Do you want to visit Pisa without the crowds? Read along as I share my valuable tips on how to enjoy Pisa without the crowds!
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is such an iconic image of Pisa and Italy as a whole, everybody wants to see it. And I cannot blame the world. I wanted to see it too.
But is Pisa a tourist trap?
Is Pisa overcrowded and invaded by selfie-stick madness?
Yes and Yes!
Should you avoid Pisa?
People visit Pisa in Italy for good reasons: it’s unique, it has historical significance and it’s just drop-dead gorgeous! We visited Pisa at the start of our Florence trip in springtime and was able to see it and enjoy it.
I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.
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How to visit Pisa without the crowds?
If you visit Pisa on an organized day trip from Florence, then it will be very hard to avoid crowds. However, if you travel independently, or you stay overnight at Pisa, then you can work around the most busy hours of the day.
Because, yes, it is possible to visit Pisa and not be overrun by hoards of people. But you need a strategy. Here I share my tips on seeing Pisa without the busy crowds. Or at least, smaller crowds and fewer people.
Start early to avoid the bus loads of day trippers
We had a very early flight. We arrived at Pisa International Airport at 8 am.
I was dead tired and hungry, but we headed downtown by bus immediately and dropped our bags off at our hostel.
We headed straight for the Piazza del Duomo and arrived there early at 10 am. The air was crisp, blue skies and the grass was still wet and damp. I wouldn’t say, we had the place to ourselves, but it was not busy.
The first tour groups had yet to arrive and we were able to meander our way across couples and small families taking pictures of the sites.
A lot of the tour groups from Florence, Milan and even Rome, take a while to get to Pisa. So the earlier you get to the main sights in Pisa, the less chance you have to run into hordes of selfie-stick-barring tour groups.
Book your Leaning Tower of Pisa tickets in advance
Don’t waste your time waiting in line to buy a ticket for the Leaning Tower or the Cathedral. Buy them at home, 3 weeks in advance. You can buy them from the website, click here, or via a ticket seller, and select what you want to see.
You can visit the cathedral for free, but for the other sites, like the Leaning Tower, you need to pay.
Download your ticket to your smartphone and at each site, they will scan your phone. No paper print outs needed. Just walk past the ticket office and hit Pisa without waiting in line!
Visit the other sites, that are less popular with the groups
I was amazed at how quiet all the other sites in Pisa were. As the day progressed, the steps of the Duomo were taken by huge groups of school children.
We had to dodge the couples taking pictures with their selfie sticks and decided to get away from the main square.
Camposante Pisa’s monumental cemetery
Around noon, we decided to enter the Camposante. This is a monumental cemetery that houses some important graves but most of all some impressive frescos.
It was also very interesting to see the images of the Camposante after the bombing of the 2nd World War. For more information about what to see at the Camposante, check the site.
Or just look at these beautiful images of the interior.
We met around 5 other people the whole time we were exploring the Camposante and this felt like a true piece of Pisa without the crowds.
Baptistery of San Giovanni
After the Camposante, we headed straight for the Baptistry. The steps around the building were used for lunch breaks for many people, but inside it was serene and tranquil.
It was dark and colder. As we ascended the stairs to reach the 2nd floor, people started singing at ground level and the music was building up against the walls of the dome.
It felt like we had the place to ourselves: just us and the music.
Il Duomo – Pisa, Italy
We decided to continue exploring the other sites of Pisa and headed inside the Cathedral of Pisa.
It felt like the people were taking control of the outside of the Duomo, but on the inside, the Duomo took control of the people.
There were people inside the Duomo, but I didn’t see them. The building demanded all my attention and I walked around most of the time with my head tilted back and gawking at the ceiling and the pillars.
Another great way to see a famous icon of Pisa without the crowds!
Take a break from the main attractions
We only had 1 day in Pisa and we didn’t make it past the main square. We walked a bit around the hospital grounds behind the main square of Pisa, but we didn’t explore the rest of the town, as I was just too tired.
I also had a big flare-up for my Crohn’s disease so we decided to head back to our hostel and take a nap.
If you’re fit and healthy, there is no need to do this, but please use your time to explore the rest of Pisa.
Head downtown, walk along the river Arno and explore the local market. For more inspiration on what you can do, visit Indiana Jo and read her things to do in Pisa in 1 day.
Have you been to Pisa? Did you do anything else in the city? Please let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
Climb the tower in the evening
All energized after my 4-hour power nap, we headed back to the Piazza del Duomo and the famous sites of Pisa at 6ish. We had tickets for the 7.30 pm ascend of the leaning tower of Pisa, so we headed down there early.
We walked around the sites and took many of the obligatory pictures, trying to hold the tower. Lean against it, kiss it, etc.
It’s harder than you think and none of our 100 images were worth it, but we did have fun.
As most people joined their tour group for the next big attraction, the area around the tower was almost empty. There was no line to wait to ascend the tower.
As we were very early, and there were no people waiting in line, we asked the ticket lady if we were able to go up already. We were half an hour early, but she let us go up.
We spent some time at the base and then slowly ascended the tower. Luckily for us, we were able to enjoy the views on top of the tower, without any other people around. We had the whole Leaning Tower of Pisa to ourselves!
Return at night to see Pisa without the tour groups
After we got down from the tower, we were very hungry. We decided to have our first pizza in a small Italian restaurant nearby.
Budget-wise, this might have been a mistake, but we did have a nice meal. After our dinner, night fell and we were able to see the buildings of Pisa without the crowds.
As it was getting dark, only a hand full of people were exploring the outside of the Duomo and we were able to make some amazing images without other people on them.
As you can see, from the tips above, it is possible to visit Pisa without the crowds. Ok, I’m not saying there were no other people around, but we had most of the sites to ourselves. I had planned our visit at home and pre-booked our entrance tickets.
Because we arrived early in the morning and had the whole day, we were able to choose the best time to visit the sites. We even took a break from the famous attractions of Pisa and came back to see everything in another light in the evening.
If you have the time, I can surely recommend taking the whole day and explore Pisa on your own. You can allocate your own time at the sites around the Leaning Tower and experience Pisa without the crowds.
Best time to visit Pisa
Without a doubt, the best time to visit Pisa is the shoulder season. In spring and Autumn (March till June and September and October) there are fewer crowds, fewer tour groups, and a milder climate. There is a chance you run into more groups of (screaming) schoolchildren, but they usually don’t stay that long.
If you do travel during the summer peak season, July and August, expect higher temperatures and bigger crowds. Avoid the hottest hours of the day and follow my above-mentioned tips on arriving early or in the evenings.
Whenever you visit, arrive as early as possible, or choose a later time slot. As most group tours arrive between 10 and 3ish, outside these hours, the crowds are thinner and you can find some quiet places, even in a big attraction such as Pisa.
Practical tips to visit Pisa
- Pisa has an international airport (PSA) that serves some (low-cost) European airlines. Super easy to fly into.
- Alternatively, Florence, Milan, or Rome are well-connected by rail with Pisa. Book your train ticket in advance.
- Skip the lines and book your entrance ticket for the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral online. Click here.
- Stay overnight for an early start or late exploring. Book your Pisa hotel here.
- Do you travel independently but need some guidance on all the sights? Consider this great Italy guidebook.
Have you been to Pisa? What was it like for you? Did the crowds bother you or were you able to see Pisa without the crowds?
Share your experiences with crowded tourist attractions in the comment section below.