Out of Cornwall

Italy Adventures: Exploring Pisa

The food, the wine, the art & culture – so many rich images come to mind when thinking of Italy. With the country having so many famous cities and regions, each with unique places of interest, it can be tricky to decide where to visit first: perhaps Rome to see the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain; maybe Venice to traverse the narrow waterways on a gondola; or Naples, the birthplace of pizza and just around the corner from Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. There is almost too much to choose from…

My husband, Sal, and I are lucky to have Italian family who live in the Piedmont region (North West) of Italy. We have, thanks to Covid, not been able to visit for several years, with our intentions never making it past the planning stages. We had also hoped to do an Italian roadtrip for our honeymoon as there is so much of the country we would love to experience together, but with Covid still hanging around last year, we settled on a UK-based honeymoon instead. Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely, but I longed for sunset walks along picturesque rivers, art galleries and gelato.

This year, things came together; we spent an entire weekend planning, confirmed our annual leave and booked our flights. We decided to spend a few days sightseeing AND a few days visiting and catching up with family: the perfect mix of tourist and local. Considering public transport connections and proximity to Piedmont, we decided to visit Pisa and Florence.

We had the most incredible time and cannot recommend these cities enough. To the point that this blog post had to be split into two parts! Read on to delve into photos, hotel and restaurant details and insights from our time in Pisa. Keep your eyes peeled for the Florence review coming soon – make sure you don’t miss it by signing up for email alerts for my blog!

Our time in Pisa

We flew into Pisa from Bristol (a quick 2-hour flight) and spent a full 2 days exploring. The city centre is easily walkable from the airport, which we chose to do over catching a taxi on account of enjoying the early morning sunshine (we landed at 10am), exploring the city and saving a few Euro (later spent on gelato – a far superior choice in my opinion). It took approximately 45 minutes to walk from the airport to our hotel where the reception staff kindly stored our luggage (we were way too early to check in), allowing us to go out and explore baggage-free.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Duomo, which is a 2-minute walk from the Piazza dei Miracoli, most known for the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The hotel is located on a main street with tons of restaurants, shops, and cafes; we couldn’t have found a better location. The hotel itself was great value for money: large, clean room; quiet, despite its central location; and a great breakfast. The main selling point for us, however, was the rooftop terrace with sights over the Piazza and the Pisan skyline. We treated ourselves to an aperitivo and dinner here on our first evening and even managed to catch the sunset which was incredibly romantic. Although the view sells itself, the food and service couldn’t be faulted and really completed the whole evening. It was a real treat.

Our first day was spent wandering all over the city, exploring little side streets and stopping for a coffee every now and again to indulge in some people watching. We found a great little place, A Tutta Pizza 11, which served pizza by the slice, as well as the local speciality “Cecina” which is a flatbread made of chickpea flour, served hot like pizza but topped only with salt and pepper. It was so delicious that it was eaten before we got any photos – the true sign of a great snack! In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we returned the following day for another slice!

The main attraction for the city is, of course, the Piazza dei Miracoli. Seeing the Leaning Tower for the first time was indescribable. In fact, each time we saw it, we were awestruck. It is so elegant, and the detail of the marble work is breath-taking. The piazza itself contains several other historical buildings which you can tour. We purchased tickets on Headout for the following day which gave us access to all but one of the museums and historical landmarks within the piazza. It was such a convenient way of seeing all the sights – Headout email across your ticket which has a barcode to be scanned at the entrance to each building. The only thing to bear in mind, which we didn’t realise at the start, is that you only get one entrance to each building so you can’t go back in after you leave as the barcode as already been redeemed!

We began our second day by climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower – until this trip, I had no idea that this was even something you can do! It was bizarre to walk up stairs sloping at funny angles and peak out of the windows to see the world on a slant. The view from the top was incredible and I highly recommend braving it. I won’t lie – it was nerve-wracking once we reached the top viewing platform as the slope of the floor is unsettling, the marble underfoot is so smooth and there is only a metal cage stopping you from falling off (I’m sure the metal cage is more than sufficient but it doesn’t look the sturdiest).

Once back on the ground, we spent the day exploring all the incredible buildings in the piazza, including the Baptistry, Cathedral and various museums. Each was vastly different from the last and impressive in their own way. We took our time, admiring the ornate decorations and reading about displayed artwork and the history of the city.

With so much sightseeing, we walked up quite an appetite and were very ready for dinner (and a sit down!) by the time the evening came. The main streets are taken up by lots of restaurants with outdoor seating so there were plenty of places to choose from. We particularly liked the look of Ristoro Pecorino and were not disappointed. We shared a great antipasti platter which included bruschetta with different toppings (the classic tomato, black olive pâté and raw sausage to name a few), a selection of local cheeses and cured hams, along with a glass of Chianti. It was wonderful to take our time, soaking up the atmosphere which comes with outdoor dining on a busy pedestrian street.

Pisa had a very laid-back feeling to it. We spent most of our time in the streets nearest to the Piazza dei Miracoli which felt very safe and, although busy with tourists, did not feel too commercialised. Our 2 days in Pisa were certainly well-filled, but we didn’t feel rushed – it was enough time to do all the sightseeing we wanted. Having said this, the feeling of the city was so lovely and genuine that we would happily have spent more time here if we could, to take in the atmosphere and explore the less central areas that we didn’t get around to.

I highly recommend putting Pisa on your Italy travel list. It’s perfect for a long weekend as flights from the UK are quick and convenient, whether you’re travelling as a couple or a group of friends.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of our time in Pisa. If you’ve been before and have any further recommendations for other readers, feel free to leave a comment below! And keep your eyes peeled for Florence content coming soon.

All photos taken are our own

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