If you think about Pisa the first thing that will probably cross your mind is the Leaning Tower, that’s the reason why this city is famous world wide. I’ve been asked so many times if there was anything else around the city and my answer as always been “of course there is”. Most people come to Pisa just for a half day, maybe an organized tour from Florence or en route from one city to another and they just see Piazza dei Miracoli with the leaning tower. But if you take the time to walk through the center, you will soon discover that Pisa is in fact much more than its world-famous bell tower. So.. let’s see where to go after Piazza dei Miracoli.
PIAZZA DEI CAVALIERI
Piazza dei Cavalieri, long time ago known as Piazza delle Sette Strade (Square of the seven streets), is the second largest square in the city with many historical buildings that hosted the political powers of the city in the middle ages and Renaissance, but most of them are not accessible to tourists, as they are now property of the University of Pisa or Scuola Normale Superiore (a prestigious elitary school).The Italian name of the piazza translates to “Knights’ Square.” By day this is a simple square but at night it transforms completely: people join together here with guitars, bongo drums and beers. There is always music and people dancing and is probably the best place where to meet some locals.
PIAZZA SANTA CATERINA
The real name is Piazza Martiri della Libertà, but commonly is called Piazza Santa Caterina, from the name of the church. Surrounded by tall trees, there are lots of cool shaded areas as well as a number of benches where you can sit and take a breather.
PIAZZA DELLE VETTOVAGLIE
Piazza delle Vettovaglie has been the thriving heart of the city since the Middle Ages. Once called Piazza dei Porci (Pigs’ square, as it was home to the meat market), it is a porticoed square, home to a lively daily market. Thanks to the inexpensive restaurants and bars serving quick meals and excellent aperitivs the square gets really busy from dinner time to late.
Giardino Scotto is a fortess converted to a public park, har a big playground for kids with colorful flower-beds, tall trees and some cool grassy areas. During the summer movie nights and concerts are often held here.
THE LUNGARNI (river sides)
The wall along the river, which is known by the locals as the “spallette” (little shoulders), is the perfect spot for a nice walk. At night it gets quite crowded; many students sit on the river side having a chat and a drink, just enjoying the view of the river Arno. Along the sides you can find some really nice restaurants and bars, totally worth a visit.
BORGO LARGO, BORGO STRETTO AND CORSO ITALIA
If you’ve come to Pisa to shop, those streets are the place to be. Divided by the river by the Ponte di Mezzo (half bridge) this is the place were locals go for shopping, you’ll find everything you need here, from small local boutiques to the biggest brands.
Located on the river Arno, the Piagge is a hot spot for locals to jog and walk their dogs. Walking along this park you’ll find the lesser known leaning tower of Pisa, the bell of the church of San Michele degli Scalzi that hangs towards the Arno river. Walking to the end of the Piagge you’ll find an outdoor gym, a funfail for kids and a really good pastry shop.
CHIESA DELLA SPINA
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina is a small 13th century Gothic gem that was home of a reliquary said to hold a thorn from Jesus’ crown. It is so small it was moved from the river Arno, in 1800, to a place some meters above, one stone at time, to protect it from flooding. Now it sits alongside of the river Arno. You can visit the Church of Santa Maria della Spina as part of some Pisa tours, as it’s usually closed to the public.
La Cittadella, that sits on Pisa’s riverbank, is a fortress built to guard the access by the river Arno and the shipyard in the middle age, when the sea was closer to the city. The building has been used over the years for storage and by the military, but now the area is a pubblic park. The view from the top of the tower makes it worth a stop.
Just a few steps from the train station there is a large mural by Keith Haring: Tuttomondo (maening “all the world”) is one of the few works by the American artist that you can find in Italy. Painted in 1989 with the help of some students, it is a veritable explosion of vitality and colour, that represents peace and harmony in the world. It’s the last public painting he did before he died of AIDS in 1990. Keith Haring visited Pisa and fell in love with the town, so he decided to paint this amazing mural as a gift ti Pisa. Though extremely large, it is easy to miss it so look out for it.
SAN ROSSORE PARK
A short distance from the city lies a natural paradise, which includes the impressive stables of the Savoy family, and extends as far as the sea, amid vast meadows, oak forests, landscapes, lakes, pine trees, reeds and dunes. A variety of habitats worth exploring on horseback or in a carriage: experience the thrill of spotting a deer or a wild boar.
Just a short bus ride from the city center there is Pisa harbour, with more than 300 boats, a nice restaurant in the center, is the perfect spot for a nice walk on a sunny day.
LET’S GO TO THE BEACH
In a hot day why not go to Marina di Pisa to enjoy the sun, the beach and cool your self down with a nice swim!?
If those places are not enough for you then just get lost in the tiny streets, you might find some new and exciting places.
All photos from Instagramers Pisa