Your Pisa Travel Guide
This past weekend I appropriately celebrated fall with with a Saturday trip to Pisa and Lucca, two small Italian towns slightly north of Florence. You’ve probably heard of the first one. Highlights include, but are not limited too, taking a cheesy tourist picture with the leaning tower, laughing at other people taking cheesy tourist pictures with the leaning tower and fried chickpea sandwiches larger than my left thigh. Want more interesting and insightful suggestions? Keep reading for my my top five favorite things to do in Pisa, with a little Lucca on the side.
1. Visit the Field of Miracles.
This is the Big Thing To Do in Pisa. It’s a (free-ish) beautiful, sprawling green field dotted with four bright white Medieval masterpieces; the Duomo of Pisa, the Baptistry, the Cemetery and, of course, the Bell Tower. Each boast an imposing presence- and- for the mere price of 20 euro, entrance for you and your iPhone! In all honesty, though, you really can’t miss this. Physically cannot miss it. You have to walk through it to get to the food. So you might as well enjoy!
2. Listen to a vocal demonstration in the Baptistry
At 11am every day a nondescript man emerges from the crowd at the base of the baptistry. Standing in a (seemingly) specific spot behind the baptismal fountain he lifts his windbreaker clad arms to his mouth and calls the most breathtaking note out at the crowd. It sounds like a million angles singing. For all four minutes he continues, nobody blinks. Or breathes. Especially him. Prioritize this acoustic demonstration above all. (Except gelato).
3. Stroll through the Duomo and discover Giovanni Pisano’s most famous work.
Giovanni Pisano, one of my favorite Renaissance sculptors, was apparently quite the big deal in Pisa. His world-renowned pulpit, carved from a single block of marble, still stands in it’s original spot inside the Cathedral and is almost as breathtaking as the gold-leaf ceiling. I know that tickets are annoying and expensive and all that, but this particular one is seriously worth it.
4. Disobey the signs for the sake of Instagram
You won’t be alone. In fact, my second favorite part of Pisa was watching people from every country and culture make total and utter fools of themselves for social media. My first favorite part was being one of them. A picture is worth a thousand word’s ya’ll.
5. Eat five-dollar fried chickpea sandwiches at Pizzeria Il Montino
Our carefully selected lunch spot, recommended by our tour guide and sold by the smell, was a little yellow joint with rustic wooden tables and an outdoor seating area that resembling a tented wedding. I had the traditional Pisan(?) dish, an egg-like patty made from fried chickpeas and eggplant called cecina. It. was. incredible. This magical creation comes between two pieces of toasted focaccia so large that finishing it is probably quite questionable for your health. (I did though, don’t worry). A few of my lovely travel mates opted for the “personal” pizzas; also tempting, also mammoth, also five euros. Pizzeria Il Montino is the place to be on a Saturday afternoon.
Bonus! A Little Bit of Lucca
The things I would recommend to do in Lucca are probably the same things I would recognize you do in, say, the suburbs of Cincinnati- but with a twist. For example, snack on some freshly roasted chestnuts as you walk the perimeter of the city on an ancient medieval wall; wander through the city center and pick up handmade Nutella truffles from a local patisserie; swing on an antique play-set with questionable engineering; and especially, crunch through fall leaves like a small child and enjoy it twice as much. Lucca is the town your grandma lives in, it's the park you take the kids you babysit too, or your favorite neighborhood to Christmas carol. It's Italian Star's Hollow. If my irrational craving for a Harry Potter movie marathons and hot apple cider are any indication, I officially have fall fever, and Lucca gave it to me. Either way, Lucca was one of my favorite little spots so far and the perfect way to ring in November.