Pisa, Italy. The small town near Rome has a reputation of its own. Though Leaning Tower of Pisa contributes to most of it, Pisa is undoubtedly more than that. If all roads lead to Rome, Pisa got to be a mandatory pit stop on the way. Classy piazzas( ~ A public square in an Italian Town), old elegant buildings in every corner, narrow alleys along with Leaning Tower draws over a million visitors every year. Here is how a short layover in Pisa turned memorable.
It is always recommended to check the nearby (countries’) airports while traveling in Europe. To travel between Paris and Rome, I took a flight from Belgium (4 hours bus journey from Paris) to Pisa (2 hours train to Rome). Flight price – €19. Yes, 400 times cheaper and covered two other cities in a day. Spent about €100 on the overall journey and is totally worth it.
Galileo Galilei – Pisa airport is tiny and landing to exit should be a few min walk. Few more steps, I am already on the shuttle train to Pisa Centrale railway station which is a 5-minute journey. Tickets to shuttle can be purchased before boarding at platform kiosks and carrying cash is highly recommended. the train drops us at platform 14 and platform 1 has all the necessary amenities. Deposito bagagli (Luggage storage) is to the far right end of platform 1 along with the bike rentals for few bucks.
Now is the time to explore Pisa.
There is no better way than walking to explore this beautiful city. Leaning Tower of Pisa is about 2 KM from Stazione (Station) and it took more than an hour to reach the Tower exploring the beautiful alleys throughout the way.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II right in front of the station welcomes the city on a grand scale. Piazzas are fun places as locals gather here to spend time. the city looks rusty from here and has various vibes in it. I was immediately drawn towards Corso Italia (Corso ~ Course) following several others. Luckily, it’s a local festival where streets are decorated with flowers along with several exhibits making already vibrant streets more colorful. Corso Italia is also one of the prominent alleys in Pisa for shopping.
At the end of the street is Ponte Di Mezzo (Ponte di ~ Bridge of) over river Arno. It’s a captivating view along the river with a beautiful array of colorful buildings. What’s more thrilling is to see kids playing with a soap bubble artist. It feels like we are part of a historic movie filled with feast, laughter, and drama.
Next up is Borgo Stretto, another classic street but this time for pizza and wines.
There are hundreds of restaurants along the way but none caught my attention so much but the little alleys on either side are so beautiful filled with tiny colorful cars, pretty windows, and elegant buildings.
Walking on Via Ulisse Dini, Piazza Dei Cavalieri, also known as Knight’s square, welcomed. This is a special square in Pisa as it is surrounded by important buildings. This was headquarters for Knights during the 16th century and currently holds a palace, a couple of churches, and Muda Tower. All of them can be explored inside. If you are looking for a vintage dine-in restaurant, Osteria dei Cavalieri is the place to go. It is one of the best restaurants in the area with moderate prices and an excellent choice of pasta and seafood.
By now, realized all the streets are beautiful and decided to head straight to the final destination. Via dei Mille connected to Via Santa Maria, the other beautiful alley for food and historic buildings. To the north end of this alley, stood a tall but otherworldly tower, and it is the moment to go awe. The most awaited moment.
Leaning Tower of Pisa is undoubtedly beyond expectations.
Located in Piazza del Duomo along with Cathedral and Pisa Baptistry, this square is bliss. The seven-floor, 185 ft bell tower is tilting which is totally unexpected due to poor foundation yet is so delightful to watch as if the tower is playing peek-a-boo with the rest of the square. One can spend hours at the tower which offers mesmerizing views at all angles and of course watching people posing crazy with the tower is an add-on.
One can go up the tower for a small price and is worth it if fond of heights.
There wouldn’t be long queues generally. But certainly, the panoramic ground-level views are spectacular. The Statue of Three Angels along with the Leaning Tower view is a must-see.
It’s lunchtime and there is nothing better than I Porci Comodi on Piazza Dante Alighieri. Enjoying the pretty buildings covered with plants on Via Santa Maria, I Porci took about 10 min from the Tower to reach. It is one of the best paninis in town with authentic products. Raw pork minci sandwich being the most reputed one. Not so surprisingly, there is a long queue along the street and it took more than 10 min even to clear few people. Due to a crunch of time, I Porci had to be missed. Well, it has to be for a good reason.
Continued walking along the river only to find a group of friends having fun outside a rusty local bar and immediately attracted me. I was inside La Staffetta Taproom in no time and ordered a chicken panini. The man at the counter greeted friendly and offered a beer. Panini was made with all the care as the chef asked for any allergies or even mentioned the ingredients. It was a simple sandwich yet delicious with all the smiles and love around.
Santa Maria della Spina near Ponte Solferino is another must-visit church in Pisa. This 1200s church has a gothic facade and beautifully set on the river-side.
The train is already waiting for me at the station by the time I reached. A quick walk to Luggage storage and back to the platform. That was a lovely couple of hours and Pisa showed how remarkable it was. People, food, streets, all of them showed affection.
It’s a small city that can be covered in a day yet leaves memories for years to come.
Are all the street names confusing? Figured out a map can help. Check this out and have a wonderful trip!