On my recent trip through Italy, I decided that my journey would not be complete without a visit to Pisa. Situated on the west coast of Italy, it was a perfect stop off for my journey back home.
I took the train from Roma Termini directly to Pisa Centrale Station and it took just under 3 hours. I bought a standard 2nd class ticket for €15.90 and I have to say that it was a pleasant journey for a low price and I would definitely recommend Trenitalia as a cheap and comfortable mode of transport in Italy.
Leaving Pisa I took the Flixbus to Genoa and then changed there to Barcelona. I love taking the coach (you can read more about that in my Planes, Trains or Automobiles post) and that was an even cheaper option: It took 3 hours and cost €9.99. But note that the pick-up point is in a carpark and there is no service desk. You will just need to wait at the flixbus sign.
Staying in Pisa
I am a creature of habit when it comes to organising travel plans and whilst I have used AirB&B and other booking services, my go-to is booking.com and I was a little surprised at the small range of options available in Pisa. I tend to opt for Ibis style hotels, you know impersonal but a standard level for a reasonable price but there were only local hotels or guest houses available and as we were heading into Mid June hotels were expensive for just one night so I opted for a guest house.
The guest house was located 10 minutes walk away from the station, 10 minutes from the tower and 15 minutes from the flixbus pick up point, so for me, the location was pretty ideal. The room was clean, the shower was fab and breakfast was included but it was double the price of what I paid in Rome.
The Tower (The One That Leans)
We left the guesthouse and made our way along the straight road directly to the tower. And my initial observation was that I couldn’t see it. In my naivety, I had expected it to dominate the skyline of Pisa and be visible from almost anywhere in the city but I was wrong. In fact, I only saw the top of the tower when I was one street away.
Before entering the Piazza del Duomo (The square in which the tower stands) you can wander through a mini market which sells a variety of mugs, keyrings, magnets, postcards, etc all for a reasonable price.
Exiting the market through the archway to the Piazza del Duomo you are greeted by the infamous site:
I can honestly say that my eyes felt like they were deceiving me. Maybe it was because I had seen it so many times in photos and on social media but it didn’t seem real. With clear blue skies and luscious green grass framing the tower, it felt like a postcard rather than a real thing in front of me.
We had a nice walk around taking it in from all the angles and following the instructions of keeping off the grass. Then we reached the line of people trying to take the perfect photo and I must say the sight was so surreal I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.
It is perhaps my biggest regret that I didn’t take a photo of people taking photos because it kept me entertained for at least half an hour. In that moment you could witness the tenderness of relationships when soft instructions, the right angle and a bit of luck blended to make the perfect Pisa shot. But on the other hand, I was just as likely to witness a rage of frustration, impatience, and annoyance when the desired pose was not achieved.
I tell you this as an observer and not in judgment – I of course also took to the line and posed like the rest however I do have one piece of advice for you: It is much easier to move your camera than to ask the person posing to move…
Pisa is nestled in Tuscany and you can see and feel its Tuscan roots through the center. There is great food, better wine, and a relaxed breeze through the streets. But if you are traveling to Italy for a Tuscan break it is perhaps not the best place for an authentic retreat. The tower may not dominate the skyline but it is woven through every restaurant, shop, and bar and it can leave you feeling like you are in a leaning overload. Add to that there isn’t that much more to do in Pisa, unique or otherwise and you may get the feeling that perhaps it would have been better as a stop-off rather than an overnight stay.
So to conclude, Pisa has something special to offer. The leaning tower is not just iconic in its construction but it is a symbol of Italy and one that I am pleased I had the opportunity to see. But now I have seen it, I will not be returning.