What’s there to do in Pisa? Well, you can run from the train station to the Piazza dei Miracoli, take a picture of your sweet honey holding up the tower (haha), then hoof it back to the train station. We’ve documented how to do it in a video.
But some would argue, the author(s) included, that Pisa is worth a bit of time. But even if you only have a full day, you can see a lot of the city that most tourists miss.
Pisa resident Gloria Cappelli wrote this all down so that you don’t have to wander the streets.
From the train station walk north on the Corso Italia until it ends at the Lungarno (the river walk). Instead of going towards the tower, go in the other direction turning right at the end of Corso Italia, without crossing the river. Walk until the second bridge after Ponte di Mezzo (Ponte della Vittoria). You will pass beautiful buildings, among which you’ll find Shelley’s last house, where he wrote great poems. A few meters after that there is Giardino Scotto, a park where you can walk on the walls meant to be the enormous garden of the palace that the Medici family wanted to build in Pisa (the city was their Summer residence).
Cross the river, and turn left to go back. You will pass part of the medieval town. You may wish to visit San Matteo, which is the second Italian museum for Sacred Art
On this side of the river, there is the City Archive, which was Lord Byron’s palace.
Walk until the Ponte di Mezzo again. The square with the statue is called Piazza Garibaldi. When travelling towards Sicily, Garibaldi, the general who guided the unification of Italy in the XIX century stopped in Pisa and arrived here.
Besides… there is the best Ice-cream shop ever in this piazza: La Bottega del Gelato!!!
Leave the river bank and walk in the street with all the arches: that is Borgo Stretto, the most expensive street in town and where you’ll find Galileo’s house… and the best pasticcieria, Salza.
If you continue straight, after the arches end, and turn left at the Deutsche Bank, you can go to Santa Caterina Square. Santa Caterina is an amazing church, very similar to Santa Maria Novella in Florence and to San Domenico in Siena.
The park is also great.
Go back to where you turned left and cross the street, taking the little street opposite to you. You will end up in Vasari’s magnificent Piazza dei Cavalieri, home to the most prestigious University in the country and to Count Ugolino’s tower, mentioned in Dante’s Divina Commedia. Cross the square towards Via Santa Maria, also designed by Vasari, and go see the Tower.
Come back to the Square and take the road called Curtatone and Montanara which takes you towards Lungarno again. After 50 meters, if you turn right, you end up in Piazza Dante, where the faculty of Law is located.
Or you could turn left and go see my favorite spot: the medieval Pisa, still the liveliest, Antica Trattoria Il Campano (great restaurant there), Piazza delle Vettovaglie, the heart of Pisa’s nightlife and the place of the first settlement during the Roman era.
You will be back in Borgo stretto, turn left and go back to Piazza Garibaldi. TUrn left again and enjoy this side of the river, until the ancient Cittadella, the ancient port. Pisa was one of the powerful Sea Republic.
You will see the red tower. There are great buildings, dating back to the XXII century on this side of the river and opposite la Cittadella there are the Arsenali Medicei, with the 3 roman ships found few years ago intact!
Cross the bridge, and walk to San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno, the most ancient church in town and once the cathedral.
Go on and pass Santa Maria della Spina, a little Gothic jewel on the bank of the river, the only part left of an ancient monastery.
Go on until the end of Corso Italia and walk back to the station, but if you are not tired take the first on the left, Via San Martino: it is the Renaissance part of the city with great buildings.
And moreover, enjoy the shops in Corso Italia.
Notes on Pisa
In our article Pisa – Where to Eat and Stay, we call upon author Susan Van Allen of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go fame to point out some old-fashioned inexpensive luxury lodging and good eats in Pisa.