Fox Guide: Pisa
Culturally rich, geographically stunning, gastronomically enchanting (and home to our very own Pale Fox) we believe Italy has it all! Many people simply stop off in Pisa on their way to Florence, but Pisa should be a destination, and we will explain why.
Things to do
Undoubtedly, your first stop will be the UNESCO site, Piazza dei Miracoli, the location of the iconic leaning tower of Pisa. Originally built as a freestanding tower bell for the nearby Cathedral over 850 years ago, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is now more famous. It stands at 60m and leans at about a 4-degree angle these days, even though it was designed to be perfectly vertical. Stop here and take your obligatory photo holding up the tower if you absolutely must.
Do not make the mistake of thinking the tower is all that the Piazza dei Miracoli has to offer. In the same piazza alone, you can see the glorious Cathedral, which was started in 1063 by the famous architect Buschetto. It is a romanesque masterpiece of white marble with black detailing. However, Pisa's trading history is made clear by architectural influences from all around the world that you can see on the exterior and interior of the cathedral. Legend has it that Galileo, the founder of modern physics, made one of his discoveries in the cathedral - the theory of isochronism, whilst he was watching the bronze chandelier. The Baptistery is the third building in the trio, world-renowned for its incredible acoustics. It is the largest Baptistery in Italy at 54.86 m high, with a diameter of 34.13m.
People often forget that from Pisa it is very easy to travel to more remote areas; the Migliarino, San Rossore, and Massaciuccoli National Park is a mosaic of numerous distinct environments. From forests to the beach, the landscapes are as beautiful as the flora and fauna and can be visited on foot, boat or bicycle. It is a lovely way to escape the bustling city for a day.
A further excursion to be made is to the charming city of Lucca, applauded for its preserved Renaissance walls and its cobblestone streets. Since it is known as the city of 100 churches, it is clear that some of these will need to be visited as well as the Roman Amphitheatre.
You will automatically pause by the church of St Anthony near the Piazza Victor Emanuele, and gaze at the bright mural on the wall. This mural, the name of which is Tuttomondo, is a work by the American Keith Haring and is a permanent fixture in the city. Originally significant because it is themed to portray a message of peace and harmony, it has now become a memorial to the artist who passed away shortly after creating the piece in 1989.
The Palazzo Blu is a centre for temporary exhibitions and cultural activities situated on the southern bank of the Arno River. It houses rich permanent collections of paintings and other art, the works of Italian artists from the 16th to the 20th century. In addition, its collections include fine furniture and early coins as well as one-off exhibitions on science or music. There will definitely be something new to see whenever you visit.
A piadina is the locals choice for lunch, a typical Italian flatbread with fillings and Piadineria Artigianale Pascoli or II Crudo are the places to go. If you want something chic for an early evening aperitivo, then the cheese and wine bar Chilometro Toscano ticks every box with its vaulted ceilings and great atmosphere.
Pisa’s cuisine varies from fish and seafood specialities to game dishes. For example, Pappardelle Cinghiale, slow-cooked boar lathered in tomatoes and ribbons of pasta, is a national dish of Tuscany. Mushrooms are also an important feature, and they are eaten in a salad or in more elaborate pasta or meat sauces. A more simple traditional dish is the soup Sullo Scio, prepared by frying garlic, rosemary and peeled tomatoes in oil, adding water, pasta and served with Parmesan cheese. To find this authentic Tuscan cooking, head to Ristorante Galileo where the produce is always fresh, and the dishes are unpretentious.
Lastly, the dessert of Pisa is the Torta co’bischeri or pilgrim cake, a pastry-like dessert that is filled with components such as rice, eggs and topped with chocolate and candied fruits.