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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
Key Information for Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Book your tickets in advance to avoid the queues
- Give yourself enough time to store any bags in the cloakroom before joining the queue to enter the Tower
- 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
- 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.