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Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Italy with a population of some 90,000 people.
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Points of Interest in Pisa
Monuments and museums
Pisa is divided into 4 historical quarters. There is much more than the Leaning Tower in the city and several different walking itineraries are available.
- The Piazza dei Miracoli or Field of Miracles is to the north of central Pisa. It's an UNESCO World Heritage site and contains the city's most famous sights:
- Piazza dei Cavalieri, a small town square with many historical buildings that hosted the political powers of the city in the middle ages and Renaissance, but most of them are not accessible to tourists, as they are now property of the University of Pisa or Scuola Normale Superiore (a prestigious elitary school).
- Museo di San Matteo, ☎ +39 50 541865. Piazza San Matteo, 1, lungarno Mediceo. This is a fantastic history and art museum, which houses almost all of the original artwork from all the churches in and around Pisa. Although fairly small, it is one of the biggest for Tuscan Renaissance art, hosted in the rooms of the San Matteo monastery. A gem overlooked by most tourists.
- Lungarno Mediceo and Lungarno Pacinotti on the north side of Arno river, Lungarno Galilei and Lungarno Gambacorti on the south side: these riverside streets give a distinctive character to Pisa, especially at night when the lamplight reflects on the Arno river. Along the Lungarni stands intresting places like:
- University botanical garden, via Luca Ghini 5, is the first university botanical garden of Europe, created by the will of Cosimo de Medici in 1544. It is open weekday mornings and is free to the public.
- Fine Romanesque churches, San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno, San Michele in Borgo, San Paolo with a sculpture gallery inside, Sant'Andrea - not all are open every day; double-check the hours if you want to visit.
- Tuttomondo. Keith Haring mural. Keith Haring visited Pisa and fell in love with the town, so he decided to paint this amazing mural as a gift to Pisa. Though extremely large, it is easy to miss so look out for it; it is located between via Giuseppe Mazzini and via Massimo D'Azeglio just off Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.
When you have done the main attractions of Pisa, there is still one little gem left: Marina di Pisa, the harbor of Pisa at the Mediterranean sea. It hosts a beach, not with sand, but with little marble pebbles. The pebbles are smooth, and will not harm your feet, but since they are slightly unstable near the water, sea water compatible footwear is recommended for walking along the beach and getting in or out of the water.
Pisa is best known for the world famous Leaning Tower, but those who come here with their mind already made up that the Tower is the only thing to see may miss the rest of the architectural and artistic marvels of this beautiful city.
The half hour walk from the Campo dei Miracoli to the train station runs through a pedestrian street with many interesting sights, shops, and restaurants. The best way to visit Pisa is walking the streets, as the city center is very small, and enjoy the sight and the atmosphere.
Pisa would not be Pisa without the University. The city is animated by the students, who organize parties, shows, and cultural events, and fill the central street of the city at night. The University of Pisa has 60,000 students in a city of about 100,000 inhabitants. You'll notice the student flair in the the city once you leave the touristy campo dei miracoli.
On June 16th Pisa holds the Luminara festival, held for the patron saint's day (San Ranieri). At sunset, all the lights along the Arno are dimmed and more than 10,000 candles are lit, which makes for some spectacular sights from the Ponte di Mezzo. Various activities are organized in the streets and the night ends with a big fireworks.
Another summer attraction is the Gioco del Ponte (Game of Bridge), a historical manifestation held yearly on the last Sunday of June, in which the two sides of the city (Tramontana and Mezzogiorno, geographically split by the Arno river) participate in a historical procession, with 709 walk-ons, then challenge each other to a physical match in which their teams, each composed of 20 members, try to conquer the "Ponte di Mezzo" (the main bridge in Pisa) by pushing a trolley in order to force the rival team off the bridge.
For nightlife, there aren't many clubs or live music places in Pisa: the usual night in Pisa is having a dinner of pizza or a cheap kebab, having a beer in Borgo Stretto, or Piazza delle Vettovaglie or a pub in the surrounding areas, and having a walk in Piazza Garibaldi and Lungarni, where the "spallette" (the low brick walls around the river) are full of students.
Some alternative clubs (hard rock, alternative, funky) in the center are:
Italians really loves to sing. You can find many talented local singers at the Millie Bar. The fun energetic lounge is located in city center not far from Piazza Garibaldi. Every Tuesday night is Karaoke Night. Who knew the Italians have a deep passion for singing.
- Milliebar - via palestro, 39
Less alternative clubs are found at the seaside, about 8 km from Pisa, in Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia. For instance
- Pappafico (a disco with house music and the like)
- PIA (a disco/bar on the sea)
- Sunset (mainly a aperitiv/happy hour/chill-out location on the sea)
Take a photo of yourself holding, leaning against, or "anthropologically appropriating" the leaning tower of Pisa.
- Casciana Terme. the thermal water used at Casciana Terme since ancient times, has in recent years seen its applications extended to modern rehabilitation therapies, cardiovascular and respiratory treatment, in the improvement of the digestive functions and their treatment, because its natural, relaxing action enables patients to regain their functional equilibrium and the enjoyment of pleasures they had lost.
- San Giuliano Terme. Water with beneficial effects and calciferous magnesic sulfate water, naturally rich in vital curative elements, gush forth at the foot of Mount San Giuliano at the Spa out of different springs and are gathered in two groups called the "East Baths" (40° C temperature) and the "West Baths" (38° C temperature).
As a general rule, try not to eat near the Leaning Tower where prices are high and quality low. Head instead to the central area (5-10 minutes walking from Piazza dei Miracoli): you can find very good, cheap restaurants there. For example, there are excellent, friendly and reasonably priced cafeterias in the busy small vegetable market, Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Also Via San Martino, close to the south bank of the river, offers some places with good quality and low price.
This said, near the Leaning Tower, in via Roma, there's a good Indian Restaurant, with a beautiful atmosphere and really good, though not always cheap, dishes. In Piazza dei Miracoli, there's a quite good restaurant-pizzeria, cheap enough, the Kinzica.
In any case, don't miss Salza, in Borgo Stretto, with high prices but absolutely gorgeous chocolate, sweets and pastries of all kinds. Don't sit down inside, though, because you end up paying €10 for two coffees.
If you have access to transport, an alternative to eating in Pisa is to take the relatively short drive to Marina di Pisa, the harbor of Pisa at the Mediterranean sea some 15 km from central Pisa. Just follow the SS224 road west on the south side of River Arno and you are there in 20 minutes. There are several restaurants by the seafront, and having your dinner here, outside and when the sun sets in the west, is a rewarding experience. Parking and tables may be out if you arrive late, so check the opening hours (many restaurants do not open until around 19.00) and be there early. Even better, spend an hour or two just walking along the beach before the restaurants open. Try Roca de Mar.
Finally, there's a good pizzeria near the Youth Hostel, too, on the road that leads to the Leclerc, on the left then you must go in the tunnel.
Here are some good spots for eating:
- Trattoria da Cucciolo, Vicolo Rosselmini 9. The food is good and served in a tasteful quasi-homely ambiance. The staff is friendly and helpful. €8-15.
- Gelateria Naturale Artigianale De' Coltelli, Lungarno Antonio Pacinotti, 23, ☎ +39 34 54811903. Closed in the winter. Ice cream made using quality ingredients, many of which are locally sourced. €2 for two scoops.
- La Lupa Ghiotta, Viale francesco bonaini, 113 ((from the station walk towards Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele, than turn right in Viale Francesco Bonaini)), ☎ +39 50 21018. Has very good food in a cozy environment.
- La Mescita, Via Cavalca very close to Piazza delle Vettovaglie. An expensive but very good choice. They serve both traditional and more sophisticated food.
- Il Montino, Via del Monte. Great place to get fine pizza and excellent focaccine. You can eat there or grab your food to go.
- NamasteIndia Ristorante (NamasteIndia Ristorante Indiano), Via S.Bernardo, 34 (Crossing Street to Corso Italia), ☎ 039-333-7546356. 13:.00-01:00. Authentic typical Indian food. 5 min walk from Railway station.
- Numero 11, 47-49, Via San Martino. Generous portions in an informal setting. You can find any kind of food there.
- Osteria dei Cavalieri, Via San Frediano. close to Piazza dei Cavalieri. Quite expensive but very good. You can find typical and traditional recipes from Tuscany.
- Osteria di Culegna, Via Mercanti (on the main road). Good food and research of the Tuscan typical recipes, nice and smiley service. Closed on Sunday.
- La Reginella, Via di Gello at via Filzi. 15 min walk from the tower or take bus number 2. Great pizza, and the guy who cooks it is originally from Napoli, ask for Vincenzino.
- La Stanzina, Via Calvalca close to Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Many of the recipes come from southern Italy.
- Pizzeria Tavola Calda La Tana, V. San Frediano. 12 noon-3PM and 7PM onwards. This is a restaurant frequented by locals. The food is good and reasonably priced compared to other restaurants in Pisa. Staff welcome all the locals and pamper the tourists.
- Pizzeria L'Arancio, Via l'Arancio 1, ☎ 039 0505 007 29, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 12.00 - 15.30, 19.00 - 22.00, closed on Sunday. Affordable pizzeria which also serves good foccacia. Relaxed student-like atmosphere.
- Pizzeria Il Fornaccio, Via Luigi Bianchi, 33 (Just outside the city walls.). A pizzeria just outside the walls. Pizza is very good and the appetizers (antipasti) possibly even better. Very affordable. Authentic informal Italian pizzeria atmosphere. The place is not very big and popular with locals late in the evening, so it is best to arrive early (before 8PM) or reserve a table, especially during week-ends.
During summer nights, everybody stays around the banks of the rivers, sipping drinks bought from the several bars in the area. A few very good wine bars are also available for colder, winter nights.
- Millibar Pub Pisa, Via Palestro 39 (Near Teatro Verdi), ☎ +39 335 14 85 555. 18;00-02:00. Millibar Pub Pisa has long been a popular meeting point for students and tourists. Good drinks, good music, good food and a friendly atmosphere. For sports fans there is a giant screen and projector, three 46" plasma TVs, a private room to enjoy the game in full comfort a stadium-like sound system. MC Alessio for a night of Karaoke on Tuesdays
- Orzobruno, Via Case Dipinte 6/8 (A bit tricky to find but worth it), ☎ +39 50 578802. Sun-Thu 7PM-1AM, Fri-Sat 7PM-2AM. Artisan organic beer and organic food.
- Pisa Caffè dell'Ussero, Lungarno Pacinotti, 27. It is a monument to Italian culture in the 1400s Palazzo Agostini, on Lungarno. Its walls are covered with glorious mementos from its most famous visitors of the Risorgimento when they were students: Carlo Goldoni, Gacomo Casanova, Vittorio Alfieri, Filippo Mazzei, John Ruskin, Domenico Guerrazzi, Giuseppe Giusti, Renato Fucini, Giosuè Carducci, Cesare Abba, Giuseppe Montanelli. In 1839, it was seat of the meetings of the first Italian Congress of Scientists.
- Sottobosco, Piazza San Paolo all'Orto (Starting in Borgo Stretto, the main shopping street North of the river, walk North and turn right down via Sant'Orsola then left at via degli Orafi. Take the next right and walk straight). Closed Mondays. Bar which also sells books. Has an upright piano and Jazz nights.
- Vineria di Piazza, Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Serves great wine and very few dishes. You can find very traditional food here.
- Babette (food and art café), Lungarno Mediceo 15, Pisa, ☎ +39 50 9913302/3. This nice café is on Lungarno Mediceo, really close to the center of the city. The place has a strong personality; you can tell it's owned by art and culture lovers. You can pick up a book and read while having a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate, or even have a meal. Sometimes concerts take place in this café, and there are also evenings dedicated to special themes.
- Ritz, Borgo Stretto. Good coffee, fine service and the best dressed baristas. They also sell French wine and Champagne.
The central shopping area is centered around the Corso Italia, between the railway station and the Ponte di Mezzo (the central bridge) and also in the Via Borgo Stretto, north of the bridge. However, many specialized shops are sprinkled around the city.
The area around the leaning tower is geared toward tourists: There are lots of small souvenir kiosks, stands and "flying merchants", selling all kinds of souvenirs from small statues to hour-glasses - of course the general motif is the leaning tower.
Beware: it is an offense to buy from one of the "flying merchant" that sell fake replicas. They are very persuasive and if you buy anything you must haggle – they'll drop their prices significantly.
Every two weeks there is a bazaar with quite cheap books, records and old household items.
And don't forget to try some of Pisa's famous biscotti (biscuits or cookies). Bakeries all through town will sell multiple varieties, for a low price.
For the budget option, if coming from the Airport, there is a Coop supermarket on the left, on Via Pasquale Pardi.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Pisa on Wikivoyage.