Trip Report Index:
2. Transit Notes
3. Hotel Review: Bagni di Pisa Palace & Spa
4. Visiting Pisa
5. Visiting Lucca
6. Hotel Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
7. Room Service Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
8. Day in Florence
9. Hotel Review: Hotel Laurin, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
10. Day in Santa Margherita/Portofino area
11. Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Milan
12. Room Service Review: Park Hyatt Milan
After breakfast at the Bagni di Pisa hotel, I was ready for some sightseeing. There are many things to do in the town of Pisa, but I wanted to go straight to the Piazza dei Miracoli where the famous leaning tower was. The hotel is located 10 minutes away from the Piazza, but there are many more hotels nearby albeit few chain properties that I’m familiar with. When deciding what hotel to stay at, I looked at all my usual favorite chains – Hyatt, SPG, Hilton, but none of them have properties in Pisa. Marriott has one, a category 3 hotel called AC Hotel Pisa. It is about the same distance from the Piazza, but when I saw that Leading Hotels of the World was having a sale, I decided to try out that property instead.
During the drive from the hotel, traffic was unexpectedly light. Parking was a snap at a nearby parking lot. I took a ticket upon entering, and the rate ended up being just 2EUR for 2 hours. Note that if you park at the same Grissi Parcheggio di Piazza dei Miracoli lot, the correct lane to enter is on the far left. The one on the right is for the university cafeteria.
It was just a short walk to the Piazza. On the way were hawkers selling knock-off purses, shopkeepers with tents filled with trinkets and T-shirts.
The Square of Miracles is home to several of the city’s most amazing attractions.
Here’s a map of the attractions. HT: touritaly.com
The first one you come upon is the marble Pisa Baptistry of St. John, which is built on the same unstable sand as the tower and cathedral. It actually leans too, .6 degrees toward the cathedral. Designed to mimic the pipes of a church organ, the acoustics are perfect right beneath the cupola.
The Leaning Tower stands right behind the cathedral, in the middle of a large grassy area. If you plan on visiting the tilted tower, one of the smartest things you can do is purchase attraction tickets in advance, as same-day tickets are rarely available.
Tickets can be purchased through the official box office, but there are many other companies that sell them as well. To visit the Baptistery, Cemetery, and Sinopie Museum, it costs 5 EUR each or all three for 8 EUR. The Leaning Tower entry fee is 18 EUR. Note that no children under 8 may climb, and all backpacks and bags must be left in lockers. Once you have made a reservation, you’ll have a specific time on your ticket to meet your group. There are ropes around the base, and the tour leader will take you in once it’s your time slot. It’s an amazing view at the top, but it takes many steps to get there!
Once you make your way back down the slippery, narrow marble steps, directly across from the tower is Cafe Pasticceria I Miracoli. It’s quite busy in the main square during touristy months so it’s nice to catch your breath and enjoy a coffee while admiring the tower. There is a post box next door to the cafe too, with plenty of shops around so you can buy a postcard and mail it home.
I wanted to visit the Debondt chocolate factory, which is internationally acclaimed. Just a 10 minute drive away, the De Bondt is a hand-crafted chocolate brand that started in 1993 and quickly became famous. Now recognized as one of the 15 best manufacturers in the world, groups are even allowed access to the chocolate lab where the brainstorming starts.
Dinnertime was near though, so we headed to a little local pizza joint close to the hotel – Osteria Pizzeria Scianna. The chocolate factory visit would have to wait for another time. Have you visited the famed chocolate factory?
The pizza restaurant was a local favorite, and many folks came in to do take-out while we were eating. A few free tables were outside, so I grabbed one of those. There was a view of a little church across the street, which chimed every so often. The weather was just warm enough to sit outside but not uncomfortable.
Crispy polenta was a starter, what a delicious way to start the meal.
The menu was chock full of options. After a cool glass of prosecco I ended up going with the Margherita Pizza with Bufala Mozzarella, and it was fantastic.
It was a perfect way to end the day, and we retreated back to the Bagni di Pisa hotel for a good night’s rest. Up next – Lucca!