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Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, Italy
Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa

Pisa is a small city in Tuscany on the Arno River near its entry point into the Mediterranean Sea.  It has an urban population of about 200,000 people.  The city has been in existence since before the time of the Romans.  It was a strong maritime power in the 1100s but declined before the 1300s.  The architecture in Pisa is its drawing point.

Weather:

Summer highs in July and August average 86 F (30 C), while lows are about 64 F (18 C).  From December to February average highs are 54 F (12 C) and average lows are 37 F (3 C).  Rainfall is highest is from September to November and lowest in July.  Early June is a good opportunity for reasonable weather and smaller crowds of tourists.

Transportation:

For a small town, it's remarkable the Pisa has regular international flights arriving at Pisa International Airport (PSA).  There is a small train line that connects the airport to the main train station in Pisa (Pisa Centrale).  The ride takes less than 10 minutes.  Pisa Centrale allows you to connect to the rest of Europe.  It takes about an hour to reach Florence (Firenze) and about 3 hours to reach Rome (Roma).  From the Pisa train station, it's a pleasant 30 minute walk over the Pointe di Mezzo bridge over the Arno River and through the charming pedestrian only streets to the Leaning Tower.  See directions below.

Campo Santo, Cemetery, Pisa, Italy

Campo Santo, Pisa

Attractions in Pisa:

Things to see and do:

  • Visit the main attraction for Pisa.  The Campo dei Miracoli includes the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta, the Campo Santo and the Baptistery.  Everything is located in the same place at the Piazza del Duomo.  Reservations can be made to ascend the Leaning Tower, which is a good idea in the summer.  Arrive before the tour buses or stay until they leave and enjoy the site without the crowds.

  • Take a self guided tour from the Pisa Centrale train station to the Leaning Tower.  Head directly north from the station one block to Constitution Square.  Continue north on Corso Italiana to the Ponte di Mezzo over the Arno River.  The University of Pisa is on the opposite bank to the left.  The bridge crosses to Pozzetto Square and pedestrian only streets.  The San Michele in Borgo church is on the square.  Follow Borgo Stretto and then detour on Via Ulisee Dini to Knights Square.  The Carovana Palace, the Scuola Normale founded by Napoleon and the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri are located here.  Then head back east on Via Consoli del Mare to Via Giosue Carducci.  Next head north to the St Trope Convent and the ancient remains of the gate at Port Parlascio.  From there you can see the Leaning Tower to the west on Via Cardinale Maffi Pietro.  Start early in the morning and stroll with the locals as they buy coffee and head to work.

Pisa Tours:

Hotels in Pisa:

Booking.com Hotel Listings for Pisa

Pisa International Airport - PSA (Booking.com) - including a list of hotels with a shuttle.


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A Day in Pisa by Tim Anderson
Our trip to Italy started with a flight in to Pisa, which was a great location to start from. Our experience in Pisa was wonderful, but our initial experience of finding our B&B was stressful. After purchasing our inexpensive ticket for the 5 minute train ride from the airport to Pisa Centrale, we walked to our B&B, Gli Arlecchini. The Expedia map turned out to not have enough detail to clarify our route. The GPS turned out not to know our B&B and I couldn't get a street address reading that matched. Half a block away, the locales didn't recognize the destination or street we were hoping for. Finally we looked across the street and saw a number 14 with small print underneath it that was readable only up to a distance of a few feet. The door was solid with no other advertising. This was our accommodation, which is typical of B&B signage in Italy. Pisa had a great thunderstorm in the night from about 4am to 6am including pouring rain. In the morning this B&B provided a myriad of food and beverage choice. 

Cathedral and Leaning Tower, Pisa, Italy

Our host gave us walking instructions to the Campo dei Miracoli and the Leaning Tower along the Corso Italia. The route was an extremely pleasant stroll along a pedestrian only avenue that also crossed the River Arno. We felt like locals as we all ambled with purpose to our various destinations. About half way along the 15 minute walk the rain started. . Although we all got wet, this meant that the crowds at the Tower were non-existent. We headed first to the baptistery, which was an amazing experience. We were the only ones in it. The attendant came by and sang a complete harmonic echo song into the dome for us. Very special. I'm still blown away. Next we visited the sculptures and crypts in the Campo Santo, which is a walled cemetery on the piazza. This too was amazing, not only for the intricate carving, but because we again were the only ones there. Next we went to our appointed 9am tour of the Leaning Tower. There were only 8 of us who went up in the rainy weather. The ascent is via a stairway within the exterior wall, so no problem for those with height problems. It is disorienting to wind your way up though. When you reach the side that leans out the most, it makes your feet shift toward the outside and your head moves toward the centre. You feel like you are going to slide out through the narrow slits in the wall. The marble steps are worn and dug out from all the pilgrims who have made the climb through the ages. The walls are worn smooth by the hands that have reached out to maintain balance. At the top, there is an open area of bells and then one final small ascent to the very top, which was too much for my vertigo.

 

Our last visit was to the church. This was a more typical tourist visit for Italy. By the time the church opened, the rain let up and the tour buses arrived. The church was full of large groups being led in a variety of languages. The art on the walls is gigantic, but has a very dark wall paper appearance. The structure and alcoves are gigantic and impressive. Couldn't help thinking how lucky we were up until then to have had the place to ourselves. Our trip to Pisa was fantastic.


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