Pisa Chapter 3: Greater Pisa

Centro Pisa has plenty to offer on it’s own, but if you are sticking around for an extra day or even making Pisa your “home base” for a while, there’s plenty to do in the immediate area around Pisa as well. This list is in no way comprehensive as we are still finding new things that interest us, but I did list a few of our family’s favorites.

Walk the Aqueduct between Pisa and Asciano

We love to take a short drive to the aqueduct and take a walk. Surrounded by farmland, it’s an easy trek and a distinct break from the busy city, a perfect way to get some fresh country air. It’s popular for locals to use for leisure walks as well as for runners. From Pisa, the aqueduct can be found at Parco Don Bosco and extends all the way to the town of Asciano. You can also drive along Via Dei Condotti toward Asciano and find a few areas to turn off the road and park along the aqueduct.

The walking path along Via Condotti, towards Asciano

The walking path along Via Condotti, towards Asciano

Bagni di Pisa Spa

I can’t mention the aqueduct and the Montepisano mountains without mentioning the thermal spa. The Bagni di Pisa was the former residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and is now a posh hotel and spa. The spa is open for non-hotel guests and is a lovely way to feel quite pampered, lounging in the thermal pools enjoying the history and feeling like royalty. I’ve personally never done any of the add-ons but they offer a variety of options like massages and mud masks, plus some treatments I’ve never even heard of before. I personally like to do the light lunch option, where you sit with your fluffy spa robe in a gorgeous salon eating a fancy sandwich and feeling like a queen. I have seen kids here and they do promote kids on their Instagram, but it’s a spa, not a swimming pool, so if you do bring kids expect that they know the difference and can behave appropriately.

Certosa in Calci

Continuing along the Montepisano, a bit east of the thermal spa and aqueduct is the town of Calci, where you will find the Certosa of Calci, an impressive and grand baroque building standing between a lush country landscape. A carthusian monastery, the Certosa is now home to the Natural History Museum where you and your kids can enjoy seeing wonderful displays of animals, whale bones, an aquarium, and even some dinosaur bones, all surrounded by a building that is as much history as the artifacts found within. The museum itself is a hit for our kids but it is not very stroller friendly, though they try very hard to be kid friendly with large clean restrooms with changing tables and plenty of kid items in the gift shop.

I suggest pairing a visit to the Certosa with a visit to the nearby winery Fattoria San Vito for a tour of a family run winery using all natural methods to grow grapes and olive oil. (read more about wineries with kids and Fattoria San Vito here ). This area of the Montepisano was in jeopardy this past year due to devastating wildfires that consumed the area between Calci and Vicopisano. Many olive groves and other types of trees were destroyed and the farmers will need years to recover their losses. For this reason they need tourism support more than ever.

Fascinating whale bones at the Natural History Museum in Calci

Fascinating whale bones at the Natural History Museum in Calci

Outdoor Activities

The Montepisano are is perfect for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. We’ve found a few trails thanks to suggestions from the Montepisano tour site found here (check out the Cisternone hike here. ) This tour company also has plenty of tour options, and though I’ve never used them yet and can’t offer personal experience, I thought you all might like the information. You can even go hang gliding for the fearless! For something a bit easier and kid friendly, I can tell you that there’s a fun and easy hike in the hillside of Agnano too. You can park at the start of Via Belvedere, at the 90 degree bend of Via XXV Aprile, and walk up the gentle slope surrounded by olive trees until you reach the top of a quarry, which allows for a lovely view of Pisa. We’ve taken our two kids (and even a all terrain stroller!) up this trail before. It continues further but for a family with little kids, this walk is sufficient. For older children there’s a short hike behind the town of Caprona that takes you up to the old tower which overlooks Pisa.

Another great area near Pisa for outdoor enthusiasts is San Rossore Park . I feel like my family has just touched the surface of what this park has to offer, but we enjoy nature hikes along the marked trails and seeing the wildlife. There’s also a restaurant and a little shop where you can buy local food products.

My oldest daughter quietly watching some deer at San Rossore Park

My oldest daughter quietly watching some deer at San Rossore Park

The Beach

Opposite the Montepisano hills is the obvious other major site to see in the area: the beach! There really are endless types of beach you can visit within 30-45 minutes of Pisa, from a natural beach at the Marina di Vecchiano (paid parking in high season, free beach access), to the groomed beach clubs of Tirrenia (paid access complete with lounge chairs, beach cafes, restrooms, and often playgrounds) or my favorite with little ones to avoid the large waves, the cove beaches in Marina di Pisa. If you have older kids who love getting knocked over by waves than either of the first two options might be great for you, but with small kids or babies, the beaches in Marina di Pisa have rocks that create small coves without any waves. Our favorite is La Riva, which is also a favorite restaurant in the area. Beaches usually cost about 5 Euro per person for day access, but this can be a bit more during August and on weekends. If you’re willing to drive an hour or more, then you really have any beach experience you desire at your disposal! I would warn you to stay away from the “white sand beach” of Rosignano Solvay, despite the tempting instagram photos. It’s basically a chemical bleaching from nearby factories and our family avoids it!

Nearby Towns to Explore

Another popular day trip from Pisa is to head to the nearby town of Lucca. Lucca deserves a post (or two!) of its own, so until then, I’ll just say that it’s a lovely town surrounded by a completely intact tree lined wall, large enough for biking on and has many playgrounds for young kids. Lucca has no shortage of shops, from tourist to high end clothing, but there is plenty to do there other than just shop. Lucca is wonderfully family friendly and one of the only places we’d gladly bring our stroller along. It gets very busy in the summer with tourists but I adore it in every other season, especially the fall when the leaves have fallen and crunch beneath your feet.

Another town for those interested in the less traveled places is a little village called Vicopisano. My friend Marie from Authentic Tuscany manages guest rentals in this adorable town about 25 minutes from Pisa. Vicopisano even has its own castle and no shortage of adorable side streets to explore and of course, fantastic Tuscan views. She’s also very passionate about visiting this area and is full of good advice and tips on her blog as well. We love visit small towns around Europe, especially with little kids, as I wrote about here.