Hey hey! Maybe you have noticed that Italy is one of my favorite travel destinations. I’ve been to several regions, but I have many more to explore. Today’s post will lead us to Toscana and Liguria, famous Italian areas and more specifically what to visit while in Pisa and Cinque terre. I have a special birthday tradition. Every year I book a trip to somewhere new to celebrate my birthday. This tradition started in 2010 and I try to follow it ever since.
In Pisa I
celebrated my 27th birthday. As my birthday is in April, the weather
conditions are a bit tricky – it might be super hot or it might rain, you never
know. This was exactly what happened in Toscana – we had 2 good and 2 bad days.
need to know before going to Pisa and Toscana in general:
is a really small city, you can visit pretty much everything for a day.
barely need to use a public transport within the city, even the airport is on a
walking distance (more or less 5 minutes to the train station by bus).
do not speak very good English (or sometimes not at all), but you can manage,
it is a really touristic city and they are used to have many foreigners there.
your walk early in the morning in order to avoid all the queues.
of the best wines in the world come from Toscana so you must try at least
you have more than one day in Pisa better go for a day trip to Cinque terre, La
Spezia or Florence which are located really close to Pisa.
accommodation offers in Cinque terre are expensive and overpriced so better not
to spend the night there.
We spent 3 days and a half in Toscana and we dedicated one
day to Cinque terre, one to Florence and the rest to Pisa. I will not include
Florence in this post, because there are many things to be seen there (one day
is definitely not enough, but you can see the main touristic attractions). I
will dedicate another article to Florence only.
The first two days we saw Pisa only at night and to be honest I was not really impressed. I didn’t like it at first, but when we had the chance to see it by day I changed my mind – it is very cute and cozy. Even though I liked it, Pisa is definitely not the highlight of this trip. But there are some interesting things to be seen and visited while in Pisa.
Here is my list of 10 things to do and see in Pisa:
leaning tower of Pisa
This is maybe the most iconic monument in whole Italy. I don’t think that there is a person on this planet that hasn’t heard about it. And yet it is overrated. The tower is located next to Il Duomo di Pisa. Its construction started in 12th century and was finished in the 14th.
The marble construction was too heavy and the soft ground on one side couldn’t properly support the weight. Nowadays the construction is stabilized from the inside. It has approximately 300 steps.
How to visit it? You need to buy a ticket, there are several types, we bought one that includes the tower and il Duomo (there are four tourist attractions on the Duomo square – the cathedral, the tower, the baptistery and the cementery).
The price back then was 18 euros (pretty expensive for what it offers in my opinion). As there are thousands of tourists willing to visit it, your turn might be in several hours, we had to come back in 3 hours in order to enter. You can’t go inside wearing a bag, so before entering you have to pass by the wardrobe in order to leave your stuff. Then you queue again, you go inside and you have around 30 minutes to stay. First there is a guide who provides a short presentation and then you can climb the stairs. The view from the top is beautiful indeed, but not as special as expected.
I guess that for me the best thing about the leaning tower is the amount
of ridiculously looking tourists who try to support the tower creating optical
illusions. It is hilarious!
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Il Duomo di Pisa)
The cathedral is located at Piazza dei Miracoli. It is an impressive building with a long history, you can read more about it here. From the inside is also pretty interesting, it is rich decorated and very spacious.
The second oldest building at Piazza dei Miracoli
after the cathedral. The baptistery is the largest one in Italy. It is again a
marble construction and its architecture shows the transition from Romanesque
to Gothic style. The building stands on the same unstable sand which is the
reason for its leaning towards the cathedral.
The Campo Santo, also known as Camposanto Monumentale (“monumental
cemetery”) or Camposanto
Vecchio (“old cemetery”), is a historical edifice at the
northern edge of the Cathedral Square. “Campo Santo” can be
literally translated as “holy field”, because it is said to have been
built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa
from the Third Crusade by Ubaldo Lanfranchi, archbishop of
Pisa in the 12th century. A legend claims that bodies buried in that
ground will rot in just 24 hours.
Santa Maria della Spina
A small gothic church located next to the river. To
be honest, I find its location pretty unexpected. In my experience the churches
are normally located between buildings or at a specific square. This church
stands between the river and the road.
Palazzo dei Cavalieri
Also known as Palazzo de la Carovana is a palace at
Knight’s square. The façade is characterized by a complex scheme with sgraffiti representing allegorical figures and zodiacal signs.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
A nice square located close to the train station. You
can find good coffee places and bars. Very nearby is located the famous Tuttomondo
mural. You can take Corso Italia street towards the river. The street is one of
the most popular shopping streets in Pisa.
Walk along the River Arno
The walk along the river is quite romantic at night.
The colorful houses on both sides of the river create good scene for
Ponte di Mezzo
A bridge over Arno river. In the past Pisa had only
one wooden bridge, but at some point it was destroyed and moved a bit east
where today Ponte di Mezzo is standing. The bridge connects Piazza XX
Septiembre and Piazza Garibaldi. Corso Italia ends at Piazza XX Septiembre and
the other main shopping street starts from Piazza Garibaldi, so basically the
bridge connects these two streets.
with the more elegant and larger Borgo Largo, the street known simply as
“Borgo” is the main commercial artery of the city, lined with shops,
restaurants and bars. Borgo Stretto is one of the busiest streets of Pisa,
narrow and enriched with arcades and buildings mostly built in the 14th and
In my opinion the best experience in Italy is to
wander around the narrow streets. It is so romantic and fulfilling! The ancient
spirit of the country is deeply soaked in every corner of the town. Just take
your time, find a tiny traditional coffee place, sit outside, order Espresso
and brioche and simply admire. Go to a pizzeria, taste the best Margherita, order
il vino della casa and enjoy the life as an Italian.
The Cinque Terre , meaning “Five
Lands” is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in
the region Liguria, in the northwest of Italy, to the west of the city
of La Spezia, and comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola,
and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding
hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is
a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Over the centuries, people have carefully built terraces on
the steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Paths, trains
and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach them from the outside.
If you have a day only, my recommendation is to pick two
or maximum three but not all 5 of them. Our initial plan was to visit Manarola
and Vernazza, but the day was extremely rainy and we ended up visiting Manarola
and Riomaggiore as they are the closest ones to Pisa.
How to get there?
Coming from Pisa you can take the train to La Spezia and
then to change to a train with direction Genoa. The villages are located more
or less 5-10 minutes by train one from another. There are also walking trails
connecting them, but when we were there some of the trails were closed because
I cannot describe the view with words, it is just so
magical and unbelievably beautiful! All those colorful houses spread all over
the hills, the steep rocks, the angry waves hitting the coast and this endless
We stopped at Manarola first. As it was heavily raining we
had to sit in couple of restaurants in order to wait for the rain to stop. So I
could say that they have good dining places there. The city is the second
smallest from the five. There are many vineyards spread around the hills.
Tourist attractions in the region
include a famous walking trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore (called Via dell’Amore, “Love’s
Trail”) and hiking trails in the hills and vineyards above the town.
Unfortunately we spent most of our Cinque
terre day hiding from the rain and we had limited time to see Riomaggiore. It
is the closest one to Pisa and definitely bigger than Manarola. Riomaggiore’s
main street is Via Colombo, where numerous restaurants, bars, and shops can be
found. Apart from the beautiful colorful houses and cobbled streets,
Riomaggiore has an old castle and a small ancient church. As the castle is
situated pretty high the view that it reveals is absolutely spectacular.
If you go to Cinque terre make sure you
arrive early in the morning. It is a very popular tourist destination and it
gets extremely crowded. Walk around, enjoy the views, take some pictures, every
shot is a postcard, even during rainy weather!
On our way back we made a quick stop at
La Spezia. We were there for no more than 30 minutes but it definitely looks
like a town worth visiting.
So, this is it, my Pisa and Cinque terre
adventure finished. I will make sure to write a post about Florence soon.
If you are interested in other Italian destinations you can also read my articles about Puglia and Rome.