Accidents happen, and in Pisa the result of an architectural disaster has become an iconic calling card for visitors from around the world. Pisa was once known for its maritime prowess but today it is that jaunty angle that draws the crowds. Look beyond the tower, however, and there is plenty more that is perfect about Pisa. It boasts Romanesque buildings, Gothic churches and Renaissance piazzas that play the backdrop to its young population’s lively cafe and bar scene.
Areas & Neighbourhoods in Pisa
Piazza dei Miracoli - The Leaning Tower here has become an iconic symbol of Italy itself. It certainly is a strange sight for a building that in its conception alone stretched the boundaries of logic. Nearby you can explore the truly breathtaking Duomo and Baptistry where perfection reigns.
Piazza dei Cavalieri and Around - Beyond the tower Pisa is a great place to appreciate Italian life rather than mingle with the tourist crowds. Here ornate palaces nestle next to bustling markets and there are some rarely visited but fascinating museums of Italian art to discover.
Western Pisa - On the other side ofthe city are the world’s oldest university botanical gardens (Orto Botanico) to relax in and a fine collection of Renaissance art to explore in the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale. For a commanding bird’s eye view of the city and beyond head for the 13th century Torre Guelfa which is part of an ancient fortress built to protect Pisa.
Southern Pisa - From the Ponte di Mezzo that spans the river you have another ideal viewpoint, this time of Pisa’s waterfront and the many palaces that line it. Over the bridge you reach Logge di Banchi a lively area that is informed by its large student population. It’s the perfect place to find a trendy cafe or bar to watch the night fall (and morning rise) from.
Things to See in Pisa
It goes without saying that the Leaning Tower itself is a spectacular sight. It’s unintentionally comic, profoundly unsettling and comfortingly familiar all at once. You can learn more about its history and building, and about Galileo’s experiments from its overhanging top, on a guided tour. Make sure you take in the view of the palaces along the waterfront and some of the refreshingly quiet museums whose prestigious collections fail to attract the many visitors who come here for just that one tilted thing.
Things to Do in Pisa
There are some excellent dining options in Pisa for those who walk beyond the Piazza dei Miracoli. Just a short stroll south will bring you to Piazza Cavalieri and Piazza Dante where you can sample local Tuscan cuisine as it should be. The bars and cafes near the Leaning Tower do boast fantastic views but for a more authentic slice of Pisan cafe and bar culture head out to the lively Logge di Banchi area. If you are here in July check to see if you are in the city for the Gioco del Ponte event which is an ‘It’s a Knockout’-style contest of strength and endurance.