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We tried to give Pisa a chance, we really did. We searched for enough things to do to make it worthwhile to stay a day or two, but in the end we just couldn’t. Ultimately, we decided to stay in Lucca on our way between Cinque Terre and Florence. Yet, we were changing trains in Pisa so we opted to spend a half day. How could you be at the Pisa Centrale station and not go see the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Most people will visit Pisa as a day trip from Florence, but given our route was taking us right through Pisa, it didn’t make sense to come back that way. Thankfully, the Pisa Centrale station has left luggage facilities so we dropped off our bags for a few hours.
Tip: 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.
Our train, which was only an hour from Monterosso in Cinque Terre, arrived in Pisa at 10:17am and we booked a train to Lucca at 3:20pm. Since we only had a few hours in Pisa, we knew our best course of action would be to see the Leaning Tower first then see how much time we had left. The walk from the Pisa Centrale Station to the Leaning Tower is approximately 22 minutes (longer with little legs walking, obviously) and is a nice walk for families with small kids. It was nearly car free the entire way so we could let the kids wander the streets and look in all the shop windows.
It’s always an interesting experience to go and see a place or monument that you’ve seen a million times on TV and in pictures. We often wonder if we’ll be less impressed because of this, but that rarely happens. I mean, they are famous for a reason, right? The Leaning Tower of Pisa was no different.
I had once read that the Leaning Tower was one of the most recognizable buildings and even a year later, if we randomly see a picture of it my 4 year old knows exactly what it is. There’s the influence travel has on kids! I even asked her about it 8 months later and her response was “yes, it’s leaning”!
The Leaning tower, which is a bell tower, is actually one of four monuments in the cathedral complex called Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles). Also included are the Cathedral of Pisa (Duomo di Pisa), the Baptistery and the Monumental Cemetery.
The Leaning Tower itself is quite impressive, both in beauty and in its angle of leaning, but the Duomo and Baptistery are nice surprises as well. Usually we are ones to climb any tower we can, but the Leaning Tower does not allow kids under the age of 8 years old to climb the tower. Regardless, walking around amongst the stunning monuments while the kids chased pigeons (of course) was worth the visit.
As you’d expect, it’s very busy, so if the typical funny tourist pictures are important to you, get there early.
Tip: There are big & clean pay bathrooms behind the church – it’s worth the 0.80€.
We hadn’t really planned to see anything else in Pisa because we weren’t sure how long our visit to the Square of Miracles would take. While eating lunch we consulted one of those cartoon tourist maps we had picked up along the way. On it we spotted a drawing of an aqueduct with a playground approximately a 20 minute walk from the Tower. After loving our experience at the Aqueduct park in Rome, we knew we wanted to check it out.
The park, Parco Don Bosco, was a large treed park with a big playground, a bike path running past it and the aqueduct running the length of it. When we travel, we love to give our kids a little bit of time each day to just be kids but it’s even better if we find ourselves at a playground with a view or something interesting for us!
Finishing up our few hours in Pisa, we made our way to the Arno river and stopped at a park conveniently located near the train station. The Giardino Scotto park has been through many changes from being the location of a fortified citadel in the 15th century to a fortress to a private garden. In the early 1900’s it was donated to be a park for the citizens of Pisa. Today it’s the perfect spot for a picnic under the towering trees on a sunny day and to let your little ones burn off some energy at the playground.
Next stop on our Italy tour… Lucca!
Are you taking your family to the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Make the most of your time by skipping the lines…
Have you been to Pisa with kids? What was your favourite part? Tell us in the comments below.