The best things to do in Pisa

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by Hertz - 15 February 2019

Beautifully positioned in Italy’s captivating Tuscany region, Pisa is a small city with a big reputation. Most famous for the Leaning Tower – an iconic monument which draws visitors from all over the world – this historic destination nonetheless has much more to offer in terms of attractions.

From grand cathedrals to Renaissance squares and scenic canals, not to mention palaces transformed into museums, there is plenty to see and discover.

Follow our guide to the best things to do in Pisa – and the Tuscany region beyond – when you visit this picturesque city.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

One of the most renowned landmarks in Europe, if not the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa welcomes more than a million visitors every year. However, the iconic slant which grants the tower its fame wasn’t intentional.

First constructed in the 12 th century, the tower began to tilt after the second floor was builtdue to soft and unstable foundations. It took 200 years to complete, and since then architects have spent many more centuries adjusting the structure to save and maintain the remarkable building you can see today.

Now sightseers flock to the grass surrounding the tower, trying to capture the perfect vacation shot. However, the true beauty of this monument resides inside. Climbing more than 280 steps may be a challenge in itself, but all is forgotten when you reach the top. Offering breathtaking views across the piazza, as well as Pisa’s terracotta rooftops and the Arno River, this is the most beautiful way to admire the city – though it is advised you book tickets well in advance.

Cattedrale di Pisa

Given its famous neighbour, you could be forgiven for overlooking the grandeur of this splendid medieval cathedral, situated beside the Leaning Tower. However, after marvelling at the slanting landmark, be sure to venture next door to behold this spectacular place of worship.

First built in the 11 th century, the gleaming white cathedral is a dedication to the Virgin Mary, and achieves its pearly shine through various mosaics and marbles. The structure is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture with diverse influences, including Islamic-inspired arches, which have added to the splendour over the centuries.

Venture inside and admire the intricate details which bring the cathedral to life. Marvel at the towering columns, intricate mosaics and marble pulpit created by famous sculptor Giovanni Pisano. Surely the most striking feature, however, is the awe-inspiring golden ceiling. 

Pisa Baptistery

The beautifully domed structure of Pisa Baptistery offers another stunning attraction nestled in the Piazza dei Miracoli. The largest building of its kind in Italy, this striking piece of architecture is dedicated to St John the Baptist, and is a celebration of creative and audacious endeavour.

When exploring inside the monument, wait until the clock reaches the hour or half hour. At this moment, the doors will shut and the room will be brought to silence. Then, a member of staff will sing, demonstrating the amazing acoustics as the sounds echo around the room.

Palazzo Blu

Venture towards the serene River Arno, and you’ll see the striking Palazzo Blu standing beside it. Hosting a wide collection of both classical and contemporary art and archeological finds, as well as a variety of temporary events and exhibitions, this splendid museum might be Pisa’s hidden gem.

Dating back to the 11 th century, it was once a palace, and home to Pisa’s wealthiest citizens. As such, each room is lavishly decorated with period furnishings, and you’ll find intricate paintings and stunning sculptures by Italian artists such as sculptor Nino Pisano and Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi inside.

The Knights’ Square

Piazza dei Cavalieri, or the Knights’ Square, is the political heart of Pisa – and has been for centuries. Adorned with stunning works of architecture and historical statues, this prestigious setting is well worth a visit.

Holding onto its historical significance, the square is now home to the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa – a centre for higher education in the city – while a Renaissance church dedicated to the Knights of St Stephen can be visited, displaying artifacts and paintings from this military Order’s many adventures.

The real jewel of the square is the grand palace, which was once the Knights’ headquarters. Take a closer look to spot the Pisan coat of arms emblazoned on the façade, as well as the busts of the powerful Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Just in front of the building stands an imposing statue of Cosimo I de' Medici, the first of these Dukes – and an infamous, powerful ruler.

Borgo Stretto

For a taste of culture, cuisine and luxury shopping, Borgo Stretto is a vibrant street lined with fashionable boutiques, lively bars and chic restaurants. It’s also home to the Ammannati House, the birthplace of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.

Here, stores are hidden away in archways and the restaurants are tucked away inside 13 th-century buildings, housing contemporary delights in classical surroundings. Stop off for some delicious gelato at one of the many ice cream parlours, or watch the world pass by while sitting at a quaint cafe.


With a rental car at your disposal, you’re free to explore the wonders of the scenic, captivating Tuscany region beyond. Livorno is a port city just over half an hour’s drive away, with fresh sea air and charming attractions making it the perfect choice for a day trip.

Meander along the vibrant harbour and indulge in some of Italy’s finest seafood, or explore even more historical wonders at the Fortezza Nuova, a 16 th-century fort which wraps around the water. Long since abandoned as a place of military significance, now tourists can bask in the Mediterranean sunshine inside its public park, relaxing amid the rolling gardens and Renaissance walls.

However you choose to spend your time in Italy, car rental in Pisa helps you plan your perfect Tuscan adventure. Set out on a journey to discover the best things to do in Pisa and beyond.