The Leaning Tower of Pisa at the side of the Cathedral of Pisa with a blue green sky behind

Is Pisa Worth Visiting? 13 Reasons to Visit Pisa in 2024

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the icons of Europe. This famous tower is what draws most people to the town of Pisa, Italy. Many tour groups pull up to the tower, take a few photos, and move on. So is Pisa worth visiting if you don’t really care about the tower?

We visited Pisa while spending a month in Florence during our Family Gap Year (what is a Family Gap Year?) when our kids were 5 and 7. We spent around six weeks in Italy and debated about whether to include Pisa in our itinerary. Spoiler alert- we’re glad we did!

In this post, we’ll cover why we think Pisa is worth visiting, some of the top things to do in Pisa, and what to expect from this top destination in Italy.

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Is Pisa Worth Visiting?

Yes, Pisa is worth visiting! The Tower of Pisa gets most of the attention, and if that is your only reason for going to Pisa, your trip might fall a little flat. But if you explore beyond the famous tower, you are sure to be rewarded. Pisa is a beautiful little city and makes a great day trip from Florence.

Here are our top reasons that Pisa is worth a visit, our favorite things to do in Pisa, as well as a few things that we don’t love about Pisa!

First view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa as seen through the Gate of the complex.
First Views of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Consider a Guided Tour

Many people visit on a day trip- you may find that you get more information and enjoy your day more if you choose a guided tour. With a tour, you’ll get a local guide who will help you understand the history and the culture around you. You won’t have to worry about the logistics of moving around, planning out your time, or missing something!

Option 1: Guided Tour of Pisa Tower and Piazza dei Miracoli

This is a small group tour for up to 15 guests. The tour includes interior access to the Cathedral and the Baptistery and a skip-the-line pass to the Tower with a licensed guide who will tell you all about the history of the Piazza dei Miracoli and all the buildings therein.

This is a very popular tour, with 4 1/2 Stars and over 300 reviews.

Book Now: Tour of Pisa Tower, Cathedral & Baptistery


Option 2: 2 Hour Small Group Walking Tour of Pisa

This walking tour of Pisa starts outside the Pisa Centrale Train Station and will wind you through the city as it covers its history, culture, and famous landmarks, ending at the Piazza dei Miracoli.

You will be given headsets so you can clearly hear your guide as you walk, given in high season the streets can be quite crowded. The tour has over a hundred 5-star reviews and accommodates a maximum of 15 guests.

Book Now: Pisa Walking Tour – Off The Beaten Path


11 Reasons to Visit Pisa, Italy

Here are the top things to do in Pisa and the reasons that we think Pisa is worth visiting.

1. The Famous Tower of Pisa

The Tower of Pisa is the star of the town, and it is a beautiful building that stands at a strange and seemingly precarious angle. Most people come to take funny selfies of the tower, and walking through the piazza when it is full of people doing so can be a laugh.

Leaning tower of Pisa on a bright day with crowds at the base.

The climb up the tower includes a tight, winding staircase of 251 steps. It generally takes about half an hour to climb and explore the tower, though some people do find the angle and the tight quarters make them a bit dizzy. From the top, you’ll have 360-degree views of the city of Pisa and the mountains beyond, as well as the complex below you, including the baptistery and the cathedral. You will need a paid ticket to climb the tower- it is best to book in advance during high season.

You must be turning 8 in the year of your visit to be allowed to climb the tower. Both our girls were too young to climb, so we settled with viewing the tower from the ground and checking out the rest of the Piazza dei Miracoli complex.

2. Piazza dei Miracoli and the Cattedrale di Pisa

The Piazza Dei Miracoli or the Piazza del Duomo, sometimes called “the Square of Miracles” is the open square around the Tower and the entire complex that includes the Tower, the Cathedral, museums, and other buildings around the Tower of Pisa. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cattedrale di Pisa is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture and was constructed from 1063 to 1092. This is rather impressive considering the buildings around it took hundreds of years to complete. It can get quite crowded in the high season. The Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII is buried here.

Interior of the Cathedral of Pisa showing the main alter, gold mosaics and striped pillars.

The Cattedrale di Pisa is free, but you do need to get a pass to enter. If you purchase a ticket for any of the other sites, you will get a pass for the cathedral. We purchased tickets for the baptistry and visited there first, and then made our way to the cathedral.

If you wish to view the Tower of Pisa from the ground and visit the cathedral, you do not need to pay. There are a limited number of free passes to visit the Cathedral that are available at the main ticket office.

Please Note: There is a dress code to enter the Cathedral. Shorts and tank tops are not allowed on men or women. All shoulders and legs must be covered, so bring a scarf if it’s a hot day.

3. The Rest of the Pisa Complex

Besides the Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral, inside the Pisa complex, you’ll also find the Baptistery, the Camposanto, the Sinopie Museum, and the Opera del Duomo Museum.

When you start to factor in these places, you suddenly have a much longer day here than just looking at the leaning tower and snapping a goofy photo.

Exterior of the Piazza del Duomo that includes the Baptristry and the Cathedral
The round Baptistry next to the Cathedral in Pisa

The Baptistery

Designed by Diotisalvi, the construction of the Baptistery of St. John began in 1152 to replace an older baptistery and was completed in 1363. It is the largest baptistery in Italy and is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles. Built with the same Carrara marble as the cathedral, and aligned on its axis to the west of the cathedral, the Baptistery is connected with a stone walkway.

Within the Baptistery you will find 12 columns, representing the 12 apostles and a hexagonal marble pulpit with columns that are supported by animals, carved by Nicola Pisano. Galileo, among other famous people, was baptized here.

We visited the baptistery while waiting for the Cathedral to open. It’s a beautiful space and doesn’t take long to explore, so don’t skip it!

Camposanto

Camposanto, meaning “old cemetery” is created by the long northern wall of arches. The walls are covered with frescos, many centered around the theme of death. The interior is rumored to have been filled with a shipload of soil brought back from Jerusalem during the Crusades.

Building began in 1277, inside are all the people who were once buried around the Cathedral. Many nobles are buried here, as well as professors from the University of Pisa, including Fibonacci. Many chose to be buried in Roman sarcophagi.

The Camposanto was damaged during WWII. After being hit with artillery, a fire burned which caused some of the lead in the roof to drip down onto the frescos and damage them. However, during the long restoration process, drawings were found underneath which are now in the Sinopie Museum.

Sinopie Museum

“Sinopie” is the term for the initial drawing made on the plaster before painting a fresco. Since few drawings or sketches on paper or parchment from the Middle Ages are rare, these drawings are precious.

After the frescos were damaged, they were removed from Camposanto for restoration, revealing the drawings beneath. The layer containing the drawings was then removed separately, and housed in this museum. This is the most extensive collection of these drawings from the 14th and 15th Century that is known to exist.

Opera del Duomo Museum

Opened in 1986, this museum houses a varied collection from scale models of the tower and baptistery to the original doors of the Cathedral, to sculptural busts that once decorated the niches of the Baptistry.

You’ll also get to look at artifacts removed from the tomb of Henry VII of Luxembourg who died in 1313. In 2014 researchers opened the tomb of this King and Holy Roman Emporar which resides in the Pisa Cathedral. They removed a crown, scepter, and an orb as well as a 10-foot-long piece of silk cloth.

Tickets

To visit any one of these locations on Square of Miracles you will need a ticket, which can be bought on site. Buying ahead is recommended for timed tickets to climb the Tower of Pisa.

Individual tickets are 7€ per adult and children 11 and under are free with an adult. However, if you plan to see more than one of these, you can purchase a Complete Pass for 10€ per person or a Complete Pass + Tower for 27€ per person.

4. Location on the Arno River

Situated on either side of the Arno River, Pisa is a great city to walk around or explore by bicycle. There are roads and sidewalks on both sides of the river and several bridges that connect the city and its colorful buildings.

Wide view of the Arno River with colorful houses around it in Pisa Italy

Walk along Lungarni di Pisa, a beautiful promenade, and you will find many historical sites including the Torre Guelfa and the Museo delle Navi Antiche di Pisa, the Porta a Mare / Porta della Degazia, the tiny Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina, as well as the National Museum of San Matteo, Museo della Grafica Palazzo Lanfranchi, and a lovely park, the Giardino Scotto.

5. Borgo Stretto and Corso Italia

Once you have visited the Tower, take a walk through town on the Borgo Stretto and Corso Italia. Here you will find lovely shops for fashion and souvenirs, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars. This is also a wonderful area to take in the people and culture of Pisa.

At the southeast corner of the Piazza del Duomo, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Borgo Stretto. Head South on Via Santa Maria. Turn left on Via dei Mille and pass through the Piazza dei Cavalieri. Here you’ll find a statue of Cosimo I de Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Continue on Via Ulisse Dini until it ends on Borgo Stretto.

Stroll south along the Borgo Stretto and you will come to Piazza Garibaldi and the beautiful Ponte di Mezzo which crosses the Arno River.

On the south side, you will see Logge dei Banchi, which hosts a weekend market, and if you continue from the left side, you will be on Corso Italia, which will lead you through the city center and back to Pisa Central.

6. Stroll with Gelato

One of the best ways to explore Pisa is to stroll around the city with a gelato in your hand. Perhaps the most famous shop for gelato is the Gelateria De’ Coltelli, just west of the Ponte di Mezzo on the north side.

We always look for gelaterias that store the gelato in stainless steel canisters and where you cannot see the gelato. This keeps the gelato at a more consistent cold temperature, rather than the large flashy displays, where it can get too soft. Other places to try in Pisa include Gelateria Artigianale Rufus, Manzi Il Gelato Pisa, and La Bottega del Gelato.

7. Birthplace of Galileo

Galileo Galilei was born on 15 February 1564, in Pisa, which at the time was a Duchy of Florence. You can visit the location where he was born, which is marked with a plaque on the wall of the building at Via Giuseppe Giusti, 24.

This is a great reason to visit with the kids and talk all about Galileo! Considered the “Father of Modern Science” he was the first to observe mountains on the moon and the rings of Saturn. He studied gravity, free fall, speed, and velocity.

Galileo also was the first (European during the Italian Renaissance period) to observe that the Earth rotates around the sun, an idea at odds with the Catholic Church at the time. He was tried during the Inquisition and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Interior of the Baptistry in Pisa

Galileo was baptized in the Baptistery at the Cathedral of Pisa and attended the University of Pisa, where his father hoped he would study medicine and have a lucrative profession. However, Galileo quickly found far greater interest in mathematics and science. He became a teacher, but throughout his life, he struggled to make ends meet and often looked to his inventions as a way to make money on the side.

Galileo is buried at Santa Croce Basilica in Florence, so if you are visiting Pisa from Florence, make sure to visit Galileo’s tomb. You’ll also find the tomb of Michelangelo here.

Tomb of Galileo, Santa Croce, Florence

There is a complete museum dedicated to Galileo in Florence called the Museo Galilo, which has some of his original scientific instruments as well as an interactive space for kids. This is one of the family-friendly things we recommend doing when visiting Florence.

If you’ll be in Rome, we’ve included St. Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica in our suggested itinerary. This is the church where Galileo was tried.

End your lesson about Galileo with a piece of street art. Completed in November of 2023, “Galileo Galilei” is painted by Brazilian street artist Kobra, and shows the famous scientist using the Tower of Pisa as a telescope. You’ll find it on Via Silvio Pellico, not far from the Keith Haring mural (see below for details).

8. The Tiny Church

Initially built in 1230, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina was originally called the Santa Maria di Pontenovo, owing to its proximity to the bridge that connected Via Sant’Antonio to Via Santa Maria, but later collapsed in the 15th century. The name Spina comes from the fact that it is supposed to possess a thorn that came from the crown of thorns worn by Christ at his crucifixion.

This fascinating little church has gone through many renovations and full-on reconstruction as it was disassembled, moved, and reassembled to its current location due to conditions of the Arno River problems with flooding and erosion.

The church of Santa Maria della Spina, like the other oratories dedicated to bridges, is looked after by the Municipality, and now is often used to host contemporary art exhibitions. Admission is free.

9. One Way Path through Town

Whether it is a hike, a walk, or a road trip, we tend to like routes that are not just there and back loops, but get us from one point to another. The two train stations in Pisa allow you to get off at one station, walk around town, and end up at the other station, without backtracking.

From Florence, take the train to Pisa S. Rossore. This is not the first stop in Pisa, but the train ride is only a few minutes longer and you will be a quick quiet 8-min. walk to the west entrance of the Piazza del Duomo and the Leaning Tower. If you get off at Pisa Centrale, you will have a half-hour walk through town to get to the Piazza.

This is a great way to get to the Tower early and beat much of the crowds. After viewing the Tower, and all the other sites you wish, you can slowly make your way through town, stopping for food, shopping, and of course, at least one gelato!

The route will also take you past several museums, the University of Pisa, as well as Keith Haring’s mural Tuttomondo, and Galileo Galilei, a new mural by the Brazilian street artist Kobra. End your walk at Pisa Centrale and board the train back to Florence. We also enjoyed this walk as it was in many ways, chronological, starting with the old and ending with the new!

10. Keith Haring’s Tuttomondo Mural

Our family loves it when we can mix up traditional art, museums, and history with more contemporary influences. Just minutes from the Pisa Centrale train station you can find one of Pisa’s hidden gems, Keith Haring’s wall mural whose theme is harmony and peace in the world, Tuttomondo (All the World).

Keith Haring's Mural Tuttomondo in Pisa Italy showing the full mural and the side of the building and bell tower it is painted on.

Painted on the side of the rectory of the Church of Sant’Antonio Abate, the 1989 work covers the entire building wall. Haring researched the area and chose muted colors he felt represented Tuscany. The piece is a monumental expression of color and interconnectivity with 30 figures represented.

You’ll find Tuttomondo just off the Corso Italia on Piazzetta Keith Haring. Don’t confuse it with the “Keith Haring House” which is a guest house nearby.  

For more art around Pisa, check out the rotating exhibits at Palazzo Blu Art Gallery, and the Museo della Grafica, one of the museums of the University of Pisa.

11. A Flat, Bikeable City

Pisa, situated along the Arno River, is a flat and very bikeable city. You can rent a bike from a rental shop or find bike share stations throughout the city where you can get a bike for an hour or more.

Consider taking a bike tour of Pisa. This one gets 5-star reviews and will take about three hours. You do not need to be a professional cyclist, nor do you need to show up in spandex. This is just a great way to see more of Pisa than you can by simply walking around in half a day and still leaves you plenty of time to explore on your own when you are done.

Book Now: Pisa Half Day Bike Tour

12. Delicious Pastry

Pisa is known for a special handmade pastry called Torta Co’ Bischeri, which is also called “pilgrim cake”. It was first created to serve pilgrims arriving for the feast of the SS Crucifix of Miracles.

It looks a bit like a lattice pie with strips of dough baked across the top. The torta has a pastry crust filled with nuts, rice, dark chocolate, fruit, and pine nuts. The production of this treat is now strictly regulated- for example, the pine nuts used must be from local sources.

You’ll find bakeries all around town selling this pastry, we recommend trying it at Pasticceria Da Tripoli on via Guglielmo Oberdan.

3 Hour Pisa Food Tour

Interested in learning more about delicious Italian specialties from Tuscany? This food tour of Pisa takes you on a walking tour through the city where you’ll make five different stops to taste local dishes. From red wine to Tuscan soup to beans and sausage, you’ll be introduced to iconic Tuscan dishes while learning more about Pisa. This is small group tour with no more than 12 travelers.

Book Now: Food Tour of Pisa


13. Prestigious College Town

Pisa is the home of the University of Pisa, one of the oldest and most famous schools in the world for math and science with teachers like Leonardo Fibonacci and Galileo Galilae (though Galileo could not make enough money there to support his family and ended up taking a teaching job in Padua where he made three times as much).

Decorative wall of the Palazzo della Carovano that houses the Scuola Normale Superiore in the Piazza dei Cavalieri in Pisa Italy
Palazzo Dei Cavalieri in Pisa

You’ll often find students hanging out at Palazzo Dei Cavalieri, (Knight’s Square), a picturesque square that is home to a second university, the small Scuola Normale Superiore which was founded by Napolean.

Things We Don’t Love about Pisa

There are a few things we don’t love about Pisa, that had us second guessing whether Pisa is worth a visit. Here are a few of the downsides to this city.

The Crowds

During the summer months, long lines of tour buses clog up Pisa as it seems every tourist wants to snap a photo of the Tower of Pisa before moving to the next stop in Tuscany.

However, most of these tourists will not stray far from the Piazza Dei Miracoli, and you can easily move away from them as you wander through town. Plan to arrive early and visit the Tower early in the morning, before the coaches arrive. You can then take your time at the other sites around the plaza.

The Tower of Pisa opens at 9 most of the year but shifts to an 8:30 opening from mid-June to August.

Tower Age Restrictions

To visit the Tower of Pisa you will need a timed ticket. Individual tickets are for a specific time and cost 20€ per person. There are no reduced-price tickets. Visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and children must be turning 8 by the end of the visiting year to be able to enter the tower for safety reasons.

You will be welcomed by staff and given a brief history of the tower. The visit takes about half an hour and to reach the top you will climb 251 steps. Handbags, packs, and luggage must be left in the cloakroom and picked up afterward.

You can purchase tickets online or in person at the ticket office located across from the Cathedral in the Infopoint Turistico Pisa Turismo – Duomo. Look for the arched doorway below the large clock on the building.

Please Note: During high season it is best to purchase tickets in advance as times to climb the tower can sell out.

Base of the Tower of Pisa with people milling around it.

When is the Best Time to Visit Pisa?

The best time to visit Pisa is in the shoulder seasons when the crowds are fewer and the weather is more temperate. April through June and September through October are best.

Summer is high season, as well as the hottest time of year. In October and November, you will start to see more rainy days and the winter can be quite damp.

We visited Pisa in late September and had a day of mixed sun and rain showers. We had to duck into a cafe for espresso and treats while the thunderheads passed, but still had a lovely time!

How Many Days Should I Spend in Pisa?

You can easily see most of the attractions in Pisa in a day, and it is an easy day trip from Florence.

If you can spend the night and then take the train to your next destination you’ll feel less rushed than if you try to visit in less than a full day.

Is Pisa Good for Families?

Pisa is very good for families! Besides seeing an iconic symbol of Italy, kids love taking silly photos in front of the tower. See what poses you can come up with- classic poses include “holding up” the tower, “pinching the tower” between two fingers and so many more!

Pisa also has lots of great opportunities to learn about Galileo and physics! Discuss the famous experiment where Galileo dropped two balls off the top of the tower (or did he?).

Kids will also love wandering through the streets and along the river while enjoying some of Italy’s famous gelato.

Where to Stay in Pisa

If you’ll be spending the night in Pisa, here are some suggestions for where to stay. You’ll want to be an easy walk from the Piazza dei Miracoli and the major train stations.

Relais Sassetti Maisonette

Located on Via San Francisco, a few blocks from Borgo Stretto in a lovely historic Palazzo, Relais Sassetti offers lovely suites and a secluded inner courtyard for relaxing or BBQing. This site is great for couples or families and gets exceptional reviews.

Book Now: Relais Sassetti Maisonette


Rinascimento Bed & Breakfast

This charming Bed and Breakfast gets fantastic reviews and is in the heart of Pisa. Just off the Borgo Stretto and a 10-minute walk from the Piazza dei Duomo Pisa. Great for couples, this site is an easy walk to museums, restaurants, and shops.

Book Now: Rinascimento Bed & Breakfast


FAQ: Visiting Pisa

Why does the Tower of Pisa Lean?

As far back as the late 1170s, people noticed that the Tower of Pisa was leaning, before it was even completed. The cause of the leaning is due to the uneven settling of the soft ground around the foundation of the structure.

Is the Leaning Tower of Pisa going to Fall?

By 1990, the Tower of Pisa had a 5.5-degree lean due to uneven settling of the foundation in the soft ground around it. Since that time there has been extensive remedial work, and by 2001 the tilt had been reduced to just under 4 degrees. So, no, it is not going to fall anytime soon!

Is Pisa Expensive?

Pisa, like many popular European cities, can be quite expensive if you add up the costs of transportation, tickets, food, and lodging. Everything is always more expensive around the more touristy areas. Seeing and walking around the Tower of Pisa is free, as is visiting the Cathedral. Taking public transportation and eating outside of the touristy areas are great ways to see Pisa on a budget.

What is the Weather Like in Pisa?

Pisa has a Mediterranean climate, with mild lows and rainy winters, and hot, sunny summers. Pisa is located just 6 miles (10 km) from the coast, west of Florence and can get fog from the coast in the winter, also enjoys breeses off the water in summer.

Winters in Pisa are mild and lows get down to 38°F (around 4°C) and highs around 55°F (13°C).

Summers are hot, with highs around 88°F (30°C) and lows around 65°F (18°C) with breezes coming off the water in the evenings and only rare thunderstorms.
Autumn and Spring are mixed with milder days and cooler nights, but November tends to be the wettest month.

Is the Leaning Tower of Pisa one of the Seven Wonders of the World?

No, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not one of the Seven Wonders World, which were originally the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as it was built between 1173 and 1372. It also did not make the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World, which was voted on back in 2007, out of more than a million votes from all over the world, but the Roman Colosseum in Rome did make the list.

There You Have It: Is Pisa Worth Visiting

Yes, Pisa is worth visiting! Pisa is a vibrant little city that has a lot to offer beyond its famed Leaning Tower. Its history, culture, art, and food, all within an easily walkable area make it a great place to visit or to see as a day trip from Florence. We had such fun day here, we think you will too!

If you’re planning a visit from Florence, check out our favorite day trips from Florence, and all our favorite places to eat on a budget in Florence.

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