This place is way more than just a tower on a bit of a slant…
Most people visit Pisa as a day trip from Florence, and to be honest – for good reason. Aside from that giant leaning tower, there’s basically not a hell of a lot else to do there. However, if nothing else, it’s a good place to stay a night outside the outrageous prices of Florence, and then head off for other Italian cities the next day. Here’s how to do Pisa on the cheap.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
I do not need to tell you to visit this monstrosity, nor do I need to encourage you to pose ridiculously in front of it like every single other person. However, you should, and you will. Not that I’m giving you information on one of the world’s most iconic tourist sites that you absolutely do not need or anything, but it might interest you to know that the tower is actually part of the Pisa Cathedral and Baptistry, and not just a random tower on a lean at all.
The grounds of the cathedral are manicured and quite lovely, and the cathedral itself is beautiful on the inside. But of course, all anyone wants to do here is stand outside with their arms in ridiculous positions for various Instaboyfriends and girlfriends to capture. The reluctant tourist landmark’s unintended tilt began during its construction in the 12th century, caused by insufficient foundations on a too-soft ground on one side.
The tilt just kept increasing year after year until the structure was completed in the 14th century, and wasn’t stabilised until the late 20th and early 21st century. Climbing to the top of the tower may be a tourist draw in itself, but given that it probably also inspires vertigo and a certain sense of feeling as though you’re about to plunge to your death, we gave it a miss. It’s 18 euro to climb to the top. The cathedral, on the other hand, is free to enter – and will not make you feel like you’re getting closer to the ground with every step.
*Naples: Pompeii, Vesuvius and deep fried pizza
*Tuscany: Rolling hills and wine
* Venice: how to do the world’s most romantic city on a budget
* Florence: cow innards, Michelangelo’s David and paninis
Wander along the Arno
Pisa is only a short jaunt outside of Florence, so it makes perfect sense that they’re both built along the Arno. There’s the same quaint architecture running along the river, and it’s worth the walk to see the tiny Church of Santa Maria della Spina, which basically now sits in the middle of a road because of the numerous amounts of building that’s gone on around it.
Eat and drink
FREE FOOD. Need we say more? This funky bar in central Pisa is a freaking excellent place, and not just because of the free snacks. It’s a quirky little bar with a great selection of craft beers and some of the best staff we’ve come across in the whole country, and did we mention the FREE FOOD…? Happy hour at Orzo Bruno includes cheap AF drinks and plates of bruschetta piled high on the bar for people to help themselves to. Sure, it’s probably not kosher to head up and pile your plate high enough for this to constitute a meal (regardless, that’s exactly what we did. And then we felt bad so we just kept buying drinks) but the friendly staff are pretty encouraging of you to sit back and relax – and partake in as much free food as you want. The beers are cheap as well; free food and cheap alcohol?! Unheard of.
Note: they don’t open until 7pm, and that’s when happy hour starts.
If you’ve been exclusively eating carbs for several weeks and are desperately seeking anything with even a glimpse of green, this place is nirvana. Build your own salad for 6/7 euro depending on how extravagant your ingredients are – and feel yourself glowing again from the inside out.
It’s on the outskirts of town and not really near anything, but if you’ve got a car or don’t mind walking – this is a solid budget choice. The hotel is basic, but clean and quite plush, and for about 35 euro a night in off season, it’s basically a steal. The free buffet breakfast is excellent and the staff are exceptional.
Hire a car! It might not have been a Fiat 500, but we scored a Fiat Panda for approximately 8 GBP for two and a half days, picked up at Galileo Galilei airport. Sure, the man was just about in tears by the time he finished attempting to make us buy their extortionate insurance policy, it was November, and it was still a Fiat Panda but that’s a steal in anybody’s books. Just make sure you’ve got your international driver’s licence, and can speak angry Italian via flailing gestures while behind the wheel – you’ll get a lot of those.