How to Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa Independently

If your cruise ship visits Livorno in Italy, the two most popular sightseeing choices are Florence and Pisa. In this post I share the best way to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa independently, without needing to overspend on a cruise line shore excursion.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

This landmark is actually a bell tower located next to the Cathedral of Pisa, in Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) in the city of Pisa. The square, so named for its uniqueness and artistic beauty, has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Construction of the tower began in 1173 and took 226 years to complete! It took such a long time to finish due to a number of reasons including war, debt and of course the lean, which started just five years after the building work commenced.

Pisa got it’s name from the Greek word for ‘marshy ground’ and this explains why the tower leaned to one side due to the soft ground. Interestingly, it’s not the only bell tower in Pisa that leans (there are two others) and the adjacent baptistery and cathedral are also sinking.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
The view of the Baptistry and Cathedral from the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The original height of the tower was 60m but it now stands at 56.67m on the highest side. There are 251 steps that take you from the bottom to the very top with an internal spiral stone staircase.

Getting to Pisa from Livorno

A shuttle bus will take you from the cruise terminal to the centre of Livorno and from here it’s possible to take a bus to Pisa. We decided to book a bus journey from Livorno to Pisa. The bus is a low cost option at around €17 per person. You can catch this bus at 10.00am from the Via Cogorano at the back of Piazza Grande (this is very handy as it’s where the cruise shuttle bus drops you).

The journey was approximately 40 minutes and there was plenty of pleasant Tuscan scenery to see during the short journey. When we arrived in Pisa, it was quite easy to follow the signposts and other tourists to get to the Tower (around 5-10 minutes walk). The walk takes you through a market where you can pick up souvenirs as well as drinks and snacks from the local cafes.

The bus will take you back to Livorno at 1pm, which gives you around 2 hours, 20 minutes. We chose to book the bus as it was as cheap as the train but far less stressful!

Do I Need a Ticket to See the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

You don’t need to buy tickets to be able to visit Miracle Square and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s free to walk around and take photos.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa

You will witness lots of people taking this photo but as you can see in the photo below, I actually had to stand on a post to get this shot!

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Tickets to Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa

If you choose to climb the Tower, it is advisable to book them in advance. You can choose a time slot to visit the Tower, which saves you so much time. We booked our tickets with Weekend in Italy for €22 per person, which also included free entry to the Cathedral at any time.

You must go to the nearby cloakroom to check-in and store any bags you have with you. It is strictly forbidden to carry any bags and/or containers of any kind and shape during the visit and these objects must be left at the cloakroom. Cameras are allowed to be carried.

It’s very important that you are punctual in joining the line directly in front of the Leaning Tower, if you’re late, you’re not guaranteed entry. This all seems very strict but the sheer amount of people visiting the site means that it’s run like a military operation!

Leaning Tower of Pisa
A view from the base of the Tower

Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa

There are 251 steps leading to the top of the Tower, my legs got a little tired towards the top but don’t let that put you off. There are plenty of passing places so you can have a rest if you need it.

The experience was very strange whilst climbing the tower, you could actually feel the tilt so although we were climbing up the stairs it would feel harder on one side and easier on the other. It was very weird!

Leaning Tower of Pisa
The spiral staircase inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The complete visit of the Leaning Tower of Pisa takes around 35 minutes, including ascending and descending the staircase. This gives you plenty of time to admire the views from the top of the bell tower.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Miracle Square from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The view from the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa
A view from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

What is at the Top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

At the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a viewing platform, which offers 360-degree views. It’s here where the bells are housed too.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
The external walkway at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa
One of the bells at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa
At the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Key Information for Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa

  1. Book your tickets in advance to avoid the queues
  2. Give yourself enough time to store any bags in the cloakroom before joining the queue to enter the Tower
  3. The line for the toilets can be huge so pop into one of the local bars or cafes to use theirs, you may need to pay €1 to get a code to unlock the door
  4. Pick up some cheap souvenirs in the market close by, you can haggle the prices here!

Opening times vary throughout the year:

  • January, February and March: from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • From April to September: from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • October and from December 25 to January 6:  from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
  • November and December: from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
  • From June 17 to August 31: special night opening of the Tower until 10:00 pm.
  • June 16:  closing at 4:30 pm.

Final Thoughts on Pisa

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Pisa and I would highly recommend climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The views are breathtaking and the experience of climbing the Tower and feeling its lean is strange but enjoyable!

Planning independent shore excursions are certainly doable as long as you do your research and give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship. You can save money and get to see and do exactly what you want to do, rather than having to stay with a group.

Here are more ideas about how to visit Mediterranean cruise destinations independently.

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  1. Lisa
    February 3, 2020 / 5:30 pm

    Despite living in Italy for half the year, I’ve still not made it to Pisa! I also never knew it was easy to get to from Livorno until reading your post. The views from the top of the tower are incredible, even if it takes 251 steps! Good tip on paying in advance for your ticket too.

    • cruiselifestyle
      February 3, 2020 / 7:39 pm

      It’s definitely worth going inside the tower!

  2. February 3, 2020 / 7:13 pm

    I have been to Italy several times so far, but I have not been to Pisa yet. Although it is on my list, I would love to take pictures of this famous tower. I like the idea of taking a cruise. It is a different perspective to travel this way.
    So, I enjoy your detailed info about the cruise. It helps prepare for the trip.

    • cruiselifestyle
      February 3, 2020 / 7:40 pm

      Thanks Agnes!

  3. February 4, 2020 / 9:03 am

    Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa on a cruise trip is a great idea. I love the Leaning Tower of Pisa because of its unique structure and perfect architecture work. I am surely going to see the 360 degree view from the top. Of course, I will book the ticket in advance, thanks for your tips.

  4. Swati
    February 4, 2020 / 2:36 pm

    Have never been on Cruise trips. Had no idea that visit to attraction are not included in the package. We visited Florence last year but it was raining non-stop so had to skip Pisa. Hopefully we will get to visit this year. 🙂 Thanks for sharing some amazing tips and I guess not many go to the top and take pictures, nice perspective.

  5. February 4, 2020 / 2:55 pm

    Both Florence and Pisa are in my go to places although have been to Italy and covered part of it.Thanks for the guide. Would use it to plan.

  6. Daniel Kiteski
    February 5, 2020 / 12:54 pm

    Great post!! I have seen the leaning tower way back when I was a young kid but to be honest I don’t think I would choose to see it again, it was just way more touristy for me even back then. I wasn’t aware of a cruise trip, which actually sounds great and fun.

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