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Pisa and Lucca

Pisa

Famous for its "Leaning" Belltower, one of several attractions at the Piazza dei Miracoli ("Piazza of Miracles"), this town used to be a major sea power (or Maritime Republic).  Certainly worth a short day trip, especially because many trains change here anyway.

Sights

  • To get to the Piazza dei Miracoli from the train station, take a taxi (~€6) or bus (LAM Rossa, #4, or #21, get off at Piazza Manin) or walk (~25-45 min, depending on if you take the direct route or Rick Steve's walking tour).
  • If you want to climb the Campanile ("Leaning Tower")buy a €15 ticket for a 30-min appointment at the ticket office...or for an extra €2 book it online (at least 15 days in advance).  Apparently in the summer the wait is usually about 2 hours between buying a ticket and getting an appointment, but less if you go early or late in the day (or during the off-season).  Hours vary according to the season (e.g. 8:30-8 from April to Sept, with even later closing at 11 Jun to Aug).
    • Watch your step! Not only is the tower leaning, but also the marble is uneven.
  • Seeing the other monuments costs different amounts.  Most people would at most want to see the Duomo (Cathedral, €2, cool Pisano sculptures), Battistero (Baptistry, €5, a Pisano pulpit and awesome echo acoustics—a guard sings every half hour), or both (€6).  (Even art buff Rick Steves says the other piazza museums aren't worth it.)  Cheapskates can check out the Cathedral during Mass (M-Sat 8 & 9:30, Sun 8, 9:30, 11, noon, and 5 [6 pm in summer], or other holy days), or come in the winter (Nov-Feb) when it's free.
  • In the historic center, there is a food market at Piazza delle Vettovaglie every day but Sunday from ~7-6, just north of the Ponte di Mezzo (along Rick Steve's walking tour from the train station to the Piazza dei Miracoli)

Restaurants

  • Osteria Dei Cavalieri - Via San Frediano 16, just S of Piazza dei Cavalieri in the historic center, "recommended by just about everybody", baccala alla Pisana rec'd.  rec'd by chowhounds, Fred Plotkin, 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia. Popular for lunch—get a reservation...but may have gone downhill?
  • Were recommended in ~2011, not sure now: 
    • Il Campano (di Mugnai Piero) - just east of via S. Frediano, between Ponte di Mezzo and Piazza dei Cavalieri, rec'd by several sources
    • Osteria La Mescita - near food market, rec'd by many on tripadvisor
    • Osteria del Porton Rosso - also near food market, rec'd by Michelin
    • Ristorante La Clessidra - E of Piazza dei Cavalieri, rec'd by Michelin
    • Cagliostro [closed and replaced by La Clessidra?] -  Via Del Castello 26/30 (S of Piazza dei Cavalieri),  050-575-413, 050-580-900, 050-971-1199, 338-123-9677, glowing reviews on chowhound.
    • Spaghetteria Alle Bandierine - Via Mercante, near Ponte di Mezzo.  Fresh-made spaghetti  rec'd by The Independent
    • Trattoria da Bruno - near p. dei miracoli, rec'd by The Independent for zuppa and baccalà.
    • [La Pergoletta? NE of ponte di mezzo]
    • Vineria di Piazza - Piazza delle Vettovoglie 13, closed Sun, Fred Plotkin rec's soups & braised meats, but says to skip the pasta
    • Pastries: Salza cafe, at Via Borgo Stretto 44, rec'd by Slow Food
  • Outside of town:
    • Re di Puglia - S of main centro storico, rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Pasta e Vino - in Cascina, rec'd 2018 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Chocolate: DeBondt - Lungarno Pacinotti, 5; 050-316-0073; rec'd by the NY Times.
  • Gelato:
  • Other sources: http://www.behindthetower.com/en/pisa/city/restaurants-pisa

Lucca

A fiercely independent town not far from Pisa, Lucca is famous for its huge Renaissance-era defensive wall, built 30 meters thick at its base (so it could withstand cannon fire). It's near the Serchio river, so it's relatively flat—it's a bit like a "hill town without a hill". This blogpost gives a detailed description (with lots of photos) of a walking tour; this blogpost is lighter on words but also has a bunch of photos.

Sights

  • Explore the Wall -  You can walk, jog, or bike on top of the now-picturesque defensive wall around the city
  • San Martino Cathedral - has the "Holy Face of Lucca" (Volto Santo di Lucca), a crucifix allegedly created by Nicodemus (although the one on display is apparently a 13th century copy).
  • Climb Towers - You can get a great view of the town from several towers, such as the Clock Tower (Torre delle Ore) or the Torre Guinigi (the latter has trees at the top, but has a great view of the Piazza Anfiteatro).
  • Piazza Anfiteatro -  gets its shape from—you guessed it—an ancient Roman amphitheater
  • Shopping/Strolling - Join the "long line" of Lucchese on via Fillungo, taking a passagiata and window shopping.
  • Summer Festival - Lucca hosts a summer festival every year, with popular musicians (2011 featured Blink 182, Elton John, Amy Winehouse, Arcade Fire, and Jamiroquai, among others)

Hotels

  • Alla Dolce Vita - rec'd by Rick Steves
  • Le Violette - rec'd by Rick Steves
  • La Magnolia - rec'd by Rick Steves
  • B&B La Torre - 
  • B&B Antica Corte dei Principi - looks like nice location/prices
  • ...

Restaurants

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