19 Nov 2010

16 years ago, when I moved to Pisa, the city was a sleepy place. Now it’s a lively, clean, well-organized city, with many interesting events happening every week.

Pisa is changing

palazzo blu

When I moved to Pisa 16 years ago (dear God!), Pisa was a sleepy city. If you wanted to have fun, you would go to study in Florence; if you wanted to study hard and graduate from a good University, you would go to Pisa. Well, at least in theory… in Pisa, I had much fun as a student, and I am sure there were plenty of excellent courses in Florence.

What’s certainly true is that Pisa had no locales, it was quite dirty and run down, and outside Piazza dei Miracoli there were no tourists – nor would they have known what to do anywhere else in the city, as there were no information points, maps or itineraries. Pisa was essentially the University and Piazza dei Miracoli.

Students would spend time on the Lungarno and around Piazza Garibaldi in May and June, but other than that, the city would be deserted and people would gather in each other’s homes and have dinner parties or just hang out together. Not that that was a bad thing, but there was literally nothings else to do.

16 years later the city is essentially transformed. It is clean, lively, well-organized. There is always something to do and to see. I really like what the present Mayor (Marco Filippeschi) and the new Director of the Tourist Council (Roberto Guiggiani) are doing. I don’t think they work together as much as they should, but since they are both good, each of them is doing some good things.

I was reading an article today: despite the difficulties which the tourism sector has been facing in the recent past, the number of visitors to Pisa is growing. Low-cost airlines certainly have a positive impact: millions of people disembark at Pisa airport every year, and, since the city is such an excellent transportation hub, many stop here and use it as a base. People venture out of the city as well and explore the region (did you know that Volterra is part of the Pisa province?!). Check this monographic issue of Dream of Italy Newsletter: I wrote the Insider’s Guide to Pisa (thank you Kathy for asking me to! And here is another link to her blog)

The several important events that have taken place in Pisa over the last couple of years, such as the exhibition that is presently being hosted at Palazzo Blu: MirĂ² – I miti del mediterraneo. More than 600 people visit it every day, and there are a lot of other events organized as a corollary to the exhibit.

According to the latest reports, people in the city go out more than they used to, and they go see shows, movies, exhibitions. Apparently, this year cinemas and theatres have sold 35% more tickets than they did in 2009 and 15% more people have attended concerts and music events… The number of the events has increased, and the infrastructure has improved a lot: there are lots of parking spaces in the center and free buses. Every weekend there’s a lot happening. Check this weekend’s events in Pisa: aperitivi, temporary exhibitions, street parties, shopping opportunities at night and more.

The other positive change is that the “center is expanding”. Instead of insisting solely on Piazza dei Miracoli, the local authorities are renovating buildings throughout the center, e.g. San Silvestro, bars and locales, as well as galleries are opening in semi-peripheral areas of the center, such as Le Piagge, the city council is making some unpopular but far-sighted decisions (e.g. decrease the number of pay-parking spots in Piazza Carrara to make the square more enjoyable).

So, Pisa is changing. And it is a great thing.


  1. Rosanna Tarsiero

    Funny! I live in your same city but I don’t recognize it from your description LOL Since when Pisa has stopped being sleepy???? Everything closes down at 8pm and even most pubs and coffee shops are closed by 10pm. If this is not sleepy, then what is????

  2. I guess a different concept of entertainment. What closes down at 8pm? Stores, I guess. But that’s the same everywhere.

    Maybe we go to different places. I hate discos so I don’t mind that there are none in the city itself.

    I find all the locals around Borgo Stretto, and Piazza della Berlina are open until much later than 10. There are several places which have live music too (like Borderline and Caracol), which was unheard of until a few years back. This summer I have spent more time at Argini e Margini than at home!

    Sure, it’s not Milan, Rome or even Florence, but there is always something to do, much more than there used to.

    When I got there in 1994, the nightlife essentially consisted in hanging out in front of the Tazza D’Oro in San Martino… now there are so many pubs!
    I love Orzo Bruno: excellent beer and a crowd closer to me in age.

  3. Lovely post about Pisa – Sunday Soul Alone in Pisa.

  4. I really loved Pisa! We were there for a couple of days in October and were really impressed with the friendliness of the people, how safe and clean the city was, and the quality of the cuisine! And of course, how magnificent the historic buildings were. I’d recommend it to anyone.

  5. Spent a few years in the hills above Pisa (San Giuliano Terme) – so Pisa was the big city for us! Glad to hear it is changing/improving, as I felt it did not offer many cultural activities for its residents and could stand to highlight some of its more offbeat characteristics (i.e. Keith Haring mural).


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robin Locker Lacey, Gloria CasinadiRosa, Gloria CasinadiRosa, Jeff Titelius, Luca Martucci and others. Luca Martucci said: @casinadirosa Pisa is changing, and it's a great thing. http://bit.ly/cFFONw Great post about my home town ! […]

Leave a Comment