If you think the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the one of the only things to do in Pisa, you’re not looking hard enough. One day here offers so much to see and do. There’s no question about whether to visit Piazza dei Miracoli—if there was, the answer would be yes. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Piazza is home to the Tower, the Baptistery, Camposanto, and the Cathedral, and swarms of tourists visiting the plaza’s non-negotiable architectural mistake. But if the only pic in your camera roll from Pisa is the tower, then you’re doing the city a disservice. In reality, Pisa is and always has been a college town. The University of Pisa was established in 1343, and includes notable alumni such as five Popes, three Nobel Laureates, and, oh yeah, Galileo Galilei. Today, the students who make Pisa their home fill the streets with laughter and conversation, making the Arno River and the piazzas surrounding it their stomping ground. The city is youthful, vibrant, and has lots to offer to young travelers—you just have to look for it. If you have 24 hours to spend in Pisa, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Morning: Visit the city’s most famous attraction, the Leaning Tower
We know we said there’s so many more things to do in Pisa than visit the tower, but really—you can’t come to Pisa without exploring this architectural wonder. Experts have stopped the leaning for now, but they say it will start its downward tilt again in the 23rd century. As it stands now, it leans at a four-degree angle. That may not sound like much, but one look will tell you that’s a pretty hefty slant. A guided tour will offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how exactly the tower started leaning and whether or not it will finally fall in the future. Be sure to explore the rest of the Piazza, too—the Cathedral, Baptistery, and Composanto are incredible in their own right and deserve a closer look.
Lunchtime: Take a food tour of the city
There is no better way to get to know a city than through its food, and Pisa is no exception. During your guided food tour, a local expert will take you to six authentic stops in the city’s center, where you’ll sample traditional cecina, porchetta, classic Italian pizza, gelato, and more. Bring your appetite—this tour will leave you stuffed.
Afternoon: Snap some artsy pics and do a little shopping
First, snag a pic in front of the city’s well-known mural, Tuttomondo. Before Banksy, there was Keith Haring. Haring was an American pop and graffiti artist who, one day, met a University of Pisa student on the streets of NYC and was inspired to create a work in Pisa. In 1989 he created Tuttomondo on the south wall of the Church of Sant’Antonio Abate. The mural is huge, and, at 180 meters, features 30 colorful people dancing in synchronous harmony. Haring was inspired by Pisa’s subdued colors adorning the city’s historic buildings, and made the mural about peace and harmony. It’s a beautiful work and not too far from the train station.
Next on your list of things to do in Pisa, hit up Corso Italia for a little retail therapy. At eye level, it’s just another street of stores, but when you look up, you are reminded that the stores are hosted in century-old works of stop-in-your-tracks stunning architecture. As you leave the train station and walk up the street towards the city’s landmarks, passing street entertainers blowing bubbles and busking, you’ll get the sense that Pisa is young at heart.
Evening: Dine on some fresh-caught seafood
When you think of Italian food, you probably think of carb-laden delights like pasta and pizza. Of course these are delicious in their own right, but don’t forget that Pisa is located right next to the sea, meaning it has some pretty delectable seafood. Head to the city’s center and find a cozy bistro serving up specialties like fresh tuna steaks, octopus pasta, and seafood stew. Wash it all down with a glass of local red wine (when in Italy, right?) and bask in the glow of a day well spent.