Pisa Attractions: Explore Beyond The Leaning Tower

While the city’s leaning tower is also its most recognizable icon, the best Pisa attractions go far beyond the manicured lawns of Piazza del Duomo.

It’s rather unfortunate that the majority of tourists visit the Tuscan city on group tours for just a few hours. They take out their cameras, snap a few photos of Pisa’s famous tower, baptistery and cathedral, and then off they go to Siena!

The best Pisa attractions can be found painted on a vintage street map.
The best Pisa attractions can be found painted on a vintage street map.

Best Pisa Attractions

We suggest taking your time to explore Pisa’s best attractions. You can easily see the Tuscan city on foot in one or two days.

We explored the best Pisa attractions with City Grand Tour, led by local English speaking guide Chiara Celli. The local tour company in Pisa is passionate about showcasing a side of the city that many day trippers miss out on.

On a leisurely weekend getaway you’ll have the opportunity to explore off-the-radar Pisa attractions. Our favourite highlights include Tuttomondo by Keith Haring, a hidden food market at Piazza Sant’Omobono, the birthplace of Galileo Galilei and the city’s ancient botanical gardens.

Pisa Attractions: Enjoy a fine dining Tuscan feast at La Pergoletta Restaurant.
Pisa Attractions: Enjoy a fine dining Tuscan feast at La Pergoletta Restaurant.

La Pergoletta Restaurant

Via delle Belle Torri, 39-050-542458

Consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in Pisa, La Pergoletta offers some of the city’s most beautifully presented Tuscan dishes. Pisa’s most romantic restaurant is located in an alleyway, a few steps from the Lungarno and the famous Teatro Verdi.

La Pergoletta has been feeding local families in Pisa for over fifty years. Skip inside the dining room any night of the week and you’ll find a mix of hungry families and crooning couples on holiday. La Pergoletta’s main dining room is a magical space, decorated in colourful paintings and lush greenery from the trees that spread out like open arms across the ceiling.

Highlights from La Pergoletta’s menu include L’Oscani charcuterie platter with savoury doughnuts, ravioli with zucchini flowers and pici with ragu and black truffle.

La Pergoletta Restaurant is open for lunch from 12:30pm and dinner from 7pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

The Tuttomondo graffiti mural by Keith Haring is one of the most popular contemporary Pisa attractions.
The Tuttomondo graffiti mural by Keith Haring is one of the most popular contemporary Pisa attractions.

Tuttomondo by Keith Haring

Pisa offers much more than just ancient attractions. The city also has a vibrant, contemporary vibe. It’s considered one of the best destinations in Italy for graffiti and street art fans.

Pisa’s most famous mural is a multi-coloured masterpiece called Tuttomondo by American artist Keith Haring. It’s the last public work painted by the celebrated artist. Sadly, Tuttomondo was created during the famous gay artists most challenging time. A few months after its completion he died from AIDS.

Created in 1989, Tuttomondo is Keith Haring’s dedication to world peace. The theme, peace and harmony in the world, can be read through the links and divisions between the thirty figures which, like a puzzle, occupy 180 square metres of the south wall of the church of St. Anthony.

Each of Haring’s lively figures represents a different aspect of peace in the world: the “human” scissors are the image of solidarity between Man in defeating the serpent (symbol of evil), which is already eating the head of the figure next to it; the woman with a baby in her arms represents maternity, and the two men supporting the dolphin refer to Man’s relationship with nature.

Dolce Pendente is a sweet pastry only available in Pisa. The dessert pays homage to the city's iconic leaning tower.
Dolce Pendente is a sweet pastry only available in Pisa. The dessert pays homage to the city’s iconic leaning tower.

Keith Art Shop Cafe

Via Riccardo Zandonai, 39-050-503135

We suggest visiting Keith Haring’s Tuttomondo in the early morning. You can enjoy a lengthy gaze at Pisa’s famous mural while sitting directly across from the artwork at Keith Art Shop Cafe.

The speciality coffee shop serves high quality espresso, freshly baked pastries as well as a selection of savoury entrees such as risotto, ravioli and spaghetti.

Pisa isn’t particularly famous for its pastries, but if there is one dessert you must try it’s the Dolce Pendente. A local pastry chef created the dessert in homage to the city’s iconic leaning tower.

Dolece Pedente features tasty puff pastry rolled up on a base of short crust. A liquid layer of dark chocolate holds the leaning tower to its base while soft custard fills the pastry from top to bottom.

Pisa’s favourite pastry can be ordered at Keith Art Shop Cafe in three flavours:

  • Toscano: chocolate from Azienda Amedei, pine nuts from Azienda Grassini, candied fruit, rice and raisins.
  • Campano: cream, ricotta cheese from Azienda Busti, semolina and citrus fruits.
  • Italiano: classic custard with milk, cream, egg yolk and vanilla.
Humorous artwork by local graffiti artist Exit Enter.
Humorous artwork by local graffiti artist Exit Enter.

Graffiti by Exit Enter

If you take the time to explore Pisa closely you’ll likely notice playful graffiti street art throughout the city. The works are authored by Exit Enter, a Florentine street artist who specializes in imagery featuring stylized little men, balloons, hearts, ladders and hand-held figures.

Born in 1990, Exit Enter was born in Tuscany and devoted himself to drawing even as a child. In 2009 he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and afterwards devoted his skills to street art.

In 2013 he created his signature character, “the little man,” and began to draw it on the streets of Florence and nearby Pisa. The artist’s characters always feature stylized men with a playful character that delicately performs actions; they fly off attached balloons, try and reach for a beating heart and worship flowers. At the heart of Exit Enter’s work is a playfulness that evoke’s our dreams and fears.

In the work pictured above, Exit Enter brilliantly captures the local sentiment for tourists in Pisa. The city’s famous leaning tower takes a gavel to an unsuspecting camera!

Canottaggio and Luminara Festivals take place at Ponte di Mezzo and are one of Pisa's most popular annual attractions.
Canottaggio Regatta and Luminara Festivals take place at Ponte di Mezzo and are one of Pisa’s most popular annual attractions.

Ponte di Mezzo

No trip to Pisa is complete without a stroll across Ponte di Mezzo. The famous bridge straddles the Arno River in Pisa, connecting Piazza Garibaldi with Piazza XX Settembre.

From the second half of the 17th-century Pisa’s bridge was the seat of the homonymous game. The two districts of Pisa, Mezzogiorno and Tramontana, competed for the conquest of the bridge by pushing a wagon to the opposite side.

Today, Ponte di Mezzo is a landmark for many of Pisa’s top annual festivals and celebrations, which take place in June. On the last Saturday of June, a historical reenactment takes place on the bridge, known as Gioco del Ponte (Battle of the Bridge). On June 17th boat lovers flock to Ponte di Mezzo for the annual Canottaggio Regatta, a canoeing competition which takes place on the Arno River.

The most dazzling of Pisa’s festivals, Luminara, happens each year on June 16. It takes place on the evening of the Patron Saint’s Feast Day. The tradition of lighting the city with candles dates back to 1688. Over 70,000 candles flicker at night along the river, with the festival finishing at 11pm with a fireworks display at Cittadella Vecchia.

Local gelato lovers line up at De'Coltelli in Pisa.
Local gelato lovers line up at De’Coltelli in Pisa.

Gelateria De’ Coltelli Pisa

Lungarno Antonio Pacinotti, 39-345-481-1903

If you’re a gelato fan visiting Pisa be sure to join the locals in line at Gelateria De’Coltelli. The multi-award winning gelateria is considered the best place to cool off on a hot summer day in Pisa. It’s even been ranked as one of the 100 best ice cream parlours in all of Italy!

Opened in 2004 by Gianfrancesco Cutelli, Gelateria De’Coltelli Pisa is famous for producing seasonal, artisanal, organic and 100% natural gelato. Cutelli explains, “We have the reputation for having strange tastes, but as you see we have 25 ice cream flavours and 5 granita. We have many classic recipes but also more curious combinations.”

Stare up at Gelateria De’ Coltelli’s gelato menu and you’ll find quirky flavours such as prickly pear cactus, bitter almond and ricotta with candied orange peel.

Cinema Lumiere is a popular concert venue.
Cinema Lumiere is a popular concert venue.

Cinema Lumiere

Vicolo del Tidi, 39-389-622-5612

Lumiere has its roots in Italian cinema, officially born in December 1905 as “the place” in Pisa to watch spellbinding moving pictures. Sitting perched over the banks of the Arno, the posh palace from the 1200s was originally owned by an ancient noble Pisan family.

Today, Cinema Lumiere has been transformed into Pisa’s best live music venue and cocktail bar. It hosts dozens of concerts throughout the year, showcasing the best Italian and international artists. The venue is elegant and spacious, welcoming thousands of dance fans each week who come to Pisa to party.

Celebrated bartender Mauro Picchi has crafted a cocktail list featuring classics such as Negroni and Gin & Tonic, but revisited their recipes to include local products from Tuscany. Wag your finger down the drink menu and you’ll find local Tuscan beverage producers such as Liquori Taccola, Levante Spirits, Podere Santa Bianca and China Clementi.

Sample what's fresh on the farm at Piazza Sant'Omobono Market.
Sample what’s fresh on the farm at Piazza Sant’Omobono Market.

Piazza Sant’Omobono Market

Culinary tourists visiting Pisa should skip over to Piazza Sant’Ombono to see what’s fresh at local farms. The food market at Piazza Sant’Omobono fills up on weekends with locals who come here to shop for groceries.

During our visit in May, Piazza Sant’Omobono’s food market was filled with prickly artichokes, delicate zucchini flowers, snappy asparagus and juicy strawberries.

If you’re looking for a cheap lunch in Pisa, visit the market at Piazza Sant’Omobono and pick up fresh cheese, bread and fruit for an impromptu picnic. There are plenty of bakeries and gourmet food shops in the area, making it one of the most affordable meals Pisa has to offer.

History buffs can visit the birthplace of Galileo Galilei.
History buffs can visit the birthplace of Galileo Galilei.

Galileo Galilei’s Birthplace

Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa on February 15, 1564. The famous Italian is known for playing a major role in the Scientific Revolution.

Gailileo’s achievements include telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, discovery of the four largest satellites of Jupiter, and the observation of sunspots. The Italian scientist is perhaps best known for his controversial thesis on heliocentrism.

Today, visitors can stand in Galileo’s first home in Pisa, at Via Giuseppe Giusti. The facade of the building features a historic plaque and if you look up into the windows you can spot a black and white portrait of Gailieo Galilei enshrined in stained glass.

Pisa's prettiest square is Piazza dei Cavalieri.
Pisa’s prettiest square is Piazza dei Cavalieri.

Piazza dei Cavalieri

Known to locals as “The Knights Square,” Piazza dei Cavalieri used to be the political centre of Pisa.

After playing home to an ancient Roman Forum, the public space was transformed into the centre of the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano. The jaw-dropping piazza was built under the order of Cosimo I de’Medici to defend the Tuscan and Mediterranean coast from Turkish fleets and pirates.

The centrepiece of the piazza is a statue of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, sculpted by Francavilla in 1596. Directly behind him is Palazzo della Carovana by Giorgio Vasari. The palace is currently home to the esteemed Scuola Normale Superiore, commissioned by Napoleon to be based on the model of the Ecole in Paris.

To the left you’ll find Palazzo dell’Orologio, rebuilt on the foundations of two historic towers courtesy of the Della Gherardesca family. The building was used as a hospice and prison for the Order and is famous for being the place where Count Ugolino and his family were held prisoner and died.

The botanical gardens is one of the oldest of Pisa's attractions.
The botanical gardens is one of the oldest of Pisa’s attractions.

Pisa Botanical Gardens

Via Luca Ghini, 39-050-221-1310

The oldest garden in Italy, the Pisa Botanical Gardens, was first built in 1543 by naturalist Luca Ghini. It also proudly claims the title of “the world’s first university botanical garden.”

In 1591, it was moved to its current location in the heart of Pisa’s historic centre, between Piazza dei Cavalieri and Piazza dei Miracoli.

Pisa’s famous gardens extend across three hectares and are home to plants from all over the world. Horticulture nerds will love exploring the gardens medicinal plants, aquatic flowers, desert cacti and majestic magnolia and gingko, planted at the end of the 1700s.

Pisa Botanical Gardens also includes a museum, which began as the Gallery of Natural History in 1591. Founded by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando I de’Medici, it was a sacred place to collect “works of nature.” Today, visitors can admire 17th-century portraits of famous botanists, a collection of botany teaching tools, and the Herbarium, which comprises over 300,000 samples.

The rooftop at Grand Hotel Duomo Pisa offers the best views of Piazza del Duomo.
The rooftop at Grand Hotel Duomo Pisa offers the best views of Piazza del Duomo.

Grand Hotel Duomo Pisa

94 Via santa Maria, 39-050-561894

If you plan to extend your stay in Pisa beyond a day tour (and we certainly suggest you do) look no further than the Grand Hotel Duomo Pisa. Built in 1959, Pisa’s best boutique hotel features 91 rooms just 50 metres from the city’s iconic leaning tower.

While the hotel’s prime location is it’s biggest draw for those on a weekend getaway, our favourite space inside requires an elevator to the 5th floor. Once the doors pop open your jaw will drop! The hotel’s chic terrace offers the best panoramic view of the Leaning Tower Pisa and Piazza del Duomo.

We suggest visiting the Grand Hotel Duomo Pisa’s rooftop terrace just before sunset. Order a Negroni or Aperol Spritz while watching the romantic hues of red, orange and pink splash across the city’s iconic skyline.

The Leaning Tower is the most photographed Pisa attraction.
The Leaning Tower is the most photographed Pisa attraction.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Piazza del Duomo, 39-050-835011

Of all the Pisa attractions, the city’s iconic leaning tower will certainly take your breath away. Considered one of the world’s most famous architectural structures, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been delighting visitors for centuries.

Construction on Pisa’s famous leaning tower began in 1173 and finished in 1399. The Leaning Tower of Pisa stands at 60 metres and until 1990 was leaning at a 10 degree angle. Located in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), the leaning tower is joined by other popular Pisa attractions such as the camposanto, baptistery and cathedral.

So why does Pisa’s famous tower lean? The city got its name in 600 BC from a Greek word meaning “marshy land.” There are several other towers in Pisa that lean, such as the bell tower at St. Michele dei Scalzi and St. Nicola. The nearby cathedral and baptistery are also apparently sinking!

The Leaning Tower of Pisa offers a humorous warning to architects: don’t construct a landmark building over a marsh. Or perhaps don’t take our advice, as Pisa’s top attraction would certainly not have all the global fanfare if it was standing up straight!

The Camposanto is a popular attraction in Pisa for art lovers as it contains ancient religious murals.
The Camposanto is a popular attraction in Pisa for art lovers as it contains ancient religious murals.

Camposanto Monumentale Pisa

Located a short walk from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Camposanto Monumentale is the city’s Old Cemetery.

“Campo Santo” is translated directly as “holy field,” because it is said to have been built around a shipload of soil from Golgotha, brought back from the Third Crusade by Archbishop Ubaldo Lanfranchi in the 12th-century. A local legend claims that bodies buried in the ground here rot in just 24 hours!

Pisa’s Campo Santo originally contained a massive collection of Roman sarcophagi. Today, there are only 84 left together with a collection of Etruscan and Roman sculptures and urns.

Art lovers visiting Pisa will enjoy marvelling up at Campo Santo’s famous frescoes, first applied to the walls in 1360. The haunting images feature scenes from the Crucifixion, Last Judgement, Hell and The Triumph of Death.

Pisa Attractions: Time your visit to the Baptistery so you can enjoy a short operatic performance.
Pisa Attractions: Time your visit to the Baptistery so you can enjoy a short operatic performance.

Baptistery of San Giovanni

After visiting the Campo Santo, walk across the Piazza dei Miracoli lawn and enter the ornate Pisa Baptistery.

Constructed between 1152-1363 in the Romanesque and Gothic style, the Baptistery of San Giovanni was designed by Diotisalvi. It is the largest baptistery in Italy, standing at 55 metres and with a circumference of over 100 metres.

The marble pulpit is the artistic highlight of Pisa’s Baptistery. Nicola Pisano used a drill to give depth to his figures, and the famous scene of the nativity depicts Mary in different stages, from the annunciation to Jesus’s first bath.

Pisa Baptistery is famous for its acoustics, so be sure to organize your visit on the half hour. Every 30 minutes one of the guards harks a few notes upwards toward the dome to showcase how sound so perfectly resonates throughout the space.

Be sure to look up while walking through the Pisa Cathedral.
Be sure to look up while walking through the Pisa Cathedral.

Pisa Cathedral

Your last stop at Piazza dei Miracoli is the awe-inspiring Pisa Cathedral, located directly across from the Baptistery. One of the most visited Pisa attractions, the city’s Duomo is a medieval cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It’s a notable example of Romanesque architecture, originally built in 1063.

Also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, highlights include an elaborate white marble edifice, and Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit inside.

The mummified body of San Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa, is kept in the chapel to the left of the main altar. He was a Pisan merchant, and after a life of travels, left everything behind and spent years in the Holy Land, dedicated to prayers and performing miracles. His relics were moved to the Cathedral in 1688, and a big celebration that involved thousands of candles was organized for the occasion.

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3 Comments

  1. That’s great! We believe that Pisa is more than only the leaning tower! Next time we will be pleased to show you our town and its beauty … by bike!
    Have great time!
    Smiling rgds,
    Elena Mancuso
    Smile & Ride
    bike rental in Pisa

  2. You are really able to catch the beauty of the real things and have a good eye for details!
    You missed a masterpiece! It’s not your fault; it wasn’t jet exposed… the “leaning tower made of alabaster”. It will soon be presented at the Museo dell’Opera Primaziale del Duomo.
    so… you have to come back!

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