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Mikenmass Sep 12th, 2014 09:58 AM

Pisa or Siena?

We will be going from Rome to Florence in late March 2015. We will be in Florence for three nights and are thinking of a day trip to either Pisa or Sienna on one of the days. I would love to hear what folks think the best choice would be and why.

We'll have seen quite a few churches by then, but I'm not opposed to seeing more if they offer unique features. I'm leaning towards Siena mostly because of Campo Square, but the Duomo in Pisa looks pretty cool as well, and hey, the leaning tower is there.

Thanks for any thoughts on the subject.

Myer Sep 12th, 2014 11:26 AM

Most people who go to Pisa do it to see the Leaning Tower. Some go for more but I believe few.

We stopped for an hour on our way to Lucca and on to Cinque Terre.

We were able to make it such a short stop by going to the San Rossore station instead of Centrale.

Now, Siena is worth a visit for a good part of the day.

IMDonehere Sep 12th, 2014 11:31 AM

Not even close-Siena.

sandralist Sep 12th, 2014 11:34 AM

No one can predict how you will react to either place. Many people are able to overlook the tawdry the scene around the tower of Pisa and appreciate the extraordinary beauty and accomplishment of the architectural complex there -- which I am not alone in thinking is far more important and beautiful than what it is in Siena -- but many people have been unable to look past it and they hate Pisa and will tell you not to go.

Other people find Siena disappointing not only because of their feelings about art but also because they were expecting a charming hilltown away from Florence and instead they find a place crawling with Rick Steves tourists. Plus Siena just strikes many people as a rather mean-feeling and militaristic place. It rather lacks the angelic face of Florence.

You should go with your instincts and make your own mistakes! You may be surprised how you react to many places in Italy. There is just no avoiding the risks. Asking other tourists strikes me as actually doubling your chances for disappointment. It is terrible to follow the crowd opinion and then discover you don't like what the crowd likes. You leave Italy wondering why you didn't go where you wanted to go in the first place and whether you would have liked that much better.

If you pick your own path and don't like what you saw it is easier to chalk it up to an interesting experiment. You won't be sorry you went anywhere you wanted to go even if you decide some place will never be a favorite of yours.

Michael Sep 12th, 2014 11:35 AM

Siena, including its duomo and baptistry.

Andrew Sep 12th, 2014 11:53 AM

I'm torn, because I liked both places for different reasons.

Siena is a lovely town with an amazing town square plus the Duomo. It is touristy but not as nauseatingly-touristy as the Field of Miracles in Pisa where the Tower is located. I think for many Americans seeing the Tower of Pisa is a must-do - it certainly was for me. It's an icon of Italy Americans see pictures of as school children; while the Tower itself may not be that significant, will you be disappointed not to see it? If not, you should probably skip Pisa.

There is more to Pisa than just the Tower and the Field of Miracles, more than most tourists see. Pisa away from the Field is not very touristy at all. The 30 minute walk from the Field back to the train station is interesting, and halfway there you can detour up and down each side of the Arno River and check out the views and interesting buildings on each side. Still, parts of Pisa feel run-down and dirty (especially around the train station and along the Arno in parts). There is a big student population with the university there; I saw plenty of broken glass and beer bottles along the Arno, which was disappointing. It's certainly not like the Arno in "tourist's Florence."

crosscheck Sep 12th, 2014 11:57 AM

We did a perfect day trip to Lucca/Pisa - spent most of the day in Lucca, where we had lunch, biked around the city walls, then stopped in at Pisa at sunset. Most of the crowds had gone by then.
Fun and iconic.

The following day we decided against Siena because of the "Rick Steves factor," but spent the day driving through the Chianti region, with Panzano as the highlight (where they were having a wine festival).

simjay Sep 12th, 2014 12:09 PM

We went to Pisa and Lucca for the day. Absolutely loved Lucca and cycling around the walls. None of our family of 5 really liked Pisa. We all loved Sienna though. Could have definitely gone there for longer.

Andrew Sep 12th, 2014 12:30 PM

crosscheck: <i>The following day we decided against Siena because of the "Rick Steves factor,"</i>

What a shame you missed such a beautiful town. I found Florence, Pisa (around the Field), Lucca, and lots of other popular spots in Italy mobbed with "Rick Steves Tourists" (especially mid-day) too but that didn't diminish my opinion of these places at all.

mamcalice Sep 12th, 2014 12:31 PM

My preference is definitely Siena. While the Field of Miracles in Pisa is quite scenic and well worth a short stop, there is more charm and more to see and do in Siena. We've been to both and will return to Siena. Not sure about getting back to Pisa = once is definitely enough.

crosscheck Sep 12th, 2014 12:55 PM

@andrew - We'll be back...It was a super touristy time of year. We're lucky to get to Italy often and have an aversion to crowds.

sandralist Sep 12th, 2014 01:14 PM

This is not an argument for choosing Pisa but a correction to something written above:

The campanille or bell tower in the Field of Miracles in Pisa -- otherwise known as the "leaning" tower -- in an extraordinarily important work of European architecture and so is the adjacent cathedral (for which the tower is the bell tower) and the baptistery. In addition the mausoleum is of exceptional importance to both past and recent history.

It is simply not true that "the Tower may not be all that significant" (except to tourists who saw pictures of it as schoolchildren). This is one of Europe's major architectural accomplishments asa complex of religious art.

Again -- as previously stated == whether you choose to visit someplace or have minimal interest in architectural ideas or the history of Pisa (including it famously being an inspiration to the British Romantic poets and famously incinerated by Allied bombs in the 20thc) -- please engage Italy in a way that interests you. But please do not come back to report that Pisa isn't historically and artistically important.

And also know that for many many people seeing a souvenir stand or 100 souvenir stands at the Field of Miracles didn't cause them to walk away. Likewise seeing some trash along the banks of the Arno didn't make it impossible for them to appreciate that the architectural sweep of palazzi along the Arno in Pisa is actually in many ways more harmonious and lovely than what is on the banks of the Arno in Florence.

Don't imagine for one second you will react to what you see like other people do. You might see things in Siena that you find delightful that I find repulsive ( for starters I don't like animal entertainments or anything connected with the Palio). Ditto for Pisa.

I have now visited Pisa four times and would gladly go back. So statements like "Pisa= once is definitely enough" just expose the mentality of the writer not anything about you or Pisa.

Andrew Sep 12th, 2014 01:26 PM

sandralist: <i>This is not an argument for choosing Pisa but a correction to something written above:

It is simply not true that "the Tower may not be all that significant" (except to tourists who saw pictures of it as schoolchildren).</i>

Do you know what an "opinion" is? You can't "correct" someone's opinion, you can only disagree with it. You are welcome to disagree with mine.

I actually love the Tower and have seen it twice.

Dukey1 Sep 12th, 2014 02:11 PM

There is nothing tawdry about Pisa; the only tawdry thing is the absolute BS being spouted by some people who claim to have been there (looking for an outlet store I gather).

bobthenavigator Sep 12th, 2014 02:15 PM

Andrew, of course she can, and has been doing it for years.
Hence, the well deserved label of " contrarian".

dfourh Sep 12th, 2014 02:18 PM

Tawdry refers to St. Audrey, in Cornwall, where they used to sell inferior goods. Pisa is much different: bland and whitewashed (except for the area around the Duomo and Campanile, which is a world icon, but a concentrated patch).

nytraveler Sep 12th, 2014 04:51 PM

Siena - we spent a long day there and still had a lot we wanted to see/do.

Pisa we spent only a about 4 hours at the cathedral and Tower. I'm sure there is more to see and do - but we had only the time left over from the drive from Rome to our hotel in Florence.

I would do some work in a couple of good guide books and see which has sights that speak to you more.

BumbleB6 Sep 12th, 2014 06:14 PM

I liked Siena much better - but I feel like you should see Pisa because it is iconic and it doesn't take very long to see the Tower and the Cathedral and Baptistry. The latter really are worth a visit. Like others said, there is apparently, much more to Pisa, but we only went for a couple of hours.
Pisa was crazy-crowded, but it was also August.
Siena was not, and one of the most charming places I've ever been. Only spent half a day there, but would have liked to spend a couple, at least.

Actually, now that I think about it - Siena. That would be my choice.

But again! - I didn't really do Pisa justice, I think. So... Tough decision. Good luck!

SkipHudgins Sep 12th, 2014 06:19 PM

Did not read the other replies yet. Our only comment is 16 trips to Tuscany in last 19 years. 16 trips to Siena. Only place we have been to every time. 1 trip to Pisa. Nuff said.

SkipHudgins Sep 12th, 2014 06:22 PM

Okay. Now I have read all the responses from some other experienced travelers.. Final answer -- Siena.

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