1. Stroll along River Arno
River Arno is often overlooked by visitors rushing to Piazza dei Miracoli (‘Square of Miracles’). But it's a vital part of the city's soul. Take a stroll along the banks of the river to visit the impressive National Museum of Saint Matthew, the photogenic Ponte di Mezzo (‘Middle Bridge’), the Old Citadel and the ruins of Guelph Tower, which you can climb for sensational views over the city, including the Leaning Tower and the Cathedral. One of the best times to see the river is at night, when the lights of the shops, bars, houses, and restaurants lining its banks are reflected in the still water.
2. Piazza dei Miracoli
The magnificent Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistry, the Monumental Cemetery and the Leaning Tower of Pisa (a.k.a. the Bell Tower of Pisa Cathedral) make up one of the most extensive architectural complexes in Italy, if not the world. Each structure is a must-see in Pisa and has its own charm. The tilted tower is, of course, the most famous of the bunch, but aside from being a famed spot for fun photos, the architecture and engineering required to keep this tower leaning but not falling is very impressive.
3. Piazza dei Cavalieri
If you feel like a bit of fresh air after visiting Piazza dei Miracoli, Piazza dei Cavalieri (the ‘Square of Knights’) is another of the city's most important historical landmarks, even though it’s far less crowded and often overlooked. This was said to be the site of the ancient Roman Forum, and it was remodelled in the 16th century by the de Medici family. Impressive buildings here include the beautiful Palazzo della Carovana (which today houses Pisa’s main university), Palazzo dell’Orologio or the 'Clock Palace' (two medieval towers bridged by a walkover with a large clock face), and the wonderful church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri.
4. San Rossore Natural Park
Pisa and its surroundings are full of parks and green spaces. The largest is by far San Rossore Natural Park, which stretches from the western fringes of the city to the Tuscan Coast, covering a large area of peaceful, pristine land. Here you can find countless walking trails, horse treks, carriage rides, guided tours, deer and local wildlife, and even a sandy beach. You can explore the park for free, and the huge picnic area is a great place to devour all the delicious prosciutto, salami, olives, and bread that you can buy in town.
5. See the other Leaning Tower
Good things come in pairs. And as impressive as the iconic Leaning Tower at Pisa Cathedral is, there is another option if you like the idea of smaller crowds. The bell tower of Saint Michael Church, located just a 5-minute walk from the centre of Pisa and dating back to the 11th century, is also tilted. It may not be as eye-catching or well-manicured as its famous cousin, but its staunch outline, mismatched bricks, and ornate detailing give it a unique charm. Make sure you don’t miss it!
6. Soak up the atmosphere in Piazza della Pera
Feeling far from the hubbub but in reality only a couple of blocks from Corso Italia (Pisa’s high street) and the Leaning Tower, this is the place to come if you want to live la dolce vita for a little while. You'll find an appealing selection of bars and cafes with outdoor tables, and a beautiful square where you can watch the world drift by. Do as the locals do and have an espresso at the bar, or take a seat on the terrace and enjoy the views of picturesque Renaissance and Medieval buildings lining the square.
7. Museum of Human Anatomy
Pisa has some excellent museums, and the renowned National Museum of Saint Matthew, Royal Palace Museum, and Palazzo Blu are certainly worth a visit. A bit further off the beaten path, though, the Museum of Human Anatomy is one of those rare, unpolished gems history buffs dream about. Housed inside the historic medical school at the University of Pisa, which dates back to 1343, the Museum of Human Anatomy has hundreds of incredible artefacts of medical science amassed over seven centuries.
8. Piazza delle Vettovaglie for Aperitivo
If you're following the locals for things to do in Pisa in the evening, the chances are you'll follow them to Piazza delle Vettovaglie. A popular student haunt, this buzzing square is where you can enjoy an authentic Italian tradition, the aperitivo. Enjoy a drink from one of the many bars lining and surrounding the square and take your pick from the incredible spreads of nibbles and appetisers served with the drink. There's usually no need to continue onto dinner afterwards as despite only costing a few euros, the drink and sharing plates suffice as a delicious meal.
9. Relax in Giardino Scotto
From sightseeing and visiting museums to shopping and eating ice cream, there are lots of things to do in Pisa with kids. But if little feet are a bit tired after walking around the city, take a break at the beautiful Scotto Garden. A lush area of greenery and flowers inside a 15th-century fortress, Scotto Garden is popular with locals who come to jog, stroll, or just relax under the trees. It's free to enter, perfect for a family picnic, has a children's playground, and even hosts an outdoor cinema and live performances during summer.
10. Retail therapy on Borgo Stretto
You get the best of both worlds on Borgo Stretto. Running through the heart of the city, picturesque Borgo Stretto is a historical street with as many eye-catching architectural landmarks as it has high-end fashion boutiques. Between the impressive stone columns, ancient arches and medieval houses, you'll find one of the best collections of shopping outlets in northern and central Italy. There are boutique Italian designer stores and several local designers who operate here, in addition to major international brands. You'll never be far from a homely restaurant, a quaint cafe, or an Italian-style bar for a quick pick-me-up espresso between purchases, either.
If you're now convinced that Pisa is worth the trip and wondering how to get there, don't worry. It couldn't be easier to reach Pisa by train, only 49 minutes from Florence and under 3 hours from Rome or Milan if you travel with Trenitalia Le Frecce high-speed trains. So what are you waiting for?