Naturally when most of us hear the word Pisa, our minds immediately travel to the infamous Tower. However, despite its fame, the Tower is just one of many great attractions in the city of Pisa. In preparation of your trip, let’s take a look at some of the other "sights" around the city, where’s best to grab a bite to eat or a good drink, and what major events are visiting Pisa this year.
What else could be number one on this list? The famous torre pendente di Pisa attracts over a million visitors every single year. Thanks to a misjudgement on the part of the original architect, what would be a humble - if attractive - tower has become a global phenomenon. Despite its considerable lean at 3.99o, the tower will not fall down, save for some unpredictable disaster. It’s not as big as you might be picturing it in your head, but the view from the top on a clear day is superb.
Also known as the Pisa Cathedral, it is a piece of Romanesque art unto itself. Build in a time when Pisa was a triumphant maritime power, the cathedral embodies that strength and purpose. It has undergone various restorations and improvements, but it remains a stunning structure from any angle. The white brick is clean and bright, and though the wonky Tower of Pisa occasionally makes for an unusual background, it is a stunning place of worship.
This is a sacred place, a burial ground for many of Pisa’s most important citizens. The building is made of white marble and these walls guard the various graves. It is a beautiful and haunting area, and you can feel the weight of lives resting here. However, it is stunning to look upon, with works of Etruscan, Roman and Medieval art decorating the area and a long length of white pillars along its length.
Despite being one of the most beautiful and best curated museums in Tuscany, it gets relatively little footfall or credit. Among its collections are many priceless, masterful works from silversmiths, painters, sculptors and more. The bust of Julius Caesar is that on which many subsequent depictions of him are based. It was created around the time of his death, and is one of the most famous depictions of the famous Roman conqueror, general and politician.
The Campo dei Miracoli is the world-famous main square of Pisa, but the Piazza dei cavalieri is its lesser-known counterpart, often missed by tourists. Its buildings are simply but beautifully designed (by the famous Renaissance architect Giorgio Vasari) and are home to the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, a university founded by Napoleon which was home to Enrico Fermi, the inventor of the world’s first nuclear reactor.
The famous Pisan event, The battle on the bridge is an annual one which the local people adore! Basically it’s a walking demonstration and a competition of physical strength between two opposing "forces" on one of the city’s main bridges. Everyone dresses up in old army-style outfits to create a proper medieval atmosphere. It’s a fun and weird event, and you can’t possibly miss it if you’re in Pisa at the end of September!
The Candlelight Festival in Pisa takes place every year on June 16th. Basically candles are set and lit all over the city, illuminating the entire area in a gorgeous, romantic and almost eerie manner. At 11pm there are fireworks, and the reflective glow from the Arno river is like nothing else you’ll see all year.
Bazeel is something different to every person. In the mornings and afternoons, you can study or read there with gorgeous Italian coffee, breakfast and lunch menus and an array of snacks. In the evening there is food, wine and cocktails, before later on a DJ comes in to pump out tunes until late. It’s really cool, and you can spend literally the entire day there if you want to!
If you enjoy music (whether you play yourself or just enjoy basking in the talent of others) then Borderline might be the place for you. It doesn’t sound too local, but every Thursday they have incredible Italian (and international) musicians playing live, and rock events all weekend. The best night is arguably Monday, where they run a jam session - anyone can simply turn up and get a go on the mic, so two weeks are never the same!
Everyone knows that Italy is famed for its wines (and rightly so) but sometimes what you need is a good, cold beer. A selection of good, cold beers in fact! At Orzo Bruno there’s a super relaxed atmosphere and a range of both local brews and major imports.
You don’t always find yourself wanting to recommend somewhere called the "American Bar" in the middle of an Italian city, but the cocktails here are too good to ignore. They offer all the classics, plus a few household specials, so it’s the perfect place if you’re only feeling 1-2 quiet drinks one evening. They also serve simple food options if you’ve got a hunger on you.
Cocktail entry number two: Bar Mocambo. My favorite thing about this bar is the interior design. It’s lined with slightly skewed bookshelves, garish paint and all-round looks slightly haphazard, but enjoyably so. The cocktails are delicious and they play great jazz music - plus, there’s some free Wi-Fi if you get bored of your friends’ company!
Whenever you move to a touristy city, the first thing you try to establish is where can I escape the tourists? Here’s your answer. It’s situated just a few streets away from any major piazza and is beloved of the locals. There is plenty of variety in addition to the typically Italian spaghetti options, and the quality of food is great across the board. What to eat in Pisa? Anything from this menu.
Just like Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine, this is a local secret which isn’t shared regularly with the bands of marauding tourists who flock to the city. Serving only classic Italian recipes, the entire menu is invented by the owner, a proud local. Enjoy the best of Italian cooking out on the terrace if you’re there during the warmer months.
Numero 11 is a pretty cool idea. Basically you go in and sit yourself down, decide what you’d like to eat and go order from the chefs directly. It’s a bit over €10 per meal, so not too expensive for good food, and always has a lit atmosphere. You might be hard-pressed to find a seat at times, but there’s plenty of standing room so you can stay. The menu also caters well to vegetarians and vegans, not just meat-lovers!
First and foremost, this is a superb seafood restaurant. It’s tucked away on a cosy back street and has a truly homely, welcoming vibe. Most of the menu is fresh out the sea, though they do offer some alternatives for anyone who doesn’t love seafood. The staff are delightful, the portions are generous and the wine menu is comprehensive!
Easily the most casual place on the list, it might be the one which caters best to student needs. It’s quick, delicious and the service is polite, if a bit busy. It’s a baguette/sandwich bar, filled to bursting with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and inventive fillings. Not sure what to order? Let the man behind the counter decide - trust him, he knows exactly what he’s doing!