Home to the world’s most beloved architectural accident, the leaning tower is a must-see on the bucket list of many of Pisa’s visitors, yet to ignore the rest of this fascinating town would be a sorry mistake. Also home to one of Italy’s most prestigious universities, Pisa is a thriving community, rich in both culture and entertainment. Thanks to a bustling student population a sense of energy and excitement is always in the air and local stores and restaurants offer the ideal combination between good value and luxury indulgence.
The lovely town of Pisa has a good mix of upper-end and middle-range accommodation, though it’s less well served with budget options. Places such as Hotel Relais Dell'Orologio (Via della Faggiola 12-14), in a 14th-century mansion, and elegant four-star Hotel Bologna (Via Giuseppe Mazzini 57), with plenty of old-fashioned charm and character, are at the top of the range. Among the less expensive options are three-star Hotel Villa Kinzica (Pizza Arcivescovado 2), close to the Leaning Tower, and Hotel Roma (Via Bonanno Pisano 111), which has simple rooms, some of which have views of the famous tower.
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As a university town, Pisa has plenty of excellent budget restaurants, as well as more upmarket choices, which are largely located in the historic centre. Osteria dei Cavalieri (Via San Frediano 16) offers scrumptious, sophisticated cuisine in an chic setting, just off the main drag. Most of the best-value restaurants in Pisa are clustered around the university, including Ristoro al Vecchio Teatro (Via Collegio Ricci 12), which serves traditional Pisan cooking with a particular focus on seafood. For a cheaper eat, try Il Montino (Vicolo Monte 1), which is a much-loved pizzeria, famous for its cecina (chickpea pizza).
La Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare
Italy's four main ancient maritime republics (Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice) take turns to hold this historic 2,000m boat race between beautiful, colourful crafts that are modelled on those of the 12th century, while festivities and parades take place in the city.
La Luminara di San Ranieri
Pisans honour their patron saint, San Ranieri, by lining the "lungarni" – the streets along the Arno River – with candles, with more candles floating on the river. All streetlights are turned off, and there are fireworks and street parties.
La Regata di San Ranieri
To honour Pisa’s patron saint, the four historical quarters of Pisa (Santa Maria in blue, San Francesco in yellow, Sant’Antonio in green and San Martino in red) compete in the spectacularly colourful, historical Regatta of Saint Ranieri.
Gioco del Ponte
Dating from 1568, this traditional celebration held on the last Sunday in June sees battles between teams from the north and south banks, including the pushing of a seven-tone carriage across the Ponte di Mezzo, Pisa's old Roman bridge.
A festival of sacred music, with exquisite performances at atmospheric venues throughout Pisa, including a recital in Miracle Square.