Partial View of Tower of Pisa, Italy

Livorno Cruise Port to Pisa DIY Guide to Tower & Hidden Gems

Pisa’s Leaning Tower is practically begging for your selfie ๐Ÿ˜†, and thankfully, getting there from Livorno is a breeze. With frequent trains and a short journey, it’s a hassle-free DIY cruise excursion. But before you rush back to the ship, Pisa offers much more than just a wonky building โ€“ let’s explore!

Not sure Pisa is the right destination? Read your options in my Livorno cruise port guide – Florence, Lucca and Livorno – they’re all there to help you decide!

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From Livorno Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Straightforward)

Besides staying in Livorno itself, I would rate a day-trip to Pisa as the easiest DIY excursion from Livorno cruise port. Here’s why I rate Pisa as a straightforward ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž DIY excursion:

  • Frequent train services between Livorno & Pisa: And the ride is only 20 minutes!
  • Easy bus connections to Leaning Tower & key attractions from train station or you can just walk it and enjoy the views!
  • And there’s enough to see to make a full day trip out of it! If you’re interested in only seeing the Leaning Tower, then you can combine Lucca (a nearby Tuscan town) with Pisa.

Planning Your Pisa Day Trip? Here’s What You Need to Know

Read my Livorno Guide on how to get from Livorno cruise port to Livorno train station for train connection to Pisa. Considering combing Pisa with Lucca? Read my DIY Lucca Guide for all the insider tips of what to see, do & eat when you get there!

  • Getting from Pisa Station to Tower: Pisa Centrale station is about 20-25 minutes’ walk from both the Leaning Tower and the Square of Miracles. Alternatively, connect via bus or train to Pisa S. Rossore station, which is much closer to the Tower (~8-10 mins walk)
    • Bus: Many bus routes will take you from Pisa Centrale station to within a few minutes’ walk of the Square of Miracles. There’s so many I won’t list them here! Use Citymapper or Google Maps to see live departure times.
    • Bus Tickets: (New in 2024!) All buses & trams in Tuscany now accept contactless cards (or Apple/Android Pay on your phones or smart watches). Single fares are โ‚ฌ1.70 in Pisa (same as in Livorno). Just tap and go!
    • Train to Pisa S. Rossore: Not all trains from Livorno will stop at Pisa S. Rossore station. If yours does, get off here instead! If not, check for connecting trains from Pisa Centrale. There’s usually a few trains an hour between Pisa Centrale and Pisa S. Rossore. This will save you much of the walk!
  • Recommended Transport App: I would recommend using Citymapper – just change the city to Florence / Pisa. Citymapper will give you real-time access to rail departure times from Pisa Centrale.
  • Official Websites: Turismo Pisa, Autolinne Toscane (local bus authority), and TrenItalia to check train timetables
  • My Pisa Map: The attractions I mention below ๐Ÿ‘‡ are in my map of Pisa; click on the upper right hand corner of the map to see a bigger version:

1. Must-See Pisa: Of Course, the Leaning Tower!

Pisa Duomo next to Leaning Tower of Pisa
Image by Petr Ganaj

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, and for good reason! Its unique tilt and marble beauty make for an unforgettable sight. This iconic bell tower began construction in 1173, but its soft foundation soon caused it to lean โ€“ a tilt that only became more pronounced over centuries. In 1350, the lean was reported to be around 1.4ยฐ. The lean reached 5ยฐ when a 10-year project to stabilise the Tower started in 1990. Here’s what you need to know for a smooth DIY visit:

Climbing the Leaning Tower

  • Pre-Booking Essential: Tickets for the Tower are dated and timed. Due to capacity issues, you’ll be turned away if you show up late! Bookings open 90 days in advance. Here’s the official website for tickets.
    • Tickets: Cathedral and Tower tickets are โ‚ฌ20, the โ‚ฌ27 “Complete” ticket will get you into all the attractions at the Square of Miracles (incl. Baptistery & Opera Museum). If you’re not keen to climb the Tower, the โ‚ฌ10 ticket will let you into the Cathedral and Square of Miracles.
    • Opening Hours: Generally 9am to 8pm daily, double check opening times on official website
    • Running late?: Tower tickets can theoretically be changed to a different time up till 2 hours but I doubt in reality that there will be alternative times for you to change to, on the day, especially during the peak summer months. So be sure to include a sufficient buffer when booking your tickets.
  • The Climb: There’s 251 spiral steps but you get breathtaking views of the city and Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles)! Be aware that the climb is not suitable for those with mobility issues. Most take about 30 minutes to complete the climb.
  • No kids under 8: Unfortunately kids under 8 are not permitted. Under 18s need to be accompanied by an adult.
  • Avoid bringing valuables: You’ll be asked to leave bags at the cloakroom before the climb. If you’re bringing a day-pack, be prepared to take out your valuables (phone, wallet etc), so a small purse or fanny pack will be perfect.
  • Audio Tour Tip: Listen to the free audio tour (30 mins), you can also download it onto your phone and listen to it when you get there!

Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles)

Pisa Cathedral & Baptistry aerial view
Pisa Cathedral & Baptistry, Photo by Chiper Catalin

The Leaning Tower may be the star of the show, but it shares the spotlight with other architectural wonders that make up the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles). This name might sound unusual, but it has a fascinating origin. During the Middle Ages, this area was considered a sacred burial ground, and the presence of such magnificent buildings was seen as a “miracle.” Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason:

  • The Duomo (Cathedral): Construction began in the 11th century, making it a prime example of Pisan Romanesque architecture. Its stunning facade features intricate black and white marble. Inside, be sure to look up and admire the breathtaking dome, adorned with mosaics depicting the life of the Virgin Mary.
  • The Baptistery: Standing opposite the Cathedral, this large, circular building is Pisa’s Baptistery, where baptisms have been held for centuries. Take a moment to appreciate the incredible acoustics โ€“ sometimes you’ll hear the staff demonstrating them with a cappella singing, creating a truly magical experience. The Baptistery’s pulpit is a masterpiece of Pisan Romanesque sculpture, adorned with panels depicting scenes from the life of John the Baptist.
  • Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery): This might surprise you, but the Monumental Cemetery is another architectural gem within the Piazza dei Miracoli. Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, it’s a vast cloister with elaborately decorated sarcophagi and frescoes lining the walls. The highlight is the Camposanto’s collection of frescoes by famous artists like Buonamico Buffalmacco and Benozzo Gozzoli, depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
  • Opera della Primazia Pisana: This impressive building served as the administration center for the cathedral complex. Today, it houses art exhibits and the ‘Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo’, displaying sculptures, paintings, and treasures from the Cathedral, Baptistery, and Camposanto. Look for the stunning ‘Madonna and Child’ by Nino Pisano and the original griffins that once adorned the Cathedral’s roof.
  • Sinopie Museum: Located in a former hospital, this museum offers a unique glimpse into the creation of frescoes. “Sinopie” are preparatory drawings that artists used to plan large-scale murals. The museum houses a collection of sinopie, including several that were originally on the walls of the Camposanto Monumentale. It offers a fascinating look into the artistic process and the restoration efforts that helped preserve the Campo Santo’s masterpieces.

Note: All of these attractions in the Square of Miracles are included in the โ‚ฌ27 “Complete” ticket with Tower climb and the โ‚ฌ10 “Complete” ticket without the Tower climb. Many visitors to Pisa only visit the Tower, the Cathedral and Baptistery. But I would also highly recommend the Opera della Primazia Pisana and the Sinopie Museum if you have the time. Here’s a glimpse of what there is to see:

2. Discovering Pisa’s Hidden Gems

Pisa offers far more than its famous Leaning Tower. Venturing beyond the Piazza dei Miracoli, you’ll discover charming streets, picturesque riverside walks, and a lively atmosphere that reflects Pisa’s status as a university town. Here are a few hidden gems to add to your Pisa itinerary:

Stroll along the Arno River

Buildings along the Arno River front in Pisa, Tuscany
Arno River Waterfront Buildings, Photo by Efrem Efre

The Arno River, which cuts through the heart of Pisa, offers a delightful change of pace from the crowds of the Piazza. Find a scenic walkway (Lungarni di Pisa) along either bank and enjoy views of historic buildings, bridges, and locals enjoying the waterfront. The Lungarno Mediceo on the north bank is a particularly charming spot, lined with grand palaces and historic churches.

Explore the Borgo Stretto

This medieval street is Pisa’s main shopping artery, but it’s also a pleasure to wander simply for its atmosphere. Arcades line both sides, offering shade on sunny days and shelter from the rain. You’ll find a mix of high-end boutiques, local shops, cozy cafes, and historic buildings, like the 14th-century Palazzo degli Anziani.

Experience Pisa’s University Charm

Pisa has been a prominent university town since the Middle Ages, and this youthful energy adds a vibrant buzz to the city. Head to Piazza dei Cavalieri, once a center of Pisan political power, now a lively square surrounded by university buildings and cafes. From there, explore the surrounding streets for a taste of student life and a glimpse into Pisa’s academic heritage.

3. Experience Tuscan Flavours in Pisa

Pisa offers a delicious introduction to the rich culinary traditions of Tuscany. Here are some quintessential Tuscan dishes to try for lunch:

  • Pappardelle al Cinghiale: This hearty, flavorful pasta dish features thick ribbons of pappardelle tossed in a rich sauce made with wild boar (cinghiale), a Tuscan specialty. It’s the perfect fuel for a day of exploring!
  • Ribollita: This classic Tuscan soup is as comforting as it is delicious. It’s made with vegetables, beans, and leftover bread, simmered to perfection. A true taste of the region’s resourceful cuisine.
  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina: If you’re a meat lover, don’t miss this iconic Florentine T-bone steak. Grilled simply over coals, it’s a celebration of Tuscany’s prized Chianina beef.
  • Cantuccini: These dry almond biscuits are the perfect accompaniment to a sweet dessert wine like Vin Santo. Dunk and enjoy this classic Tuscan treat.
  • Gelato: Of course, no Italian food experience is complete without indulging in authentic gelato. Pisa has plenty of excellent gelaterias to satisfy your sweet cravings.

Featured Image by Lorenzo Pacifico

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