Location & Crowd
The Hostel Pisa is almost perfectly located: it’s a 20 minute walk (!) from the airport, 5 minutes from the train station, and yet only 20 minutes from the famed leaning tower on the other end of the old town.
On the downside it’s perched inbetween the train tracks and the road, and you do occasionally (a few times a day) hear a plane flying overhead. None of this is, however, a dealbreaker as the windows are reasonably well insulated, and neither the road nor the train tracks are highly frequented.
All Pisa sights are within easy walking distance, but there is also a bus stop a few meters from the hostel. I did all the sights within a day. Easily.
The crowd at the Pisa Hostel is mainly comprised of late teens/early twenties students and backpackers from near and far with the occasional long distance cyclist. The atmosphere is relaxed but not an excessive partying mode. Part of this is probably the staff, most of which are not Italian and fluent in English, that is very friendly but assertive.
Rooms & Facilities
The most important facility first: there is air conditioning. What a welcoming relief on a 35°C summer day! The a/c is centrally controlled to prevent dorm fights. To me the temperature was always perfect.
The Hostel Pisa has roughly 40 rooms on 4 floors, mostly dorms. I paid 20 euros for a bed in a six-bed female dorm with ensuite facilities in July. That is slightly less than I would have paid closer to the center of the old town, which, as mentioned above, is in walking distance anyways. There is a 5 euro key fee which is reimbursed on check-out, if you can show the receipt, as well as a 1 euro tourist tax per day, payable in cash.
The room (#206 – street facing) was spacious, with a table, 1 chair (!), two mirrors, 3 bunks and 6 lockers (as usual, bring your own lock or buy one at the reception). Things were clean, albeit a bit used.
I didn’t like the fact that guests are supplied only one sheet and are expected to cover with a wooly blanket that probably gets washed once in a blue moon. My work around is a sleeping bag/liner I always carry with me.
There is a large common area with Bar, TV, snooker table, one guest PC, a guitar, a piano and agreeable music 24/7. The garden in the back offers more space to lounge.
The rooms are off limits for cleaning between 12 noon and 3 p.m. every day.
On check-out/check-in day you can leave your bags for free in the luggage room. Though, when I was there bags were piling up outside into the reception area as the room was full.
Wifi coverage was very good, at times a bit slow. They have a handful of networks you can connect to with your Google or Facebook account.
Food & Drinks
The bad news: breakfast is not included in the room rate, and there is no guest kitchen in the Hostel Pisa.
The good news: you can buy food in the cafeteria (or common area). All day items include cornflakes/muesli, yogurt, fruit, small pastries, for one or two euros each. Every day — apart from Wednesday — there are generous buffets for lunch and dinner for 7 euro per head. A good deal if you’re hungry, as you have a choice of fresh pasta, pizza, salads, fruit and even one drink (soft drink, small beer, glass of wine). If you’re not that hungry, you can order a fresh pizza for a little as 4 euro.
There is a strict no-external-alcohols-in-the-common-area policy. The bar is open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. the following morning. A small beer clocks at 2 euro, soft drinks start at 1.5 euro, a bottle of wine is 6 euro. The usual hot drinks are also available (Italian coffee 1 euro).
The next (and only) supermarket is the PAM at the corner of Giovanni Pascoli/Filippo Turati, a 10 minute walk towards the city center. It’s not cheap, but better stocked than the minimarkets dotted around the old town.