Getting from Florence to Pisa (& vice versa)
With so many works of stunning architecture and design throughout Italy, it’s a bit amusing that one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions is perhaps the world’s most famous example of faulty engineering – the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Pisa’s best-known attraction is easy to visit during a brief “layover” when you’re taking the train from one place to another, or you can make it a more leisurely day trip and see more than just the Campo dei Miracoli. I’ve written about making a 2-hour stop in Pisa during a trip from the Cinque Terre to Florence (or vice versa), so in this post I’m going to talk about how to get to Pisa from Florence as if you’re making it a day trip.
Note that you can also use this information to get from Pisa to Florence at the end of the visit, or if you’re making Pisa your base and going to Florence for a day trip. The ticket prices and trip durations will be the same, you’ll just need to double-check departure times.
Taking the Train from Florence to Pisa
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The cities of Florence and Pisa, once fierce rivals, lie less than 100km apart, and the easiest way to get from Florence to Pisa is by train. The train trip takes about an hour one-way and requires no transfers.
Although Italy’s super-fast AV trains don’t connect the two cities, there’s still enough variation in the trip duration that you might want to look at the schedules in advance to time your trip so that it’s on the shorter end (50-60 minutes) rather than the longer end (1 hour 20 minutes). This is especially true since the fares are identical.
A one-way ticket between Florence-Pisa will cost $9 in 2nd class or $13 in 1st class (note that some trains have only 2nd class cars). No reservations are required for this journey, so you’ll need to remember to validate your ticket before boarding the train. This also means that there are no assigned seats – so pick any available seats in a car that’s the same class as the ticket you purchased.
Trains leave Florence S.M.N. bound for Pisa Centrale at least twice per hour during the day (usually more often during peak times), and trains are equally frequent making the return trip from Pisa to Florence. If you’re beginning your trip in the afternoon and plan to go back the same day, just be sure to consult that day’s schedule before you leave the station so you know when to get back for the return train you want to take.
Driving from Florence to Pisa
The distance between Florence and Pisa on the highway is less than 100km, and – assuming there’s no traffic and you don’t take any wrong turns – it’s a trip that should take roughly 1.5 hours. It’s a do-able drive, but I’d still recommend you take the train (unless you’ve rented a car and you won’t be returning to your starting city – in which case, you don’t want abandon a rental car in Italy, so driving is the way to go).
Aside from the fact that the train trip typically takes less time than the drive, there’s the additional hassle of driving in and out of two popular tourist cities (potentially during rush hour on both ends) – not to mention the headache of parking. As long as you’re doing this as a day trip and plan to return to the city from which you started, then taking the train is really the best option – even if you’ve got a rental car for the rest of your trip.
For those of you who are still going to drive, I’d recommend scouting out a general route on ViaMichelin.com and then having a good map and a GPS unit (if possible) in the car with you.
Taking the Bus from Florence to Pisa
Despite the fact that taking buses within one region (both Florence and Pisa are in Tuscany) is usually pretty easy and Florence and Pisa are fairly close together, the only buses that connect the two cities don’t go into the city centers.
There are two companies – Terravision and Autostradale – that run regular coaches from the Pisa Airport into the Florence city center (and vice versa). Terravision also connects the airports in Pisa and Florence directly, without even going into either city. A ticket on Terravision between Pisa’s airport and either Pisa or Florence is €10, and a ticket on Autostradale between Pisa’s airport and Florence is €9.50.
If you’re flying directly to Pisa and you want to get to Florence by bus, then either Terravision or Autostradale is a fine option. On the other hand, if you’re already in either Pisa or Florence and you want to get from one city center to the other via bus, that’s not happening. The train is so reliable, fast, and cheap that there isn’t even a bus company willing to compete for the route.
Taking a Guided Day Tour from Florence to Pisa
If Pisa is a day trip for you from a base in Florence, then you might also want to consider an organized tour that includes Pisa’s major sights and that leaves from Florence itself. This means that not only will you have all the sight-seeing taken care of, you’ll also have transportation rolled into the deal as well.
You can do a half-day tour of Pisa from Florence (roughly 5.5 hours total), during which you’ll be led by a local guide to the major sights and then have time to explore on your own before heading back to Florence. If a stop in Pisa isn’t enough, you can opt for a “Tuscany in One Day” tour – it’s a full day (12 hours!), but you’ll get a taste of what Tuscany has to offer. This tour includes Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano, a winery in Chianti, and a wine tasting class. There are other day tours that leave from Florence and include Pisa and the surrounding countryside, so check out these Tuscany day tours to see if one of them is appealing.
If you’d rather get to Pisa on your own, you can still choose to do a day tour in the city while you’re there to maximize your time. Check out these Pisa tours to see what’s available.
And if you’re staying in Pisa…
If Pisa is the next stop on your trip through Italy after Florence and you’re planning to stay for a night or two, then here are some links to resources that will help you plan your stay in Pisa:
- Pisa Travel Guide
- Cheap Hotels in Pisa
- Hostels in Pisa
- What to Do in Pisa
- Buy Tickets to Climb the Leaning Tower
photos, top to bottom, by: Henri van Kalkeren, manelzaera, j.reed, RoelV2009, Tchacky’s