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Discovering Pisa: Do it now

Discovering Pisa: Do it now

Pisa, for whatever reason, frequently comes under the radar screen… but it shouldn’t.

I was doing floor exercises at my health club last evening and heard a member talking with his trainer about a recent trip to Italy. He mentioned Rome and Florence, Milan and Venice, but never uttered a word about Pisa. Pisa, for whatever reason, frequently comes under the radar screen, because the most noted icon for the location is the Tower. So you spend an hour or two at the Tower and adjoining buildings, and then you are off to other parts of the Italy. This is a big mistake. There is so much happening in Pisa that even a week of precious holiday time will leave you wanting more.

Where It Is

First of all, Pisa is part of Tuscany. Where is Tuscany? It is in central Italy and the capital is Florence. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is frequently used as an identifiable point when infrequent travelers are trying to figure out where Tuscany is located. Other popular cities include Lucca, Livorno, and Siena. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, it is noted for beauty, history, art and culture.

The familiar wines of Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino come from this part of the world. Famous people born in Tuscany include: Andrea Boceli (born 1958), blind since the age of 12, he has become one of the most important singing talents in the world; Giacomo Puccini (La Boheme/1896; Tosca/ 1900; Madama Butterfly/1904); and Niccolo Machiavelli (Il Principe/The Prince – a handbook for autocratic rulers).

From the Train to the Electric Car

The best way to get to Pisa is to reserve tickets through Rail Europe and arrive Pisa by train. Hopefully you reserved your car Sharengo (, and in a few minutes you will be off and exploring the dozens of wonders that are part of this region. You do need a car to explore the region so – gather your friends and get your own transportation.

1. Check In. Where to Sleep

a. Villa Tower Inn

I spent my time in Pisa at the Villa Tower Inn and was a happy camper. A charmingly diminutive property a few steps from the Leaning Tower, it has been recently restored and offers visitors an introduction to the hospitality for which Pisa is noted. While the rooms are small, they are tastefully furnished and Wi-Fi is available throughout the property. Breakfast of fresh muffins and breads, jams and jellies and a variety of coffees are available on a complimentary basis to guests.

Francesco de Rosa. Owner, Hotel Galilei Pisa (l) with Monica Barsottini (C), Marketing Manager and noted international artist, Annalisa Matucci (R)

b. Hotel Galilei Pisa

This modern 153 room, handicap accessible, property is conveniently located near the international airport and at the south gate to Pisa. With 6 meeting rooms, on premise dining and parking for 400 cars, it is popular for conferences and group travelers.

Roberto Tommasoni, General Manager, Repubblica Marinara

• Repubblica Marinara. Piazza dei Miracoli is easily available by car, bus or bike and near Cisanello hospital and the convention center.

• San Ranieri. Designed by Simone Micheli, this contemporary pet friendly property is 10 minutes from the center of Pisa by car and the convention center and near the airport, with a bus stop a few steps from the entrance. Cisanello hospital is within walking distance.

Poggio al Casone


What can be better than spending time in up-market villas/apartments and winery, located in Tuscany? Located 25 minutes from the Pisa International airport and within driving distance of Pisa and the Etruscan Coast, Poggio al Casone is owned by the Castellani family, Tuscan wine producers since the age of Dante.

Managed by Michela Beltrami who considers each and every guest her BFF she and her staff provide services usually reserved for the rich and famous.  The winery practices ecological and biodynamic systems that reduces chemicals and mechanical interference with soil and vines. The winery, lodging space and swimming pool, small lake, jogging paths are used for meetings, and wine tastings. Visits to the ancient cellar of Burchino Estate, wine tastings, yoga instruction, and other activities can be scheduled.

2. Meeting Planners. Heads-Up

Domus Comeliana

Meetings and Conference Planners take a look at the Domus Comeliana, a dynamic location that includes a townhouse and gardens steps away from the Leaning Tower.

Originally the home of Professor Marcello Comel, it is now a research foundation supported by the Institutio Santoriana Foundation Comel. The foundation offers training courses for health employees (doctors, nurses). It also supports international scientific conferences (i.e., dermatology, computer aided radiology and surgery).

Formacultural Leaning Tower

Started in 1999, this organization works closely with tourism-focused organizations in an effort to bring the history of Italy closer to visitors and students. Working with archeologists, historians and educators, the team seeks to make Italian history personal by developing materials that are interactive and individually assembled.

Gourmet Alert

3. Dining

One of the best activities in Pisa is eating. The restaurants are small, family-owned and operated. Look for individual approaches to your lunch and dinner. The chef/ owner is likely to personally welcome you upon arrival, inquire as to your favorite foods and allergies, and then head to the kitchen to make your most cherished dining wishes come true.



a. Ristorante Il Toscano. Owned by Antonio Veronese, this charming, delicious unpretentious popular luncheon and dinner spot is a few steps away from the Piazza del Miracoli and the Leaning Tower.

Almost hidden on a small side street it is a delightful place to be introduced to Tuscan cuisine. Start with salami and move on to frittelle di cèe (salty pancake with whitebait, young eels), accompanied by a refreshingly dry white wine.


b. La Pergoletta Restaurante

For over 50 years this charming, original, creative, appealing dining spot has been sharing its delicious kitchen with locals and tourists. Grounded in the Tuscan tradition of fine cuisine La Pergoletta is owned by Emma Forte and Daniela Petraglia, a mother and daughter team of restauranteurs. Look for gourmet cuisine paired with wines from the Pisan Hills. Menu options include Cacciucco spicy local squid with potato puree/olive oil, Anchovies lampara gratin baked with aromatic bread and Catalan rich in fish and shellfish grilled with raw vegetables.

Take the Time. Travel with the Pros

If you are making a travel decision to visit Pisa based entirely on on-line reviews, there is a chance that you will allocate only a few hours, rather than a few days, to discovering Tuscany. This would be a major error!

My recommendation? Work closely with the professional Pisa Convention and tourism experts, and design an experience/adventure that will create a lasting impression.

Laura Balbarini, President, Convention Bureau, Pisa, Tuscany

As the President of the Pisa Convention Bureau, Balbarini initiates and supervises bureau projects and programs for national and international leisure and business visitors as well as meeting planners.

Alessandro Bargana, President, City Grand Tour

Born in Pisa and a member of the theatre group La Tartaruga, Bargagna graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts of Armunia and the Ferlito Film Academy of Firenze as well as the Foreign Languages and Fine Arts Academy of Pisa.

Bargagna has been a professional tour guide for over 8 years and working with his team will make the difference between “seeing Pisa” and “experiencing Pisa.” Walk/ride/bike/skate – how you decide to see the city is your choice. Prefer to focus on art, music, food, wine? Your interests become your itinerary.

Bargagna is a Tourism Marketing and Destination Development instructor and a member of the DMC named the Monepisano Territorio Ospitle network that works closely with the Pisa Chamber of Commerce and Convention Bureau

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