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Things to Do in Pisa

The Tuscan city of Pisa is synonymous with its most famous attraction—the leaning tower—but there's so much more to this historic city than a teetering building. While Pisa is one of Italy's most popular destinations for day tours from nearby Italian destinations—especially if you have your eye on posing on the Piazza dei Miracoli pretending to hold up the iconic leaning tower—few realize the tower is actually the bell tower for the adjacent 11th-century cathedral, and that the piazza's enormous baptistery is the largest in Italy. And while Florence might be the bigger draw today, visitors who explore beyond the tower of Pisa are rewarded with history and art. Giorgio Vasari designed the lovely Piazza dei Cavalieri and a church on the square, inside of which there's a piece by Donatello. The tiny 13th-century church of Santa Maria della Spina sits right on the Arno River in the city center. Keith Haring's last public work is a huge mural on the wall of the Church of Sant'Antonio. You can discover these and more lesser-known sights on a walking tour, or easily reach other Italian cities with an organized day trip that handles the logistics. Heading out into the countryside from Pisa, visitors can wander the Medieval streets of historic Siena, circle the town of Lucca walking atop its city walls, go wine tasting in the Chianti hills, or hike the trails linking the five towns of the Cinque Terre.
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Leaning Tower of Pisa
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Perhaps one of the world's most beloved architectural mistakes, the Leaning Tower of Pisa's inimitable tilt has made the UNESCO World Heritage site an Italian icon. Travelers flock to snap photos of themselves “holding up” the tilted tower—originally intended as a bell tower for Pisa Cathedral—although you can also ascend the 294-step spiral staircase for stunning views over Pisa.

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Pisa Cathedral (Duomo)
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Visitors flock to Pisa’s famous leaning tower, which is part of a magnificent cathedral complex centered around the 17th-century Duomo and adjacent baptistery. A splendid example of Pisan Romanesque architecture, the Duomo’s original and renovated elements include a splendid apse mosaic, ornate pulpit, golden coffered ceiling, and more.

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Piazza dei Miracoli
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One of the most famous sights in all of Tuscany—perhaps all of Italy—stands in the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa. This grassy expanse is home to the city’s cathedral complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the Duomo, Monumental Cemetery, and Opera del Duomo Museum. The headliner, however, is the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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Pisa Baptistery (Battistero)
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Pisa’s Leaning Tower may be more famous, but the nearby baptistery (battistero) is equally captivating. Clad in white marble with intricately carved rows of Romanesque and Gothic arches and a cupcake dome, the baptistery is one of the essential sights in the city’s UNESCO-listed cathedral (duomo) complex.

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Knights' Square (Piazza dei Cavalieri)
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Pisa’s most famous attraction may be its Leaning Tower, but for centuries its heart was Knights’ Square (Piazza dei Cavalieri), remodeled by the architect Vasari in the 16th century into a classic example of Renaissance civic planning. Today, the square is home to Pisa’s university in the medieval center.

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Monumental Cemetery of Pisa (Camposanto Monumentale)
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Italy is home to some of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, including the Monumental Cemetery of Pisa (Camposanto Monumentale). Part of the UNESCO-listed cathedral complex, this Gothic cloister features intricate marble arches encircling a central courtyard, 14th-century frescoes, chapels, and rows of Roman sarcophagi.

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Church of Santa Maria della Spina (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina)
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Pisa’s exquisite Church of Santa Maria della Spina (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina) is covered in intricate and fanciful stonework, a hallmark of the 14th-century Pisan Gothic style. With its fairytale exterior and magnificent Madonna of the Rose by Andrea and Nino Pisano inside, this church is a tiny gem and the perfect foil to the grandeur of the city’s Duomo.

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Church of San Sisto (Chiesa di San Sisto)

The Church of San Sisto (Chiesa di San Sisto) is one of the oldest in Pisa, and its simple stone facade is an excellent example of early Pisan-Romanesque architecture. Contrast this modest masterpiece with another of Pisa's attractions, the ornate Gothic Duomo, by taking a guided tour of both.

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