The Bits of Pisa that Most Tourists Miss

Riverside church
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Pisa is full of tourists, but most of them seem to be clustered in one spot. In front of the Leaning Tower, capturing a selfie or photographing their friends as they pretend to prop up the tower. But, as we discovered during a recent autumn visit, there is much more to Pisa than this.

 

Piazza dei Miracoli

Of course Pisa’s belltower is spectacular, and not just for its less than perpendicular nature. A fine example of 12th century architecture, with a classic Tuscan backdrop of hills and trees, it is worth a photograph or two in its own right. But it is dwarfed by the buildings around it: the Cathedral, the Baptistry and the Campo Santo.

Piazza dei Miracoli
The Leaning Tower seems insignificant beside the other buildings of the Piazza dei Miracoli
The Cathedral is ornate, full of paintings and arches, and with an elaborate marble pulpit. And don’t miss the Baptistry, a double domed structure with another marble pulpit and an “Islamic floor”. The shape of the building creates a “whispering gallery” effect, which is demonstrated to visitors every half hour.

 

Cathedral
The Cathedral is full of paintings and grand arches
If you come out of the Baptistry and turn right, through the city walls, you will find yourself among hordes of souvenir sellers and fast food stalls. But turn in the other direction, back past the Tower and along the Via Roma, and you will be plunged into the heart of medieval Pisa.

 

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The Medieval City of Pisa

The centre is compact enough to walk everywhere. There is everything here that you might expect of a medieval Italian city: churches, museums and palazzi, huddled into old streets brimming with bars and restaurants. You will eat better (and cheaper) here than in the restaurants closer to the Leaning Tower.

Visit the university area for the Botanic Garden, a medieval “Garden of Simples”, and cross the river for the picturesque Gothic church of Santa Maria della Spina. Every so often you will encounter fragments of the old city walls, a reminder of more turbulent times.

Riverside church
The riverside church of Santa Maria della Spina

 

A Convenient Centre

And Pisa has excellent train and bus connections, making it an ideal base for a Tuscan holiday. We took trains to Lucca and Livorno, but if we’d stayed longer, we could have taken the bus to Siena or San Gimignano. Or hired a car and explored some of those Tuscan hill towns. We’ll have to go again!

Livorno
The “Little Venice” area of Livorno, just a train ride away from Pisa
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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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