If you’re heading to Pisa to check out the Leaning Tower, don’t just snap your photo and move on. Pisa actually has a few more sites to check out and our family likes to spend at least a half day or even a full day exploring the city.
It’s easy to visit Pisa on a day trip from Florence or Lucca, and you could also see Pisa on the way to Florence after landing at the Pisa Airport.
Pisa is more than just the Leaning Tower. See it, but stick around to see my other top four things to do in Pisa (there are many more, but let’s be realistic!).
Let’s take a look at how you can have an enjoyable day in Pisa.
But First, A Leaning Tower Joke…
What did Big Ben say to the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
“I’ve got the time if you’ve got the inclination.”
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Table of Contents
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Don’t be shy about taking your creative photo at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We live here and we still take them and love them!
A stop to see the Torre Pendente is the reason most people come to Pisa. The Leaning Tower was finished in 1399 and over 600 years later, it’s one of Italy’s most famous landmarks.
While the bell tower stood at 60 meters when it was first built, it’s now just over 58 meters on its ‘tall’ side!
If you decide to climb the 273 steps to the top, you’ll feel the ‘lean’ as you walk up.
Helpful Tip: Be sure to reserve a time to climb!
The Rest of the Campo dei Miracoli
Also called the Piazza dei Miracoli, this beautiful square is home to the Leaning Tower as well as the Pisa Cathedral (also called the Duomo or Santa Maria Assunta), the Baptistry, and the Camposanto (cemetery).
Good To Know: You’re not allowed to stand or sit on the grass. Signs ask you politely to stay off of the grass. If you want a place to sit amongst trees and greenery, visit the nearby Botanical Garden (more below).
Duomo di Pisa
There’s actually quite a bit to see inside Pisa’s Duomo. We like to spend time looking at the paintings and the huge mosaic behind the altar. If the crowds are light, take some time at the large bronze doors to look at intricate decorations of animals and biblical stories.
From the Piazza del Duomo, admire the two other important monuments of the complex: the Baptistery and the Camposanto.
Baptistery of St. John
Another gem in the piazza, the Pisa Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni)is Italy’s largest baptistery. Check out the gargoyles outside before you head inside. Every 30 minutes, one of the staff members will sing a few notes so you can hear the incredible acoustics of the building.
Good To Know: When we visited in the spring of 2023 the upper floor (and its window with a nice view of the Duomo) was closed for restoration.
The camposanto (literally, field of the saints) is on of our favorite places to visit in the Campo dei Miracoli. Walk around and look at the incredible frescoes (some are intense, all are interesting) and to the reliquary with its enormous collection of saints’ relics. My oldest son enjoyed searching for Fibonacci’s tomb and statue.
Look Around: Can you find the lion guarding the Campo?
Pisa Botanical Garden
Pisa’s Botanical Garden was founded in 1543(!) and is the first university botanical garden on the planet.
A few of the things we love most about Pisa’s Orto Botanico are its variety, shady areas, and that it’s not crowded.
It’s a perfect place to escape the city’s concrete and heat and to get away from the crowds near the Leaning Tower.
Bring a snack and take a break on a bench before exploring the different greenhouses, ponds, and plants.
My kids always ask to stop here when we visit Pisa and I happily oblige.
Read more about Visiting Pisa with Kids
Keith Haring’s Tuttomondo Mural
If you grew up listening to ‘A Very Special Christmas’ then you’re familiar with Keith Haring (it’s his art on the cover). That’s how I was introduced to his art (I saw it on the cassette tape we pulled out of our Christmas décor boxes each holiday season).
Haring began drawing on empty spaces in NYC subways and eventually created many large-scale, colorful murals. He was an inspiration to many other artists around the globe, including Banksy.
If you’re a fan, don’t miss walking by Haring’s enormous mural in the center of Pisa.
It’s painted on the side of a Catholic church (Sant’Antonio Abate) and it was his last creation before his death in 1990.
Museo Aviotruppe Esercito Italiano
This museum of Italian Army Paratroopers is a hidden gem in Pisa. It’s a little walk from the Leaning Tower (20 minutes), or you can take a 5-minute taxi ride.
The museum thoughtfully displays artifacts from past and present wars and missions of the Italian paratroopers.
Before you even enter the museum, you can stop and see vehicles (including a helicopter) on the front lawn.
Inside, walk through the multiple rooms and learn about the paratroopers through lifelike displays, uniforms, weapons, video displays, and more.
I visited with my elementary-age kids, and we all enjoyed walking through the displays and learning about the paratroopers. The staff was also happy to answer questions and demonstrate how tools and equipment are used.
More Things to Do in Pisa
If you have more time in Pisa, you may also be interested in checking out:
- Piazza dei Cavallieri (Knight’s Square) – one of Italy’s most beautiful piazzas (in my opinion), the Renaissance-period square is home to the Palazzo dell’Orologio and a statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici
- Museo delle Navi Antiche di Pisa (Pisa Museum of Ancient Ships) – history buffs and maritime fans shouldn’t miss this collection in the city center
- Go shopping (or window shop) on Borgo Stretto, Borgo Largo, or Corso Italia in the center
- Palazzo Blu – art lovers should
- Mangiate – eat! We like to stop and eat cecina when we’re in Pisa. Cecina is a chickpea flour flatbread and makes for a delicious snack. If you’re looking for a casual meal, check out:
- I Porci Comodi for panini
- We Love Pasta for super casual, fresh pasta
- La Focacceria dei Sani for focaccia panini
Things to Do Near Pisa
- Relax at one of the nearby beaches from Forte dei Marmi to the north to Castiglioncello to the south
- Enjoy the natural surroundings in Parco Regionale Migliarino, San Rossore, Massaciuccoli
- Have a meal in San Miniato
- Go wine tasting in Bolgheri
- Visit Lucca and cycle its walls or climb the Torre Guinigi
When to Visit Pisa
Pisa is popular with tourists from around the globe, but most stick to the Piazza dei Miracoli (the area around the Leaning Tower). So, you can find a quieter Pisa throughout the year, especially in the evening.
However, if you want to see the Leaning Tower without the crowds, visit in the late fall, winter, or early spring.
We’ve enjoyed our visits during these times because:
- We’re able to take fun photos at the Leaning Tower with just us in the frame.
- I can keep track of my kids when there aren’t loads of people around.
- We’re able to ask staff at the sites questions, which is a great way to get to know the place. We’ve learned a lot about Pisa and the monuments in this way.
- There’s plenty of parking in our favorite lot (but note that it’s unattended – don’t leave luggage in your car!)
How to Get to Pisa
Pisa is easy to reach by public transport or with your own rental car.
Pisa by Train
Pisa is on high-speed and local train lines and can be reached from Rome in just a couple of hours, and from Florence in under an hour.
The Pisa Centrale station is about a 20-25 minute walk from the Leaning Tower, but you may want to make stops along the way at other sites like the Keith Haring Mural or the Botanical Garden.
Pisa by Car
We usually drive to Pisa. From the direction of Florence, you can take the A11 Autostrada or the FI-PI-LI (Firenze-Pisa-Livorno) superstrada – check the traffic situation before departing.
If you’re coming from north or south along the coast, you can take the A12 Autostrada.
We usually park in the large lot on the map above. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the Leaning Tower, but note that it’s not attended, so don’t leave any luggage in your car. You can also find attended lots and garages scattered throughout the city.
Pisa by Private Driver
A more expensive, but more relaxing option is to hire a private driver (NCC – noleggio con conducente) to bring you to and from Pisa. The driver can drop you off and pick you up and you could also see other places in the area (more below).
For example, you could see Pisa in the morning and later in the day visit the Bolgheri area vineyards for a wine tasting and dinner.
Pisa by Day Tour
Multiple companies offer day tours like a day trip from Florence to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano or a half-day trip from Florence to Pisa.
These group tours are less-expensive alternatives to having a private driver.
Pisa by Bus
I don’t recommend taking the bus to or from Pisa because the train is easy and efficient.
Read more about Exploring Tuscany Without a Car
Tips for Visiting Pisa in 2023
Reserve your visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Tuscany (and the rest of Italy) is booming with visitors this year, so if you want to spend time in the Leaning Tower, book your visit online before you get to Pisa.
Make sure you allow enough time to drop off your bags at the luggage storage before climbing the Leaning Tower.
If you’re driving to Pisa from Florence, avoid beach traffic. Roads are busy in the Florence-Pisa direction on Friday afternoons and evenings and in the opposite direction on Sunday evenings.
Don’t try to picnic on the lawn. Signs posted prohibit walking on the grassy areas. We stop for a snack in the shady Botanical Garden, which is justa 5-minute walk from the Leaning Tower and the Campo dei Miracoli.
Things to Do in Pisa Italy FAQ
Yes, there are plenty of things to do in Pisa to keep you busy for an afternoon or day trip from Florence. Remember to include your travel time in your schedule.
Pisa is worth at least a half day. Many people rush to take a photo at the Leaning Tower and then leave, but even the rest of the monuments on the Piazza dei Miracoli are worth a look. We especially like walking around the Camposanti.
You can buy your tickets on the official website of the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa. At the time of writing, you can only purchase tickets up to 20 days in advance. If there are no time slots available for your chosen date or time, you can also try third-party resellers like GetYourGuide or Viator.