Pisa is marketing itself as a quieter version of Florence given the massive tourist crowds descending on Italy’s foremost Renaissance city.
But Pisa , further west, has a glorious medieval past, given its role as a major trade port during the Middle Ages. Of course it is best known for its famous Leaning Tower but the city and its surrounds have other attractions too.
Here are our Top Five suggestions:
- The Leaning Tower: The world famous tower is just one of the splendid religious buildings that rise from the emerald green lawns of the Campo dei Miracoli or Field of Miracles.Other buildings here include the city’s historic Duomo , Baptistry and cemetery .Construction of the tower began in 1173 and was completed 200 years later although it began to lean after completion of just its third story.
- The Arno River: Elegant palazzos line the banks of of the Arno River which cuts through the centre of central Pisa .The city’s medieval buildings hark back to the 12th and 13th centuries when the powerful Navy ensured dominance of the seas and brought back vast merchantile riches . In the summer take a picturesque 20 kilometre boat trip along the Arno all the way to the sea.
- Museum Nazionale di San Matteo: Housed in a medieval convent the museum houses a collection of 12th and 13th century Pisan and Florentine art from the city’s golden age.
- Piagio: 15 minutes train ride from Pisa is the home of the Vespa scooter which has been made here since the 1940s. The museum includes custom and race versions of the iconic motorbikes.
- Livorno and Elba: An hour south takes you past the historic port city of Livorno to the ferry terminal to Elba. Once this beautiful island was the home in exile to Napoleon before his famous escape. Nowadays it’s beautiful beaches , azure waters and hidden coves offer an idyllic summer escape for wealthy Tuscans .