Practical Pisa Pointers – From Florence to the Leaning Tower

How the Leaning Tower of Pisa got its name is not one of Italy's greatest mysteries.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, as the name may hint at, is in the coastal town of Pisa.

Here, the ground is rather sandy. In fact, there used to be a river, the Auser River, that ran where the tower is now located, before it connecting up with the Arno River that crosses Tuscany’s countryside, flowing through Florence and beyond.

Getting from Florence to Pisa, the easiest way is on the train that goes direct to Pisa Centrale several times each hour from Florence’s central ‘Firenze Santa Maria Novella’ station.

When you arrive in Pisa, you will find yourself in the aptly named Piazza della Stazione (or, ‘Station Square’). Crossing the road you come to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, from where you follow the road, circling 2 roundabouts, before strolling down Corso Italia.

With no cars allowed on this street, it is lovely to wander along with the locals, many of whom are young students at the nearby Pisa university. The street is lined with great stores to buy clothing, with intermittent gelaterias and cafés where it is lovely to stop for refreshments, perhaps stopping for a gelato during the warmer months, and a hot chocolate during the cooler ones, then sitting at the outdoor tables to enjoy some people watching.

Soon, you will arrive at the Arno River that dissects Pisa. This is the same river that runs across the countryside, through Florence, under the Ponte Vecchio and beyond.

Stopping to watch the sunlight glistening on the rippling waters, it is wonderful to just stop and ponder the history that has occurred along the shores of, and even above (think Ponte Vecchio) these running waters throughout the wonderful and fascinating history of Italy.

Once you do cross the river, you find yourself in Piazza Garibaldi. There is  a gelateria here, which is well worth the tasting.

(Please note, in the interests of quality control, we did try all three gelato places along the stretch from the station to the Piazza dei Miracoli and are thrilled to say there were no clear-cut winners thus we will be returning in the near future to re-run the tasting test!)

As you seek out the Leaning Tower of Pisa, one would think that searching out one of the world’s most famous towers would be quite simple. Just look up, right?

Actually the tower remains somewhat hidden for some time as you approach, until just when you think you must have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. But then, you take one more corner, and there is the first glimpse of the famous green-and-white marble that has constructed the iconic Cathedral, Baptistery and the famous crooked Bell Tower that are all located in the Piazza dei Miracoli.

The Cathedral was constructed in 1064. Most people don’t think of this architectural delight when their mind turns to Pisa despite it being a must-see sight for any Pisa visitor. Nor does one think of the lovely curved Baptistery.

Rather, it is the world’s most famous architectural blunder, the semi-sunken bell tower that leans precariously over the Piazza, held up by magic, by luck, or perhaps by the thousands of people who take their ‘Look, I’m holding up the tower’ illusion photo.

In the Piazza itself, there is a lovely atmosphere. In the warmer months, people linger around, often lying on the grass to take in some Tuscan sun, in defiance of the signs that people stay off the lawn.

Some people read, others have a picnic lunch, yet others sit around chatting with long-time friends or newly-made acquaintances they have struck up conversation with right there on the lawn.

Kids run off some energy, people laze, gaze and amaze by their surroundings, the Tuscan sun shimmering off the white marble of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in the Piazza dei Miracoli, together with Pisa’s cathedral and baptistery, make this square a breath-taking sight well worth spending a little time exploring.

If you are luckily  enough to climb the tower, expect to earn the reward of spectacular view with a great climb up narrow spiraling stairs which have been worn down by the millions of steps taken in the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s long history.

On one side of the staircase, the footsteps are worn on the right side, on the other to the left side of the stairs as people have balanced against the downward pull of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The tower’s lean actually began when building was a few layers in. Over time, gravity worked its magic on the tower, pulling it closer and closer ground-ward, until engineers discovered a way to straighten the tower in 1998.

From the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you have wonderful views over the countryside, back-dropped by rough-surfaced mountain ranges pushing up against the flat-landscaped fields.

The horizon serves as a great level to measure the towers lean, whilst the people on the fields below rendered ant-sized give you a great indication of just how high up you are, looking down and over the stunning surroundings, standing exactly atop of Italian history.

Some Practical Pisa Pointers:

Tickets for the Leaning Tower of Pisa can be purchased on-line at least 16 days prior to your visit.

Each climb lasts around 30 minutes, during which time you must tackle the narrow stairs that wind and wind (and wind) their way tightly up the tower. Just when you think you can’t get any higher, the tower narrows a little more before you emerge atop, where you are rewarded with the most spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

Your voucher can be presented at desk number 2 inside the “Sinopie Museum” or the “Central Ticket Office” at least half an hour before the allocated visit time.

Tickets cost 15 euro, plus there is a reservation fee of 2 euro for on-line bookings.

There are small lockers where all bags must be placed before the climb in the same place where you must present your voucher should you have reserved tickets, or where you can purchase tickets last minute. If you don’t reserve for Leaning Tower of Pisa tickets ahead of time, you may find that there is no time slot for some time. Children under 8 are not allowed to climb the tower for safety reasons.

It’s easy to visit Pisa from Florence on the train. Pisa can be easily enjoyed in a half-day. You may wish to get back on the train and getting to Lucca for the rest of the day.

For a private guided tour of Pisa, we have a great 2-hour private Pisa tour with expert guide meeting in Pisa.

If you’re visiting Florence and would like to see some harder-to-reach villages in a single day around the Tuscan countryside, we have the Best of Tuscany small-group tour that visits Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni in a small-group Tuscany tour including lunch and wine tasting at a Tuscan Villa.

If you are looking for some other great things to do in Tuscany to enjoy local cuisine, explore the Tuscan countryside in a small group,  taste Tuscan wine and the like, we have a great range of small-group Tuscany tours.

Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore the historic wine estate before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.

Stroll through the Tuscan countryside,  join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.

To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, RomeVeniceCinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.

We also have a great range of fantastic private tours that cater to your every desire. From Private tours in Florence (and Tuscany Private Tours ) to Rome with a Private Guide Venice private tours to the Private Tours of the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.

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