19 Apr 2012

Just because you didn’t rent a car doesn’t mean you should miss out on the many pretty towns and villages surrounding Pisa. Here is a guide on how to reach them via public transportation.

Northern Tuscany without a car

Pisa Centrale

Those who follow my blog know that I believe that, in order to really see Tuscany, you need to venture out of the main cities (if you have time) and, to do so, you need to rent a car and drive to the smaller towns and villages. This is especially true in Southern Tuscany, where the distance between villages or towns is usually greater than in Northern Tuscany and public transportation is less available.

If you plan on renting a car, you might find these posts useful:

However, I am aware that some peope do not feel comfortable driving. Moreover, most guests at our Pisa apartment, Behind the Tower, choose not to rent a car, because the city is a fabulous transportation hub and the apartment is excellently served by the local city buses. For these reasons, over the years, I have had to gather information on how our guests could reach the minor centers around Pisa: it was high time that I actually did something with it.

Pisa Centrale

(Photo by prasad.om)

A few days ago, while I was on a train going back to Pisa from Siena, it occurred to me that I should write a post about the centers that one can reach more or less easily from Pisa without a car.

The Big Ones

From Pisa you can very easily reach most of the “Big Ones” by train. Florence is extremely easy. You find all the details in my post on how to travel from Pisa to Florence.

Florence

(Photo by alh1)

Getting to Lucca is also a piece of cake. There are frequent trains from Pisa Centrale and Pisa San Rossore. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes and the ticket costs 3 euros.

lucca

(Photo by Ostrosky Photos)

The number of trains to Siena has also significantly increased over the past few years, although it still takes up to 1h45 minutes and you will need to change trains once. To go to Siena from Pisa, you first need to get on a train to Florence and change at Empoli. To return to Pisa you need to get on a train to Florence again, and change at Empoli. Be careful in Empoli because the change can be a bit tricky. The departures board does not list Pisa  but rather  the final destination of the train, which will be either Livorno Centrale or Pontremoli. Both of those trains will stop at Pisa Centrale.

Siena

(Photo by littlestar19)

Livorno and Grosseto are on the  train line to Rome. Livorno is only a 15 minute train ride from Pisa, while the trip to Grosseto takes 1h40 minutes. Any train to Rome or Naples will stop in Livorno and Grosseto.

Livorno

(Photo by tomcraft2xlc)

Pisa is a convenient base to visit other major centers outside of Tuscany, such as Genoa and Cinque Terre. Genoa is on the main line to Turin and Milan. You can reach Genoa in 1h45-2h45 minutes, depending on the type of train (17 – 25 euros). To go to the five villages of Cinque Terre you need to change in La Spezia and get on a train to Riomaggiore, the first of them. The ride takes about 1h40 minutes and costs 6.40 euros. Then you can get a ticket to the other 4 towns. Remember that train tickets must be used within 6 hours from the time you stamp them before getting on the train.

Cinque Terre

(Photo by antmoose)

Carrara and the marble quarries are also an easy daytrip from Pisa. Carrara can be reached by train in 35-45 minutes and from there you can join one of the tours such as “Cave di Marmo Tours“.

carrara marble quarries

(Photo by Nevada Tubleweed)

For further information on train tickets and schedules, please check the Official Italian Raylway System Website.

The Small(er) Ones

There are many, many pretty towns and villages in Northern Tuscany. I will only mention those that can be reached quite easily from Pisa.

The province of  Pisa can be ideally divided in 5 major areas: the city itself, the Pisan Mounts or Monti Pisani, the Valdarno (the valley where the river Arno flows), the Valdera (the valley where the river Era flows) and the Pisan Hills or Colline Pisane, and the Val di Cecina (the valley where the river Cecina flows).

The immediate surroundings

Just outside Pisa, you can reach the beautiful Basilica of San Piero a Grado by bus. Buses leave from the main bus station in Piazza S. Antonio. You need to get on the bus n.10 to Livorno. The ride takes 15 minutes, tickets can be purchased at the bus station (before getting on the bus) and cost less than 2 euros. The bus continues on to the coast, so if you are up for a day on the beach or for a nice seafood meal, you can easily reach Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia.

The nature park of Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli makes for another great daytrip from Pisa. The park is right on the outskirts of the city; it features a great walking trail system, a renowned hyppodrome, and beautiful sandy beaches with high dunes. There are several transportation options to reach the park from the city. Y0u can get on the hop on hop off sightseeing bus in Piazza Arcivescovado (Line B). You can rent a bike. You can hire a horse drawn carriage. And you can go by taxi or even walk there.

San Rossore Pisa

(Photo by Marco Menu)

Monti Pisani

In the area known as Monti Pisani, there are a few neat towns that you can visit by public transportation.

If you like going to the spas, San Giuliano Terme is your ideal destination. There you can find a 5-star spa resort: Bagni di Pisa. Grotta Giusti is also quite impressive. You can reach San Giuliano by bus n. 70 (Pisa – Gello – Pontasserchio) or bus n.110 (Pisa – Asciano – Agnano), and by train, as it’s on the Pisa-Lucca line. It is close enough to the city that a taxi ride could also be an option. Uliveto Terme is another spa town that can be easily reached by bus (n.140, Pisa – Vicopisano – Pontedera).

For lovers of the Middle Ages, a visit to Vicopisano is a must: it can be reached by bus 140. The village hosts a great medieval festival on the first weekend of September.

Vicopisano

(Photo by Gruenemann)

Calci with its Certosa is also a very interesting day trip from Pisa. The Certosa also houses the Museum of Natural History. Not far from Calci, the tiny hamlet of Montemagno is also worth a visit. Both can be reached by bus n. 120. Bus 160 also goes to Calci.

certosa di calci

(Photo by marco83)

If you happen to be in the area in the fall, the town of Buti is famous for its olive oil and olive oil festival.  The festival is usually at the end of November or in early December. You can reach Buti by bus n.142 from Pontedera. Pontedera can be reached by train (it’s on the Pisa – Florence line) or bus (n. 2).

buti

(Photo by ste 71)

Valdarno Pisano

The Valdarno Pisano boasts pretty towns and villages such as San Miniato and Santa Maria a Monte, and is the heart of the leather trade in Tuscany.

San Miniato has a fabulous cathedral and is home to one of the most prestigious truffle festivals in the country.  From Pisa, you can reach the town by train. The train station is in San Miniato Basso, the newest part of the town. It is a stop on the Pisa – Florence railway line. There are buses leaving regularly from the station to San Miniato Alto, the old town (bus n. 320). Alternatively, you can reach the town by bus from Pontedera (bus n.210), which is also a stop on the Pisa-Florence railway line.

san miniato

(Photo by Light Blue Photo)

Bientina is another neat medieval town in the Valdarno Pisano. It features a lovely church and an interesting Etruscan museum. It can be reached by bus going from Pisa to Cascina (n.140) and then from Cascina to Bientina (n.141), or from Pisa to Calcinaia (n.140) and then from the latter to Bientina (n.142). Alternatively, you can reach Pontedera by train and from there, go to Bientina by bus (n.420).

Castelfranco, Montopoli and Santa Croce are famous for the many leather factories. They have medieval roots and make for a nice day trip. Castelfranco can be reached by train (it is on the Pisa-Florence line) and Montopoli can be reached by bus from Castelfranco (bus n.880). Santa Croce can be reached by bus n.880 from San Miniato Basso which is a stop on the Pisa-Florence railway line.

montopoli

(Photo by gnu1742)

Santa Maria a Monte is a lovely village perched on the top of a hill. It can be reached by buses n. 240, 250 or 260 from Pontedera, which is on the Pisa-Florence railway line.

Valdera and the Pisan Hills

The Valdera and the area of the “colline pisane” are two of the most overlooked areas of Tuscany, yet they are as beautiful as the enormously more popular and better known Val d’Orcia, south of Siena. The landscape is in fact very similar, with gentle rolling hills and the wide open countryside. As any unspoilt areas, the Valdera and the Pisan Hills are quite far from the city, and reaching the smaller places by public transportation can be challenging and time consuming (1h30-2h30). However, since the route is really scenic, if your heart is set on exploring this beautiful corner of Tuscany without a car, here is how you can reach the main destinations in the area.

Pontedera is a larger town, and a central transportation hub. Most of the smaller places in the Pisa province can be reached by bus from here, rather than from the city of Pisa. Pontedera is a major stop on the Pisa-Florence railway line. The town is home to Piaggio, the brand made famous by the Vespa scooter. The city itself is quite modern, but it hosts the very interesting Piaggio Museum, a contemporary art gallery (Centro Espositivo Otello Cirri) and a very active theater, Teatro d’Era, that stages numerous contemporary plays. Just outside the town, the hamlets of Treggiaia and Montecastello might be worth a visit. From Pontedera, the former can be reached by bus n.230 and the latter by bus n.220.

Santa Luce is home to a nature park managed by LIPU, the association which protects endangered bird species. It can be reached by bus n.50 to Collesalvetti, and from there by bus n.170.

Santa Luce

(Photo by LivornoQueen)

Lari is a lovely small town with a nice castle and famous for its cherries. There is a popular festival held every year at the end of May. Lari can be reached by bus n. 400 from Pontedera.

Lari

(Photo by Marco83)

Casciana Terme is a popular spa town, and can be reached by bus n.410 from Pontedera.

Palaia is a village in a great panoramic position. It is home to a popular medieval festival held on the third Sunday of September and it is in an area rich in truffles. It can be reached by bus n.230 from Pontedera.

palaia

(Photo by cedsarlette)

Lajatico is in one of the most beautiful corners of Tuscany in the middle of a breathtaking landscape. It is home to the Theater of Silence (Teatro del Silenzio), famous for its connection to Andrea Bocelli. Lajatico can be reached by bus n. 500 from Pontedera.

teatro del silenzio

(Photo by hippydream)

Terricciola is a rural town in the heart of a wine region. There are many excellent wineries in the area and if you are interested in a wine tour in the Pisa area, this is the place to go. Reaching Terricciola by public transport means reaching Pontedera by train first, then from there going to Capannoli by bus n. 500 or n.460 and getting on bus n.450 in Capannoli.

terricciola

(Photo by letterio1)

Capannoli itself is a nice little village where an interesting fair is held every year on the second Sunday of September specializing in birds. Capannoli is located on the Wine Trail of the Pisan Hills. It can be reached from Pontedera by bus n. 500 or n. 460.

Chianni and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine are in a spectacular panoramic position. The village is famous for its chestnuts. It can be reached by bus n.410 from Pontedera.

chianni

(Photo by Eric Perrone)

Val di Cecina

The Val di Cecina is another spectacular area, home to the beautiful town of Volterra.

Volterra needs no introductions. It can be reached from Pontedera by bus n.500. Alternatively, it can be reached from Cecina (which is a stop on the Pisa-Rome railway line) by bus n.790.  Volterra definitely deserves a visit, but the journey takes over 2 hours from Pisa because it’s in a very remote (yet beautiful) location.

volterra

(Photo by Divina Toscana)

Castelnuovo Val di Cecina and Montecatini in Val di Cecina are also well worth a visit. The former can be reached from Volterra by bus n.780. The latter can be reached from Volterra by bus n.800.

Casale Marittimo is another neat village, which can be reached from Cecina by bus n. 110. From there, the view over the Costa degli Etruschi is incredible.

casale marittimo

(Photo by pynomoscato)

Going to the beach

Pisa is near the coast so it is a great base to go to the beach. The closest beach towns are Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia, both easily reachable by bus n.110.

Marina di Pisa

(Photo by mstefano80)

The Versilia is also easy to reach by train, with popular towns such as Viareggio, home to a famous carnival, Marina di Pietrasanta (Pietrasanta itsef is a lovely town), Lido di Camaiore, and Forte dei Marmi. They are also convenient by bus: bus n.546 links Pisa, Viareggio and Pietrasanta; bus n. 472 links Viareggio and Lido di Camaiore; bus P528 links Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi.

forte dei marmi

(Photo by effexeffe)

The Garfagnana

The Garfagnana is a beautiful hilly area north of Lucca. The major sites such as Barga (bus n.702), and Bagni di Lucca (bus n.P538) – can all be reached by bus from Lucca.

Bagni di Lucca

(Photo by Jim Fye)

Usefu links

And of course, if you need a place to stay… our vacation apartment near the Leaning Tower!

Comments

  1. Hi Gloria
    What a wonderfully informative post. Thank you! Had things gone to plan I would have been in Tuscany right now. My departure date was to have been April 12th. Unfortunately it did not, but hopefully I’ll get a chance later in the year or this time next year.

  2. Nicola

    Extremely informative and accurate article. It is very helpful even for me (Tuscan born and bred) and I will pass it to all my foreign friends and family who are coming to visit me. Gloria, you have saved me a lot of time, because this is something I should have done for them. Thank you!

  3. …now you really made me feel like going home!! What the lovely villages i. with the castle; and ii. the bridge over the river?

    There are some of those places I don’t even know myself…great post! Thanks!

    • Grazie Francesca! Lovely blog yours!

  4. Wow. I’m in awe and so so happy to have found your blog! I will be going to Italy in sept 12 for an extended “soul searching” trip and will be looking for an apt to rent as a homebase in Tuscany. Not sure yet where I want that to be….close to trains tho. Actually flying into Pisa for a women’s retreat with Lenora Boyle for the first 2 weeks. then I plan to spend the next month or two traveling thru your beautiful country!!! Cannot wait to read the rest of your blog to find out even more info than this one has!!! thank you!!!

    • How nice! Then it has to be northern Tuscany, which is less “quintessentially Tuscan” in a way, but much better served by public transportation.

  5. Caio Gloria! Grazie mille! What a wonderful blog you have. My wife and I spent 15 days in Florence in June/July 2011 on our first trip to Italy. We are in our early 60s. We chose to use public transportation and did not rent a car. It was exciting for us to to use the buses and trains to get everywhere. It is just like you said. We were able to see Lucca, Siena, Greve in Chianti, Cinque Terre, Fiesole and San Gimignano. We even managed to take a one day trip to Venice on the Frecciargento! While we were nervous with our very limited Italian, we really had no trouble buying any of our train or bus tickets, or for that matter, anything else. And, we spent several days exploring Florence. The Accademia and Uffizi took our breath away! Florence is a beautiful, friendly city. We walked everywhere and felt totally safe. We hope to return to Italy in March/April 2013 to take up where we left off. This time, we hope to stay fro at least a month if we can find a reasonable apartment to rent somewhere that would be a good home base for us. There is so much we still wish to see. Until then, I will be enjoying your blog and learning more about Tuscany. Peace. -Barry

    • Hi Barry, Thank you! You should take a look at http://www.vallenuova.it/ Giulia, the owner is lovely. Not sure what the transportation situation is there though.

  6. I am interested in taking a 1/2 day wine tour from Pisa, and was hoping you could recommend one. We are taking a cruise in Sept. 2012 and spending one day in this region. Thank you for your time. Lorraine

  7. Nice post, Like to read it. Thanks for sharing here with us.

    • Thank you for stopping by!

  8. Carol

    My husband and I will be visiting Venice, Florence, Tuscany, and Rome this fall. I that order. This is our first time to Italy.
    We would like to rent a car after we visit Florence to head to Tuscany for a few days. Do you have any recommendations as to the best place for us to pick up a rental car in or near Florence? My husband will be nervous driving so I would like to pick up the car at the easiest location even if it means taking a bus or train to another town to get the car.

    Lastly, we will be staying in sinalunga near Siena and wish to see Assissi before heading into Rome. Should we ditch the car in Assissi or somewhere outside of Rome. I don’t want my husband to have to drive anywhere in the city or heavy traffic.

    Let me know what advice you might have for us first timers!

    Thanks,
    Carol

    • You could pick your car at the airport in Florence, which is by the highway and outside the city center. You could drop the car off in Orvieto and go to Rome by train.

  9. fantastic post Gloria, full of wonderful images and info. Since I dont have any cruises until Sept-Oct we plan on making 1-2 day trips from Vetralla throughout the summer. Pisa for San Ranieri-June 17th is on my list…as you know. Also S. Giuliano and Corliano …following in the footsteps of Cardinal Stuart.

  10. Robb

    Hello again Gloria, I hope all is well there !

    I’ve one question – have you ever been to Abetone, the sci area north of Pisa. And if so, was it in winter time (perhaps you ski) and what is the best means (I suspect renting a car for that one, haha:)

    Thanks, and take care!
    –Robb
    North Carolina, USA

    • Hi Robb, sorry I reply so late: I had missed your comment!
      Yes, car. But I confess I have never been there so I might be wrong. There should be buses from Lucca and Pistoia, but it sounds like an epic transfer for a day on the mountain…

  11. karen redelin

    I am leaving Oct. 31st for Rome, and taking a train to Grosseto, and a bus to Santa Fiora. Never having been to Italy before I am wondering if I should purchase a rail pass before I go. I am planning a trip to Venice, and Florence…Can you shed some light on this? I’ve heard different stories from so many people. Thanks. Karen

    • Hi Karen, in Italy, unless you want to travel on one of the Frecciabianca fast trains, you never need a reservation on trains. I am not even sure rail passes exist. so, only book ahead of time if the train you want to catch from Rome to Grosseto is a Frecciabianca, otherwise, just buy your ticket at the station. Same story with the other train rides. Just book before you have to travel if you need to get on a train where the reservation is necessary (e.g. Florence to Venice) or just buy your ticket at the station before getting on the train. Why did you choose Santa Fiora as a base? It’s a lovely place. Bring warm clothes though because it is high up.

  12. Thank you so much for such a beautifully well written & informative blog! Its laid out perfectly and the information si delivered in bite sized pieces so as not to overwhelm. I finally feel like I’m getting an idea of where I would like to stay and what to do for my trip to Tuscany over Easter 2013.

    • Thank you Rhonda, where are you going?

  13. thank you so much for the information my friend and i will be visiting montepulciano in june will we be able to get public transport on a sunday from pisa airport.many thanks

    • Hi Margaret, Montepulciano is quite difficult without your own transportation… You will have to go to Siena and from there get a bus, but on Sunday not very easy I am afraid…

  14. tiffany

    Hello,

    I enjoyed reading this because I will be going to Siena with no car. I do have a question what is the best way to get from Siena to Pisa. I am not staying in the twon center. We are flying out of pisa to paris. I am not sure how early I should arrive to catch my flight. If possible it would be nice to leave my bags at the airport to be able to see parts of Pisa. Thank you!!! Tiffany

    • Hi Tiffany, there are buses and trains that can take you to the city without any trouble. However if you are not going to stay in Siena itself, getting around might be very tricky. As for the rest, usually 1h30 min before your flight is plenty at Pisa airport. You cannot however leave your luggage at the airport, but if I am not mistaken there is a luggage deposit at the train station. Not sure though.

  15. Hi,
    Fantastic article, thankyou very much!
    Going to Pisa in May (2013) for 5 days and not using a car so this is very useful.

  16. Clint and Chris Coker

    Dear Gloria, found your blog very informative. We are travelling to Italy in early July this year and have friends staying at Villa Lungomonte, Asciano Pisano, Tuscany. We would like to secure a Villa in close proximity so that we can catch up with them on a regular basis during their 1 week stay. Can you recommend some Villas or suggest nearby villages so that we can search the Internet confident that we are looking at accommodation in the right areas? Also do you have any idea how far Villa Lungomonte is from Pisa? We arrive at the airport in Pisa at 10.30pm and are uncertain as to whether to book accommodation for the night on Pisa to make our way to Asciano Pisano or thereabouts subject to confirming our accommodation? Cheers, Clint.

    • Hi Clint, Pisa is only 8km away (less than 5 miles). Unfortunately, I don’t know of any villas in the area, but you can look at place near Calci, Asciano and Uliveto. They are more or less all in the same area. The hamlet of Montemagno near Calci is also neat. You can certainly reach your accommodation after landing if the owners are willing to wait.

  17. Hello..what a nice blog and beautiful photos.I am travelling to Livorno on October 27th, because my grandson is competing in the World Kickboxing Championships, in the Marina area of Livorno. The problem I have is transfer from Pisa Airport to Livorno and return(on November 3rd) at a reasonable price, because it appears when I check online that the trains or buses on not running due to ‘cut backs’. I can only find ‘private taxi’ firms charging around 140 euros for the round trip for two people. This seems a lot for what looks like a 20 minute trip. Do you know anything of the situation with the bus service to Livorno on a Sunday (Oct 27th and Nov 3rd back to Pisa Airport) ? Are there ‘normal’ taxis at the airport charging reasonable fares? Have you any ideas which might help me, I would be very grateful. Is it correct that trains are not running at that time from Pisa or Pisa Airport to Livorno? Sorry to ask so many questions but I need to use public transport or a reasonable taxi for the journeys from and to Pisa Airport to Livorno. Once again thank you genuinely for any help you can give.

    Steve Ellison

    • Not possible, there will be plenty of trains because Pisa and Livorno are on a major train line connecting Naples, Rome, Pisa and Genoa. Usually a train every hour or so. It is probably too early to look up the schedule for October, that’s all. It is a 15 minute train ride between the two cities. Buses on a Sunday might be much less frequent, but trains, there will be plenty.

  18. Olia

    Dear Gloria,

    Your blog is a real find! We plan to visit Italy this summer and I am responsible for our plans :) Your blog helps a loooot!

    On June 21-22 we will be in Pisa. On the first day we will discover the city and the next day we want to sunbathe, swim and eat delicious sea food :) There are a few beaches in the area: Pisa di Marina, Tirrenia, Calambrone. Which one would you recommend? We have only a half of a day for the beach as we go to Florence the same day. I am a bit lost in the beach choice and I really need your professional advice :) We prefer sandy or pebbles beach.

    As I heard beaches in Tuscany are not free. I checked some resorts on the coastline but they do not have prices for one day or a half of a day. Can we pay for one day and enjoy the Italian sun? Or maybe it is possible to find a free spot somewhere?

    Thank you very much for your help!

    Greetings from the Netherlands!

  19. Maria

    Hi Gloria,thanks for sharing your knowledge
    I will be going to Paris May 2014, then Barcelona from there will fly to Nice and will get the train to La Spezia. , planning to stay in Riomaggiore for a couple of days from there Lucca for 2 days, Pisa for 1 day, Florence for 4 days, Sienna 2 days, Perugia for another 2 days , Assisi 2 days, Spoleto 2 days, and finally to Rome for 5. Days.
    Could you please advise if my itinerary is ok or should we change ( traveling with 2 friends) we are early 50’s
    Any tips would be appreciated.
    Thank you,

    Maria

  20. Jagruti

    Hi Gloria
    Such a beautiful blog to read and to see the pictures.
    I have book marked your blog for future reference.
    We are going to Pisa next week and then travelling to Sienna.
    How do we get from Pisa to Sienna by bus or train?
    I read on other blogs it is easy to get to Sienna by bus rather than by train and the route is scenic too..
    What do you suggest?
    Thanks
    Jagruti

    • The easiest way is by train, changing in Empoli. Thank you for stopping by.

  21. Dympna

    Wonderful blog and pictures. Staying a few days with friends who have booked the Villa Lungomento but would like to sample an Italian golf course.
    Have you any recommendations?

    • Villa Lungomonte you mean? If that’s the one, the nearest golf course is in Tirrenia.

  22. Hi, We’re cruising and will be in Livorno on Tuesday and have booked an excursion to Pisa then on to Florence, whilst in Pisa I hoped to visit my Grandpa’s farm my mum and her siblings lived in Gello is this within a taxi ride or a quick walk as we will be in Pisa for 3 hours as my daughter and I are very interested. Porretta is our family name.

    • Not a quick walk but a relatively close by village, which can be reached by taxi. 3 hours is really nothing to do all of this though.

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