Italy Tour: Pisa in a Day

Bill Petro
3 min readAug 6, 2022

Can you visit Pisa on an Italy Tour in a single day? Yes, a day trip will do it quite easily. Cruise ships regularly dock at the nearby Port of Livorno.

Pisa is a Tuscan city passed through by the Arno River, which also passes through Florence further south. Historically it was a maritime republic before the days of the unification of Italy in the late 1800s. The city boasts twenty churches, over half a dozen museums, and several palaces.

The University of Pisa (universitas = community, the universe, or practically: “students who gathered around masters”) was part of the early Renaissance in the mid-12th-century, making it one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe. The 1st-century B.C. author Virgil mentions Pisa in his Aeneid. Pisa means “mouth” (of the Arno) and comes from the Etruscan language (where we get the word Tuscany.)

The most visited location is the “Leaning Tower of Pisa.” Everyone goes up the campanile, the famously leaning bell tower there. Few go into the Pisa Cathedral next to it.

Campanilismo is the “spirit of the town,” typified by the bell tower next to the church in every town I’ve been to in Tuscany. It is a parochial sentiment felt stronger in Italy than many other countries.

Pisa: Piazza del Duomo

In the Piazza del Duomo (The Pisa Cathedral Square) can be found the cathedral, the tower, along with the Pisa Baptistry on the opposite side of the cathedral.

The bell tower is just over 183 feet high on the downhill side and almost 186 feet on the uphill side. This is due to a 5.5-degree tilt that started back in the original construction in the 12th century, due to the soft ground beneath. Various things have been done in the last few decades to correct this. Lead counterweights were used in 1998. If you go there now, you’ll notice two cables leading from the cathedral to the Tower, initially put in back in 1993, which corrected the tilt to only 3.97 degrees — returning to its 1838 position.

But no one wants to correct the tilt completely; it would lose its tourist appeal.

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel.