When researching what to do with my last free day in Italy, I was quite torn. Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and get a photo in front of one of the most famous icons of Italy or Cinque Terre, a collection of villages along the coast that are a top rated site for beauty. Either choice, I had to be back in Milan by evening to meet up with friends.
Most travel experts will tell you that this can’t be done and shouldn’t be done because you need more than half a day at each location. While that is certainly true, sometimes you only have so much time on the road and you don’t have an option to explore a place more thoroughly.
I decided to go on a fast-paced, Amazing Race-style visit to both the tower and coastal villages. Nay sayers, I assure you a trip to both the Leaning Tower and Cinque Terre can be done. Here’s how.
From Florence, the city of Pisa is an hour train ride away. Store your luggage at the Pisa station or lug it with you like a crazy person like I did. Before leaving the station purchase a train ticket to La Spezia, the next stop on your itinerary. You will need at least 90-minutes in Pisa.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a 25-minute walk from the station. Window shop along the way as you make your way down Via Francesco Crispi, cross the bridge and then Via Santa Maria until you make your way to the tower which is in the Piazza del Duomo.
Bam! You’ve made it to the first destination on your list. Circle around the park and tower to admire how great the tower is in fact leaning and snap a ton of pics. This Piazza also houses a cathedral, baptistery and cemitary. The tower was built as a free standing bell tower for the cathedral and has been titling due to the soft ground ever since its construction in the 1100’s.
On the way back to the train station, stop at the Frederico Salza Pasticceria and grab a pastry for the next leg of your journey. This delicious café and bakery has been making chocolate goods since 1898.
The train ride from Pisa to La Spezia is an hour and 15 minutes. From La Spezia you will need to take another train to Riomaggiore, the first village in the Cinque Terre. This train ride will only last 10 minutes. Wander the small, steep streets of this city and head to the marina for coastal views.
The Cinque Terre is a group of five villages built along the rocky, hilly Italian coast. The villages are a National Park and cars cannot reach them. The villages are great for hiking and many have beaches.
I only had time to visit Riomaggiore because I had to be back in Milan that evening, but visitors with more time will be able to see more villages this day. They are all connected by train and trails and are not very far apart.
And there you have it – how to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Cinque Terre in a day. Obviously it’s not enough time for a thorough exploration, but at least it’s a way to see these sites and decide if you would like to come back someday.