Pisa is renowned for its leaning tower, marble cathedrals, and historic piazzas — so the city’s more naturalistic components often become overlooked. Orto Botanico di Pisa, or simply Pisa’s botanical garden, can be found in the city’s centre next to the beloved Piazza dei Cavalieri. The garden was the first university botanical garden in Europe, and to this day is still operated by the University of Pisa.
Founded in 1543 by the physician and botanist Luca Ghini, the Botanical Garden was moved from its original location on the banks of the river Arno. Today the gardens stretch about three hectares across the city’s ground and are host to plants from every continent in the world. If you’re staying in one of our villas near Pisa and Lucca, read on to discover one of the most breathtaking natural experiences in Tuscany.
A stroll through the gardens
The Botanical Garden is located along Via Luca Ghini, a road named after the gardens’ founder. This verdant paradise is hidden from the main city but just a few minutes from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, offering a relaxing walk through its luscious botany. Entry to the garden is free to students and children, with a forgiving price of €4 for a regular ticket. Be sure not to miss Green Sundays — every first Sunday of the month offers free entry to all.
Relish in the calming atmosphere as you stroll past water gardens with fountains and rejuvenating pools. The fountains provide ideal spots to sit in the sun and take in the flora surrounding you. Expect to see a range of blossoming buds in the 148 flower beds, including the romantic hybrid tea rose and graceful water lilies. Pisa’s Botanical Garden prides itself on the ancient Ginkgo biloba trees growing since 1787 and an extensive array of aquatic plants, some of which are endangered.
The Botanical Museum
The Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I de ‘Medici, established Pisa’s Botanica Museum in 1591 as an accomplice to the gardens. The museum holds 17th-century portraits of famous botanists, artwork relating to botany as well as objects relevant to the teaching of the subject.
The Botanical Museum has been open to the public since April 2017, with its most esteemed exhibitions found in the Herbarium. This building is located at the centre of the Botanical Garden and has roughly 350,000 samples collected since the 18th century. The collection is split into General Herbarium and Historical Herbarium. The main attraction of the General Herbarium is the range of seagrasses, with the Historical Herbarium having a heavy focus on key individuals of Tuscan botany. Teodoro Caruel specialised in the flora of Tuscany, with 14,500 of his specimens displayed at the museum’s Herbarium.
The main building of the Botanical Museum is made up of seven rooms on two floors. Amongst the main attractions is in the first room, host to an ancient door made out of walnut, originally the grand entrance to the Giardino dei Semplici in Santa Maria. This room also displays a proud portrait of the founder Luca Ghini. The Botanical Museum’s main building also has dedications to great botanists, a reconstructed Wunderkammer (“Cabinet of Curiosities”) from the 16th-century as well as many other exhibits to explore.
A Pisan coffee break
A day spent at The Botanical Gardens of Pisa would not be complete without a coffee break. Along the Via Santa Maria is Filter Coffee Lab, an espresso bar just a 2-minute walk from the Botanical Garden. Filter Coffee Lab is praised for its choice of up to ten types of iced coffees perfect for summer. If after an explorative day through the gardens you’re feeling experimental, we recommend trying one of their flavoured coffees such as the hazelnut macchiato, for something a bit different.