A train ride to Pisa from Florence: a short day trip, perfect for little ones
It’s been a while since we took off on a day trip, at least more than we would like. The arrival of our third child and the long pandemic restrictions have kept us home-bound (remember that behind DiscoverTuscany there is essentially a mom and dad: Lourdes and me, Stefano). This summer, shortly before school started back again, we decided it was time we took a day trip with all 3 kids, Nico and William, ages 4, 6 and the just barely turned 11 year old princess Sophie.
Where to? We decided to head to Pisa to reboot our travels: easy and quick to reach from Florence, with the very specific idea of seeing the “Leaning Tower that never falls” and to eat some delicious cecina!
With the added adventure of our kids traveling on the train for the very first time, and for us to test how long they (and we) could last for a day out.
With this day trip we were also able to test out the new Trenitalia rule on electronic tickets – that even though they purchased online at https://www.trenitalia.com/ for a specific date and time – they still require you to check-in (much like with an airplane ticket) which you can easily do on the App or by clicking on the email you get and which needs to be done before your time of departure. We appreciated the new regional trains which even have cool names such as “Blues”, “Rock”, “Jazz” and “Pop”. Modern, clean and with many sockets to charge your phone. There are trains about every half hour between Pisa and Florence, so we also had a lot of choice on when we wanted to leave.
Taking advantage of the kids’ enthusiasm for the day, we actually managed to head out pretty early and to arrive before we had heard too many “are we there yet?” and “how much longer?” during the hour long trip from Santa Maria Novella. We arrived in Pisa before 9am, on a gorgeous September day, with the sun hidden behind some clouds and ideal temperature.
From the train station, it is a relatively short walk to Piazza dei Miracoli of around 2km (a mile). First we head toward Corso Italia, known as Pisa’s main shopping street but with a quick detour to check out Tuttomondo di Keith Haring’s Tuttomondo mural, which was also appreciated by our budding artists.
We stroll down the street, taking any breaks that are needed. A thousand things seem to attract the attention of the young ones, and they are not necessarily the ones that bring millions of visitors from across the world to Pisa 😉
We make it to the Arno and cross the Ponte di Mezzo, then past piazza Garibaldi and onto Borgo Stretto, all places I know very well from my university years at Pisa and which are the heart of the city. Already planning ahead to lunch, we pass in front of what was my favorite pizzeria while I studied here: Il Montino… but it is closed! 🙁
I suppose this just means we will need to return to Pisa again soon la prossima volta…
We reach Piazza dei Miracoli in less than an hour, finding it packed with a long line at the Leaning Tower. With 2 out of 3 kids that can’t yet go up the tower (minimum age is 8), we stop to admire the grand view. It is good to come back, even for a short trip like today’s. We go to the cathedral and while entrance is still free, it is only allowed with a ticket at a specific time slot. We stop for a ticket but with a time slot 2 hours from then, we decide it is better to not put our young ones to the test. With more time available, one can go inside the Duomo and the Baptistery, the Sinopie museum, climb and walk along the perimeter wall behind the piazza and climb all the way to the top of the Leaning Tower. Knowing we will have to return once the kids can go up the tower makes it easier to move on to something else.
Which turns out to be posing for silly family pics as well as the classic one “holding up” the Leaning Tower. Which isn’t as easy as you would think!
Holding up the Tower makes us hungry and it’s noon by now: time to pass on to the second part of our plan – pizza and cecina. I had checked out the top recommended pizzerias in Pisa and found Pizzera Le Mura very close to the tower right in front of the Bagni di Nerone. We head there and find it opening for lunch. We take advantage and order both cecina and pizza, and get the cecina right out of the oven! It is delicious, if you’ve never tried this chickpea flour flatbread before I recommend you give it a try, it is a specialty here in Pisa and along the coast (but for some reason it is called torta in Livorno). The pizza is also good and very cheesy.
As we head back, always at a stroll, we decide to take a break to rest on the benches under the big shady trees found in “Martiri della Libertà”, which runs along Borgo Stretto, before heading for a gelato stop at the Bottega del Gelato, in piazza Garibaldi.
The half day we had planned for our first day out had come to an end, time to head back to the train station and our train back to Florence while the kids still had the energy the gelato gave them.
We hope to return to Pisa soon, to spend more time visiting it without time constraints, maybe even spending a weekend there. In the meantime, it was fun to return to this city I knew inside and out in my student days!
About Lourdes Flores
An American living in Florence for over 10 years, Lourdes continues to explore and discover new places in Tuscany with the eyes of a tourist but with the experience of living in Italy. She shares her experiences on this blog and website, particularly offering lots of travel planning help on the Forum!