Located on the western coast of Italy and famous for its leaning tower, Pisa is a city that's rich in artistic and cultural heritage. One of the most charming towns on the Italian peninsula, it's an essential stop on any tour around this majestic Mediterranean country. Renowned also for another must-visit attraction, the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), heaved with artistic wonders and architectural marvels, Pisa is strategically located, close to important cities such as Livorno and Florence, as well as to seaside towns like Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi. Well connected to the whole Tuscany region and the other areas of Italy via Pisa Centrale, the city's main train station, Pisa is the perfect destination to discover and explore by train: daily frequent regional trains travel to Pisa from nearby Lucca and La Spezia respectively taking 30 and 50 minutes. The proximity to Florence (less than 1 hour by train) makes the connection to Italy's major urban centres easy and fast: high-speed trains, operated by both Trenitalia (via Frecciarossa trains) and Italo, travel daily from Rome to Florence (Firenze Santa Maria Novella) taking approximately 1h 37mins; from Milan having an average journey time of 2h 43mins. Frequent regional trains from Florence allow then travellers to reach Pisa in less than 1 hour. From Pisa Centrale train station also departs the rail service People Mover, which directly connects the city centre to the Pisa Airport.
Entry is by timed ticket and costs 18 Euros. At peak periods book in advance or expect a lengthy wait. Stepping into the ground floor of the tower is quite a shock, as your left foot will be higher than your right. Ascending the tower is also strange, as one side of the tower is easier to climb than the other, the marble steps worn accordingly uneven. The views from the top over Pisa and the Tuscan hills beyond are spectacular, and well worth the effort.
Entry to the cathedral is included in your Tower ticket. If it's the only thing you wish to see, you'll still need to visit the ticket office across the piazza to get a free pass. Inside, it's as grand as they come, with gilded ceilings, stained glass and marble columns. Other attractions in the Piazza dei Miracoli include the Camposanto, a cemetery that is the final resting place for notable Pisan residents, as well as the Sinopie museum and Opera del Duomo, though the latter is currently closed for refurbishment. You can also rent a horse and carriage for a clip clop around the town's cobbles.
Heading back towards the town, the streets of Pisa are full of cafes and souvenir shops to tempt all but the most resolute of tourists. On the way, detour to Piazza dei Cavalieri to admire the artistry of its buildings. Alternatively, to avoid the crowds, cut across Via Cardinale Maffi and take a look at the Roman baths. Elegant Santa Caterina church is worth at least a photo stop before you work your way along colonnaded walkways to the river. The River Arno is lined with elegant mansions, most notably Palazzo Blu, on the south bank. Also south of the river, Via Corso is Pisa's main shopping street. If you're hungry, grab a meal in the Borgo Stretto area or in the San Martino quarter. Tap into this university city's student vibe at Il Montino in Piazza San Felice but work up an appetite first - their pizzas are as filling as they are cheap.
Pisa is well connected to other major Italian cities, including Florence, just an hour away with frequent connections. From the station it's a 2km walk down to Piazza dei Miracoli. Alternatively, take the number 4 bus from outside the station to the Roman baths and approach the Leaning Tower from along Via Cardinale Maffi instead.
Bags, including handbags, must be checked in the free left luggage office (located next to the ticket office) before you go up the Leaning Tower. Cameras can be taken. Children under eight cannot. The top is open to the elements and so those worn marble steps can get slippery when wet - check the weather forecast before you buy your ticket.