Beyond the Tower – Best Things to do in Pisa

You might be tempted when visiting Italy to pose for the traditional hand-on-leaning-tower picture. However, a quirky photo next to the famous tower isn’t the only thing to do in Pisa.

This is a city seeped in history. From its cobbled streets and historic churches to bridges across the Arno and medieval palaces, Tuscan culture and architecture can be found around every corner in one of central Italy’s most picturesque destinations.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best attractions, so you can embark on your adventure as soon as you arrive in Pisa.

Ponte di Mezzo

56125, Pisa PI

Locally dubbed the Ponte Conte Ugolino, this romantic bridge over the Arno River connects Piazza Garibaldi in the northern part of the city to Piazza XX Settembre in Mezzogiorno. Until the 12th century, this was the only bridge connecting the two banks of the Arno and has been restored several times over the past 900 years.

Make sure you take plenty of pictures here, especially when it starts getting dark and the lights are reflected on the surface of the water, creating a captivating ambiance. You can leave your car at the CRI & ALE free parking, which is a short walk from the historic centre.

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Piazza dei Cavalieri

Piazza dei Cavalieri

P.za dei Cavalieri, 56126, Pisa PI

Located in the city centre, Piazza dei Cavalieri, or ‘Knights’ Square’, is Pisa’s secondary main square and has been the political heart of Pisa for centuries. Once the seat of the Roman Forum, the square’s historical significance comes from its ancient representation of civil power. It was also once the home of the Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen in the 16th century.

It was also once the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen in the 16th century. Stop for a cappuccino at one of the open-air cafes to admire the stunning architecture, including the impressive Scuola Normale Superiore University building, sitting at the northeast side of the square.

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Pisa Baptistery

Piazza del Duomo, 23, 56126, Pisa PI

Standing proudly at nearly 55 metres in Piazza dei Miracoli – ‘Square of Miracles’ – with a circumference exceeding 100 meters, the Pisa Baptistery is the largest such establishment in Italy. Its design combines Pisan Romanesque and Gothic styles, with its interior features and decorative arches inspired by oriental architecture.

Although almost invisible to the naked eye, the Baptistery actually tilts 0.6 degrees towards the cathedral, much like the famous tower. It’s the perfect place to reflect on the history of Pisa as a powerful Maritime Republic. Climb to the upper level for an extraordinary view of the Piazza dei Miracoli and the Pisan landscape.

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Campo Santo

Piazza del Duomo, 17, 56126, Pisa PI

Also known as Camposanto Monumentale, Campo Santo sits at the northern edge of the Piazza dei Miracoli. It’s one of the best things to do in Pisa if you’re looking for a moment away from the crowds.

Campo Santo literally translates to ‘holy field’ as it is said to have been constructed on sacred soil shipped from Calvary near Jerusalem during the Crusades. This cemetery was originally meant to be a church, but its purpose changed during construction.

Campo Santo is also home to salvaged frescoes, including Inferno and Triumph of Death. You can also observe Buonamico Buffalmacco’s Hell illustrations, a disturbing but intriguing 14th century piece of artwork.

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Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

Piazza del Duomo, 56126, Pisa PI

Nestled between the Pisa Baptistery and Leaning Tower, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is an architectural masterpiece and embodiment of the past wealth of the Maritime Republic of Pisa. A medieval Roman Catholic cathedral, it was architecturally inspired by classical, Lombard-Emilian, Byzantine and Islamic styles.

Spend some time touring this magnificent structure and admire the fascinating interior, which contains a dome that has a stunning fresco depicting the Assumption of Mary. This artistic masterpiece in its own right is also accompanied by 27 paintings, from 16th and 17th-century Tuscan creators, which back the main altar of the church.

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Museo Nazionale di San Matteo

Piazza San Matteo In Soarta, 1, 56127, Pisa PI

Sitting on the Arno's northern waterfront, the National Museum of San Matteo is one of the most important art museums in Pisa. It’s home to fascinating collections, dating back to the early Medieval period and the 16th century, including the works of famous composers, such as Giunta Pisano, Simone Martini, and Donatello.

Sculptures, antique paintings, ceramics and several other historical masterpieces can be found within the walls of this famed establishment. Visiting this landmark is a must for history buffs and art enthusiasts visiting Pisa, providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to masterpieces by eternalised names.

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Santa Maria della Spina

Santa Maria della Spina

Lungarno Gambacorti, 56125, Pisa PI

This small yet-charming 13th century church rests on the left bank of the River Arno, opposite the National Museum of Pisa. It’s one of the most remarkable Gothic structures in Europe, with an exterior adorned with cusps, tympani, and tabernacles – it’s interior is more understated, a single room with white and green walls and rose windows.

Santa Maria della Spina is home to several Gothic sculpture masterpieces, most notably the Madonna of the Rose by Andrea and Nino Pisano. It once housed a thorn from the crown of thorns, placed on Christ during his Passion and Crucifixion, though this relic is no longer housed there.

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Borgo Stretto

Borgo Stretto, Pisa

Featuring quaint shops and cosy cafes, Borgo Stretto is a Gothic-looking arcade shopping street in Pisa, bustling with life and attracting both tourists and locals. The colourful houses that line the street were once owned by rich merchants. If you’re looking for things to do in Pisa other than the iconic tower, try exploring the quaint area and enjoying the atmosphere.

Once there, don’t miss the Narrow Street, which is easily accessed and lined with bookshops and souvenir stores. At the end of the Narrow Street, you’ll find yourself in an open-air market that sells fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and Italian delicacies.

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Palazzo Blu

Lungarno Gambacorti, 9, 56125, Pisa PI

This eye-catching building is located on the southern bank of River Arno in the heart of the historic centre of Pisa. Palazzo Blu, also known as the ‘Blue Palace’, hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural activities in addition to its permanent collection. It contains renaissance masterpieces by Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, among other historically renowned artists, such as Salvador Dalì, Amedeo Modigliani, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

The building’s striking blue exterior means it’s easily stumbled upon on the banks of the Arno. It also has a café and bookshop if you wish to spend the afternoon browsing and sipping macchiato.

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Reserve your hire car with Hertz and explore the historic wonders of Pisa at your own pace and convenience.