5 Things You Didn’t Know About Pisa, Italy

This is a guest post from Susan of The Unexplorer.

Ciao! While Americans overindulge on turkey for Thanksgiving, I spent the week in Italy, including Pisa and Sardinia, and I wanted to share a few interesting things about Pisa.

1. The Best Time to Visit the Leaning Tower is Late Afternoon

I visited in November, which mean the days were shorter. After my first tour of the Piazza dei Miracoli, which houses not only the Leaning Tower, but also a Duomo, Baptistry, Cathedral, and Camposanto (graveyard), I passed back through later in the afternoon.

Wow. Stunning. The sunlight hits the white of the building magnificently. So if you want the best photos (and surprisingly, fewer crowds), go later.

Also: you have to take a dumb photo holding up the tower. It’s required!

2. A Stroll Through a Garden Will Do You Well

While Pisa is primarily known for its famous off-kilter tower, it also has a noteworthy botanical garden (Orto botanico di Pisa) with plants from all around the world. I felt at home in the rainforest greenhouse (it reminded me of The South) as well as the greenhouse with succulents and cacti native to Southern California.

The property spreads wide (the website says 3 hectares, but I have no idea how big a hectare is!), and exploring it can take a few hours if you get into Italian mode and take your time.

3. Drinking Coffee at the Counter is Cheaper

Drinking coffee at the counter is less expensive; and this is true throughout Italy, not just in Pisa. If you order your coffee in a cafe and sit at a table, you will be charged a fee (called coperto) for the pleasure. It’s normal, but if you want to save your euros, stand at the counter. It’s common to see Italians throw back their tiny cups of espresso in a single gulp. However, being an American, I prefer to sip my caffeelatte for a while. It can be a long wait for anyone with me!

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4. After Coffee, You Need a Spritz

I discovered the joys of the Aperol spritz when I hiked in the Dolomites,  and I’ve been hooked ever since. I even make them at home! Prosecco plus a splash of neon orange bitter Aperol, garnished with an orange or lemon slice is heaven after you’ve been walking through Pisa.

5. You Don’t Have to Go Broke to Enjoy Pisa

I find Italy to be less expensive than France and other places in Europe, and Pisa off-season is a great deal. I paid $60 for a bed & breakfast off the beaten path, but less than a 10-minute walk to the tower. Drinks are cheap (the spritz was, I think 3 euro) and meals are too…if you move away from the tourist zone.

Pisa makes for a great jumping off point. I don’t know that I’d stay here more than a few days (I was on my way to Sardinia), but Lucca is a great city just a short train ride away, and the rest of Tuscany is easy to get to, as well.