The port of Livorno is one of the largest along the Mediterranean Sea, welcoming visitors through the gateway to Tuscany. The city of Pisa is located less than 20 miles from Livorno and trains into the city are regular, taking just 15 minutes and allowing you plenty of time to enjoy a place that is full of architectural and artistic marvel.
Best known for its famous Leaning Tower, the city of Pisa is bustling with activity and its small size makes it the ideal place to explore on foot. Plan ahead to get the most from your day in this stunning city, organising tickets to places of interest well in advance to avoid the queues and guarantee you can see as much as possible during your day on shore.
The region of Piazza del Miracoli, or Field of Miracles, houses many of the most renowned and breath-taking landmarks in the city, encompassing many architectural greats and providing an ideal starting point for any sightseeing tour. See Duomo Santa Maria Assunta, Pisa Baptistry, the Roman sculptures and sarcophagi of Composanto and of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From there you can head through the town’s medieval quarters, before visiting Knights Square; a place that served as the city’s central square and meeting place during the Middle Ages.
The Leaning Tower is incontestably the most renowned landmark in Pisa, and one that attracts millions of visitors each year. Construction began in 1173 before being halted a decade later when the three tiers started to lean and war interrupted the build. Work began again in 1272, with masons continuing to build despite failed attempts to bolster the foundations.
The imposing white marble tower tilts around 1mm each year and now leans 17 feet off the vertical at the top. Various operations have been attempted and failed over the years, all with the aim of halting the leaning. An operation to straighten the tower, by removing over 70 tonnes of soil from one side of its foundations, was relatively successful and has guaranteed its future for the next three generations.
Access to the tower is limited to 40 people at a time and is incredibly popular all year round; book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Children below 8 years old are unable to enter, whilst those aged between 8 and 12 must hold an adults hand for the duration. Visits last 30 minutes and involve a steep climb up almost 300 steps, something to bear in mind if you’re unsteady on your feet.
The Duomo Santa Maria Assunta cathedral is a striking example of Romanesque architecture that simply cannot be missed. Construction of the cathedral commenced in 1064, and the sheer scale of the structure was designed with the intention of demonstrating Pisa’s domination of the Mediterranean.
The vast interior of the cathedral measures an immense 96m long x 28m high, with 68 classically designed columns lining its exterior. The elliptical dome that sits atop the cathedral was added in 1380 and was the first of its kind in Europe. The intricate detail of the 24ct gold decorated ceiling and the 16th century bronze doors at the main entrance will keep you entranced for hours, as will the incredibly detailed carvings of the early-14th century octagonal pulpit in the north aisle.
Once you’ve enjoyed some cultural and historical enrichment, meander around the fine selection of shops or enjoy a relaxing lunch in one of the areas excellent restaurants and bars.
Pisa offers all the Tuscan cuisine one could ever desire. Trattoria la Buca is conveniently sited near the Piazze del Miracoli, serving excellent Tuscan food and offering a peaceful area for a moment’s reflection and relaxation amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Elsewhere hidden away in the oldest parts of Pisa you find numerous restaurants that are world renowned for serving authentic and delicious Tuscan fare.
If you’d rather save your appetite for dinner on board your cruise ship but don’t want to compromise on quality when choosing a lighter lunch, head to Il Montino pizzeria. House specialities include coccina (chickpea pizza) and focaccine filled with salami, pancetta or porchetta (sucking pig). This unostentatious pizzeria has gained an iconic status over the years and is just as popular with the locals as it is with visiting tourists; always a sign of a good eatery.
Lunch is best followed by a relaxing able beside the Arno river or perhaps a stroll over to the Piazza Sant’Antonio, where the huge ‘Tuttomondo’ mural, painted by artist Keith Haring in 1989, adorns the south wall of the church of St Antonio; an unexpected explosion of colour and contemporary amongst the ancient surroundings.
With breath-taking architecture, culture rich streets, fantastic shopping and some of the best authentic Italian eateries in the world, Pisa is a must see city and an incredibly worthy excursion for those arriving into the port of Livorno on their Mediterranean cruise.