Pisa is a small town in Tuscany famous for its Leaning Tower which is its symbol and one of the most popular monuments in the world. The Tower is located in a magnificent square, named Piazza dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), surrounded by imposing and beautiful buildings like the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Cemetery. But Pisa is more than that. Evidence of its rich history are scattered throughout the city. Inhabited since Roman times, Pisa has an important and glorious past, which reached a period of great splendour when it was one of the four maritime republics, along with Amalfi, Genoa and Venice. Today it is a vibrant and dynamic city and a major university centre.
Who wants to visit Pisa must not forget these 10 steps to understand its soul and its history.
1 The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Tower is the symbol of the city. This has become famous not only for its beauty and its artistic value, but mainly thanks to it is leaning profile. It was built between the twelfth and fourteenth century and it has always been leaning since its first construction.
It is 55.86 meters high, has a diameter of about 16 meters and a circumference of about 49 meters. It weighs 14,453 tonnes and to reach the top there are 296 steps.
The Tower of Pisa has been proposed as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
2 The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Pisa
The cathedral is located in Piazza dei Miracoli and it is the Cathedral of Pisa. The monuments in the square and the Cathedral in particular are the most important example of Romanesque Pisan.
The construction of the cathedral began shortly after the year 1000 and demonstrates the prestige and wealth of the city as a maritime republic.
3. The Baptistery of Pisa
As the Leaning Tower and the Cathedral also the Baptistery is located in Piazza dei Miracoli on the green lawn that houses all these magnificent monuments. The architect Diotisalvi began its construction around 1150 and worked with famous sculptors, such as Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, who embellished it with their works.
Its round shape and its imposing dome stand out from the magnificent cathedral and the slender tower and complete the square in a succession of artistic geometry.
The Baptistery of Pisa is the largest Baptistery in Italy.
4. The Museum of Ancient Ships of Pisa
The Museum of Ancient Ships of Pisa is a recently built archaeological museum. In December 1998 work began to enlarge the railway station of San Rossore. During the excavations there were found remains of ancient Roman ships. The site has since become an archaeological site and the restored ships are located in a museum to enable everyone to admire and enjoy them.
5 The Monumental Cemetery of Pisa
The Monumental Cemetery of Pisa is located at the bottom of the Piazza dei Miracoli. The story goes that the Crusaders brought here the holy land taken on Mount Golgotha and since then this place became saint.
In this cemetery there are buried many famous people and their tombs are adorned with statues and sculptures. But there are also works of art from the Etruscan, Roman and Medieval times.
The cemetery suffered considerable damage during World War II and some repairs are not finished yet.
6 The riversides of Arno
Pisa is crossed by the Arno river and along its banks run charming old streets lit by streetlamps. Walking along the Arno river admiring the facades of ancient buildings and crossing old bridges is like taking a trip back in time.
The riversides are the heart of the city and an important meeting place for young people who attend restaurants and pubs.
On 16 June each year Pisans celebrate the feast of San Ranieri and on this occasion the palaces along the Arno are illuminated by thousands of candles reflected in the river, creating a magical atmosphere.
7 National Museum of San Matteo
The National Museum of San Matteo is located in an old building overlooking the Arno River, next to St. Matthew’s Church dating from the eleventh century.
The museum houses paintings and sculptures ranging from the twelfth to fifteenth century by artists such as Ghirlandaio, Beato Angelico, Masaccio and Donatello. There is also a section entirely dedicated to ceramics from medieval Islam.
Tuttomondo is a work of contemporary art. This is a mural painted by Keith Haring, American artist from New York.
Keith Haring painted his work in 1989 on an area of 180 meters. There are 30 figures representing humanity.
9 The Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden of Pisa was founded in 1543 by the physician and botanist Luca Ghini, with funding of Cosimo I de ‘Medici.
Throughout history it has had several location until it was placed near Piazza dei Miracoli, its current location.
The garden has always played a key role in the university education of the botanical sciences, but also offers the opportunity to enjoy beautiful gardens and collections that have always been an object of interest of distinguished scientists.
10 Piazza dei Cavalieri
It is a small square located in a strategic point of the city. Its ancient name, Piazza delle Sette Vie (Square of the seven Streets), explains well its value in Pisa urban plan. Today the square is lined with historic buildings from the valuable facades, one of which houses the Scuola Normale Superiore, in which only extraordinarily promising students are allowed.
In addition to the school there are the Palazzo dell’Orologio (Clock Palace), where, Dante told in his Divina Commedia, Count Ugolino della Gherardesca was left to starve, the Palazzo del Consiglio dei Dodici (Town Council of the Twelve) and the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri.
Have a good holiday in Italy!