PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
Everyone knows about Pisa’s Leaning Tower and magnificent baroque basilica, but look behind these brochure cover stars and you’ll find an array of modem museums, picturesque piazzas and exceptional restaurants vying for your attention. Of course, the city’s wonky bell tower is its main draw and is entirely deserving of its worldwide fame. Taking a novelty photo in front of the tower is great fun – book ahead if you want to climb to the top to avoid the queues. The entire area, known as the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and packs plenty of appeal. Along with the tower, you can visit landmarks including the 11th-century marble-clad duomo and the remarkable baptistery, believed to be the largest in Italy.
Wander just a few streets away and you’ll discover a much more typical Pisan scene; locals milling about beneath rustic townhouses, and bustling cafes nestled in peaceful squares. Piazza de Cavalieri and Piazza Dante are two such examples of the authentic Pisa that many miss. Pisa’s botanical gardens are also worth a visit, and feature numerous rare plants set in surprisingly tranquil surroundings, especially considering their location is just a 10-minute stroll from the city’s famous Leaning Tower.
First things first – join the throngs heading for the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This tipsy bell tower charms millions of visitors a year. Just remember to explore the surrounding square, Piazza dei Miracoli, too. A full circuit ticks off the domed Pisa Cathedral, 12th-century Pisa Baptistery of St. John, and cloisters and graveyard of Camposanto Monumentale.
From Piazza dei Miracoli, you can wander south-east to Pisa’s second great square – Knights’ Square. Salute the statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici, AKA the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, and duck into the 16th-century Palazzo della Carovana to get your fill of fine art pieces.
The top sights in the south half of Pisa line up along the River Arno. Stroll along the south bank, and you’ll bump into the Cittadella Nuova (a park with a pop-up cinema in the summer), San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno (a towering Tuscan-Romanesque church) and Palazzo Blu (a restored art gallery).