Pisa is often seen as a quick stop on the way between towns with more to see. I’m looking at you Florence! A joy to wander in the early morning, consider breaking up your Italy travel time with an overnight in Pisa.
My previous two hour stopover experience
On a previous trip to Pisa, I, along with the rest of the tourist hoards, made a very rushed walk from the the train station to the Piazza Dei Miracoli (the Field of Miracles). Arriving around midday, the tower, church and baptistry were very crowded, with the grass area full of people in very awkward looking poses trying to get the perfect shot of them trying to push over / hold up / kick the leaning tower. Unsurprisingly, this short (circa two hours total) stay didn’t leave me with the best impression of Pisa. On a second trip, I decided to do things a little differently and I’m glad I did.
Using Pisa as a strategic stopover
Travelling from Cinque Terre to Florence, I broke up the trip by staying the night in a cheap and not all that cheery (but very close to the train station and cheap) B&B called BBC Christian Bed & Breakfast. Arriving around 10pm, this allowed for a full day in Cinque Terre while getting a head start on the trip to Florence. With our ultimate destination Venice, this allowed us to arrive in the canal city by midday.
Taking a more relaxed approach this time, and using Rick Steves’ podcast, we were able to learn more about Pisa. His walk covers the area to and from the Field of Miracles, and includes the city’s rich history as a maritime superpower and its long standing status as a university town. It doesn’t take long to see that there’s much more to the city than the tower. You could easily spend a half day to a full day in this city and then some.
Seeing the Field of Miracles without the crowds
Our quick-stop approach gave us the opportunity to see the tower with only a handful of other people around, allowing for photos without a couple hundred strangers lurking in the background.
After our short look around the Field of Miracles, we started back for the hotel to pick up our bags, catching the 9:30am train to Venezia via Firenze.
Our 10 day trip to Italy included: two days in Rome, an overnight in Orvieto, two days driving around the Val d’Orcia based in Montepulciano, two days in Chianti based outside of Greve in Chianti, 3 days and 2 nights in Cinque Terre, a stopover in Pisa and two days and nights in Venice.
We visted Pisa in mid-September 2015.