We spent 3 days night in Florence, Italy but after a short amount of time realized it wasn’t what we were expecting. The streets were crowded, public transportation confusing and it lacked the laid back Tuscan feel we were hoping for. Our second day in Florence we booked tickets early to head to the town of Pisa, to of course see the leaning tower of Pisa.
Getting There: from Florence (Firenze S.M. Novella) to Pisa (Pisa Centrale)
- Trains take approximately 1 hour
- Fare starts at £8.40/per person
- 30 minute walk from to the LeaningTower of Pisa
- VALIDATE your ticket! Your must stamp your ticket in a validation machine before you board your train
If you want to go to Lucca after visiting Pisa the easiest way is to depart from Pisa S. Rossore, which is a 10 minute walk from the Leaning Tower.
- Trains depart less frequently, so plan ahead
- I had difficulty finding tickets online departing from Pisa S. Rossore, but when I put it in Google Maps it pulled up the right trains
- You can buy tickets at the station on the platform, we paid £3.50/each
I didn’t have high hopes for Pisa, and honestly was feeling a little bit like we were going through the motions by going. It was one of those things that I felt like we “had to do” more than I felt the deep urge to see the leaning tower.
I must stay though, Pisa was such a pleasant surprise! I absolutely adored our time there, before all the crowds started showing up.
It was only when I started researching our trip to Pisa that I realized you can actually climb the leaning tower. I had always just assumed that it wouldn’t be safe to climb because of the leaning. I pre-booked our tickets the night before, which gives you a time frame on when you can climb the tower. Because of booking last minute there wasn’t many times to choose from, so we had the first time slot at 0900 when it opened.
In retrospect, I am so glad we were the first group up! We arrived before most of the tour groups and while it was still rather mellow.
To make it to Pisa by 0900 it included an early wake up call to catch the 0630 train out of Florence. We arrived to Pisa Centrale around 0730, which gave us plenty of time to walk to the tower. Thankfully there is a great little cafe directly across from Pisa Centrale. We paid a total of £6 for 2 bottles of water and 2 cappuccinos to go.
The 30 minute walk to the leaning tower was actually quite pleasant. Restaurants were starting to set up their outdoor seating and we only saw a few people out and about. The town was much more quaint then I expected.
Piazza dei Miracoli
Of course the Leaning Tower is more than a Leaning Tower. It is only one structure that is on the grounds of Piazza dei Miracoli. In addition to the tower there is the Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistry and the Monumental cemetery. It is free to roam around the grounds.
We arrived around 0830, which gave us time to try and take cheesy pictures of us “holding up” the tower. Unfortunately it is much harder to get a good shot than it looks! We gave up after a few poor attempts.
Bag Check & Climbing the Tower
Purses and bags are not allowed up the tower. We were able to bring our camera and GoPro up though without any issue. The bag drop is well marked and well organized. It is free to use and was a quick process.
After checking your bag you proceed to the line in front of the tower. The guards checked our e-tickets to make sure we were there at the correct time. Then we both were checked with a handheld metal detector before we were able to start the climb up.
The tower was much more difficult to climb then expected! The lean can really be felt when ascending the spiral staircase. In fact, the stairs were so worn down on the interior part of the steps because most people would automatically step in the same place since you are leaning to the right so much.
It is 296 steps to the top. There are areas to pull off to the side every so often if you need to take a breather.
When you get to the top you are met with incredible views of the city below. The orange roofs will immediately remind you that you are in Tuscany!
After you circumnavigate the tower and get the 360 degree view you can climb a smaller staircase to go up to the bell tower. Somehow the views were even more surreal. After a few minutes a guard told us we had to exit the bell tower, and stand off to the side, so that they could ring the bells. We were so close you could practically feel the bells ringing! Such a neat experience.
We spent a few more minute at the top of the tower before we decided to head back down. We quickly retrieved our bags from storage and went to go check out the basilica.
Unfortunately the other buildings of Piazza dei Miracoli did not open until 10 AM. The crowds had started arriving in great numbers by this point. As enjoyable as the morning had been, we had a train to catch to visit the nearby walled city of Lucca. If given more time I would have enjoyed viewing the other buildings, but we opted to skip them to make it to our train on time.
We had enough time to grab one more cappuccino across the street before we headed to the train station. It turned out to be such a relaxing and enjoyable morning. I expected Pisa to be gimmicky and overrun with tourists trying to get the classic shot of “holding up the tower.” We did see quite a bit of that as we left, but it didn’t bother us. And Pisa actually didn’t feel gimmicky to us. The structures at Piazza dei Miracoli are all beautifully (albeight crookedly) built.
Pisa is well worth spending a morning visiting. The town is beautiful as it is just waking up. The views from the tower are incredible and honestly, it was totally worth it to us!