After a few days of enjoying some down time at our beautiful base in the village of Cisigliana, it was time to get out and introduce our kids to the Italy of the history books and tourist guides… Our first destination was an easy choice. The most famous Italian city nearest to us was Pisa and with its’ famous tower we knew it would be an impressive first stop.
Our hosts kindly offered to drive us right to the centre of the town to save us the hassle of finding parking and we were dropped off right outside historical gate that marked the entryway for the main tourist hub, Piazza Dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) also known as Piazza Del Duomo.
Pisa is a very “touristy” town but it had to be done. The kids were both very keen to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa so we braved the heaving hordes. Brad and I visited about 14 years prior and I definitely didn’t remember half as many tourists.
It seems that over-touristing has become a very real problem in Italy with many of the most beautiful and historical destinations now crumbling under the weight of too many tourists. The irony is not lost on me as we too were tourists snapping our obligatory pics propping the tower up with our hands….
Main Sites to see in Pisa
- Piazza Dei Miracoli: This is where the tower is located but you can also find 3 other great buildings – the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, and the Camposanto Monumentale. You are not allowed on the grass as it is sectioned off but it is great to sit and relax by the Cathedral and take everything in. The best time to visit is the morning before the crowds hit. Children under 10 are free apart from the tower. There are big & clean pay bathrooms behind the church, near the Statue of the Fallen Angel, which are totally worth the small fee.
- Leaning Tower of Pisa: This is the main tourist hotspot in Pisa. The tower was built in the 12th century and it was found that the foundation was unstable which made it lean. For a fee you can climb to the top of the tower to see stunning views of the city but note that only children over the age of 8 can climb up the tower. You can pre buy tickets online so you don’t have to wait in-line for buying tickets. By purchasing Leaning Tower of Pisa tickets in advance you will save your kids the boredom of waiting in long lines. This 2.5 hour family-friendly tour is perfect. Don’t forget to take your cheesy tourist photo of you holding up the tower.
- Duomo Cathedral: The main purpose of the tower of Pisa was to be a bell tower to this magnificent cathedral with super high ceilings.
- Baptistry: This is the round building in the Piazza and was where baptisms were performed. It contains the gorgeous Pisano marble pulpit.
- Old Town: This area can be found on the northwest corner of the Campo dei Miracoli. You can climb up the ancient tower for the scenic views of all the buildings in the piazza. All ages can climb this tower, making it a good alternative if your kids are not old enough to climb the leaning tower of Pisa.
On our previous visit we climbed the leaning tower, but this time, travelling on the rand and with 2 extra entry fees to cover we decided to rather enjoy the experience at ground level. We meandered around the impressive cathedral and sat in cool shade it cast. It was scorching hot (and only June, not even the height of summer yet!) so we were only too happy to rather part with our Euro’s on our first lick of real Italian gelato – a saving grace!
While we enjoyed our ice creams we wandered around the souvenir market – an abundance of cheap tacky tourist trinkets that our kids LOVED. This was the first time they had been given a chance to spend their Euro’s so we indulged them… while trying to convince them to buy useful items like magnets and Christmas decorations.
We spent about 2 hours in Pisa and I would say that that is plenty of time to take in the main sights although you might prefer to spend a day.
More Fun Things to Do in Pisa with Kids
- Stroll from the Piazza del Duomo to the Arno River
- Go on a boat ride of the Arno River
- Go on a day trip to Viareggio
- Visit Riverside art gallery
- National Museum of San Matte
- Visit Palazzo della Carovana also known as Knights Square – home to the University.
- Go sightseeing at Santa Maria Della Spina
- Take a walking tour
- Shop for souvenirs
- Visit one of the parks in Pisa: Parco Regionale Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli, Parco Don Bosco or Giardino Scotto – formerly a fortified citadel in the 15th century then a fortress and now a private garden.
- Visit the Botanical Gardens (Orto Botanico di Pisa). Entrance is free.
When to visit Pisa
You can travel to Pisa with kids at any time of the year but if you’re on a budget the best time to travel to Pisa with kids is during the off season as the prices will not be as expensive as in the summer, which is always crowded and hot.
- June – September: This is the summer season and it is the hottest time to travel to Pisa with kids as the average temperature can go up to 30o This is the peak season and the prices can be quite high.
- October – March: This is the winter season in Pisa the temperature can go as low as 5oC in December and January. It can be rainy during February and March so you will have fewer crowds during this season and sightseeing is quite pleasant with prices quite low.
- April – May: This is the spring season in Pisa with weather quite pleasant and prices are moderate. There will be shorter queues during this season but some shops and cafes might be closed during this season.
How to get to Pisa
Pisa is pretty easy to get to, it has good rail access as it and an international airport about 10-15 mins to the centre of the town.
The Pisa Centrale train station has left luggage facilities so you can drop off your bags for a few hours if you are travelling between Florence, Lucca and the Cinque Terre via rail. Look for “deposito bagagli”, located to the right at the far end of Platform #1, close to the police office. It costs about €3 for 12 hours. Have your passport ready for identification. The walk from the Pisa Centrale Station to the Leaning Tower is approximately 22 minutes and is a nice walk for families with small kids. If you are already in Italy, you can purchase tickets on Italia Rail to get from one part of the country to another.
How to get around in Pisa
Walk: The easiest way to get around in Pisa is to walk. The town is quite compact and the main sights are all based within the same Piazza. Exploring the city by foot is a great way to see the less touristy parts of town but if this is your preferred method of transport be sure you have a baby pouch or pram for little legs. A small portable scooters is also a great idea for kids that are too big for a pram or to be carried!
Taxi: Pisa has a fixed taxi fare which bounds the licensed taxi operators. The taxi service in Pisa is operated by Cooperative Pisana Tassisti and they provide 24 hours service a day from the Pisa airport to wherever you need to get to in Pisa with kids. There is taxi stand in front of the airport and you can call for a pickup with this number 050-541600. You can also book directly on their website. Another option is to use TaxiCaller right from your phone to book for a ride.
Uber/Lyft: Not available in Pisa.
Public Transportation: There are several bus and train lines that can take you around Pia. Another option is the Pisa Hop On & Hop Off Bus.
Rental Car: If you plan to rent a car in Pisa, you can do so right from the airport. There is a free shuttle that will take you from the airport to the rental car center. If you’re travelling with kids a rental car is recommended, especially if you’re planning to visit nearby Lucca and Florence. The trains are very reliable and are pretty comfortable but travelling with lots of pieces of luggage can make this stressful.
Parking: It can be hard to find a free parking space in the city during high season. If you are looking for information on parking in and around Pisa check out Discover Tuscany for parking information.
Where to eat in Pisa
There were many restaurants near to Piazza Del Duomo, including a McDonalds (near the entrance arch to Piazza Del Duomo) if you’re looking for cheap and familiar for your little folk. If you are on the budget, it is better if you avoid restaurants that are close to the major tourist attractions in the city. Rather eat in less touristy areas of the city as the price will be much cheaper. That being said we did succumb to the temptation of a sweet treat just near the souvenir market.
To be honest we didn’t spend more than 2 hours in Pisa and didn’t need to eat a meal, but if you plan on spending a night or are there over lunch stop in at one of these spots:
- I porci Comodi
- La Bottega del Gelato
- II Peperoncino
- India Ristorante
- Ristorante II granaio
- Gelateria Gentile
- Gelateria Gunny
- Allabona Pisa
- Nishiki Koi Sushi and Fusion
- Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine
Where to Stay in Pisa with Kids
There are many family and kid friendly hotels in Pisa that provide family-friendly amenities from cribs to on-site restaurants that have a children’s menu.
- Hotel San Ranieri: Located close to the airport, hospital, the bus station and many tourist attractions. Pets are allowed in this hotel and there is a restaurant where you can eat delicious meals.
- Hotel Di Stefano: This hotel is within walking distance from the leaning tower of Pisa. Includes free breakfast and pets are also allowed in this hotel.
- Hotel Pisa Tower: This hotel is close to Piazza dei Miracoli and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They offer free breakfast! Located right next to bus stops, the train station and the airport.
- Hotel Bristol: Located out of the main town with a free parking. The rooms are spacious and equipped with a bath, refrigerator, mini bar. There is also a tennis court.
- Camping Village Torre Pendente: This hotel is filled with children activities and it is between world-famous leaning tower and natural park of San Rossore. It is situated just outside of the heart of the city and next to the train stations.
- Boccaccio Hotel: Your entire family will be accommodated comfortably in these non-smoking suites. There is a grand play area where your kids can have fun.