Now, it's no secret that living in Florence, Italy, is about as close as we can humanly get to heaven. However, sometimes you even need a break from heaven (not sure if that line solved it, but you get my drift). Living in Florence you're in the perfect and most idyllic location when it comes to weekend getaways, so it is almost criminal to not take advantage.
Pisa, like Florence, is also a Tuscan dream. Although it is a lot smaller, Pisa has a lot of offer and plenty of jewels and things to do to fill your weekend away there. To help you choose and narrow down the options, Spotahome has compiled a quick, simple and painless guide to the best bits of Pisa.
How to get there
Florence and Pisa are both in the same region of Tuscany and arguably on a level in the country. Therefore, getting there isn't too much of a daunting task nor does it break the bank at all.
One of the easiest and probably most logical method of transport is by train. The services are run by ItaliaRail and in peak times can run up to every 10-15 minutes, so you really have no excuse!
The journey via train lasts approximately an hour and 10 minutes, and generally costs under €20 return, service dependent. However, for even cheaper deals, it's worth keeping your eyes peeled and booking in advance, as they say the early bird catches the worm- or in this case, the good deals.
If you're not a train fan (yes that's a thing) and would prefer to travel by bus, then you can easily catch the bus from Florence to Pisa and back. The bus lasts approximately an hour (only 10 minutes less than the train) and costs roughly €30 return. Again, keep your eyes peeled in advance, you might be able to find a bargain.
Both methods of transport drop you outside the train station, so they have the same destination either way- meaning that the choice is all yours.
And, needless to say, a plane option doesn't exist- just to emphasise how close these 2 Italian paradises really are to each other.
What to see
Wow, I'm going to start off easy here with Pisa's most well-known, famous and visited landmark. Having seen it with my own 2 eyes, I can truly vouch for the fact that it is even more amazing in person, and it is definitely worth a visit.
Standing tall at 60 metres (that's almost 35x my height) the building was originally designed and intended to be completely vertical but began to lean during construction. Nowadays, its renowned for its 10-degree leaning structure which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year from all over the world.
During the day you will find floods of tourists surrounding the landmark. If you just want to see the tower and aren't as fussed about the Instagram value of a sneaky selfie or the original 'I'm-going-to-look-like-I'm-pushing-it-over' photo, going at night might be the ideal option for you.
Although stunning, Katie and I discovered that photographing it at night wasn't as easy.
Piazza del Duomo
In the same area as the leaning tower, the Piazza del Duomo is not to be missed. The Piazza is the space that actually houses the tower, the cathedral and the other all buildings that we constructed in the year 1173 on what is known as the Campo dei Miracoli (literally the miracle fields).
Today you can go and visit the Piazza and take in all the surrounding glory of the area. If you're really mean or just really not a fan of the insta-hype surrounding the Pisa monuments, but still want to see them, you can laugh at the funny poses of the surrounding tourists. What can I say? Entertainment and the way we get our kicks comes in strange forms in the 21st century!
Otherwise known as Pisa's High Street, Corso Italia is a must-see attraction on your trip. Located right in the centre of city, this street is far from the traffic and is the true heart of Pisa.
The street is vibrant with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, so not only is there a lot to take in, but there is also a lot to see and do. Often hosting various street performers too, you'll be stuck where to look.
What to do
Marina di Pisa
In the famous words of Nicki Minaj "let's go to the beach-each. Let's go get away". The good thing about Pisa is that it is located closer to the coast than Florence, so whilst you're there you really can make the most of the opportunity to visit the beach.
The number 010 bus can take you from the edge of central Pisa to the lovely beach town, which is only located around 30 minutes outside of the city, where you can find a wide range of private and public beach areas to enjoy.
So why not pack up a picnic and head for a lovely day at the beach?
Shop until you drop
This is one thing that you should really take advantage of whilst in Pisa, the variety of shops. Now, it's no word of a lie that, although Florence is beautiful, it is also quite expensive and its shopping culture reflects that. So, if you're in the market for some good bargains and a good shop, Pisa has a great variety of high street outlets where you can really shop until you drop.
The previous Corso Italia is a great place to start for your cheap, high street buys.
For the more elegant boutiques and upper scale items head over to Borgo Stretto.
If you're not after the daily essentials or clothing and just want a classy souvenir, then make your way to Via Mercanti and Via dei Rigattieri where you can find some excellent outlets for books and paintings.
In the market for some more shopping?
Now, the one thing I always do without fail when visiting a place is check out what markets it has going. Markets are a great way to socialise and live like the locals. I'm also a sucker for all things artisanal and homemade, so I'm really in heaven here. If you're like-minded and love a good gander through a market stall every now and again, you're in luck on your visit to Pisa.
Mercato delle Vettovaglie is definitely one to check out. Held in what is thought to be one of the most authentic and historic corners in the centre of the city (Piazza delle Vettovaglie), it really will blow your socks off. Here you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables as well as an extensive variety of food and all sorts from the surrounding shops.
If you're looking for something a bit more material, or just love a good window shop at the goodies on show, the Antique and Handicraft Fair on Via Cavour and Via Bozzi is probably the place for you. Held on the second weekend of every month, the fair attracts various antique dealers and stall owners to show off and sell their goodies and has been doing so since 1980.
I mean, whilst you're in the region you really should taste the wine and smell the roses- people say that right?
Anyway, Chianti wine is any wine that is produced in the region of central Tuscany and Pisa is located near some great vineyards and there are tours that you can do from this city.
There is a great variety, and you can learn an awful lot about one of mankind's greatest creations.
Where to eat
Now, the food in Pisa does not disappoint and is faithful to the best of what both the nation and the region have to offer.
L'Ostellino is a lovely little deli located in Piazza Felice Cavallotti where you can get some of the best sandwiches you'll ever try. With an exciting range of cold cuts and deli meats, the sandwich shop throws together some great and classic combinations that you won't be able to say no to. The serving sizes are large, so you'll definitely leave with a full belly.
The location is also perfect, as it is not too central and in the hustle and bustle of the city centre, and it is situated in a lovely square. So, the most ideal thing to do is to take your sandwich away and enjoy the warm Italian sun in the square.
Ristorante alle Bandierine
Ristorante alle Bandierine is a lovely and family-run spaghetteria which specialises in, you guessed it, spaghetti as well as the local Tuscan cuisine. Located on an elegant little side street this place is delightful and so is the food!
With a lovely little terrace that looks out on to the street, you really will feel like you are in a film.
Numero 11 is a well-known, self-serve, little Italian restaurant. It is renowned for its family-like, community-based atmosphere. So, you will definitely feel at home and get the full Tuscan/Italian experience dining here.
The menu is cheap and cheerful with various options available that mean you can enjoy a 3-course meal for €20 or under. The restaurant is even great for vegetarians, as there are meat-free options available. It's a win win all round if you ask me!
Osteria la Grotta
It's hard to talk about an Italian city and food in the same post without mentioning a good old Osteria. With 60 years of service under its belt, Osteria la Grotta is a truly authentic and rustic dining experience. With rough stone walls and a charming character, you will really feel like you've stepped back in time eating here.
Although the prices may be a little more elevated than the previously mentioned options, they are nothing short of spectacular to add to this fine dining experience.
And after food?
Unlike some of its neighbouring Italian cities, Pisa is not renowned for its nightlife. However, a great and consistent proportion of the city's population is occupied by students, so despite it not being its specialty, there is still a bit of a buzz, especially around the University areas.
Going to clubs isn't the only way to enjoy the night, and live music is a great alternative and all round great experience. For 3 nights a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) the Borderline club hosts live music concerts for its members, which is definitely worth checking out.
Membership to the club only costs €10, so if you're there over the weekend (when you can squeeze in 2 visits) or even just keen to return (I except that you will do), you can definitely get your money's worth.
Borgo Stretto or Piazza Cairoli
Instead of giving you various clubs and bars, Borgo Stretto and Piazza Cairoli are both a street and square (respectively) that house various bars and elegant atmospheres for those just after one or two drinks.
Borgo Stretto is full of lovely, low-key cafes where you can get a quiet drink, have a nice chat and watch the world go by before your eyes.
Piazza Cairoli on the other hand is a bit more uptown and is home to various classy cocktail establishments where you can have a cheeky cocktail in a truly stunning square.
Literally, the manifestation of Erasmus in an establishment. Chupiteria doesn't quite have an English translation, mainly because I don't think such a thing exists in English-speaking nations (please correct me if I'm wrong). Either way it means shot place more or less and specialises in an extensive range of shots.
So if you're in the mood for or even already out for a heavy night, Chupiteria will only fuel the fun and your bank account won't be hating you the next day.
For the more elegant and sophisticated amongst us.
Hosting a range of events from opera to concerts to prose and all sorts really, you will be truly captivated by the performances here, and the venue isn't so bad either.
But, seriously, when it comes to impressive venues, I am not messing with you, this is one. The interior is stunning and the beautiful, antique decorations have been meticulously maintained and chosen in a way that will really take your breath away. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself.
So, whilst in Pisa you truly have the world at your fingertips, or at least a good selection of things to do to keep you busy.
Check out our other Italian Weekend Getaway City Guides:
- Summer 2018 - Escape from Rome, Sicily is waiting
- Tips for the Perfect Venetian Trip - Weekend Away from Bologna
- The Best Bits of Bologna in 24 hours
- Sardinia, best summer destination in Italy from Rome
Moving to Florence and looking for a place? Spotahome can help you.