Europe,  Italy,  Travels

Pisa and Cinque terre, Italy – what to visit

Il Duomo di Pisa

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.

What you need to know before going to Pisa and Toscana in general:
  • Pisa is a really small city, you can visit pretty much everything for a day.
  • You 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).
  • Italians 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.
  • Start your walk early in the morning in order to avoid all the queues.
  • Some of the best wines in the world come from Toscana so you must try at least several!
  • If 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.
  • The accommodation offers in Cinque terre are expensive and overpriced so better not to spend the night there.
Manarola, Cinque terre



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.

Piazza dei Miracolo

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:
  • The leaning tower of Pisa
The 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.

The leaning tower

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.

View from the top

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!

On the top of the leaning tower of Pisa
  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Il Duomo di Pisa)
Il Duomo

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 cathedral
  •  The baptistery

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 baptistery
  •        Campo Santo

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.

Santa Maria della Spina
  •         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.

Palazzo dei Cavalieri
  •         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.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
  •         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 photography lovers.

  •        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.

Ponte di Mezzo
  •        Borgo Stretto
Borgo Stretto

Together 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 15th century.

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.

Cinque terre

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 of mudslides.


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 horizon… Fairytale.


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.

Ciao ragazzi!

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