Planning a day trip from Florence to Pisa? We’ve got you covered! Pisa is located about 50 miles west of Florence in Italy’s Tuscany region, and it’s the perfect day trip from Florence.
If you have more than 2 days in Florence (like we did!), a day trip to Pisa is definitely worth it, even if only to see the iconic Leaning Tower.
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How to Get From Florence to Pisa
Taking the train is the easiest way to travel from Florence to Pisa. A direct train from Florence to Pisa takes between 50 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes. We took the 7:00 am train from Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Pisa Centrale and arrived just before 8:00 am.
A Broad Recommendation: There are multiple train stations in Florence, so be sure to check that you’re traveling to and from the correct station. We didn’t realize this when booking our trains in Germany and ended up booking one train from the wrong station. Luckily, we caught our mistake before our visit, or we might have missed our train!
From Pisa Centrale, you can take one of the following buses: LAM Rossa – stop Torre, N. 4 – stop Largo del Parlascio or N. 21 (night time) – stop Torre, or you can walk the 20 minutes to the Piazza del Duomo.
Luggage Storage in Pisa
If you’re doing a day trip from Florence to Pisa, you’ll likely be traveling light, but if you’re traveling from Florence to Pisa then from Pisa to Cinque Terre (or another city in Italy) like we were, you’ll need somewhere to store your luggage in Pisa.
Before heading to the Piazza del Duomo, you can leave your luggage at the luggage storage area in Pisa Centrale or use one of the other luggage storage services near by. We chose Stow Your Bags, since it was already open when we arrived in Pisa (the Pisa Centrale luggage storage wasn’t open yet).
We paid less than $20 to store our luggage, which included two carry-on roller bags and two bookbags.
What to Do and See in Pisa
Though there are other things to do in Pisa, the main attraction is the Piazza del Duomo, which includes the infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa. We spent our day trip from Florence to Pisa exploring this incredible complex.
Explore the Piazza del Duomo
Pisa is best known for its world-famous Leaning Tower, but did you know that the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, the square on which the Leaning Tower of Pisa sits, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
The Piazza del Duomo, or Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), also includes the Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery of St. John, the Camposanto, the Opera del Duomo Museum and the Sinopie Museum.
Hours vary throughout the year and by monument, but the complex is generally open at these times:
- April – Mid-June: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
- Mid-June – August: 8.30 am – 10:00 pm
- September – October: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
- November – December: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
A Broad Recommendation: The Leaning Tower of Pisa and other monuments typically don’t open until 9:00 am, but you’ll want to arrive early to get some good shots in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As the day goes on, the square will be swarming with tourists.
If you plan to visit the entire complex, allow for around 3 to 4 hours. If you only plan to just snap some photos with the Leaning Tower of Pisa and climb the Tower, plan for around 1.5 hours.
A Broad Recommendation: During peak season, you should purchase your tickets in advance. We bought ours right when they went on sale, 20 days before our visit. When you select your ticket, you’ll also be able to select a time to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa—be sure to arrive on time for this!
As of writing this post, ticket prices are as follows:
- Complete + Tower Ticket: €27, which includes all monuments, i.e. the Pisa Cathedral, Baptistery of St. John, Camposanto, both museums and the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Complete Visit Ticket: €10, which includes the Pisa Cathedral, Baptistery of St. John, Camposanto and both museums; note this ticket does NOT include the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Individual tickets for each monument are also available—keep reading!
Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Known around the world for its beautiful architecture and iconic 4-degree tilt, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or more simply, the Tower of Pisa, is the freestanding bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral. The tower is a must-see for any traveler and the top thing to do on a day trip from Florence to Pisa.
It took nearly 200 years to build the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but the design was flawed from the beginning. The tower was set in soft, unstable soil that could not properly support the structure’s weight, and the tower began leaning in the 12th century before construction was even finished. The tilt worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century, and by 1990, it had reached 5.5 degrees.
Numerous restoration efforts have taken place over the years, many of which failed and others of which worsened the tilt. Though initial efforts attempted to straighten the tower, more recent restorations considered the role that the tilt played in promoting Pisa’s tourism industry and focused on retaining it. In 2008, engineers declared that the Leaning Tower of Pisa had stopped moving and that the tower should remain stable for the next 300 years.
Here are some interesting facts about the Leaning Tower of Pisa:
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa has survived at least four strong earthquakes since 1280.
- It was used by Germans as an observation post during World War II.
- Between 1589 and 1592, Galileo Galilei (born in Pisa in 1564) is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass. This experiment disproved Aristotle’s theory of gravity, which states that objects fall at speed proportional to their mass.
Climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the best things to do at the Piazza del Duomo. It takes about 30 minutes to climb up and down the tower’s 251 steps and to take some photos from the top.
A ticket for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which also includes entrance to the Pisa Cathedral, is €20.
Step Inside Pisa Cathedral
Founded in 1064 and consecrated in 1118, the Pisa Cathedral is a medieval Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the seat of the Archbishop of Pisa.
The church is the oldest of the structures in Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo, followed by the Pisa Baptistery and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was erected outside Pisa’s early medieval walls to emphasize the splendor of Pisa, which had no fear of being attacked. It was the largest Cathedral in Europe for almost a century, and the pride of the city.
Pisa Cathedral is a notable example of Romanesque architecture, specifically the Pisan Romanesque style. The exterior boasts multicolored marble, mosaics, bronze objects taken as spoils of war, and repurposed materials from Roman monuments. Among the bronze objects is a copy of the griffin, which is associated with several 11th and 12th century Pisan military victories. The original is located in the Opera del Duomo Museum.
On the left side of the façade, in front of the Camposanto, is an original piece of Roman marble. Legend says that a series of small, black marks on the marble were left by the devil when he climbed up to the dome, in an attempt to stop its construction.
The interior is also covered with white and black marble and a lots of gold decoration. The Byzantine-style mosaic of a Christ in Majesty with the Virgin and John the Baptist dates back to 1302 and is attributed to Cimabue. Somehow, this incredible work of art survived a massive fire that occurred in 1595. The coffered ceiling was added during Medici’s rule in the 16th century and bears the Medici coat of arms.
The main highlight of the Pisa Cathedral, however, is its marble pulpit. A masterpiece by Giovanni Pisano, the pulpit represented a new concept in Medieval sculpture with realistic and dramatic scenes from the New Testament. It also miraculously survived the fire of 1595.
The lamp at the center of the nave is called Galileo’s lamp because legend has it that Galileo made one of his important discoveries inside the Pisa Cathedral. While watching the swing of a bronze chandelier during mass, he noticed that it was taking the same amount of time to swing back and forth, thus formulating his theory of isochronism. The original lamp is actually smaller than this one though and is located in the Camposanto.
Note: If you buy any combination ticket, entry to the Cathedral is free. There are also fixed-time, free passes for just the Cathedral, but they’re limited and available only at the ticket offices on site.
A Broad Recommendation: The Pisa Cathedral is a place of worship and prayer. Similar to the dress code at Vatican City, your shoulders and knees should be covered, and you should avoid wearing hats or revealing clothing.
Visit the Pisa Baptistery
The Pisa Baptistery of St. John is a Roman Catholic ecclesiastical building designed by Diotisalvi, whose signature is engraved on two pillars inside the building. Built in 1152 to replace an older baptistery, the Pisa Baptistery is the largest baptistery in Italy.
The lower section of the Pisa Baptistery is in the Romanesque style, while the upper sections are in the Gothic style.
The interior of the Pisa Baptistery, although quite large, lacks decoration. The octagonal font at its center was designed by Guido Bigarelli da Como in 1246, and the bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist at its center is a work by Italo Griselli.
The pulpit was sculpted between 1255-1260 by Nicola Pisano, father of Giovanni Pisano, the artist who created the pulpit of the Pisa Cathedral. And, the women’s gallery, which can be reached by a spiral staircase, provides a view of the Baptistery’s Arabic-inspired, geometric floor.
A ticket for the Baptistery of St. John, which also includes entrance to the Pisa Cathedral, is €7 and is valid from the chosen date (not before) for 1 year.
Step Back in Time at the Camposanto
The Camposanto, also known as the Camposanto Monumentale (“monumental cemetery”) or Camposanto Vecchio (“old cemetery”), is the cemetery of the Pisa Cathedral in Pisa, Italy.
Founded in 1277 to accommodate graves that were previously scattered around the Pisa Cathedral, the building was the last to be raised at the Piazza del Duomo. It’s said to have been built around sacred soil from Golgotha, which was brought back to Pisa from the Third Crusade, and erected over the ruins of an old baptistery and burial ground.
The Camposanto’s long, marble wall flanks the northern boundary of the Piazza del Duomo and has three chapels, the Ammannati, the Aulla (which hosts the original incense lamp that Galileo used for his calculation of pendular movements) and the Dal Pozzo.
During the 14th century, the inner walls were embellished with more than 8,500 square feet of magnificent frescoes (a greater expanse than the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City) by two renowned artists of the time, Francesco Traini and Bonamico Buffalmacco. Many of these depict stories of life and death.
Since the 16th century, the Camposanto has sheltered the tombs of some of the most prestigious lecturers of the local university, as well as those for the members of the Medici family, who ruled over Pisa (and other Tuscan cities like Florence) at that time.
In the early 19th century, the monument became one of Europe’s first public museums. Major works came from the Pisa Cathedral and the Baptistery of St. John, as well as from local archaeological sites and antiques markets.
A ticket for the Camposanto, which also includes entrance to the Pisa Cathedral, is €7 and is valid from the chosen date (not before) for 1 year.
Walk Around the Opera del Duomo Museum
Opened in 1986 under the guidance of Guglielmo De Angelis d’Ossat, the Opera del Duomo Museum is a former 15th century convent converted to a museum and houses countless medieval statues that once adorned the Pisa Cathedral and Baptistery of St. John.
The visit starts on the ground floor with the 12th-century bronze St Rainerius Door by Bonanno Pisano. This door was originally the entrance to the Pisa Cathedral—the present door facing the Leaning Tower is a copy.
Throughout the rest of your tour, you’ll see Pisano’s ivory carving of the Madonna and Child, Romanesque-era works from the Pisa Cathedral and Gothic sculptures from the Baptistery of St. John. You’ll also encounter ancient tombs and monuments dedicated to leading figures in Pisan history. Your visit ends at the cloister garden, which offers a lovely view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, unencumbered by the usual crowds.
A ticket for the Opera del Duomo Museum, which also includes entrance to the Pisa Cathedral, is €7 and is valid from the chosen date (not before) for 1 year.
Have Lunch at Bistrot dell’Opera
Before leaving the Opera del Duomo Museum, stop for a quick bite to eat at the Bistrot dell’Opera and enjoy the awesome view!
Make a Quick Stop at the Sinopie Museum
Assumed to have been built on the area of a former hospital, the Sinopie Museum hosts a series of preparatory drawings recovered from beneath the vast frescoes that adorned the walls of the Camposanto.
As a fire raged through the Camposanto during a bombing raid in WWII, it became necessary to detach the frescoes from the plaster in order to save the portions that hadn’t been burnt. The outer film of paint was removed using the “strappo” technique, revealing the hidden sinopias beneath.
Using the same method, these sinopias were “torn off” the Camposanto walls and have been in the museum since 1979. They represent the most extensive cycle of graphic works from the Middle Ages.
A ticket for the Sinopie Museum, which also includes entrance to the Pisa Cathedral, is €7 and is valid from the chosen date (not before) for 1 year.
Other Things to Do in Pisa
Pisa offers much more than just the Leaning Tower and the Piazza del Duomo.
Pisa is also home to more than 20 historic churches, several medieval palaces, and some beautiful bridges that cross the Arno River. The city is also home to the University of Pisa, which dates back to the 12th century, the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, which was founded by Napoleon in 1810, and its offshoot, the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies.
Though we didn’t have enough time to visit any of these, they may be worth looking into during your day trip from Florence to Pisa!
XOXO Sara at Travel A-Broads