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What to see in Pisa: the Leaning Tower and other 7 attractions not to be missed

Pisa and the Leaning Tower Italy

The Tuscan city of Pisa has more than the Leaning Tower and Piazza dei Miracoli to visit: there are monuments, art treasures and gastronomy.

An important feature of Pisa is the culture, here there is one of the most prestigious universities in the world: the “Scuola Normale Superiore” and the headquarters of CNR (National Research Council).

One day in Pisa: much more than the Leaning Tower

You could spend only one day in Pisa and visit a lot of attractions.

1. Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Credits to: f11photo/Shutterstock

The square where is located the Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most famous in Italy and it is called Piazza dei Miracoli. Why? That was a Gabriele D’Annunzio’s idea: when he passed through Pisa, he appreciated the beauty of the monuments that where in the square and he said that are “miracles”. He was spoking about Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery.

Today the square is recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The leaning tower was born as Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta bell tower. The building of the structure began in 1173, but ended two years later because of the unexpected inclination of the tower. At the end, this characteristic was a unique attraction in the world.

The tower has 294 steps and it is 56 meters high. At the top you can enjoy a wonderful view.

2. Baptistery of San Giovanni (Pisa)

Pisa Baptistery of San Giovanni
The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Credits to: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Near the Leaning Tower there is another beautiful building to visit: the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the biggest in Italy (107,25 circumference meters). The construction work began in 1153 by Diotisalvi and was finished 100 years later by Nicola e Giovanni Pisano.

Baptistery is one of the top 8 things to see in Pisa; its particulararity is that is has been made with different materials, from red tiles to lead plates.

Galileo Galilei was baptismed in this Baptistery in 1564; the same baptismal font that is still there today. The pulpit is Nicola Pisano work.

3. Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral in Pisa

Pisa Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral
Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Credits to: 3avadskaya/Shutterstock

In Piazza dei Miracoli there is another masterpiece: the Cathedral of Pisa dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. It is a representative building of Pisan Romanesque art.

The construction of the Cathedral started in 1063 under the project of the architect Buscheto. Since the beginning it was planned to show the prestige and wealth that, at that time, Pisa Maritime Republic had; so it was decoreted with multicolored marble, mosaics, bronze furnishings and gray marble columns.

4. The Royal Palace and the National Museum of Pisa

Pisa Royal Palace
Royal Palace (or Medici Palace) in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Credits to: lehic/Shutterstock

Going straight from Piazza dei Miracoli, you will reach the Royal Palace: a big building constructed in 1159 by Caetani family. Later , it became Medici family property.

Here, Galileo Galilei showed for the first time the use of the telescope that he invented to Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici.

Today, the building houses the National Museum, which collects important works and masterpieces by Raffaello, Canova and many other artists.

5. Lungarni in Pisa

Lungarni Pisa
Lungarni Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Credits to: StevanZZ/Shutterstock

Walking along the Lungarni is the best way to admire all the beauties of Pisa. These streets run along the Arno river from one side to the other. In this way you can discover meeting and entertainment places, clubs, cafés, beautiful Renaissance buildings, numerous towers and Churches.

The most famous is the Lungarno Mediceo, where there are some important historical buildings of Pisa: Palazzo Medici, Palazzo Toscanelli and the Church of San Matteo in Soarta.

6. Arsenali Repubblicani in Pisa

Pisa Arsenali Repubblicani
The Arsenali Repubblicani in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Credits to: Mikhail Yuryev/Shutterstock

Among the 8 best attractions to visit in Pisa there are the Arsenali Repubblicani.

These are two historic Pisan arsenals:

  • The Republican Arsenal was the oldest; it was organised to produce and repair the galleys (fast boats) of the ancient Republic of Pisa.
  • The Medicean Arsenal was built at the behest of Cosimo I de’ Medici and it was used for the warships of the Medici fleet and it had rooms used as a prison.

7. Knights’ Square in Pisa

Pisa Knights' Square
Knights’ Square in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy. Credits to: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Knights’ Square (Piazza dei Cavalieri) is the second most important square in Pisa and is linked to the ancient seat of the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano.

Caravan Palace, designed by the architect Giorgio Vasari, is the symbol of the square and it is decorated with allegorical figures and zodiac signs. Here is based the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, that is one of the most prestigious universities in Italy and all over the world.

In this square there are also Palazzo dell’Orologio, Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri and Cosimo I Statue.

8. Borgo Stretto

Pisa Vettovaglie Square
Vettovaglie Square and Borgo Stretto in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy.
Credits to: mjols84/Shutterstock

From Knights’ Square you can reach Borgo Stretto.

It is the oldest and most characteristic district of the city, where nobles and merchants once lived. It is characterised by porticoes and a square, Piazza delle Vettovaglie, which was and still is a famous food market place. Today, the square becomes a lively place at night, full of wine bars and clubs.

What to see nearby

  • Cinque Terre (1 hour and 30 minutes by car)
    Perched on the cliffs and surrounded by Mediterranean scrub, there are the five small villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso; together they make up the Cinque Terre. They are one of the most beautiful and evocative corners of the coast, located on the eastern side of Liguria.
  • Volterra (1 hour and 12 minutes by car)
    Volterra is a thousand-year-old town, medieval but of Etruscan origin. It is a wonderful Tuscan village where history has left its indelible mark. It is located a few dozen kilometres from Pisa and it is a little gem where the writer Stephenie Meyer imagined the second chapter of the Twilight saga.
  • San Gimignano (1 hour and 20 minutes by car)
    San Gimignano is one of the best preserved medieval towns not only in Tuscany but also in Italy. Its urban layout, developed during the 13th and 14th centuries, has remained substantially unchanged to the present day. For this reason the village was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. In its heyday, there were 72 towers in San Gimignano, today only 14 remain; this large number of towers has earned the town the nickname “Manhattan of the Middle Ages”.

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