beautiful Romanesque basilica located between Pisa and the nearby harbor. It is an imposing basilica that is full of history. This is where St. Peter celebrated his first mass when he arrived at the Port of Pisa. The Basilica Romanesque has a very interesting architecture, the paintings in the nave, and the ciborium (metal vessel for the Eucharistic host).
The bell tower was shot down by the Germans during World War II. With the help of a guide, you will learn the history of the Basilica and see the photographic documentation of the destruction of the bell tower. The basilica is well preserved and remains a sacred place to be admired in all its splendour.
Piazza dei Cavalieri (Square of the Knights)
For many years it was the center of the civil power and during the second half of the 16th century, it became the headquarters of the Knights of St. Stephen. It's a beautiful square, busy and very close to the Square of Miracles. It is good to visit the fair of typical Italian products, furniture, clothes, pictures and other variety that happens on weekends.
The Piazza dei Cavalieri or the Square of the Knights is the second most famous and important square in Pisa because of its history and the important buildings that surround it like the Palazzo della Carovana, built in the mid-sixteenth century by Cosimo I de 'Medici to be the seat of Santo Stefano Order of knights, Palazzo dell'orologio and the church of Santo Stefano. In addition to the buildings, there is a statue in honor of Cosimo I de 'Medici, an important person not only in Pisa but also in Florence. It is located between the central station of Pisa and Piazza dei Miracoli, home to the Tower of Pisa, so it is easily accessible after visiting the Tower.
Borgo Stretto is a main pedestrian street located in the middle of Pisa and under its medieval arches are the most expensive shops, several cafes and restaurants. This main shopping street is narrow and always busy. The style of this tiny street is similar to that found in other Italian cities such as Naples and Venice. On the way here you can admire the architecture of the old buildings, the view of the river, and the old houses of Pisa.
This is an ancient main street in the small center of Pisa. You can observe the facades of buildings and in its arcades; you will find the ancient Pasticceria Salza, where you can have tea with pastries and delicious cakes. This street is part of the river and reaches the area of the tower. It is very typical and around it there are small streets and an outdoor market with very fresh fruit and vegetables. It is another option for Pisa besides visiting the famous leaning tower.
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo is a relatively small museum extension, but with excellent and ancient sculptures from the 11th to 13th century and the vast majority has already been exposed to the weather. Moreover, it is situated within the complex of Piazza dei Miracoli. It is nice, bright, and decorated with old pictures of the Duomo and the relics of a bygone era.
This museum has a huge collection of marble sculptures, ecclesiastical items such as bowls, cups, goblets, etc., inlaid wood artifacts from the Etruscan, Egyptian, Romanesque times and too many to mention. Walk around for an hour in this museum and you will not be disappointed.
Il Giardino Scotto
Il Giardino Scotto is one of the magical places of Pisa. This walled garden is a little gem in the heart of the city where you can relax, read a book, jogging in the morning, or take long walks in the afternoon. It is designed with playing areas for kids. For students, there are benches with tables plus a green area where you can stretch out and enjoy the sun (when possible). It is a place of peace and serenity to relax and recharge the batteries after a day of going around the main landmarks of Pisa. It is right off the embankment and there are tables in the shade in order to have a picnic, benches and games for children, including an area for toddlers with playhouse and slide, and a park for bigger kids with swings, perch, trampolines and carousel.
The biggest attraction of Pisa is the leaning bell tower of the cathedral known as the Tower of Pisa. The Piazza dei Miracoli is the heart of tourism in Pisa where you can visit the Cathedral and its famous bell tower, the Baptistery and Camposanto. Of all, no doubt, the Tower is the biggest highlight, which, besides its peculiar inclination also differs by the fact that it was built behind the cathedral (traditionally the steeples are located next to the church facade in the same building). The reason for this inclination has several hypotheses, but recent archaeological discoveries revealed the existence of a large river port from the Roman times in its subsoil (which may explain the soft soil and the tendency of some structures to incline). It is believed that it was in this ancient port of Pisa is where St. Peter landed and went to Rome to preach the Gospel. Pisa is a remarkable town and truly worth visiting because of its significant role for religion, arts, engineering/architecture, and history of Italy.
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