I’m so excited to debut a new blog series all about the Italian city that is near and dear to my heart, Pisa. I’ve been trying to write a post about Pisa since I started this blog, but I always get overwhelmed by how much amazing stuff there is around Pisa and how to put it all together. I finally realized a series of related posts solves that problem. I’m active in a few travel communities online and always feel a pang in my heart and get quite defensive when I see people say that Pisa is a “snap and go” city: take a picture of the Leaning Tower and move on. There’s nothing wrong with taking an hour or two as you pass through Pisa to stop and take a photo of the Leaning Tower, that’s fine. I realize time is limited on vacations and you may just want to take that photo and go. But to declare that this is the only thing a trip to Pisa is good for is just plain wrong.
We live in a little town at the base of the nearby Montepisano mountains just 4 miles from Pisa’s city center. Though we adore the country life, Pisa has quickly become one of my favorite places to spend time in Italy and truly feels like home. Pisa is where my husband works, my daughter went to daycare, where I go shopping, get my haircut, and is always a favorite date night destination.
Pisa is authentic. Outside the views of the Leaning Tower, Pisa isn’t there for tourists. It's a real functioning city meant for its residents, students, expats, and travelers. I see travelers as people who want to explore and see Italy for what it is, not just for a photo opportunity and a check of a box. Travelers aren’t afraid to walk away from the comfortable radius of a train station, cruise port, or tourist attraction and see what else a city has to offer. I think Pisa offers plenty. From awesome street art, amazing restaurants, local breweries, a museum that doesn’t just have Renaissance art, a botanical garden, and one of our favorite playgrounds too.
Central Pisa isn’t big. You can walk from the train station on the south side of town through city center to the Leaning Tower, on the north eastern most side of town in about 20 minutes. Pisa is not a hilltown and I consider it to be pretty stroller friendly as far as Italian towns go. There is a main pedestrian street that goes from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele just north of the train station all the way across town, and you can reach the Leaning tower on foot without much traffic to dodge with little ones. The small size of Pisa also means you can easily explore the other parts of city center, apart from the Leaning Tower, and not need to spend days here to do so (unlike nearby Florence). If you have a car there are some really cool places to visit just 15 minutes away, such as an awesome natural history museum in Calci down the road from a super family friendly winery (Fattoria San Vito, featured in my post here ), an awesome walking trail along an aqueduct built 500 years ago, and even a hot spring spa in San Giuliano Terme for those who want some pampering. There are a handful of beaches close by as well. On a time crunch I think one overnight in Pisa would be enough to enjoy a lot of the city, relax a bit with the kids, and try a few places to eat.
If you want a place to be your Tuscany travel hub, staying in or near Pisa would put you about an hour from Florence to the east, less than an hour to Bolgheri (see why I love this area here ) to the south, 15 minutes to the closest beach, 30 minutes to Lucca, and about an hour to La Spezia, the major city near the Cinque Terre. Expand that radius to 2 hours and now you’ve got a LOT of options, including both Siena and Bologna. Pisa is also a Ryanair hub and you can often get good priced plane tickets to other areas of Europe from Pisa’s airport.
This Pisa blog series will include future posts about my favorite Pisan establishments, my tips and tricks for a great visit to the iconic Leaning Tower (and how to do it with little kids!), some of my favorite walks around the city, and more. Andiamo!