Pisa, facts and travel tips
Pisa is a city with an aristocratic air and rich in charm, which thanks to its proximity to the sea emits a particular light. Without a doubt, its most famous attraction is the leaning tower, yet beyond Piazza dei Miracoli, the city reserves incredible surprises.
Pisa is so ancient that it doesn't have a birth date, but it has been connected to water since its origins. It was founded in one of the great inlets of the Arno River, but it was mainly the sea that marked its destiny, and over the centuries it became a great Maritime Republic and an invincible naval power. The Pisans were so rich and ingenious that they took the most beautiful things from the Mediterranean, and the city became a fundamental capital for culture and gave birth to illustrious personalities of every era such as Galileo or the famous mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci.
Today, the nightlife is boosted by a centuries-old elite university, shopping opportunities range from flea markets to fashionable boutiques while city streets and piazzas are lined with fine examples of medieval, Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
Pisa travel tips
What are the best things to do in Pisa?
Pisa came to importance under the Romans and went on to flourish as a commercial port for many centuries. By the 10th-century it had become an independent and formidable maritime state and a significant rival to Venice and Genoa.
Two centuries later, Pisa controlled the Tuscan coast, Sardinia, and Corsica while its intrepid sailors brought back spices and exotic goods along with new ideas and inventions. The city's surviving Romanesque architecture stems from this period of glory with much of the sculptural work crafted by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, a talented father-and-son team.
The medieval heart of Pisa can be discovered north of the river and is an enchanting maze of lanes and alleys. These stretch from the bars and ice-cream parlors of the Piazza Cairoli to the daily market that overflows from the Piazza delle Vettovaglie.
Pisa fell to Florence and the Medicis in the early 15th-century when the period of Renaissance building began and the university was revitalized. It was here that Pisa's most famous son, Galileo Galilei became a professor of astronomy.
Piazza dei Miracoli is a central tourist hub and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Not only is it home to the Leaning Tower of Pisa but also to the city's Duomo, Baptistry, and Campanile as well as the Ospedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito.
Once away from this bustling piazza, visitors can enjoy the colorful palaces and aristocratic homes that line the south bank of the River Arno or step into the Corso Italia for a spot of high-end shopping. Art lovers can indulge themselves in the Museo delle Sinopie or the Museo di San Matteo.
If lucky enough to be spending a few days in Pisa, visitors should save their tour of the Piazza dei Miracoli and the Leaning Tower until later in the day. The crowds have gone, the queues have disappeared, and during the late opening periods of the summer months, night adds a special enchantment to the white stone monuments.
For al fresco summer evenings, join the locals in the Piazza delle Vettovaglie or the Piazza Dante Alighieri where they will be enjoying the subtle flavors of local Pisan wines such as a Chianti delle Colline or a Bianco Pisano di San Torpe.
What is the best time of year to visit Pisa?
Several annual festivals and celebrations are held in June, so it is advisable to make travel arrangements and book accommodation well in advance.
The Luminara Festival takes place on June 16th. After sunset, the city lights are dimmed along the river bank, and over 10,000 candles are lit. Celebrations end with a big fireworks display.
The Regata of San Ranieri takes place on June 17th which is the Festival of San Ranieri, the city's patron saint.
The last Sunday in June sees the Game of Bridge. This has its roots deep in history and involves two determined teams trying to take control of the Arno's main bridge, the Ponte di Mezzo. Beginning with a colorful parade of locals dressed in 16th-century Spanish costumes, the battle continues through the night.
It is also worth visiting Pisa in December to take advantage of the Christmas market held in the city center while in May a Flower Festival takes place at Le Piagge.
What is the weather and climate like in Pisa?
With its subtropical Mediterranean climate, visiting Pisa is pleasant at any time of the year. Winter temperatures generally remain well above freezing while during spring and autumn they hover in the late teens.
The hottest months are July and August when temperatures can peak at 29.5°C (85.1°F). Although rainfall is heaviest in the autumn, showers are likely all year round.