Do you have time to stare at the Leaning Tower of Pisa and soak up the atmosphere in Cinque Terre in just one day? I think you do, but there won’t be any time to dillydally. And if you want to visit all five villages of Cinque Terre I wouldn’t recommend cramming them into a combined one day Pisa/Cinque Terre-itinerary. Instead, you should pick out one or two of the five villages you want to see so you really have time to get the feel of the chosen villages. The whole point, in my opinion, of going to Cinque Terre is to gear down, relax, stroll around in the small alleys, enjoy some seafood, a cold crisp glass of white wine and dip your toes into the Ligurian Sea.
In this guide, you begin in Pisa, go to Vernazza and end up in Monterosso which is the biggest of the five villages of Cinque Terre. To get the full advantage of your day trip I recommend you start in Pisa no later than 10 am.
Day trip: Pisa and Cinque Terre
You start at the train station, Stazione Pisa Centrale, and go to:
- Corso Italia (the walking street)
- Arno River
- Food market at Piazza delle Vettovaglie
- Piazza Dei Cavalieri (Knights’ Square)
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Il Duomo (The Pisa Cathedral)
- Lunch in Pisa
- Train to Vernazza
- Hop on a boat in Vernazza
Corso Italia (the walking street)
Corso Italia is Pisa’s main walking street and like many other big walking streets of the world, it is stuffed with shops like Mango, Zara and Foot Locker. There is nothing special about Corso Italia, and you won’t see anything you haven’t seen a 100 times before, but the street leads you to the other side of the Arno where you will experience a more authentic Pisa. When I visited Pisa in April some sort of flower festival took place and the whole city was covered in flowers and plants, which made it quite enjoyable to walk Corso Italia.
The Arno River
To get to all the known sights of Pisa you have to cross the Arno River if your starting point is the train station. The Arno River is the largest river in the Tuscan region and flows through Pisa and Florence. The river is 241 km/150 mi long.
Market at Piazza delle Vettovaglie
Piazza delle Bettovaglie is very close to the Arno River – about five minutes on foot, so you should definitely drop by to get a good look at the fresh vegetables, fruit and so on. Me – I’m a sucker for food markets, and I love watching the locals buy their usual stuff and haggle with the farmers.
Piazza Dei Cavalieri (Knights’ Square)
After leaving Piazza delle Vettovaglie follow Via Domenico Cavalca and make your way to Piassa Dei Cavalieri, also called Knights’ Square. In the Middle Ages, the square was the political heart of the city, but today students have “taken” the square as Palazzo della Carovana is part of city’s university. Besides Palazzo della Carovana you find the following buildings in the square: Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, Statue of Cosimo I, Palazzo dell’Orologio, Church of St. Rocco, Palazzo del Collegio Puteano, Palazzo del Consiglio dei Dodici, Canonica and Muda Tower.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a bell tower and was constructed between 1137 and 1399. Due to the settling of its foundations, it started to lean under construction, and in 1990 the tower was leaning with a 5.5-degree tilt (4,5 metres/15 feet). When the tower was built it was supposed to soar 60 meters/196 feet into the sky, but that never happened due to the “leaning”. Its actual height is 56,67 meters/185,95 feet on the highest side and 55,86 meters/183,26 feet on the lowest side.
During the centuries many attempts to stop the tower from moving slowly to the ground have been made, and in the 21st century, someone finally got it right. Of 2001, the tower was officially declared stable for at least the next 200 years.
If you want to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you can. Book tickets here: Tickets.
Il Duomo (The Pisa Cathedral)
You can find Il Duomo on the Field of Miracles – just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and two other important buildings: Camposanto Monumentale and the Pisa Baptistry. Together the four buildings are considered one of the finest architectural complexes in the world, and every year tourists flock to see the grand buildings.
The construction of Il Duomo – or the Pisa Cathedral – began in 1064 by the architect Buscheto and was finished in 1118. For more info on Il Duomo, click here: Il Duomo.
Lunch in Pisa
If you arrived in Pisa at 10 am it is probably about 1 pm now, and it is time for some quick lunch. On your way back to the train station drop by I Porci Comodi. It is a small shop where you can buy different meats and cheeses. You basically get Italy on a plate. The shop is very small, so most people bring their platter of food to the small park next to the shop. It is quick, good and cheap to eat at I Porci Comodi, but you shouldn’t go if it is raining. I imagine it is not much fun to eat porchetta in the rain.
Train to Vernazza
After filling your belly with food and wine, you should head to the train station. You find the timetable for the Pisa-Cinque Terre trains here: Trenitalia. The trains run fairly often, but you would be wise to book your ticket in advance. In the weekends it seems like all of Pisa migrates to Cinque Terre. Now – the train from Pisa takes you either directly to Monterosso or to LaSpezia, a station southeast of the Cinque Terre. If the train stops in La Spezia you jump on the Cinque Terre Express. It is a train that runs between La Spezia and the five villages of Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. It takes you about two hours to get from Pisa to Cinque Terre. I suggest you start exploring Cinque Terre in Vernazza and end up in Monterosso where you have dinner at one of the many beautiful restaurants. You can also start in Monterosso if it is a hot day – Monterosso has the best beach of all the five villages of Cinque Terre.
Hop on a boat in Vernazza
After you have strolled around in the small alleys of Vernazza, enjoyed the view from the harbor and taken loads of pictures you can hop on a boat and get the full seaside view of Vernazza. There are private boats you can charter, but you can also buy a ticket for one of the boats that sail between the villages on a regular basis. You can get a day ticket (25 Euro) or an afternoon ticket (20 Euro) – see timetable and prices here: Cinque Terre boat excursions.
Sailing is one way to get to Monterosso, but you can also hike or go by train. If you want to hike, you should read this post: Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza. Here you find details about the required trekking card, the hike and so on.
If you want to go by train – just hop on. If you buy the “big” trekking card you can travel by train between the five cities an unlimited number of times. The card costs 12 Euro and can be bought in any of the five villages.
You are probably a bit tired by now, and your legs might be aching a bit, but there is no need to worry. In Monterosso, you find a wide range of restaurants, bistros, tavernas etc. where you can sit down and relax, listen to the ocean and smell the seafood being prepared in all the small kitchens. Monterosso is the biggest of the five Cinque Terre villages, but it is by no means a busy city. It is a city where you wind down and enjoy life. I like it so much that I have decided to move there when I grow old. Imagine waking up to the sound of the Ligurian Sea, feeling the breeze, eating fresh fish and spending all day on the town square talking to all the other old ladies in the sun.
That was it. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hold back. I’d love to hear from you.
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