Hidden Gems of Pisa

A few days ago Erin and I decided we wanted to do a day trip to Pisa from Florence. When we asked the staff at the hostel about it, they said we really only needed a half a day, as the train ride was just over an hour and there wasn’t much to see in Pisa aside from the tower and the other sites in that square. Taking his advice, we decided to do the Uffizi Gallery in the morning then head to Pisa with two and a half hours to spend there. 

Along the way to the Uffizi, we passed by the Piazza della Repubblica, the historic site of the city’s forum.

There were also some artists creating replicas of famous artwork on the street.

We continued walking until we hit the Arno River, at which point we were greeted by the Ponte Vecchio bridge. 

Upon arrival at the Uffizi, we had to wait in line for a little over an hour. We probably should have gotten there a bit earlier, but we still had a good amount of time to enjoy the gallery. nside the, there are countless incredible pieces of art from painters and sculptors such as Botticelli, Michaelangelo, Raphael and Da Vinci, among many others. 

The Birth of Venus is prominently featured and was my favourite piece in the gallery. It had a 3D version available for visually impaired visitors to essentially feel what the painting looks like.

I definitely could have stayed longer but soon enough it was time to get going to catch our train to Pisa. On the way to the train station we grabbed a quick lunch of pizza and pastries from a small shop that was pretty chaotic. No one inside was speaking English aside from Erin and I, which I always take as a good sign that it’s not crappy, overly priced tourist food. It wasn't. It was cheap and delicious.

We got to the train station a bit early but were soon boarding to head to Pisa. I was engrossed in reading on my Kindle and watching the scenery pass by, while Erin passed out for the majority of the trip. We arrived at Pisa San Rossore station in about an hour, and we were at the tower within a 3 minute walk. 

And of course we had to join in the fun that everyone seemed to be having by doing the stereotypical posing. Except Erin was too scared to get all the way up on the post but she had her own idea…

Construction on the tower began in 1173 but was not completed for another 200 years due to war and it stands 185 feet tall, with the top being 17 feet off the vertical. It started leaning during construction due to the high amount of water underground in the area. Columns on the south side were made taller than the ones on the north to compensate and cement was injected into the foundation in the 1920s to help stabilise it.  If you go up to the base you can see how it’s essentially sunken into the foundation. 

The tower is in Campo dei Miracoli, or the Field or Miracles. Within this square, there is also the Battistero di San Giovanni, Cattedrale di Pisa, and Campo Santo.

We still had plenty of time so decided to grab some coffee (which was overpriced and I bitterly paid for using 10 and 20 cent coins) and wander around a bit. We found Piazza dei Cavalieri, or the Knight's Square, that was the political centre in medieval Pisa...

...a completely empty Chiesa Universitaria di San Frediano...

...and the Arno River (for the  second time today).

Right on the river is Chiesa di Santa Maria Della Spina, a tiny little church that has an incredibly beautiful exterior. 

I would have loved to go inside, but our departure time was slowly encroaching and it cost money. Erin wanted to head directly to the train station as Google maps said it was a 42 minute walk away – which was clearly inaccurate as we hadn’t walked that far since arriving in Pisa. I wanted to keep exploring. Reluctantly she came with me and finally got to experience my fast paced, rapid fire travel style. 

Within the next thirty minutes we saw a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, a prominent military figure...

...Piazzi Martiri della Liberta....

...Chiesa di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria...

...Bagni di Nerone, the only Roman remains in Pisa....

....lots of anti-facist and anarchist street art....

...and a setting sun behind the tower with a rainbow peace flag in the foreground.

So the hostel staff who said Pisa only needed a few hours? Yes, it can be gone in a few hours, but I honestly wish I had more time in this beautiful, vibrant but relaxed city. There was so much more diversity and people seemed to be enjoying life more compared to the major tourist cities. I was disappointed it was such a rushed visit, but I'll be back to visit again.