A day trip from Florence to Pisa by train is easy with these straight forward tips to make it happen. Plan what to see, where to eat and even where to pick up a souvenir on your one day in Pisa.
With Italy’s Trenitalia I was able to zip over from Florence with no fuss, and be up to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and other sights early. Then I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and browsed by way back through shops to the train station. It was a delightful day! (You can also do a day trip from Florence to Venice, you have options!)
So let’s talk about Pisa.
Is Pisa Worth Visiting?
If you are in Florence, you are so close to Pisa it is an easy trip. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is world famous and icon, something you have probably seen photos of for as long as you can remember. For that alone, it is worth going to see in person. When you learn a little more about it, it is even more interesting.
There is also more to Pisa than just that. The Cathedral is beautiful, filled with the spoils of ancient wars. The Baptistry acoustics are perfection. There are more square feet of frescoes in the Camposanto than in the Sistine Chapel.
What is Pisa Known for?
Of course everyone knows about the Leaning Tower. And I just told you a little about the Cathedral, Baptistry, and Camposanto. There are also two museums on the Piazza del Duomo, also called Square of Miracles, so you could fill a whole day right there.
Pisa is also known for its history as one of the four great Italian Maritime Republics of the Middle Ages. During this time Pisan Amalfi, Venice, and Genoa ruled maritime commerce.
Speaking of being a maritime power, Pisa spans the Arno River just as Florence does. A number of bridges cross the river and the views are gorgeous and worth the stop.
Famous People from Pisa:
Pisa is known as the birthplace of Galileo Galilei, “the father of Modern Science.” Galileo famously opposed the Catholic church, refusing to denounce his belief that the sun and not the earth was the center of the solar system.
Leonardo Fibonacci, Italian mathematician was born in Pisa. He did not discover, but introduced the sequence of numbers that became known as the Fibonacci sequence to Europe. (If you are or love a nerd, you know about this.)
When is the best time to visit Pisa?
This is somewhat a matter of what is important to you. So let’s cover some preferences:
- If you want to have the most sun and warm weather or are restricted to when the school year is not in session, June through August is best.
- If you want to avoid the summer crowds and/or are good friends with air-conditioning, late March through May and September-October may be for you. (*cough* me! *cough*)
- Keep in mind August is holiday month in Italy! It is a very warm month and a good number of Italians flee the cities for the beach. Main tourist sites are all still open, so you are ok on that account. However, restaurants and shops may be closed for a week or two during the month with no apparent rhyme or reason to the schedule.
Festivals and Cultural Events in Pisa
Depending on your particular tastes, you may want to plan to see or avoid the crowds of these events:
- Capodanno Pisano – March 25 – Traditional Pisan New Year. Celebrated with a historical procession and proclamation. In recent years also include fireworks the night before.
- Gioco del Ponte – Last Saturday in June – A historical reenactment including a procession along the riverbanks and “Battle of Ponte de Mezzo” between the main neighborhoods of Pisa.
- Luminara di San Ranieri – June 16 – Over 70k glass-enclosed candles are attacked to the front of buildings along the river while additional candles float in the river. Fireworks in the evening.
- San Ranieri Regatta – June 17 – Regatta celebrating the ancient naval tradition of Pisa in honor of the patron saint of the city.
- Maritime Republics Regatta – date is sometime late may to early July and location moves between cities each year – Competitive sporting event to reenact the rivalry between the great Maritime Republics: Pisan Amalfi, Genoa, and Venice.
The Train for your Day Trip from Florence to Pisa
Which Train Stations?
You want to depart from Firenze S.M.N station, which is Florence Santa Maria Novella. This is an easy walk from the historic center of Florence.
Pisa Centrale or Pisa S. Rossore
Most people take the Florence to Pisa Train to Pisa Centrale train for a day trip from Florence to Pisa. Traveling from Florence to Pisa by train between Florence S.M.N. and Pisa Centrale gives the most train options without having to transfer. Pisa Centrale train station also has better bus and taxi service to the sites if you would rather not walk.
Arriving at Pisa S. Rossore train station is technically closer to the main sites such at the leaning tower of Pisa, however this station usually requires a transfer of trains, often at Pisa Centrale, and is a much smaller station without assistance. It also requires you to get to the other side of the train tracks to get to the sites, which involves walking along more major roads that don’t really have sidewalks. Unless there’s some secret passage way to do this I haven’t found. Maybe I’ll make a trip back one of these days just to explore that and figure it out for you. Until then, this post focuses on arriving at Pisa Centrale.
How to get from Florence to Pisa by Train
I did not buy tickets in advance, and it really is not necessary. The many inexpensive train options at during the day, combined with the ability buy a ticket as you are ready to board a train makes a day trip from Florence to Pisa very easy to do with minimal planning. (The tickets to go up the Tower of Pisa is a different story!)
Florence to Pisa Train:
- Frequency: approximately 20 trains from 6am-12noon
- Similar frequency through daylight hours
- Transfers: a few of the many trains require transfers, so double check what you purchase
- Trip duration: 51min – 1hour 22min depending on stops/transfer
- Check ticket prices and times: Trenitalia’s site
The most famous site, the leaning Tower of Pisa, and the other Pisa attractions in the Piazza Del Duomo complex usually open at 9am (check the official site below – this changes). If you want to be there at normal opening time you should plan on a train that arrives at 8:30am.
How to get from Pisa to Florence by Train
- Frequency: 3-5 trains/hour until 9pm, 3 more trains until approximately 10:30pm
- Transfers: There is a rare train requiring transfer, so check what you are buying
- Trip duration: 52min – 1hour 25min
Planning Your Time for One Day in Pisa
The leaning Tower of Pisa is probably the main Pisa attraction you are hoping to see. You may not know the Tower of Pisa is actually one of six attractions in the Piazza del Duomo of Pisa. The Piazza itself has very little shade, so I strongly suggest you plan to be inside a site or getting lunch or shopping when it is hottest. Also there will be large groups of people jockeying for position to get those famous leaning Tower shots. So my advice is to get there early.
It is a good idea to go to the Piazza Del Duomo and the leaning Tower of Pisa directly from the train station. Then you can see those most-famous sites right when they open and get all of your photos before it gets too warm. Afterward is then open to meander back, stopping to eat, shop, or whatever you plan to do for your day in Pisa.
Alternately you can purchase tickets for the Tower of Pisa and other Pisa attracts at Piazza Del Duomo for late afternoon.
Getting from Pisa Centrale to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
If you want to get your steps in during your daytrip from Florence to Pisa, walking directly from Pisa Centrale train station to the Piazza Del Duomo will take you about 20-25 minutes depending on your speedster level. As you exit the train station, take a few turns through traffic circles out of the train station and follow Via Francesco Crispi to Ponte Solferino over the Arno. You probably want to get a few photos here, the view along the Arno is beautiful! Then continue straight on Piazza Solferino which blends into Via Roma, and is a straight path up to the Piazza del Duomo. This is what I did on my way to the Piazza del Duomo so I could get in early. As I mentioned before, the Piazza itself does not have much shade, so I was motivated.
Taxi from Pisa Train Station to the Tower of Pisa
You can take a Taxi from Pisa Centrale to the Piazza Del Duomo. A taxi from the train station should cost you roughly the equivalent of $15-$20 USD. Tipping of cab drivers is not expected in Italy, but if your driver goes out of their way to assist you, being a nice person and rounding up to the next euro is certainly appreciated.
Bus from Pisa Train Station to the Tower of Pisa
Or you can take a few minutes walk out of the station to the bus stop on Via Cesare Battisti, and take bus 21 on a 5 minute trip for about the equivalent of $1-$3 as of this writing.
Pisa Attractions for your Day Trip from Florence to Pisa
Piazza del Duomo
Most people talk about, and plan to visit, the Leaning Tower of Pisa on a day trip to Pisa. However, the Leaning Tower is actually part of a collection of buildings in the Piazza del Duomo of Pisa. These include the Cathedral, Leaning Tower, Baptistery, Camposanto, Sinopie Museum, and the Opera del Duomo Museum.
Opening Hours of Tower of Pisa and other Sites
USUALLY The opening times of most Piazza del Duomo sites is 9am, with the Cathedral at 10am.
HOWEVER, these change somewhat often for special events so please check the Piazza del Duomo hours site for the specific date of your one day in Pisa.
Tickets and Pricing:
The cost of the tickets varies from €7 to €27 depending on what combination of sites you want to enter. So go to the Piazza del Duomo ticket site for a full explanation of the different options. There are ticket offices onsite, but you will have to stand in line and then sort through this same information. Also, the Tower has timed entries and if you wait to purchase same day or on site you may get an inconvenient time, or not be able to get a slot at all. So I highly recommend doing so ahead of time, online.
Cathedral of Pisa
What is the Cathedral of Pisa?
This is the main cathedral within Pisa. The Cathedral of Pisa is medieval Roman Catholic cathedral, with different stylistic elements reflecting the international presence of Pisan merchants as that time. The Cathedral is the oldest of the structures within the Piazza del Duomo, with construction beginning in 1063AD, the same year as St. Mark’s Basilica in St. Mark’s Square in Venice. It is believed this is an indication of the competitiveness between the two trade city-states. The Cathedral was completed in 1092AD, consecrated in 1118AD, with expansions completed by 1180AD.
On the exterior of the Cathedral, take note of the bronze griffin on the eastern part of the roof which was the part of the spoils of a battle with Palermo. (Current griffin is now a copy, with the original in the cathedral museum.) Also take note of the door of Saint Rainerius, in the transept that faces the bell tower. This door is the only one not destroyed by fire in 1595, and the bronze sculptures show stories from the New Testament.
Inside the Cathedral, look up because the coffered ceiling covered in gold leaf is worth studying. The inside of the dome is decorated with a rare technique that actually paints with hot wax. Remember the griffin taken from the battle with Palermo? Well the Corinthian columns between the nave and apse were also taken from Palermo. Also take a minute to admire the large mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and Saint John. This is that last work of Cimabeu, and it somehow survived the fire of 1595. While there are a number of other noteworthy items and art of interest, I’ll just mention the tomb of Henry VII, Holy Roman Emperor, in the right transept.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
What is the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
This is the most famous of the sites, and probably the one that got you interested in visiting Pisa. It is the leaning tower that has raised Questions and concerns since before it was finished. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually the bell tower of the Cathedral. The tower actually began to lean during construction and things just got worse through the roughly 200 years until it was finished. The unstable foundation caused the Tower to continue its tilt until it reached a deeply concerning 5.5 degrees by 1990. From 1993 to 2001 a $27 million stabilizing and strengthening project was performed on the Tower, and the lean was reduced to 3.97 degrees. The engineering work completed has meant that the Tower has stopped moving for the first time in its history. The engineers have stated it would be stable for at least 200 years.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is 185 feet 11 inches on the high side, and 183 feet 3 inches on the low side. That that leads to a significant difference on the inside, too. On the north-facing staircase there are 2 fewer steps at the 7th floor that the opposite staircase! If you are worried about entering, it may relieve you to know that the tower has actually survived at least 4 significant earthquakes in its history. Apparently the same soft ground that has been the bane of the Towers stability in one way, has protected it from collapse during these traumas.
What is the Pisa Baptistery of St. John?
The Bapistery of St. John is a Roman Catholic building, built for the purpose of performing the rite of baptism. Early in church history those not yet baptized were not permitted into the church itself for liturgical proceedings. Therefore a separate building was required to perform this rite.
The Baptistery of St. John in Pisa is the largest baptistery in Italy. Note that the lower part of the baptistery has rounded arches in the Romanesque style, and the upper has pointed Gothic arches. Inside note the pulpit sculpted by Nicola Pisano. His son, Giovanni is the sculptor of the pulpit in the Duomo. Also worth noting is that because of the unique design of the roof of the baptisry, the interior is acoustically perfect creating a resonating chamber.
Documentation also tell us Galileo was baptized here February 19, 1954.
What is the Camposanto?
Pisa’s Camposanto is a Gothic cloister on the northern edge of of the Piazza del Duomo. It was originally meant to be a church, but during construction that shifted to the creation of a cemetery.
Yes, this is a cemetery, with most of the tombs under the arcades which all surround a central lawn. There are also three chapels within the structure. Take particular note of the incense lamp in the Aulla chapel, which is the one Galileo Galilei used to study the movements of pendulums. Within the Dal Pozzo chapel includes an impressive list of relics such as a small piece of the dress of the Virgin Mary and a thorn from the crown of thorns worn by Christ. Many other significant pieces were collected over the years, so there is quite a bit to see inside this cemetery. Also examine the frescoes as there are more square feet of frescoes here than in the the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
What is the Sinopie Museum?
The Sinopie Museum in Pisa houses the preparatory drawings (called sinopies) found under the frescoes of the Camposanto during the restoration of those frescoes.
When restoration work on the frescoes of the Camposanto was undertaken, amazingly preserved sinopies were discovered underneath the frescoes. These sinopies were removed and transferred to the Sinopie museum and are worth close inspection. There are also two multimedia presentations in this museum. One is a 3D simulation of the Camposanto over the centuries, and the other is an audiovisual presentation about the on the restoration work on the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Opera del Duomo Museum
What is the Opera del Duomo Museum?
The Opera del Duomo museum in Pisa is dedicated to the wealth of objects that have been collected from the cathedral & baptistery.
The different galleries within the Opera del Duomo museum are are dedicated to different collections of art and archeologically significant items. There is marble from the exterior and interior of the Cathedral, sculptures from the Baptistery, the choir of the Cathedral, the funeral shroud and insignia of Emperor Henry VII, an entire gallery for liturgical vestments, and others for sacred vessels.
Food & Shopping on your Day Trip from Florence to Pisa!
Where to eat in Pisa:
Food: I think the most attractive walk back down the the Arno river is from the southeast corner of the Piazza del Duomo, down Via Santa Maria. Along that walk two restaurants that consistently please are:
L’Ostellino – for sandwiches & charcuterie
- Piazza Felice Cavalottie, 1
- L’Ostellino Facebook Page
Oteria In Domo – for pasta, steak, seafood
- Via Santa Maria, 129
- Osteria In Domo Facebook Page
Shopping in Pisa
Most of the shopping in Pisa is south of the Arno, along Corso Italia. Corso Italia is a pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants which connects the Ponte Mezzo bridge over the Arno to the Piazza V. Emanuele II in front of the train station. So it’s an excellent way to browse your way back to the station!
I hope that helps you planning your day trip from Florence to Pisa, and you have a wonderful day exploring the city! SO – what are you going to Pisa to see? Comment below and let me know. Or drop a question if you have one. If I can answer I will.
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