Home to one of Italy’s most iconic landmarks – the Leaning Tower – Pisa is a city that offers spectacular architecture, fun cultural events, a variety of sightseeing opportunities, and unique activities for travelers of all types.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Depending on when one travels to Pisa, there are a few festivals that are worth experiencing which reflect the rich culture of the area.
The 16th of each June is the Eve of Patron’s Day, and on this day the city becomes completely illuminated by countless candles. The event is called the Luminara of San Ranieri and dates back to 1688, when Cosimo III De Medici wanted San Ranieri’s remains to be transferred to a new, more elegant urn. His remains were taken to the high altar of Pisa’s Cathedral, and during the procession, locals lit candles to pay respects and honor the Saint. Ever since, citizens of Pisa continue to light candles and lanterns on June 16th to honor the tradition. Celebrations begin early evening, where locals, vendors, and tourists begin to line the banks of the Arno to watch all the buildings facing the river set up thousands of candles and lights. Later in the celebration, fireworks are ignited from both the Cittadella and boats along the river. The following day, an exciting regatta is held. Both days are spectacular sights to see and unforgettable events to be a part of.
Also held in June is Il Gioco del Ponte (The Battle on the Bridge), one of Pisa’s oldest events. This traditional game pits medieval rivals – the Northern and Southern districts of Pisa – against one another in a competition to push a 7-ton cart across the Ponte di Mezzo bridge. The participants are dressed in 16th century costumes and the event begins with a historic parade.
Another historically significant event to see in Pisa is the Marine Republics Regatta. Pisa – along with Amalfi, Genoa, and Venice – has a prestigious past as a major maritime republic, dominating the Mediterranean commercially and militaristically. Each year, the Palio of the Ancient Maritime Republics competition is held. Locals and tourists alike can enjoy the race, historical parade, and other exciting events that evoke the spirit of ancient nautical traditions.
To soak up the sun after sightseeing in Pisa, travel to nearby beach towns of Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia. Located 12 kilometers from Pisa, Marina di Pisa is perfect for summer tourism. With beaches ranging from pebbles to sand, a bustling promenade, great fishing, and bike paths from the city which take visitors from one town to the next, beach lovers have many activities to choose from. Tirrenia, only a few kilometers from Pisa, is ideal for sunbathing and enjoying the sea. This seaside town also boasts nightlife, bars, and restaurants for guests to enjoy. Both cities are great locations in which to shake things up after an itinerary of traditional activities offered throughout Tuscany.
For outdoor enthusiasts who prefer the woods to the sea, explore San Rossore Natural Reserve. Located along the coastline of Lucca and Pisa, this reserve is perfect to take a bike ride, hike wilderness trails, watch for birds or other wildlife, or take guided tours of the area.
Even if separated by the Arno river, Corso Italia and Borgo Stretto are popular shopping locales – especially during the holidays – offering a variety of local stores and boutiques, charming eateries, quaint cafes, and traditional, historic buildings to set the scene. Whether walking the streets simply to window shop and experience the vibe of the historic area or shopping for local handicrafts to take home as souvenirs, these streets offer hours of exciting shopping and sightseeing.
To escape the outdoors without sacrificing any time sightseeing, consider visiting any of Pisa’s amazing churches.
One of the most popular and most magnificent is the Pisa Cathedral. This stunning Roman Catholic Cathedral is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture and features an amazing interior as well as ancient works of art. Near the Cathedral is the Pisa Baptistery of St. John. Along with being Italy’s largest baptistery, it is constructed from marble and represents the transition from Romanesque style architecture to Gothic style. To see an outstanding Gothic church, visit the Santa Maria della Spina Church, a small church built in 1230 along the bank of the Arno river. In the Pisa city center, be sure to see the Stefano dei Cavalieri Church, which features incredible architecture and relics from ancient Pisan knights.
Other worthwhile sites to see include the Monumental Cemetery, Knights Square, Della Carovana Palace, Blu Palace, and the Medicean Arsenal.
FAMILY & KIDS
Families visiting Pisa will enjoy seeing unique, little known sites like Certosa di Calci and the Il Pineto Adventure Park.
Also known as the Pisa Charterhouse, Certosa di Calci is a hidden gem just 10 kilometers outside of the city center. A former monastery, this complex of buildings allows families to take in the wonders of traditional architecture without the crowds of Pisa proper. The Charterhouse can only be visited with a guide due its size. Guides will lead families through the many rooms and corridors throughout the building, taking in the unique features and artistic works. The Charterhouse is also home to the Museum of Natural History and of the Territory of the University of Pisa.
Outside of Pisa in nearby Marina di Pisa, Il Pineto Adventure Park is an exciting and unique experience for the whole family. Suspending in the pine forest is a variety of agility courses. Kids and adults alike can enjoy, in complete safety, the fun of bounding through the trees in Italy.
To get the most out of time in Pisa, be sure to take in some unique activities that highlight just how special the area is.
While we all know that visiting the Leaning Tower is a must when visiting Pisa, many do not know that visitors can climb to the top of the tower for a one-of-a-kind view. The Field of Miracles, home to Pisa’s greatest buildings, is available in full view from the tower. The panoramic view is unparalleled, albeit a bit uneven.
To experience life in Pisa like the locals do, stroll the Lungarni – which are the flanks of the Arno river and a key aspect of daily life in the city. Along the lungarni, visitors will experience views of architectural masterpieces like the Santa Maria Della Spina Church or Ponte di Mezzo, as well as an immersive experience into crowds of local residents and students.
For a day trip away from Pisa, consider a visit to San Miniato or Volterra. San Miniato is a lovely medieval town located between Pisa and Florence that features a historic city center and ancient architecture. Volterra, one of Tuscany’s most scenic towns, is known as the city of alabaster. It takes visitors back in time with its Etruscan and Roman remains, including pieces of the majestic walls that once surrounded the town completely.
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