A step-by-step guide to making the most of your time exploring the monuments within Piazza del Duomo, AKA the Square of Miracles or Piazza dei Miracoli, in Pisa, Italy.
The star of the show at the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa is undoubtedly the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or simply the Tower of Pisa. Like Giotto’s Campanile in Florence, the Tower of Pisa is the freestanding Campanile, or bell tower, of the Cathedral of Pisa. While it is the most photographed monument within the square, there are actually many other monuments that are just as stunning and spectacular as the Tower of Pisa, even if they aren’t leaning at an angle.
The monuments housed within the complex include the Cathedral, the Tower, the Baptistery, the Camposanto, the Sinopie Museum and Opera del Duomo Museum – together, this group of monuments was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
Travel from Florence to Pisa: Pisa is a popular day trip destination and can be easily reached by train from Florence in an hour. There are also plenty of trains throughout the day so you don’t have to book in advance or worry about missing a train and waiting around for hours before the next one. You can check the Florence to Pisa train times here. The Piazza del Duomo is a 20-25 minute walk away from the train station or you can take bus number 4 to get there.
Much like the Duomo Complex in Florence (read my guide here!), the visiting process is streamlined and efficient and you can easily visit all the monuments within a day if you know what you’re doing. If you want a hassle-free visit, read on for how to get the most out of your time at the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa!
Where to stay in Pisa
If you stay overnight in Pisa instead of doing a day trip, I would recommend staying at B&B Relais Paradise, a short 10 minute walk away from the square. Our room was spacious and newly renovated, the wifi was great and the owners will gladly prepare a takeaway breakfast for you if you’re leaving early the next day. One thing to note is that the check-in time is relatively late at 3 PM. Click here to book your stay at B&B Relais Paradise!
If you are doing a day trip to Pisa from Florence, stay at Hotel Calzaiuoli , a 2 (yes, TWO!) minute walk away from the Duomo Complex. The staff were extremely friendly and accommodating, rooms were bright, comfortable and spacious, and the breakfast spread was amazing. Click here to book your stay at Hotel Calzaiuoli!
Another option in Florence is La Tana Dei Leoni, an amazing guesthouse right in front of the Ponte Vecchio. It was an amazing room and great value for money – I would highly recommend this over Hotel Calzaiuoli for anyone with a slightly lower budget! Click here to book your stay at La Tana Dei Leoni!
Planning your perfect trip to Italy? Click here for even more Italy hotel booking tips and recommendations!
What you should know before you visit Pisa
The key to a smooth Florence to Pisa day trip is to get organized. There are lots of options for a Pisa tour from Florence, but to be completely honest it just isn’t necessary to go on a group tour as the trip is fairly straightforward, and this way you can wander around the various monuments on your own schedule. Here is some essential information for visiting the Tower of Pisa and the other monuments within the Duomo complex.
Ticket Options for Pisa’s Duomo Complex
Want to visit the leaning Tower of Pisa? Tickets can be purchased online between a maximum of 20 days and a minimum of 1 day prior to your visit. There are a number of ticket options available – the best option is to purchase a ticket that grants you access to all the monuments + the Pisa tower for €27. Entry to the Cathedral is free, but you will need to be dressed appropriately – covered shoulders and knees. Make sure you print out your ticket as it contains bar codes for each monument that will be scanned for entry.
Pisa Duomo Complex Opening Hours
Entrance to the monuments is allowed up to 30 minutes before closing time, and specific opening and closing times can be found here. The monuments tend to close earlier at 6/7 PM during the winter, and later at 8/9/10 PM during the summer months.
Pisa Duomo Complex Dress Code
No bare shoulders and short skirts/shorts are permitted in the Cathedral. Bring a shawl or scarf if you’re planning to wear a tank/spaghetti top so you can cover your shoulders as people do get turned away, especially from the Cathedral and Baptistry. Wear comfortable shoes or sandals (with good grip) if you plan to climb the Tower of Pisa.
Planning a trip to Italy? Click here for 14 things you should know before you go to Italy!
The Monuments of Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa
1. Visiting the Leaning Tower: one of the 7 Wonders of the World
The lean on the Tower of Pisa is actually much more significant when you see it in person. The inclination is currently approximately 5.5 degrees and was caused by the soft ground below it – the structure wasn’t actually stabilized until the 20th/early 21st century and was reopened to the public in 2001.
It is called the Leaning Tower or the Tower of Pisa but actually it was never used for defending the city: its primary purpose is to acts as a bell tower for timekeeping in religious and daily life! The Tower of Pisa features a total of seven bells (one for each musical note), the largest of which weighs 3.5 tonnes.
Can you climb the leaning Tower of Pisa? Yes! If you want to climb the leaning Tower of Pisa, then you will need to select a specific time slot as tickets for the Tower are at set times and limited in number; I would highly recommend that you do so earlier rather than trying to purchase a ticket on-site. Make sure you are on time, because if you are late you will not be allowed in and you will not be refunded! I would also recommend finding out when the sun is setting and timing your visit to coincide with the sunset so you can watch it from the top of the tower.
Unlike visiting the Duomo in Florence, the Tower has strict security measures in place and any hand bags, backpacks and luggage must be left at the cloakroom before the visit (free of charge) and you will be wanded before entry (scanned with a handheld detector). You are pretty much only allowed to bring your phone, ticket and pamphlet/brochure with you.
The visit takes about 35-45 minutes and you will need to climb 251 uneven and slippery steps up to the top, so wear appropriate footwear. Whilst it’s not a very physically strenuous climb, this was honestly one of the most vertigo-inducing experiences I have ever gone through because of the lean, and in some sections you will feel extremely off-balance.
You can get a sense of the extreme lean on the Tower of Pisa from these photos of the main entrance.
Related post: Looking for other incredible day trips from Florence? Click here for a guide to exploring Siena on foot in 1 day!
2. Visiting the Pisa Cathedral
I am ashamed to say that the dress code completely slipped my mind and I wasn’t allowed to enter the Cathedral! Nevertheless, it is an incredible stunning piece of architecture and I’d love to visit the interior next time. The Cathedral was founded in the 11th century and was built using many reused materials from Roman monuments. Today, it remains an important religious monument for the community and continues to host Holy Mass, festivals and events.
3. Visiting the Pisa Baptistery
The Baptistery of Pisa (also known as the The Baptistery of San Giovanni) is the largest baptistery in Italy and was founded in August 1152 – it is absolutely humongous. Like the Cathedral, the Baptistery features “zebra work” of white marble and grey. Because it sits on the same unstable sand as the tower and cathedral, the Baptistery also leans slightly by 0.6 degrees. Once you are inside, you can walk up the second story and look up at the dome and out towards the rest of the square.
4. Visiting the Camposanto in Pisa
The Camposanto of Pisa is actually a beautiful cemetery housing sarcophagi, graves, frescoes, statues and chapels. It is a peaceful space with a long, lush internal garden. Dating back to 1277, it was built to accommodate the graves that up until then were scattered all around the Cathedral. There is a legend that bodies buried in the ground here will rot in just 24 hours!
Don’t skip the Camposanto if you’re visiting Pisa on a day trip from Florence: the detailed frescoes that adorn its walls portray stories of life and death, and have been lovingly restored and maintained over the centuries.
5. Visiting the Pisa Sinopie Museum
The Sinopie Museum hosts the big preparatory drawings recovered beneath the frescoes decorating the Camposanto – some dating back to the Middle Ages! The Pisa collection is unique as it came to light as the result of a terrible fire that damaged the Camposanto during World War II, and the frescoes had to be detached in order to save and restore them. The hidden sinopias were revealed beneath the paint, and have been in the museum since 1979. It is worth a visit as they also play a fascinating short educational video on the history of the Tower and efforts to stabilize it.
6. Visiting the Pisa Opera del Duomo Museum
The Opera del Duomo Museum recently re-opened to the public in late 2019. It contains scale models of buildings in the Piazza, the archaeological collection, modern paintings, sculptures, portraits, textiles and goldwork – all the works that were once displayed in the Duomo and Baptistery.
If you follow this guide to climb the Tower of Pisa and explore the monuments that you will have made the most of your visit to the Square of Miracles! I hope this guide is able to help you to plan a stress-free and enjoyable visit! For those of you who have explored the monuments in Pisa, do you have any other tips that I missed? Share them below in the comments section!
Heading to other cities in Italy? You might also enjoy these reads:
- Click here for more Italy destination guides and travel tips or check out all of my hotel recommendations and booking tips for Italy
- For even more Florence travel inspiration check out this wanderlust-inducing photo gallery
- Those planning to climb the Florence Duomo can’t skip this guide to the monuments
- Read this guide for where to find the best viewpoints in Florence
- Siena is another UNESCO-listed city in Tuscany with its very own Duomo and historic centre. Read this 1 day itinerary for Siena
- Wine lovers should venture outside of Florence to visit Tuscany’s wineries. Here’s how to get a taste of Tuscany in a day
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