My sister and I  first visited Pisa in 2015 while staying at Villa Cheli near Lucca.  The hotel had a good map and the concierge gave us fairly detailed directions.  So getting to Pisa, itself, was no problem.  But once we got close to the centro things fell apart.

As we followed the street just north of the centro my sister yelled, ‘There’s parking.’ ‘Where?’  I followed her directions and soon we were in a traffic mess, completely lost.  Eventually I parked at what turned out to be a supermarket.  We followed the signs to the centro and once we got oriented and found a parking garage, we hiked back, got the car, parked again and came in through the southeast ‘porta’ walking through the San Antonio district south of the Arno.  I thought this was a lovely area especially as we walked through Piazza Toniolo after crossing the bridge.  You can see what looks to be remains of a Roman aqueduct just inside the wall.

When we reached the Arno, we walked along the river, crossing near via Santa Maria which leads directly to Piazza dei Miracoli.

We both thought the city was beautiful and were amazed by the tower, cattedrale, and battistero (cathedral and baptistery).  We spent close to half a day in Piazza dei Miracoli, taking lots of pictures of the tower and the exteriors of both the cattedrale and battistero. (You can read about the cattedrale in my Cathedrals and Abbeys post.)

My sister bought a ticket for the baptistery (5 euros) which also gives entry to the cathedral. The cathedral itself is free but you have to get a timed ticket and that particular day it was about a 2 hour wait to get in.   I walked around the Piazza and along via Santa Maria, people watching and there are definitely a lot of interesting tourists.  Despite the numerous signs to stay off the fencing around the Piazza, every other tourist was standing on it, trying to take a selfie, leaning like the tower.  I wanted to take their selfie sticks and beat them.

After we reconnected we walked to Piazza dei Cavalieri which is lovely,

then took some photos along the Arno.

As we walked back through the San Antonio district I suggested stopping at a little bar.  Not exactly charming but it had all the necessities; birra, bagno, and a place to sit and have a snack.   We found our car easily and even more miraculously we found our way out of the city and back to the hotel.

We drove to Pisa again in 2016 but due to a festival we couldn’t find parking and had to leave without seeing anything.


Because of the abortive trip in 2016, I suggested taking the train to Pisa while staying in  Montecatini Terme. The train was easy and even with a change in Lucca only took about an hour.  We got off at the main (Centrale) station when we arrived but realized later that the San Rossore station is closer to Piazza dei Miracoli.

But the day didn’t turn out as planned, mainly due to the unbelievable heat.  Here’s my journal entry: When our train to Lucca was late, we didn’t think we’d make our connection to Pisa but we did, getting in about 11:10 am.  We found our way easily to the Arno, then walked through Piazza Cavaliere and back down the main street (via Santa Maria) until we found via L’Arancia where there are two wine bars, Cantina Tipi and I Porci. (We walked through the piazza in front of the central station then up via Mazzini to the Lungarno where we crossed the Arno to via Santa Maria.)

From there we walked to Piazza dei Miracoli which just didn’t have the same impact as last time, probably because of the heat.  This year we both bought tickets to the baptistry giving us access to the cathedral also.  I sat in the nave of the cathedral taking in the beautiful art and architecture while Sue took pictures. (And even though I have extensive galleries of the cathedral and baptistry in my Cathedrals post, I had to include more here.)

From the cathedral we went in the baptistery.  While we were on the upper level, the staff closed the doors and performed what sounded like a Gregorian chant.  Below is the video my sister took during the chant. You have to turn up the volume on your device to hear it.


From Piazza dei Miracoli we walked down via Santa Maria to the Botanical Gardens.  They looked gorgeous online but the heat and mosquitoes drove us out after taking a few photos. TYJ we got in free.

Our final stop was I Porci Comodi (see below) where we ate our lunch in the park.

Where to eat

I Porci Comodi (Pisa)

(They just have a Facebook page but here’s the TripAdvisor page https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187899-d9592233-Reviews-I_Porci_Comodi-Pisa_Province_of_Pisa_Tuscany.html )

Knowing that we would be wandering around Pisa one of the days we were staying in Montecatini, I did some research on enotecas that were open all afternoon, finding two that looked good–I Porci and Cantina Tipi. Somehow I thought i Porci was the better one which turned out not to be the case at least from the standpoint of having a place to sit and eat.

After walking from the botanical gardens to its location on via Arancia, we realized too late that Porci Comodi  is just a tiny street food place. We were standing outside, trying to decide what to do.  Before we could move on one of the guys—who are all funny and cute—talked us into getting drinks and food and sitting in the nearby park which was not so much fun.  The food was great, more than we could eat, but the flies and heat, not so much.

After we ate we walked back through Piazza dei Cavalieri and Piazza dei Miracoli eventually finding the San Rossore train station (mostly by following other tourists) and getting a train back to Montecatini.  It was so hot on the train I thought my sister was going to stroke out.


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