Italy Expectations vs Reality: The Leaning Tower, Lucca, & More!

Sep 28, 2019 11:13:00 AM / by Sarah Graham

In this blog, Sarah shares her experience taking a day trip from Florence to Pisa to Lucca and back home. Read on for highlights about each of the cities she visited, as well as her tips for apps to use and strategies for buying train tickets on the fly in Italy!

Ciao, and welcome back to my blog! This past weekend I went on a day trip to Pisa and Lucca. This was the first time I used the Italian train system. I decided to book one way tickets throughout the day because I wasn’t sure of when I would want to return to Florence. To book each ticket, I used Omio, a very easy app and website to navigate. It will show you the cheapest and quickest options to get from one place to another. With this app, you have your train ticket directly on your phone, no printing necessary. You can also use Omio to book busses and flights. My one way from Florence to Pisa cost me 9 euro, and the ride only took about one hour. Friends of mine booked a roundtrip which cost them 18 euro total. It was a very pleasant and easy ride. Our train was at 8:53 and we got there roughly around 10am.

The first thing that struck me about Pisa was how much quieter is was compared to Florence. We arrived relatively early in the day, but Florence would already be bustling at this time. Upon getting there, we headed to Piazza del Duomo, where we would see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Built in the 14th century, the tower itself is very beautiful, it’s white marble clean and shining. Also in the Piazza, lies Pisa’s beautiful Cathedral and Baptistery. Highlighted as a center of European medieval art, the display of intricate architecture is spectacular. 

There were a lot of tourists in the Piazza. I can’t imagine how many people would be in the square midday on a Saturday. In all honesty, it’s pretty entertaining to look around and see everyone around you taking their picture holding up the tower. If you photoshop the tower out of the scene, it would look utterly ridiculous. I had my own fun taking pictures with the Tower too though. The group I was with definitely shared some laughs over our attempts at creative poses, and of course our failed ones as well. 

Sarah leaning up against the leaning tower of pisaMe back to back with the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Sarah losing her balance near the leaning towerHere’s a failed picture attempt for your comic relief

After this, we wandered the city and shopped around. There are lots of cute little trinkets in the area. Then we had a relaxing lunch outside where I enjoyed gnocchi with pesto. After eating, I decided to go to Lucca, and I’m so glad I did. 

Photo of the Arno river that flows through PisaPisa was pretty, but it was time for Lucca

My train ticket from Pisa to Lucca cost me only 4 euro, and it took not even half an hour to get there. I didn’t know much about Lucca before going there, and I’m not exactly sure of what I was expecting, but it was absolutely gorgeous. The historic city center is surrounded by renaissance walls that are still intact. Along the walls, there are tree-lined pathways that are very picturesque. Walking on these paths, you also can see the mountains that surround Lucca. I really enjoyed walking around the city walls. Lucca was also much quieter than Florence, and I found my time there to be very peaceful.

CAPA student Sarah enjoying Lucca, ItalyMe in Lucca!

Pretty scenes of Lucca, ItalyThe trees and the leaves reminded me of home (I’m from New England) and really made me feel like fall is finally here

One of the great things about the Lucca was the lack of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, there were still a good amount, but far less compared to Pisa. And much, much less compared to Florence. This gives you a chance to interact more with the locals. The city has many small clothing stores and shops that you can visit. Be sure to also pay a visit to the Cathedral!

A Cathedral in Lucca, ItalyThe St. Martin Cathedral is stunning!

The center piazza in Lucca is a very charming open space with cute cafes and restaurants. The buildings curve because in the center there used to be a Roman amphitheater. There’s often live music here too, which we unfortunately just narrowly missed. However, the area is nice regardless.

Pretty scenes of the city center in Lucca, ItalyA charming and pleasant place

Coffee on a restaurant table in Lucca, ItalyWe decided to grab coffee in the center piazza!

After grabbing coffee, we sat down on the walls and just relaxed for a while. This was probably my favorite part of the entire day. It both very peaceful and very pretty.

View from a Wall in Lucca

View from a Wall in LuccaHere are some views from the walls of Lucca

Towards the end of the day, I hit a wall and became really tired. Because I booked one-ways throughout the day, I hadn’t yet bought my ticket home. My friends’ train back was at 8:30, but because I was so tired I decided to take an earlier train back to Florence. So in one day, I took the train for the first time, and I took the train by myself for the first time. Navigating the train system is very easy; I only suggest that you make sure you are on the CORRECT TRAIN before you depart.

If you go to Pisa, I highly suggest going to Lucca as well. It doesn’t cost much to get there, and it’s so close to Pisa by train. I enjoyed my time in Pisa, but I really loved my time in Lucca.

Thanks, Sarah!

Sarah Graham


Sarah Graham is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2019, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An English major at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.

Sarah's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Florence Program

Topics: Florence, Italy, Local Culture