Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

Hello, sweet friends! Happy Wednesday! I hope this post finds you warm, cozy, and in the mood for a spot of armchair travelling! I’m here today to share a long overdue guide with you: Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy. A bit of a mouthful, perhaps, but I genuinely couldn’t think of a more accurate description of our time in Pisa. See, we hadn’t actually planned to spend two days in Pisa, wonderful or not. We’d only intended to spend about 5-hours exploring the city before catching a flight back to Dublin in the evening. Until! Yes, there’s an until. See, that was the plan, until frosty weather in Dublin cancelled our flight & kept us stranded in Italy for two days until the next one. Get what I mean by unexpected?

I think back on it all very favorably now, but at the time it was a big hell-ish nightmare. We were stuck in the airport for many many hours waiting for any information about what we should do or where we should go etc. However! Once our questions were answered, our tickets were transferred, and our accommodation for the night was sorted, it dawned on us how lucky we were. Two extra days in our favourite country, totally out of our control?! Yes! please! What’s better, is that we’d basically gotten all of our tourist-ing over & done with on our first day, meaning our newfound additional days were so chilled out & easy going! We wandered the streets, explored cute nooks & crannies, and got to experience the city like locals. It was so wonderful!

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

As usual, there’s a whole bunch of helpful information & recommendations listed below. Informational tidbits include useful things to know before visiting, how to get there, and some fun facts. Recommendations cover where to stay, grab a coffee, eat lunch + dinner, stop in for a drink, and where to tourist. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy


Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

before you visit & fun facts

Just a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about visiting Pisa, with a small handful of fun facts thrown in for good measure. Fun facts for the win!

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

• honestly, my main ‘before you visit‘ top tip for Pisa would be to have an open mind. Before we visited, we’d heard so many people say the city was nothing special and that you could see it in a couple hours – but that’s just not true! We both fell head-over-heels for the city, and I’m honestly kicking myself that I’d never visited earlier! The city is so much more than the Leaning Tower!

• the weather was very pleasingly mild when we visited in mid-December, with temperatures ranging from 8C-16C. It was a bit drizzly and rainy at times, but nothing too dramatic. However! Because it wasn’t actually that cold, we encountered a mosquito in our hotel room – can you even believe it? Mosquitos in December! Wild.

• the Leaning Tower of Pisa attracts over 5-million(!) visitors each year, making it one of the top three attractions in Italy. Even though we visited in the off-season, the city was still a little busy at times. Just something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of visiting in the middle of summer!

• the name Pisa actually comes from a Greek word meaning ‘marshy land’. Needless to say, the marshy nature of the area has resulted in many a crooked structure! Yes, this includes the Leaning Tower we all know and love, but there’s two other wonky towers dotted across the city!

• home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, Pisa is a vibrant student town. Student towns are wonderful budget spots to travel to because it usually guarantees competitively priced restaurants/bars, and a great buzzy vibe to the place.

• Pisa is the birthplace of Galileo Galilei, the famous astronomer, physicist, mathematician, and philosopher!

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

getting there

We actually flew into Pisa and headed straight out of the city on a night bus into Florence. Three days later, we then returned to Pisa via a high speed Frecciarossa train. However, because of the aforementioned flight chaos, we became very well acquainted with the different ways of getting into the city. Details below!

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

• we flew direct from Dublin (DUB) to Pisa (PSA) with Ryanair. On average, the flight time takes around 2.5-hours, and the views as you’re coming in to land are beautiful. Due to heavy fog on the night we landed, we experienced two aborted landings/go-arounds before finally touching down, which added an extra 40-minutes to our journey.

• to get into the city centre, we took the Pisa Mover shuttle to Pisa Centrale train station. The shuttle departs from a tiny station just outside the airport terminal, and the journey takes about 5-minutes. At the time of our visit, the tickets cost €5 per person, and we purchased them from the machine on the platform. The Pisa Mover runs from 6am-12am daily, and I believe they depart every 5-8 minutes. More information can be found here. Alternatively, if you were so inclined, the walk from the airport into the centre of town would only take around 40-minutes!

• if you’re coming to the city from elsewhere in Italy, Pisa Centrale train station is very well connected. There’s an average of 45-trains running between Florence & Pisa every single day, with 3-4 departing each hour. The journey takes around 1-hour and is largely inexpensive – our tickets were €8.90 each.

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

where we stayed

Due to the obvious, we ended up staying in two different hotels in Pisa. One of which was organized completely by Ryanair and is more of an airport hotel, and one was chosen by us for a more central stay. Details on both below!

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

Hotel Galilei // a no frills, soulless hotel located a convenient 3-minute drive from the airport. Our double room with en suite was exceptionally green in colour, the walls were paper-thin, the soundproofing non-existent, and the breakfast was meh – but it was fine for one night. We checked out promptly the next morning and walked the 30-minutes back into the centre of town. Address: Via Darsena, 1, 56121 Pisa

Grand Hotel Duomo // in our haste to be somewhere that wasn’t the above, we arrived here hours before check-in time. Thankfully, rather than having to wait, we were given a free room upgrade – to one with a view of the Tower! It was spacious, nicely decorated, the en suite had a bath(!), and did I mention the view? Compared to the grey view of the motorway we had the night before, it was truly magical. This hotel isn’t without fault – also no-frills, breakfast was fine, the soundproofing wasn’t great – but it was miles better than hotel #1. Pro tip: take the elevator to the rooftop terrace for a great view over the city & Duomo Complex. It was lashing rain when we went up, but the view was beautiful regardless! Would recommend. Address: Via Santa Maria, 94, 56126 Pisa

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

where we had coffee

Filter Coffee Lab // such a cool place! Fiancé pointed out that it’s kind of like Central Perk in Friends: comfy couches, communal tables, laidback vibe, and a wonderful ’90s playlist. We stopped in twice, and even though the coffees we sampled were all wonderful – especially a punchy flat white – it was their muffins that stole the show: apple & cinnamon crumble + triple chocolate. They were genuinely the lightest muffins we’ve ever eaten, and they were so tasty and moreish and flavourful and just wow. A must visit. Address: Via Santa Maria, 30, 56126 Pisa

Cavalieri Specialty Coffee // another great coffee option! Smaller than the above, we were lucky to nab two seats nestled in amongst the college students. While we didn’t get to sample any baked goods here, the coffee was wonderfully strong and delicious. Added bonus: they have a very cute garden/courtyard area out the back! In the evenings it’s strung with fairy lights and looks like a wonderful spot for a drink or two! Would recommend. Address: Via Corsica 14, Via Corsica, 8a, 56126 Pisa

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

where we ate

According to our initial plans, we only had time for one proper meal in Pisa before catching our flight home. To get as much out of the food scene as possible, our plan was to eat a big meal at lunchtime, and grab takeaway sandwiches to eat later in the airport. Taking into account the highly touristy nature of Pisa, I was very very skeptical of every well-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor/Google; I wanted somewhere authentic & non-touristy that didn’t have photos on the menu. After eventually finding this blog here, I booked a restaurant 12-minutes walk away from the Leaning Tower, and prayed it was enough to discourage most tourists. Spoiler alert: it was so perfect we went back for dinner the next night! Fiancé also managed to hunt down a superb pizzeria that fueled us through our travel-related stresses. Details on both below!

Side note: we got our takeaway sandwiches from I Porci Comodi, but they were wildly disappointing. Avoid.

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

lunch

La Taverna di Pulcinella // a wonderfully tiny and cheap pizzeria populated mostly with locals. We visited twice & sampled the margherita & salsiccia pizzas, both of which were divine – but especially the salsiccia! Added bonus: it’s fantastic value for money! Two huge pizzas, two beers, bottled water & coperto came to just €16! A must visit. Address: Via Garofani, 10, 56125 Pisa

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

dinner

Osteria La Grotta // the authentic, most non-touristy restaurant of my Pisa dreams! The atmosphere is so incredibly romantic and charming, the staff are super lovely, and everything we ate over the course of our two visits was mouthwateringly great! Pecorino appetizer board, local meat & cheese appetizer board, pici ragu, sage & brown butter ravioli, glazed sirloin beef, salted caramel cheesecake, and cantuccini with vin santo; my stomach is grumbling at the memories of it all! They also have an absolutely wonderful bottle of house red for the jaw-dropping price of €12! How even?! Added bonus: the interior of the restaurant is so cool and cave-like! Pro tip: book before visiting! We had the place almost entirely to ourselves at lunchtime, but it was packed at dinnertime the next night… on a Tuesday… in December. You hear what I’m saying? A must visit. Address: Via San Francesco, 103, 56127 Pisa

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

where we drank

Seeing as the two day extension of our time in Pisa was entirely out of our hands, we tried to keep our costs for these days as low as possible. Meaning, we didn’t get to try out as many cool bars as we would’ve liked, just a select few. Details on where we hit below!

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

The Tower House // a nice quiet place for a drink. We stopped in en route to the airport – the first time, LOL – for some Aperol spritz and it was lovely! They were cheap, they came with nibbles, and there’s a very local feel to the place; mother, son, and grandparents all tended to us. How Italian! Would recommend. Address: Via Santa Maria, 51, 56126 Pisa

Barrique Cocktail and Bistrot // such a great spot for cocktails! We wandered into this unassuming restaurant late one evening, ordered two old fashioneds, and took a nice nook by the radiator. Our hopes were low – we’d just come from having a crap cocktail elsewhere – but we were absolutely blown away by how amazing the drinks were! Strong, bitter, orangey deliciousness! A must-visit. Address: Via Domenico Cavalca, 7, 56126 Pisa

American Skyline Bar // home to the aforementioned crap cocktail, above. We were lured in by the strangely good reviews online, but it was a mistake. Our cocktails – whiskey sour + old fashioned – were so sickeningly sweet that we couldn’t drink them. Don’t be like us. The above is far better & the prices are the exact same. Avoid.

Pam Local / Carrefour Express // two supermarkets extremely close to our hotel. Pro tip: if you’re on a budget, buy some beers during the day, pop them in the mini-fridge in your room, and enjoy them later! We opened our windows wide and enjoyed our beers while taking in the splendid view! Would recommend. Addresses: Via Santa Maria, 80-84 / Via Santa Maria, 133, 56126 Pisa

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

where we tourist-ed

I was pretty adamant when we were planning our Pisa day-trip that I wanted to do more than just the Duomo Complex. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe the complex is 1000% worth visiting & that everyone absolutely must take the synonymous tourist shots holding up the Tower. But! I wanted to scratch beneath the surface and dig in a little deeper than the average tourist. Looking at the list of attractions gathered below, I feel like we succeeded, and I hope it inspires you to dig a little deeper, too! Enjoy!

PS: aside from the obvious, they’re all free!

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

Piazza del Duomo Complex // also known as Piazza dei Miracoli, or Square of Miracles. Walking up to the complex the first time and seeing the buildings just sitting there in, essentially, a field was so cool! The Duomo, the Baptistry, and the Leaning Tower – I was totally in awe! I’d previously just thought of it as a stupid tourist attraction, but it’s really so impressive! After taking the obligatory photos with the tower, we visited the interior of the Duomo & Baptistry. The Duomo is absolutely stunning inside; we basically just walked around gawping for our whole visit! The Baptistry is also worth a visit – it’s the largest in the world & where Galileo himself was baptized. Added bonus: this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Pro tip: purchase your ticket online beforehand! These have no set time allotment, but the tickets bought in-person do. A must-visit.

Tuttomondo Mural // the largest public mural in Europe! Painted by American artist Keith Haring just a few months before his death, Tuttomondo is a pop art piece that depicts thirty interlocking bodies, intended to represent world peace & harmony. In all honesty, I’d never heard of Haring before, but seeing this wildly colourful and ginormous piece painted on the side of a church was pretty cool. Pro tip: visit here on your way into/out of town – it’s conveniently close to the train station! Would recommend. Address: Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate, P.za V. Emanuele II, 18, 56125 Pisa

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

Santa Maria Della Spina // the tiniest little church, with the most curious location right on the river’s edge! Apparently, this church used to hold a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, but it has since been relocated. It was closed when we were there, but I believe it’s free to visit, and I’d say it’s cute inside! Address: Lungarno Gambacorti, 56125 Pisa

Casa Ammannati // aka: Galileo’s birthplace! The actual house that he was born in way back in 1564! It’s kind of a non-descript spot, so if you weren’t looking for it you’d definitely miss it. There are some informative panels lining the walls of the thoroughfare through the building, detailing his life and discoveries. Would recommend. Address: Via Giuseppe Giusti, 24, 56127 Pisa

Chiesa di San Nicola // one of the other churches with a leaning bell tower! Less impressive perhaps, because it isn’t a stand alone structure, but easy to spot from a quick look at the façade. It’s quite beautiful inside, with an intricately painted ceiling & a rather impressive array of chandeliers around the altar! Would recommend. Address: Via Santa Maria, 2, 56126 Pisa

Piazza dei Cavalieri // or, Knight’s Square. The name of which comes from the 16th century, when the headquarters of the Order of the Knights was located in the square. Address: P.za dei Cavalieri, 56126 Pisa

Chiesa di Santa Cecilia // a nice, quiet little church. Full disclosure: the only reason we even considered stepping inside here was because a) it was raining and b) it’s across the road from La Grotta, where we were eating. Regardless of the reasons, it was still a nice church to briefly visit. Address: Via San Francesco, 70, 56127 Pisa

Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy
Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy

And there we have it: Two Unexpected Yet Wonderful Days in Pisa, Italy! What did you think? Have we inspired you to visit the eternally crooked Tuscan city? I’d love to hear any thoughts or recommendations you have – use the comment box below to hit me up!

Ciao for now,

Vicki & Rob xo

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