Tag Archives: Pisa

What to do in Pisa and what to see in Pisa apart from the famous Leaning Tower.

Italy Travel Tips ‘n’ Tweets: What to do and see in Pisa, Tuscany

I asked for travel tips for my visit to Pisa in Tuscany during November 2009. I’d like to share these tips from blog comments, my own experience and Twitter tweets to help you make the most of your time in Pisa.


Roberta Kedziersk: I specially love the Camposanto in the Piazza dei Miracoli (ie where the Tower is). I also like the Botanical Gardens, which include a Magnolia planted in 1789, the year of the French Revolution.

Pisa  travel tips

North Gallery of the Camposanto, Pisa by Cornell University Library

Megan of Context Travel suggests spending some time in the area surrounding the university (Piazza delle Vettovaglie, Borgo Stretto and Piazza del Cavaliere) as a  good way to live the everyday life of Pisans.

My tip: Take a walk along the riverside in Pisa, the buildings are such a variety of colours and designs with intricate decoration and detail. There’s much more to Pisa than the Leaning Tower so don’t confine your Pisa to Piazza del Duomo.


Pisa riverside


@casinadirosa:(via several tweets) In Pisa there’s a beautiful exhibition at Palazzo BluChagal and the Mediterranean“. If you like sacred art you should visit the Museum of San Matteo. Here are some walking itineraries I wrote. Make sure you take a walk at night: as Pisa is much nicer. Don’t miss Piazza Gambacorti: there are some great new bars. I love Osteria di Culegna, but Osteria dei Mille and Ristorante Pizzeria Le Repubbliche Marinare are also really good. In Piazza Dante avoid Caffetteria Dantesca. Very expensive. Piccadilly, on the other hand, is good and inexpensive.

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Pisa riverside walk: Wonderful views & lovely gardens

I’ve visited Pisa a couple of times and what I most enjoyed doing was walking along the banks of the River Arno. There are so many interesting and colourful historic buildings dotted along the riverside.

On the northern bank of the river, on Lungarno Fibonacca is the entrance to the 19th century Giardino di Scotto. This municipal park hosts outdoor events during the Summer. There’s a children’s playground and an attractive terraced garden.

You can look around the 14th century Palazzo Gambacorti, now the offices of the Pisa commune. This riverside building is also on the northern bank, east of Giardino di Scotto. There was a free art exhibition on during my visit in November 2009.

The dinky Santa Maria della Spina Church sits by the River Arno.

Pisa riverside

Santa Maria della Spina Church, Pisa

So if you’re in Pisa, do venture beyond the environs of the Leaning Tower and enjoy a walk along the riverside.

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More Things to Do in Italy

We’ve plenty more tips for things to do in Italy on Europe a la Carte.

Palazzo Gambacorti, Pisa: Modern art exhibition

When I travel I love to have time to just wander around. Our first day in Pisa was quite warm and sunny for late November, so we decided to do a riverside walk. I saw a poster advertising an art exhibition in the 14th century Palazzo Gambacorti, which is now the administrative HQ for the Pisa district.

The venue was amazing, with vaulted ceiling and stained glass. It’s great that you can see modern art, free of charge, in such a lovely location.

I loved the exhibition and much preferred to spend my time there rather than at a popular, crowded, admission charging, tourist attraction such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Just around the corner from the Palazzzo Gambacorti there’s lots of street art on hoardings surrounding a renovation project.

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Review of Grand Hotel Bonanno, Pisa

The Grand Hotel Bonanno was my accommodation host in Pisa from 24 – 26 November 2009. My complimentary accommodation was arranged through Hotels.com from their selection of Pisa hotels.

The four star hotel is located a 5 minute walk from Pisa San Rossore rail station. If you arrive at Pisa Centrale rail station, the number 5 bus will take you to the hotel. If you arrive at Pisa airport, buy a 1 euro bus ticket which is valid for 60 minutes covering your bus journey from the airport to the hotel changing buses at Pisa Centrale rail station. It takes 15 minutes to walk to the Leaning Tower from the hotel.

The hotel offers free parking at the rear or in an underground garage for a fee. Everywhere I walked in Pisa I saw parking meters, so the free parking is a real boon if you have a hire car.

I stayed in Room 229 which had a separate sitting area and bedroom. The room was comfortable and very clean. I found it to be far too hot especially overnight. Although I turned off the heating in the room, it was 26 degrees Celsius, I assume heat was seeping in from the corridors and adjacent rooms and there seemed to be a hot spot on the floor at one side of the bed. It was too noisy outside to leave the windows open, due to proximity to the railway line and traffic noise. However this temperature may have been ideal for the hotel’s Italian guests as I observed all the locals wearing heavy jackets outside when I was in a short sleeved top.

The staff at reception were very efficient and friendly, speaking good English. There is a charge of 12 euro for 24 hours internet access, which is a wired connection in the bedroom. I found the connection to be very good with only an occasional interruption. I was able to upload my videos to youtube which is sometimes problematic on wifi.

The breakfast buffet is excellent offering a wide choice for all tastes with plenty of fresh fruit, a great coffee machine, yoghurts, cereals, scrambled eggs, bacon, cold meats, cheeses and a selection of breads and pastries.

Grand Hotel Bonanno, Pisa

The underpass next to the Grand Hotel Bonanno, Pisa

In my opinion the most negative aspect of the hotel is its location close to the railway line and right next to a traffic underpass (in which the pedestrian path was not adequately lit during my visit). The underpass was well frequented by locals but the local council should really get the lighting sorted.

On the positive side the breakfast is great, the staff are helpful, the rooms are comfortable (if you like it hot) and the parking is free. The hotel is ideal for an overnight stay if you have early or late arrival or departure at Pisa airport or for a short break based in Pisa. You can catch a direct train to the seaside at Viareggio or to the walled city of Lucca from San Rossore rail station a 5 minute walk from the Grand Hotel Bonanno.

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Review of Hotel Villa Maya, Pisa – welcome to the boot camp

Good – 15 minutes drive from Pisa airport. Beautiful old building from exterior with impressive entrance hall, stairway and ceiling window in lovely grounds.

Bad – far too many rules and regulations and additional charge warnings. Not very clean, small bedrooms with no balcony or terrace. Difficult to find and you have to drive to find a restaurant as hotel restaurant is currently closed. Staff not very friendly.

Rating out of 10 – 3

photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

I selected the Hotel Villa Maya because of its proximity to Pisa airport for the last night of our touring trip of Tuscany and Umbria. Our flight didn’t depart until evening but I didn’t want to have a lot of driving on our final day in addition to hanging around at the airport, the flight and the drive home from Edinburgh. The cheapest price I found for a double room including breakfast was 74 euro on the hotel’s own website. It was the most expensive hotel at which we stayed during our trip but I was captivated by the photos of the late 19th century villa, set in a large garden with bedrooms furnished with antiques and wood beamed ceilings with Tuscan cotto tiles. It sounded a delightful contrast to the standardised boxes of a modern hotel.

My initial impression of the Hotel Villa Maya was that their car park was awful, it was a small graveled area in front of the fence around the grounds. It had rained earlier that day and the potholes were full and water and the clay stuck to your feet. I was glad that I wasn’t wearing expensive high heeled shoes.

I was then further annoyed to be “welcomed” to the VIlla Maya by a warning sign on the front door saying that if you checked in after 23:00 there would be an additional charge of 10 euros per person.

Our room was at the front of the Villa on the ground floor, which meant that anyone coming in or out of the villa came past our window. The room was pretty small and the bathroom was starting to show signs of wear. The rooms shown on the Villa Maya website looked much larger than the room we were allocated. My husband found used soap from the previous guests in the shower soap dish and a couple of hairs in the sink and I found a large dead fly on the bedroom floor.

When I was reading the guest information in the hall, there was a large sign informing guests that they could only consume food and drink purchased outside the hotel in their own room, not the hotel gardens. In a way I can see their point but as the rooms didn’t have balconies it would have been nice to have a cup of tea (made with my travel kettle) or a glass of wine outside. The garden was probably the best part of the villa with a gazebo and cool shady areas ideal to sit and read.

Had I booked into the correct hotel? The website describes the hotel as making you “feel right at home with a warm, family welcome in a refined, relaxed atmosphere, ensuring that your stay with be a highly enjoyable experience that will stay with you long after you leave”, Well the last part is correct as the bad memory has stayed with me.

As we were leaving to go out for dinner the receptionist informed us that if we arrived back after 23:00 we should ring the bell as the front door would be locked and we only had a room key. Now if they are don’t want to give guests the front door key and are going to be disturbed by late returns anyway why should they charge late arrivals an additional 10 euro?

Breakfast was served in an out building which had a plastic awning so you could enjoy the garden views. The lady serving breakfast was pretty surly and my husband saw her moving the ham with her bare hands. There were large signs saying that it was not permitted to take items from the breakfast buffet to consume later.

I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a hotel that had so many signs advising guests what they can’t do. and how much they’ll have to pay if they do it. I was very disappointed by this hotel and had a far larger, more comfortable, quieter, cleaner room, better breakfast, friendlier staff and a proper tarmaced car park at a lower cost per night at hotels which are part of chains such as the Holiday Inn in Perugia.

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Review of Grand Golf Hotel, Tirrenia, near Pisa

Good – great value at £49 sterling for double room with breakfast, close to Pisa airport, swimming pool and private beach, spacious bedroom and bathroom.

Bad – not really up to 4 star standard could do with revamping.

Rating out of 10 – 8


I selected the Grand Golf Hotel because of its proximity to Pisa airport as we were flying into Pisa in the early evening and didn’t want a long drive in the hire car after the flight. I found the hotel for £49 with gta hotels using the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

It took around 30 minutes to drive to the hotel from the airport. The hotel is a quiet location, near pine woods around a 10 minute walk from the town centre. Our bedroom was very spacious with a large bathroom. The fittings in the room were quite old fashioned but perfectly serviceable. Our balcony was tiny but there was a sea view. The breakfast was adequate. The swimming pool was attractive but be warned you can only swim there wearing a bathing cap which costs 4 euros at reception.

We walked to the hotel’s private beach in the morning which took around 5 minutes. There were only a few fishermen around. It’s free for guests to enter but you have to pay for sun beds and parasols but there was no-one around collecting money when we were there. There are changing facilities, showers and a cafe.

I think that the hotel is ideal for a stopover if you have an early or late flight in or out of Pisa. It would also be ideal for a relaxing couple of days by the seaside.

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