Pisa is a lovely Tuscan student town that’s gained notoriety around the world because of its extraordinary gravity-defying tourist pull: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. There’s no denying the tower, or Torre in Italian, is unique, but there’s loads more on offer in Pisa, especially after the tourist coaches and day-trippers head off.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The leaning tower is now slightly less leaning following an eight-year restoration project which was completed at the end of last year to clean and partially straighten it. The building of the 58-metre tall bell tower began in 1173, but it started to tilt when the third level was finished due to the soft sand and clay beneath its foundations. Work was completed in the second half of the 14th century in spite of the slight lean. Since the recent £20m renovations, the tower is set to continue to defy gravity for a while yet.
Cathedrals and more
Soak up the atmosphere of the gorgeous Piazza del Duomo, which offers knockout views of renowned monuments, including the cathedral, the cemetery and the tower. Next to the tower, the cathedral merits exploration for its Romanesque architecture and Moorish mosaics. All of the monuments in the square are open from 8am to 8pm from April to September. Visit any two monuments for £5 and any five for £8 – a steal!
As Pisa is situated in Tuscany, you’ll find some wonderful regional cuisines, including Baccala alla Pisana (dried cod which is a speciality). The city’s proximity to the coast means seafood is favoured and fresh. You’ll also find great pizza, pasta and gelato. The big rule with dining in Pisa is to get as far away from the leaning tower as you can.
It’s also a good city to find budget eats. Munch on the best pizza you’ll probably ever taste at Pizzeria Funiculi (Via Bianchi, 33) in the Porta a Lucca area. Dinners cost from £15. Or splash out and enjoy Tuscan-style cuisine at Antica Trattoria II Campano (Via Cavalca, 19), set in the city’s old town, where you’ll fork out around £30 for dinner.
Get the camera out
No visit to Pisa is complete without the obligatory “holding up the tower” snap. You’ll hear scores of tourists telling their subjects to, “Move a little to the right” as they line up the money shot. Why fight it? Just join in.
Out of town
Explore the surrounding countryside by bike or by Vespa (tuscanybyvespa.com). Within easy reach of Pisa are Florence, the birthplace of the Italian renaissance, and the historic city of Siena.
WHEN TO GO Pisa is sunny for most of the year. Avoid in mid-winter and mid-summer due to extreme temperatures.
GETTING THERE Ryanair (ryanair.com) and easyJet (easyjet.com) both fly direct to Pisa from London.
VISAS South Africans need a Schengen visa.
CURRENCY Euro. 1 GBP = 1.17 EUR.
GETTING AROUND Pisa is flat as a pancake so is easily explorable on foot.
GOING OUT Beers cost about €4 (£3.50).
ACCOMMODATION Dorm beds are about €22 (£19).