Pisa and Florence are both iconic, art and architecture-rich cities in Tuscany. Pisa is actually quite close to Florence and you can easily plan a Florence to Pisa day trip. Hop on a train from Florence to Pisa and you’ll be in a different world in just under an hour. There is much to see in Pisa, from historic monument buildings in the center of town to the awe-inspiring Leaning Tower of Pisa. In this post, I will share an itinerary to follow that is perfect for a day trip from Florence to Pisa and get a taste of this magnificent city.
What to See On a Day Trip From Florence to Pisa
Without meticulous planning, a day trip from Florence to Pisa may be wasted, and you’ll spend lots of time wondering what will be the best places to visit. To make your life easier, I’ve created this straightforward itinerary for the best places to visit in Pisa. It is tried and tested – I have followed it myself – as long as you book admission to the main attractions in advance and you maintain good timing.
You’ll be arriving at Pisa Central Station, and from there, the main attractions are under 10 minutes’ walking distance from each other. You can view the itinerary on Google Maps here.
Santa Maria Della Spina Church
From Pisa Central station you will arrive at your first destination in ten minutes walk. When you get to the roundabout, make sure to take the first exit onto Piazza Sant’ Antonio. From there, continue to follow Piazza Sant’ Antonio to arrive at the church.
The church was founded in 1230. The name Della Spina (‘of the thorn’) derives from the crown of thorns placed on Christ during his Passion and Crucifixion. Located on the Arno southern Riverbank, it is an extraordinary example of Pisan Gothic. Interestingly, the building was originally closer to the river bank but in 1871 it was built at a higher plane to prevent flooding.
The church was originally built as an oratory for travelers and seamen who would come here for safe refuge and prayer. The famous Pisan artist Andrea Pisano with his sons worked on the exterior, as well as the ‘Madonna of the Rose’, a Gothic sculpture. As your first site on the trip, it is a magnificent sight to behold.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
After admiring Santa Maria Della Spina, it is time for a stroll through Pisa. Heading north of the city, it is a 13-minute walk to one of the most famous and original monuments in the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The Tower was intended to be straight, but it began to lean even as it was being built, due to the weakening of the ground beneath it. The Torre di Pisa, as it is called in Italian, is leaning 3.9 degrees off the vertical is due to the floodplain not withstanding excessive weight – and it is still sinking (about 1mm a year).
The building is the bell tower of the Duomo, but it has gained its own, singular notoriety. Construction commenced in 1174 by Bonanno Pisano. It was completed by the sons of Andrea Pisano (Giovanni and Tommaso di Simone) who crowned the tower with the belfry of seven bells in the mid-14th century. The top can be reached by mounting 294 steps within a winding spiral inner staircase. The tower is cylindrical in shape, with six open galleries.
Access to the tower is limited to 45 people at a time so you have to book a time slot for your visit. A combined ticket to access the cathedral and the Leaning Tower costs €20. A ticket to climb the tower and access all other monuments in Piazza dei Miracoli costs €27. You can get yours on the official site here or via GetYourGuide here.
Make sure to also read my post How To Get Tickets To Pisa Tower.
Pisa Cathedral. It is located in the Piazza Dei Miracoli – ‘Miracles Square’ – a name given by the Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio. The Cathedral is a grandiose masterpiece of the Romanesque–Pisa style.
Construction started in 1063 by Buschetto, the first work to be undertaken in the square. Enlarged in 1118, it was the biggest Cathedral in Europe for almost a century and the prideful token of the city. The building was completed in the 14th century with the erection of the façade unchanged up to today by Rainaldo. The façade is articulated in five orders of arches, echoing Islamic architecture. The marble work is almost embroidery.
To enjoy all the majesty of the temple, it is highly recommended to visit inside. A combined ticket for the Leaning Tower and the Cathedral costs €20; if you want to visit all the sites of Piazza dei Miracoli you will have to pay €27. If you only want to visit the Cathedral and the Baptistery you’ll have to pay €7.
Make sure to also read my post A Useful Guide To Visiting Pisa Cathedral.
San Giovanni Baptistery
Further away from the Cathedral is the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the largest baptistery in the world. With stacked domes, ornate tracery, and gilded bronze of John the Baptist on top, it is one of the most unusual buildings in town, and one of the best places to visit in Pisa.
Just a few centimeters taller than the tower, the lower arcades are of Pisan-Romanesque design, with the upper sections and the other two domes being later Gothic additions. Work on the Baptistery started in 1152 by Diotisalvi who took inspiration from the Rotunda of the Holy Sepulchre and the Mosque of Omar both in Jerusalem. A century later the Baptistery was remodeled by the Pisano family.
As is with many religious buildings, the ornate exterior contrasts with the remarkable plain interior, providing the perfect backdrop for baptisms. Florence’s Galilei Galileo, who legend says made use of both the Leaning Tower and the Duomo in his investigations, was baptized here.
Before leaving the Baptistry, climb to the Upper Gallery and try out the acoustics, and make sure to snap a picture of the Leaning Tower (it is one of the best places in Pisa for this). The grand Baptistery also tilts (although not very noticeably) 0.6 degrees towards the cathedral.
Tickets for the Baptistery are included in the Duomo Complex combined ticket (€10 without the tower or €27 for all sites). Otherwise, it is €7 to visit the Cathedral and the Baptistery.
Camposanto can be translated as ‘holy field’. A legend claims that the cemetery has been built upon the soil brought from Golgotha (Cavalry) in Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified. This was brought back in the Fourth Crusade by Ubaldo de’ Lanfranchi, the archbishop of the 12th century.
It was founded in 1277 to accommodate the graves that until then were scattered all around the Cathedral. As construction took shape, the frescoes depicted Life and Death by the talented artists Francesco Traini and Bonamico Buffalmacco. Most, however, have been seriously damaged during WWII.
The cemetery is a huge, oblong structure and a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. It has been designed with 43 blind arches on the outer wall. It also belongs to one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tuscany. Including three chapels within the site, the building is now a museum, holding valuable documents of history and art.
For a complete visit to the Duomo complex, tickets on the official website cost €10. An individual ticket to the Camposanto is €7.
Palazzo della Carovana
Now that you can tick Pisa’s Duomo Complex off your bucket list, it is an easy ten-minute walk to your next destination. Palazzo Della Carovana is a three-story low-rise building, which is an interesting, quirky design choice. The façade has sgraffito with allegorical figures and zodiac signs. Built between 1562 and 1564 by Giorgio Vasari, he designed a symmetrical building, achieving an effect of evenness and harmony. He fused three arts: architecture, sculpture, and painting.
In 1810 Napoleon suppressed the order of training of the Knights of St. Stephen and gave the building to the university he founded. Lodged in Knights’ Square, it remains the Normale Superiore di Pisa. Standing before the building is a statue of Cosimo I de Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany.
The palace’s exterior is completely free to admire!
Only a four-minute walk on a fairly straight road, continue along to Borgo Stretto, a throng of lively alleyways and shopping districts. It has a hip, bohemian feel. Most of the street is lined with arcades supported by Corinthian columns.
It is one of Pisa’s most exuberant streets, and one of the most fun places to visit in Pisa, with authentic gelato and boutiques, and an old bookstore. Pasticceria Federico Salza is an old-fashioned café and pastry shop that is a must-visit for a little taste of Italy. To its southern end, Piazza Delle Vettovaglie market is a place for reasonably priced drinks. Café Settimelli, a treasure of history, is where the Galileo family resided. The street is a combination of both old and new.
Crossing the River Arno by the Ponte di Mezzo, you will reach your final destination before heading back to the train station. Nicknamed the High Street of Pisa, it connects the train station to the old town.
Corso Italia is bustling with souvenir shops, designer boutiques, and countless eateries and cafeterias, with an authentic, stylish Italian flair. It is one of the busiest shopping streets in Pisa and is entirely pedestrianized.
At the end of the road, a grand portico of 12 columns was designed by Buontalenti and was used as a place for selling wool and silk fabrics. In front of Santa Maria del Carmine Church on the road, a statue depicts the famous Italian sculptor Nicola Pisano.
How to Plan Your Day Trip From Florence To Pisa
Travel by train
Pisa is situated 51 miles (83 kilometers) away from Florence and the best way to get there is by high-speed train. A number of these trains make the journey from Florence to Pisa every day and the journey takes about 49-50 minutes. The average time is 1 hour and 2 minutes. It is a direct journey so you do not have to change trains.
Note that at weekends and holidays there is a less frequent service and sometimes longer travel times. Italy’s high-speed trains are equipped with all the amenities one needs: air conditioning, electric outlets at every seat, Wi-Fi on some trains, a café car, as well as restrooms and luggage storage.
The Florence to Pisa travels west through the scenic, bucolic Tuscan countryside.
Ticket prices on this route average €10. You can find the train schedule on the website of Trenitalia and you can get tickets on the Omio App here.
Join a guided Florence to Pisa day trip
A guided day trip offers a streamlined, easier way to visit the historic city. It will take the hassle and stress away from organizing travel yourself. Additionally, you will get a knowledgeable guide to the city to tell you about the fascinating history of Pisa. Usually, you will be picked up directly from where you are staying and taken to the train station. After the journey, you will be picked up by a guide who will show you around the sites of the city.
Guided tours to Pisa from Florence range from €30 to €300. Most guided day trips from Florence to Pisa also go to Siena and San Gimignano. You can book yours here.
For a guided tour that also goes to Cinque Terre, click here.
Additional tips for an amazing Florence To Pisa day trip
It is highly recommended that you leave for your day trip to Pisa as early in the morning as possible. That way you will not have to rush around the sights, and you will have more time to browse the two shopping districts and enter the Duomo complex.
Buy tickets to attractions in advance
It is wise to buy your tickets to attractions online and a bit ahead of time. This allows you to book a certain time slot and sometimes allows you to skip a line, which ultimately means you will have more time to explore Pisa.
Dress appropriately for the weather
Although all sites mentioned are close to each other, wearing comfortable shoes is recommended. If you visit during the summer or winter months with extreme weather conditions, it is best to dress for the weather prescribed. Remember modest clothing is required to visit churches.
Drink lots of water
It is incredibly important to stay hydrated when exploring, especially if you’re visiting Pisa during the summer months. There are plenty of free drinking water fountains around the Leaning Tower and the Railway Station, so take a refillable bottle with.
Have lunch ‘Al Volo’
Pisa has a wealth of street food to try out, meaning you can visit the sites, as well as sample local culinary delights. In Piazza Dei Cavalieri, the neighborhood around the square is packed with some of Pisa’s best street food vendors. There are also countless compact sandwich shops around every corner, offering fillings based on ham and ‘salsiccia’, as well as many accommodating vegetarian options.
Enjoy dinner before you head back
The most ideal way of ending your day trip to Pisa is to try one of its local specialities. Pisan cuisine is known for its fish dishes (mullet or cod) prepared in many different ways: fish soup or grilled with a type of starchy vegetable. Delicious!
For more ideas to plan your trip to Florence, make sure to read the following posts:
- The Best Things To Do In Florence
- The Perfect Itinerary For A Day In Florence
- The Perfect 3 Days In Florence Itinerary
- The Best Things To Do In Florence At Night
- A Perfect Day Trip From Florence To Cinque Terre
- Where To Stay In Pisa