Written by Angela Corrias
Although often overshadowed by Florence, former maritime power Pisa is a jewel of urban architecture with a long-standing cultural verve.
The best starting point to explore Pisa is probably one of the biggest oversights in Italian construction history: the Leaning Tower. Enshrined amongst the Romanesque-style Duomo and Baptistery, the tower sits in aptly named Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracles Square). The brave can climb 251 steps up to the top to enjoy an unforgettable view of the city. A well-deserved reward lies only 100m away at Relais dell’Orologio, an old tower house revamped into a five-star hotel that will whirl you back to mediaeval times but with all the perks of modern luxury.
As intriguing as an architecturally unsound attraction can be, Piazza dei Miracoli is only a fraction of the cultural landscape Pisa has to offer. Head to the Lungarni, the spectacular promenade along the Arno river, to see some of the main historical palaces, such as Palazzo Reale, the former residence of the Medici, Lorena, and Savoia ruling dynasties, now a museum; 14th-century Palazzo Blu, which hosts an important art collection and temporary exhibitions; and the Museum of Ancient Ships of Pisa, displaying Roman ships found in Pisa harbour.
To sample the regional cuisine, stop at the Osteria dei Cavalieri near Piazza dei Miracoli or at La Pergoletta to enjoy modern interpretations of traditional dishes.
For security reasons, access to the Leaning Tower is limited to 40 people at a time. To avoid long queues, booking online is your best bet. As the climb can be slippery and sometimes rickety, it is not recommended for visitors with heart conditions or mobility problems. The visit lasts 35 minutes, access is not allowed for children under eight, and those younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Distance: 4,231 km
Flight Time: 6 hours, 20 minutes