Let’s face the truth: it’s difficult to avoid the image of the leaning tower when PISA is being mentioned. To be frank, taking the ”Kung-Fu Master saving a monument from falling” kind of picture had always been my dream. When the occasion finally came, my local guide quickly tried to make me change my mind.
Vuoi fare la scema anche tu? (you too want to make a FOOL of yourself) – he asked.
Pisa’s citizens would very much preferred their guests to come with more ambitious plans than posing with the leaning TOWER in weird positions, devouring margheritas or wandering along the main commercial street.
Thanks to an initiative of the San Giuliano Terme’s district office I had a chance to learn that this part of TUSCANY has a lot more to offer. You only need to open your eyes a bit wider. This article aims to help you doing so!
Here are my suggestions of PLACES worth visiting while in Pisa.
– film, theater and opera costumes collection
One of the biggest and most impressive film, theater and opera COSTUMES collection in the world, with over 30,000 different garments, including the original ones people could admire during Puccini’s plays. You can try some of the costumes in Villa Roncioni in San Giuliano Terme next to Pisa. However, the collection is not only to be contemplated – it also helps future FASHION designers learn their craft. Which student wouldn’t like to practice on such examples?
I had a pleasure to borrow one of the costumes for a wonderful reception in a breathtaking mansion Villa Alta. If you’re planning a wedding in Italy, this place is worth keeping in mind!
Certosa di Calci
– the monastery of the Carthusian Order
It dates back to the fourteenth century, but its good condition allows to perfectly imagine what life was like behind the closed WALLS. I suggest going for a guided tour – you might discover a bunch of curiosities on the way. I learnt, for example, that the monks could only talk once a week during a Sunday stroll. The legend has it that for this reason Carthusian’s CATS never mewed. They must have been aware that one should never disturb constant meditation.
– Tuscan olive oil mill
Because what would a trip to Tuscany be without wine & olive oil tasting, while overlooking the famous sunlit hills? In this place you will see how olive oil used to be pressed, and how it is done today. You will also try traditional Tuscan dishes, wine and homemade GRAPPA (a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy). An extraordinary family tradition, willingly shared with the visitors.
Terme di San Giuliano
– thermal baths & spa
It was mid-November when I was taking a warm bath in the ROOFTOP swimming pool, feeling the sun brims reaching to my smiling cheeks. This place will make you feel like ancient Romans who would go to thermal baths and forget the world. Pools, caves with microclimate, hydro-massage and this wonderful impression that noise and haste don’t really exist. On top of this, an unforgettable food experience – can you imagine PORCINI mushroom ice cream, guinea fowl and semifreddo with chestnut cream?
– what else?
Walking around the town is a pleasure itself, especially if on the way to the Leaning Tower you pop in the National Museum of San Matteo or one of temporary exhibitions. Take a walk around the famous Cathedral at the Square of Miracles and sharpen your gaze – on one of the Cathedral’s side walls you can notice vertically arranged holes. Legend has it that it was DEVIL‘s claws that left the sign – some say you cannot count the holes, because the result varies each time. I did not even dare to try!
– what & where to try?
You should definitely try CECINA – a chickpea pancake, often served as a starter or in a bun with various toppings (see the picture below). Make sure to pass by a small restaurant Il Montino. A long queue is guaranteed, but satisfaction likewise. Obviously, you can’t leave without a box of pasta Martelli and a bottle of red wine in your luggage! I went for CORTONA, but the choice is vast.
If you are looking for a perfect dinner place (Tuscany is definitely worth spoiling yourself with good food!), go to Locanda Sant’Agata. The chef Luca Micheletti will leave you speechless!
Where to stay?
If you are looking for something easily reachable, Hotel La Pace (http://www.hotellapace.it/) should meet your needs. It’s very close to the railway station and just a few minutes away from the most popular museums and monuments in town. If you prefer silence and picturesque views from your window, then book a room in Airone Pisa Park Hotel (http://www.hotelpisa.it/). In both cases the staff speak English, which still happens to be an issue in Italy!