Monday, 27 August 2012

Pisa-Italy | Legendary Secular History Beneath an Iconic Leaning Tower.


Pisa is definitely a landmark of Italy with a legendary secular history beneath an iconic leaning tower,a city with an artistic grandeur linked to a glorious past related to the name of an emblematic Marine Republic which competed with the most important powers in the Mediterranean since medieval times.

The "Torre di Pisa"( leaning tower) dominating the city  is one of the most popular symbols of the world but famous University is another highlight for all what it produced during its historic steps.

The renowned square "Piazza dei Miracoli" declared UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 with its magnificent architectonic complex is more than a superb highlight of a centre which is also the main gateway to discover the immense beauty of Tuscany.

The name Pisa was since many centuries ago symbol of one of the most important and powerful Italian cities,rich in art,history,architecture,culture and maritime trade.

When someone thinks of Italy, often the Tower of Pisa is one of the first things which come to mind,a unique landmark of that country,but Pisa is not only that:it has a notable patrimony,its  narrow streets and spacious squares with stylish palaces,a vast presence of Churches ad buildings erected in Medieval,Renaissance, Romanesque and Gothic styles which all together form a scenery unique and superb.

The beautiful and picturesque "Lungarno"along the river which crosses the city offers unique views with the old "Logge di Borgo Stretto" the market of "Piazza delle Vettovaglie" and its several museums containing rich collections of Roman,Etruscan and Renaissance art complete a set of a marvels which conquer every visitor.

The Arno River is another emblematic symbol of Pisa which also played an important role as relevant waterway leading to the Mediterranean which made the history of the city.

Along that emblematic river which also crosses the magnificent Florence eternal historic rival of Pisa there is all the history with a multitude of medieval and modern streets flanking that course of waters which at sunset offers unforgettable views.

The local architecture is mainly dated from the Middle Ages and gradually transformed during different periods until it assumed its present aspect in  Renaissance style.

The scenery is completed by many architectonic masterpieces and its riverside promenades with as one of its emblematic symbols "Lungarno Medici" along the Arno River which is another emblematic symbol of Pisa which played an important role as relevant waterway leading to the Mediterranean which made the history of the city.

Along the Arno  there is all the history of that centre with a multitude of medieval and modern streets flanking that course of waters offering in particular in the late evening and at night picturesque views by many small lights reflected in the water and also romantic sunsets along that emblematic river which also crosses the magnificent Florence eternal historic rival of Pisa.
 

Situated at just 11,0 kilometres from the Mediterranean sea and very close to the "Alpi Apuane"a group of mounts of the western Appenines Pisa is today with its 100,000 inhabitants the second most important town in Tuscany behind Florence.The secular history of that centre is very remote and rich of important periods and events.Numerous sources attest to the birth of the current city  as an Etruscan settlement in the 5th century BC.Despite that there is a long debate about Pisa origin with some different historical versions.One said which the first inhabitants were the Ligurians a Celtic population who originally settled the Region Liguria who expanded their domains in Tuscany too.A remote version is from Greece and in the Hellenic classic poetry Pisa was synonym of Olympia

.Just three centuries after Etruscan civilisation,the area of Pisa was a land of the Imperial Rome when the Roman legions reached the Northern Italic lands and founded Portus Pisanus which translated means Pisan harbour.

Under Roman Empire rule the city became a privileged centre of maritime trade with the establishment of  docks and piers but also a renowned campus of art and in the course of the centuries an important military check point in the high Mediterranean area.

Under the reign of Roman Emperor Octavian,the port had a strong development and it was further expanded giving the former town prosperity and prestige.After the fall of Rome,Pisa remained a maritime centre of great importance also under Goth,Lombard and Carolingian rules.

During the Middle Ages Pisa reached its political,economic,cultural and artistic splendour.In the 11th century it became one of the four legendary Maritime Republics with Amalfi, Genoa and Venice and much more one of the most prestigious artistic centre of the entire peninsula calling at its court magnificent  sculptors,architects,painters,active merchants and artisans also from abroad.

Pisa golden age started with the constructions of the monuments located today in the famous "Piazza dei Miracoli"which became the shining and legendary core and heart of the cultural and artistic life of that Tuscan city.

A Great school of sculptors such as Bonanno Pisano,Giovanni and Nicola Pisano,the painters Aurelio Lomi and Antonio di Puccio alias "Pisanello"the enigmatic architect "Diotisalvi" which made superb and magnificent masterpieces still visible today.

During its golden ages Pisa hosted many other important artists such as Donatello,Gozzoli,Traini,Vasari, Bronzino and also Michelangelo Buonarroti,all them gave Pisa a unique artistic prestige and a name which was admired all around Europe.

During that century Pisa also increased in trade on the Mediterranean Sea,the Republic was highly organised
to create new routes new routes of trade an with excellent presence of skilled sailors and active merchants who reached from west to east all the major centres of the Mediterranean basin.

That centre of Tuscany also had a fleet led by great admirals,in addition was also created a relevant army which played an important role in the conquest of new lands and for the defence of the city.

 The Marine Republic often clashed in historical battles against Moorish and Ottoman ships bringing  frequently epic victories took place in Reggio Calabria,Sardinia,Palermo,Corsica,Balears Islands,Malta but also in North Africa in Bizerta,Al Mahdia,Bona and Cap Al Mustapha.

In addition to all that Pisa was also very involved with the crusades,just remember that in in the city was founded the Order of "Cavalieri di Santo Stefano"a Knights Order of Templars, which had the aim to escort pilgrims to the Holy Land and by sea to fight the Turks.

The Marine Republic of Pisa began its decline in 1284 after suffering a severe defeat by one its Historical enemy,the Republic of Genoa in a period in which the four Italic Maritime Republics were continually fighting among themselves to create new domains in the Mediterranean.


For a short period Pisa also expanded its influence in several territories of the interior of Tuscany including in   the nearby Lucca until 1406. Later it was under rule of the powerful' Medici Family of Florence and in that period the city had a second period of renaissance with an active political life,restoration and modelling of old palaces and new projects concerning a new  urban aspect.

It was also an era in which was established the University which became one of the most important cultural centres in Tuscany and Italy.In the year1810 Pisa had an important support by Napoleon Bonaparte with the foundation of the "Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa", which today is a famous and prestigious school well known worldwide.

In the first phase of the war against Austria in 1848 several volunteer students of Pisa fought in the famous battle of Curtatone and Montanara in the Northern Italy against the Hapsburg troops.The city was later annexed to the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia and since the year 1861 part of the proclaimed Kingdom of Italy under Savoy rule.

Pisa was bombed in 1943 and 1944 by American warplanes,the city suffered several damages but many buildings and churches were restored or rebuilt.

In more contemporary times the Tuscan centre has had a strong economical development with its industries Piaggio  (motorcycles) based the nearest town of Pontedera and Ginori (Pottery) and it has always been an important centre about tourism industry as an important Italian destination for its rich cultural and historical patrimony and its numerous museums. 

Porta Santa Maria (St.Mary gate) is an excellent strategical point to start discovering Pisa and it is one of the medieval iconic walled gate of the old city.Once across the door,you will be be in a pedestrian area next to a huge meadow grass with the monumental complex formed by the famous "Piazza Dei Miracoli"(Square of Miracles).

The emblematic "Torre di Pisa" the Leaning Tower belongs to a set of four impressive buildings located on that square with the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta dated the 11th century, the "Campanile" "which was a bell tower of 12th century,the impressive Baptistery which with its dome boasting 18 meters in diameter and dated 12th century is one of the great works left in that legendary square.

All those superb masterpieces with the cemetery are a complex declared an UNESCO patrimony heritage site a pride of a city well preserved and which conquer with its unique fascination visitors from all around the world.


 The famous "Piazza dei Miracoli",also known as Cathedral Square was an area of worship since the time of the Etruscans being the religious centre of the city, and understanding that were built in a period from the 11th to the 14th century all what of magnificent you can admire today.That superb and shining square is one of the greatest concentrations of Medieval and Romanesque splendorous artistic wonders in the world.Partly paved and partly lawn,it is a place unique in its kind, and it was recognised in the year 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,that prestigious award honoured that site for the immense patrimony of art encircled in an area not too vast but incredibly packed by magnificent historical treasures.


.The present appearance is a work by the architect Alessandro Gherardesca who restored the monuments in the 19th century giving them the glitz of of the legendary and glorious past.


The Cathedral is the largest example of Romanesque Medieval architecture presents in the city.That monumental Religious building which houses priceless works of prominent masters such as Ghirlandaio, Beccafumi, Andrea del Sarto,Cimabue,Giovanni Pisano and Giambologna is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (St.Mary of the Assumption).

The works began in the 11th century by architect Buscheto and completed by his pupil Rainaldo after the conquests of Palermo and Balearic Islands.The Cathedral was built over the ruins of an ancient Basilica dated 4th century dedicated to Santa Reparata in Palude previously erected on  the ancient Roman Adrianus Bath.

That magnificent construction consists is a Latin cross subdivided in five aisles and developed on an ample rectangular plan  95 metres long and 32 metres,the height of the main nave approximately reaches 33 metres in high.

The impressive dome is subdivided into two sections,the first was built using red brick while the second is in a white foil while beautiful facade consists in in five levels and supported by 68 columns.The main front shows a majestic aspect with several addition of Byzantine and Arab elements.

That style was used as a way of demonstration the international power of the Republic of Pisa which had reached notoriety including in the former Constantinople and in the Moorish world.

The marbles used in the interiors of different colours are the dominant element,either by creating mosaics inlaid with bronze elements.The marble pulpit by Giovanni Pisano is simply beautiful and it is believed that the twelve altars were designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti the famous artists which became one of the genius of art all time.

The high altar and the balustrade of the choir marble encrusted with lapis "lazuli" dating back the year 1774 is a relevant work for its stylish lines and rich decoration.

Other highlights are two bronze statues and a splendid crucifix by Giambologna and a carved choir stalls dated the 14th century.Several great paintings as the "Madonna delle Grazie"by Andrea del Sarto,"San Giovanni Battista" by Cimabue,the mosaic depicting the Virgin and St.John and the the Evangelist by Francesco da Pisa,

Worth to be mentioned other superb masterpieces as the Annunciation and Mosaics Assumption by Francesco Traini,and beautiful frescoes by Ghirlandaio on the main arcade are the artistic masterpieces of prominent artists worked in the Pisa golden ages.

The floor of the cathedral is covered with slabs of white marble with cerulean lists,all in mosaic score porphyry granite and serpentine and it is another notable attraction showing the presence of authentic masters which developed that stunning work.

The majestic  Baptistery is a magnificent masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic styles and you will notice as the architectonic elements are fantastically melted in a perfect and harmonious set in terms of decoration,symmetry,alternated sequence of elements and study of spaces and perspectives.

The circumference of the Baptistery exceeds 107,0 metres making it the largest baptistery in Italy and in the world.The construction began in 1152 by an anonymous architect "Diotisalvi"but it was not completed until 1363,by architects brothers Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.

The architectonic structure is a majestic octagonal dome decorated with blind arches,mullioned windows and pierced gables.Simply beautiful the statue ornaments by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano with human heads on the capitals,bust of Prophets and Saints and other statues on the cusps.

Apart the impressive dome,another highlight is definitely the beautiful gate facing the Cathedral finely decorated with reliefs.

The circular interior is covered with white marble and one of the main attractions is the beautiful "Pulpito di Pergamo" (Pergamum Pulpit) a fantastic work in plasticity,forms,shapes and innovation considering the period, (13th century) and in the boxes around the pulpit you can admire episodes from Jesus life and the Last Judgement.

Another beautiful work presents in that superb construction is a baptismal font in white marble,a stupendous work by Guido da Como and as further detail,the Baptistery is also very famous for its acoustic.

The builders were able to get an echo effect suggestive and spiritual delights visitors every day when the keeper sings a few notes looks like a famous singer.As last highlight you can admire that the the interior dome is culminated with a bronze statue of St.John Baptist.

The famous "Torre Pendente" la "Torre di Pisa" the Pisa leaning tower is a landmark know worldwide.The tower was originally the bell tower of the Cathedral and it is a singular and unique construction in its kind and ideally located  next to the impressive Cathedral and the magnificent Baptistery forming a beautiful artistic complex.

Nobody exactly knows who was the architect designed the tower.The mystery consists in suppositions, opinions and controversial versions.A first one is linked to the famous anonymous "Diotisalvi"the architect who probably built the Baptistery,the second version is related to a a team of Pisan and Tuscan architects during the glorious period of the Marine Republic called to develop that iconic masterpiece.

There is also a third one which is linked to the architect and sculptor Bonanno Pisano,that artist built one of the Cathedral famous Royal bronze door and the imposing door of Monreale Cathedral in Sicily near Palermo.

The debates about all those suppositions are still opened because Bonanno Pisano was working probably in that period in Bisantium (the current Istanbul) and about the anonymous "Diotisalvi" there is not a clear chronological and precise documentation while the Pool of Pisa Architects is considered a simple version and nothing else.

At the entrance of the tower on the right wall you can see an inscription in Roman letters and Latin language,it is the date about the tower construction and you will read : "A MCLXXIV CAMPANILE HOC FUIT FUNDATUM CANTEENS AUGUSTA",translating that it is the written documentation of the year of the construction in the month of August where was founded this tower.

Since the start of construction back in 1173,the tower began to lean and the most likely reason is a summation of unstable ground along with a foundation of only 3 metres deep which have borne the brunt of the tower and have giving up to finish the current inclination.

The tower is 55,0 metres tall in height and subdivided into 8 levels.A base of arches with 15 columns,6 levels with an external colonnade of which the top four are built to counter the tilt angle and a final level where the tower is located and it can be accessed by a staircase of 294 steps you can climb reaching the summit of that landmark.

Some years solutions adopted to stop the slope failed although in 1998 there were positive results due to the removal of part of the land in the north to create a counter-balance with some hoops plans and application of steel rods and counterweights lead up to 900 tons.

The cemetery known as "Camposanto" is the Pisa historical cemetery consisting in a huge area with an imponent wall composed by 43 arches originally covered with frescoes.

That monumental cemetery might resemble to a big chartreuse courtyard with a main cloister or also to an open air Cathedral with a rectangle central nave and outdoor in a long rectangular stretch surrounded by marble Gothic cloisters and topped with a dome on a side.

The "Camposanto" history is very long and pretty interesting starting in the 12th century when the Archbishop Ubaldo Lanfranchi came back to Pisa from Israel in the period of the Crusades bringing shiploads of holy dirt from the Calvary or known as Golgotha hill,the place where Jesus Christ was crucified.

The project of the cemetery was by Giovanni di Simone,in the 13th century and all started when the architect built a first marble cloister and between the 14th and 15th century many famous artists as Gozzoli,Bonaiuti and Gaddi decorated the walls with frescoes

Unfortunately during the Second World War in the year 1944 American warplanes launched bombs on a Nazi Wermacht Army Headquarter not far from Camposanto destroying almost totally the walls and only a few remained there but really in very bad conditions.

Among the frescoes survived,one depicting "the Triumph of Death" by Buonamico Buffalmacco,a Gothic painter from Florence and well known as "Master of the Triumph of Death."another one with the "Last Judgement" and "Scenes of the Anchorites",the structure was restored following the old design and today is visible in its grandeur and part of the UNESCO Patrimony Heritage Site.

The famed Hungarian composer Ferenc "Franz" Liszt took inspiration from the Triumph of Death frescoes during a trip to Pisa writing his famous symphonic masterpiece "Der Totentanz" the dance of Death,a classical piece with medieval passages sounds.

Adjacent to the Camposanto you can see the Jewish Cemetery.Pisa hosted in the past a large community of Jews who lived in the city for about four centuries and that cemetery is one of the most Jewish ancient in the world.

In that space you can see several tombs of Jewish soldiers died during the 1st World War and other tombs of victims of the 2nd War.

The history of the cemetery started in the year 1674 when Duke Ferdinand II gave that community that space,inside there is a Chapel with a commemorative plaque bearing the names of the people disappeared and died in the Nazis camps.

Worth a visit the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo an exhibition linked to the history of the Cathedral and  situated between the Tower and the old hospital (today Museo delle Sinopie) and it consists in 23 rooms.That museum is a chronological historical step by step leading you in an Educational trip about Pisa art and its history and it was inaugurated in the year 1986 in the old Episcopal Seminary.

The project started several years earlier to gather in one place a significant collection of sculptures, paintings and other works relating to the ecclesiastical buildings of "Piazza del Duomo"(Cathedral Square).

The museum preserves a wide collection of sculptures,statues and paintings with marvellous works by Giovanni and Nicola Pisano,busts of Roman era of Emperor Julius Caesar and Marcus Vispsasius Agrippa a mythological bust of Hercules,and several paintings of Tuscany and Pisa school by excellent painters as Ferretti,Melani brothers,Lomi among others.

Do not miss to take a look to the "Exultet" and the "Corali"(the choir), they are parchment scrolls used for the liturgy of Holy Saturday around the 12th and 13th century and the "Croce dei Pisani" the Pisans Cross made by copper gold and silver dated 12th century and considered a legendary symbol of Pisa and its long secular history.

The Museo delle Sinopie  is located in the old Pisa Hospital and it is dated 1257 erected next to Museo dell´Opera del Duomo."Sinopie" is a common term of art explaining you the drawings and frescoes preparation.

Thanks to "Sinopie" you can distinguish the different hands and styles about a fresco from its concept and inspiration until to its creation.There you can have the opportunity to discover the preparation of frescoes by Tuscany Master with works of prominent painters as Gozzoli,Traini,Buffalmacco and Piero di Puccio among others..

All that is very interesting to help you in other museums visits if you are fond about Gothic and Medieval paintings and in that place you can admire the famous "Sinopia""about "the Triumph of death","the Last Judgement"and "Cosmographycal Theological and Biblical Stories" by the master Gozzoli.

The collection of preparatory drawings represents the largest existing paint graphics dating back to 1300 to 1500 it is definitely a great Educational museum because you can discover the draws of superb artists discovering their ideas in terms of lines,colours and perspectives in the preparation of a work which in that period made Tuscany as one of the Capital of that kind of art linked to the Frescoes transmitted to the entire world.

Walking along Via Santa Maria (St.Mary street) that street links Pisa historical centre to the Arno river banks and also the place in which you can visit the famous Domus Galliana,the site which hosts the brilliant scientist Galileo Galilei memorabilia and memories.

The Domus Galliana was established in 1942 in honour of the great scientist Galilei in the site of an astronomical observatory.Inside there is a rich library houses manuscripts of Galileo, his disciples and other famous physicists,including Fermi and Pacinotti.

The direction of the Domus organises educational visits in order to historicsing the figure of Galilei and disclosing aspects of his life so far unknown and furthermore Domus Galliana organises meetings,seminars and science conferences throughout the year.


Next to that emblematic place is situated the house of Antonio Pacinotti,Pisan physicist who played a key role in the invention of the parachute and the device which converts electrical energy into mechanical energy,the famous dynamo.

 A charming and historical square in Pisa is undoubtedly Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights Square) located in the heart of the city.Dated 16th century,the name of that square derives from the "Cavalieri di Santo Stefano"the Pisan heroes who fought against Ottomans and Moorish in the Mediterranean Sea for many centuries.

There are many legends about "Cavalieri di Santo Stefano"as a battle near Gozo in Malta in which 80 of those Knights won a battle against of 400 Berbers pirates.That square is an iconic  symbol of Pisa because it was also developed on the ancient Roman Forum.

The name of the "Piazza dei Cavalieri" was given following the decision of Cosimo I de 'Medici Lord of  Florence to establish in Pisa an eponymous remembering that Order which gave relevance and importance to the city.

 The order of the Knights of Sr. Stephen was originally established to fight against the incursions of the Ottomans protecting the Mediterranean from Muslim invasions and all them were army masters a sort of special corps of the past.

The square is also called "Piazza delle 7 Vie" Square of 7 streets because in that point converge seven arteries and the the square is an architectonic Renaissance masterpiece,the symmetry and the location of the palaces in that place adorned by elegant decorations is a beautiful combination with the nearest Church.

An important consideration is that all the buildings erected on that square have different date of construction and it is not often easy to create a perfect architectonic coexistence among elements so different in age.

Nowadays Piazza dei Cavalieri hosts many events such as concerts,outdoor theatre performances and it is also a traditional meeting point for Pisa young people.In medieval period the square was the scenery of the annual tournament "Mazzascudo"an old Italian medieval military tradition consisting of mock battles,in Pisa in that case it meant to train men for war.

The square is really beautiful,surrounded from 16th century buildings and with the  presence of its majestic Chiesa di Santo Stefano,(St.Stephen Church).The church was built by the architect Vasari in the 16th century,a magnificent Renaissance masterpiece erected on the ruins of a previous Church called Chiesa di San Sebastiano alle Fabbriche Maggiori.

Inside you can admire several beautiful works,including a sculpture by Donatello,frescoes by talented masters such as Vasari Vasari,Fei,Ligozzi and Chimenti,a majestic carved Baroque altar by Foggini,beautiful painted wooden and hung on the walls,memorabilia,conquered by the knights in a battle,won against the Ottomans.

The highlight anyway is a beautiful fresco by the famous painter Bronzino depicting the Nativity of Jesus considered at that time one of the best works in the entire Tuscany for the magnificent lines and expressions of the protagonists made by an artist which was in that period one of the iconic figures of the Tuscan Florentine Mannerism.

Next to a monumental fountain with a statue in Honor of Cosimo de Medici Lord of  Florence and erected by sculptor Francavilla is situated the Palazzo dei Cavalieri,Palace of the Knights also called in previous times Palazzo della Carovana (Palace of the Caravan) and Palazzo degli Anziani. (Palace of the Elders)

The construction of that building is also by architect and master Giorgio Vasari who erected that construction on a previous building called Torre dei Gualandi (Gualandi Tower) an infamous tower known as Torre della Fame (tower of hunger)

Originally that place was a prison tower in which the Count Ugolino della Gherardesca was imprisoned and where he died of starvation,probably you know the history in the literature work "Divina Commedia" by Dante Alighieri mentioning the Count in the hell.

Vasari created a wide curved facade building with an imposing arcade to bring together two existent houses.On the facade you can also admire six niches containing busts of the Medici Dukes and marble coats of arms of the noble Florentine family  'Medici and the Order of St. Stephen Knights.

Inside there is a beautiful staircase decorated with statues and some frescoes and paintings by Naldini,Del Brina and Portelli considered in its kind one of the best works in that period of the city.

Il Palazzo dell´Orologio (Clock Palace) is a building dated 17th century,its previous name was Palazzo Buonuomo and today is the Library of the "Scuola Normale di Pisa "housed in Palazzo dei Cavalieri. Cavalieri.

Napoleon Bonaporte wanted to establish in Pisa a branch of the "Ecole Normale Supérieure of Paris" in which the best students could expand their studies.From that famous school have passed later very famous by former Italian first minister Giuliano Amato, the writer Antonio Tabucchi,the former Republic President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi among others.

That School also boasts among its celebrated former pupils three Nobel Laureates such as :the physicists Enrico Fermi and Carlo Rubbia and the famous poet Giosué Carducci. .

The Chiesa San Frediano is a splendid Church which is another beautiful example of Romanesque-Pisan school ended in the 9th century.The facade was completely built in stone,set on three levels and a square bell tower with a stoned base and bricks.

The structure is a Basilica developed on a rectangular plan with three naves supported by two rows of seven Roman columns.Inside you can admire beautiful frescoes by Lomi as "the Adoration of the Magi"and others like ""Stories of Santa Brigida" by Tiarini and "Annunciation and a Nativity" by Salimbeni.

Porta San Zeno is one of the ancient gates of the medieval Pisa.Also called "Porta della Moneta"(Coin Gate),that name derives because it was considered the Monetary Gate for the reason it formed an "adouane" for the merchants coming in the city and paying the taxes.

The nearest Abbazia di San Zeno (St. Zenus Abbey) is a Monastery built around 11th century over a Roman Temple once occupied by Benedictine monks,modeled and enlarged it is a great representation of Romanesque style, with three naves.

The facade is preceded by a porch supported by pillars and the central column,other main architectonic elements are a series of mullioned windows decorated with lozenges with seven copies of the 11th century Islamic ceramic basins and the originals can be found in the Museo di San Matteo (St.Matthew Museum)

.In the 15th century the Abbey was largely transformed adding a hospital and in the 19th century it was desecrated and used as municipal warehouse while today after several restorations it hosts concerts and exhibitions.

In Piazza Santa Caterina (St.Catherine Square)  is situated the Chiesa di Santa Caterina a Church erected in a wonderful Gothic style between the late 13th and early 14th century by Dominican monks and dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria of Egypt the young girl who faced martyrdom at the time of the persecution of Maxentius in the early 4th century.

The facade was developed in typical Pisan style using fine white marble,the sculpture style is by Donatello school and keeping the traditional forms and standards of the Romanesque artistic movement,such as a high facade with a central rose window with figures of Saints in relief and a bell tower on a side.

The bell tower was built in brick with decorations in terraccotta and ceramic ornaments with arches in two coloured bands.Also the interior is a pure example of Romanesque consisting in a Latin cross with a nave and an imponent central altar.

The interior is richly decorated and you can admire excellent paintings and frescoes as "San Tommaso"(St.Thomas)" by Traini and another one by Fray Bartolomeo.In addition are also several  splendid sculptured works as the Bishop Simone Saltarelli tombstone by Simone Pisano and in the altar sculptures by Nino Pisano depicting the Virgin of the Annunciation and the Angel Gabriel.

Notable are also a painting by Lomi depicting St.Catherine and the monumental tomb of thee noble ambassador Gherardo Compagni.

 In Piazza San Francesco (St.Francis Square) lies the Chiesa di San Francesco (St.Francis church).That Church was dedicated to San Francesco d´Assisi and it was the first Franciscan Religious site built in Pisa after a visit of the Saint in the city of Tuscany in the 13th century.

Two Franciscan monks followers of that iconic figure,called Alberto and Agnello,decided to start to build a a Temple which was designed by Giovanni Di Simone and erected in 1276.That beautiful medieval construction consists in a single aisle,a beautiful bell tower and a cloister dated 15th century.

The facade was re arranged in 1603 but the Church kept its aspect of t Franciscan building developed using simple materials,no decorations and a bell tower according to its typical style with its roof which rests on the ground but is supported by large stones placed on the shelf on both sides of the aisle.

 The interior has a nave,in different periods the Church has had many restorations but it still conserves the beautiful frescoes by Taddeo di Bartolo prominent painter from Siena depicting "Stories of Virgin Mary" were restored.Other excellent works present are by Jacopo da Empoli and Taddeo Gaddi and the Chapel containing the tombs of the Gherardesca family,the Count Ugolino and his sons tombs.

 A walk along Arno river will show you many other historical attractions.Palazzo Medici ( the famous Medici Palace) is an imponent palace dated 13th century.That stylish and imposing building was the old ancient residence of  the noble family Appiani and later adcquired by Lorenzo Medici "The Magnificent".

The Medici ruled Pisa from 1392 to1398 and that construction was the former home of that famed and poweeful Florentine family and it was restored and enlarged by Cosimo de 'Medici later.

The present appearance of the building comes from a speech of 1879 edited by Simonelli who reinvented the shape of the palace grounds with the building of the 14th century when he built the tower corner and exalted the medieval architectonic features.

The facade is a complex of double and triple arched windows while the ground floor presents arcades supported by columns and today the palace houses the Pisa Prefecture.

The Chiesa di San Matteo (St.Matthew Church) is a small church dated 1027 and founded on the ruins of a previous Religious Temple.The original aspect consists in three apses and after several renovations the new facade was ended in 1610 when the Church was annexed to a Convent of monks lies in a rectangular perimeter surrounding a wide courtyard.

The main highlights inside are some great frescoes by Tuscan Baroque school, "the stories of the live of St.Matthew" by Zoboli and "The glory of St.Matthew" by Melani brothers.

Borgo Stretto is one of the most famous and ancient Pisa district,located  behind the medieval arches of the Pisa "Lungarno".In that historic borough you can admire the Chiesa of San Michele in Borgo (St Michael Church in the District), dated the 11th century and built on an ancient Church dedicated to the God of the war, Mars.

Developed on a rectangular plan,the facade has three portals dated 13th century and just like the Church of Santa Catherine has been home of monks and later also residence of another Religious Order the Camaldolesi friars.

The Church has three aisles,a beautiful central altarpiece and a magnificent fresco dated 13th century depicting "St. Michael the Archangel",a beautiful Pisan marble crucifix by Nino Pisano and other paintings works such as"the Nativity" by Melani,"Virgin and Child with Saints" by Lomi.

Other frescoes of relevance are  dated 13th and 14th century and worth a special mention  the "Virtue" by Lomi.That Church was largely rebuilt in the year 1944 after the 2nd World War,the bombings spared the facade and the apse,the works were pretty laborious and long but today it still keeps its original medieval aspect.

In the street Via Palestro is situated  the famous Teatro Giuseppe Verdi an important  theatre hosting several Opera events and next to that venue you can see the old Pisa Synagoga.

The city in the past was a very cosmopolitan centre with an important Jewish district hosting a big community of Jewish Sefardí came to Pisa during the 12th century mainly from Spain and Portugal,and taking place in that area not far from Piazza dei Cavalieri and  Via San Frediano.

The building was erected in the early 17th century with a high facade with a central doorway,arched windows,oval eyes and a huge triangular pediment on the top.

The front side was re arranged in 1863 and were added some architectonic elements and a change of colour (yellow) making that construction very similar to other Synagogues of Central Europe you can see in Austria,Slovenia and Southern Germany.

In its interior you can see some particular Jewish sacred details in traditional Hebraic style as The "Aron Ha-Kodesh", totally in marble representing the Jewish sacred closet containing the sacred"Torah" scrolls and the "Tevá" a relevant wooden pulpit with curved balusters. 

Next to the the old Jewish district you can see the Ponte di Mezzo a historical bridge of Pisa.Every year in June that bridge hosts "Il Gioco del Ponte" a medieval folklorist revocation consisting in a contemporary version,with people protagonists pushing a cart along a track specially mounted on the bridge.

Before the fight between the "Magistrature"(Magistrature is also the name of this Pisa district) held the procession composed of 710 participants,41 of them on horseback and all wearing medieval clothes.

The procession winds its way on the four streets bordering the central section of the river Arno city and it is considered a historic event which evokes the historic and legendary secular history of Pisa.

Do not miss to take a look to Piazza delle Vettovaglie. (Square of the food) That square is located in the heart of the city enclosed by a perimeter consisting medieval tower houses with porticoes and arcades.  arcades.

Originally in the 16th century the square was the Pisa grain market,one of the most most important of Tuscany and Italian Peninsula also frequented by several merchants coming from abroad and today it is the place of the current vegetable market.

 Lungarno Gambacorti is a beautiful promenade bordering the Arno river leading until the Chiesa Santa Maria della Spina.

That Church is a magnificent Pisa-Gothic masterpiece simply marvellous.Built in the early 14th century over a small oratory lodge and transformed in a Religious Temple by the architect Lupo di Francesco.Initially the position of that Church was not the current but it was located on the right bank of the Arno,in 1871 it was dismantled and moved out of fear that was damaged from the frequent flooding of the River.

That Church was once known as the Chiesa di Santa Maria de Pontenovo,(St Mary on the new bridge) because it was located near the Pontenovo bridge destroyed in the 15th century,

The current name translated means "St.Mary of the thorn"derives from a thorn coming from Jesus Christ's crown that a merchant of Pisa coming back from Israel reported from the Holy Land and gave it to the Church and now hosted in  the Chiesa of Santa Chiara (St.Claire church).

The Church was developed on a rectangular plan and  facades are covered with coloured marbles,two doors are surmounted by arches with double ring and separated from each other by a pillar and inside was developed a tabernacle with statues of the Madonna and Child between two angels by Giovanni Pisano.

The interior decorations are really splendid,starting from three triangular gable decorated sections with rosettes and inlaid marble and at the centre of them the statue of the " Cristo Redentore"(Christ Redeemer) by Andrea Pisano.

The current structure presents in the upper section a massive presence of cusps,tympanums,tabernacles decorated with inlays a central rosette and several statues.

The interior is much more simple and spartan than the exterior.Developed on only one nave, you can admire some excellent works as a sculpture "Madonna della Rosa" (The Virgin of the rose) by Andrea and Nino Pisano,the altarpiece by Girolamo da Carrara built with marble pillars and decorated with a beautiful niche.

Palazzo Gambacorti  is another emblematic and historic building of Pisa and it hosts the Municipio the Town Hall since 1869.

Erected in the 14th century,it is an imposing aristocratic palace in Gothic style with a stoned facade embellished by a coat of arms,marble decorations and wide mullioned windows.

The palace contains a beautiful medieval courtyard which displays a coat of arms of Pisa dated 17th century and on the first floor is situated the famous Sala delle Baleari (The Hall of the Balearic Islands) with beautiful frescoes on the walls by Bocci,Fardella, Melani and Dandini.

Adjacent the Town Hall lies La Loggia dei Banchi.Pisa  was one of the old Marine Republics and it organised in that place a market hosting merchants from Egypt,Greece,Syria,Spain,Malta and Corsica.

That market was so important about the trade of wool and silk and in a period was the most important of the Continent.The original market was built in a rectangular area with inside several stalls and today Pisa "Loggia dei Banchi" is a place in which is celebrated the Christmas Market in a very lively and coloured atmosphere.


Adjacent to that famous place is located the Chiesa di San Sepolcro,a Religious building founded by the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem in the 9th century.The architectonic structure was developed on an octagonal base surrounded by a 9th century porch with an high facade and portals decorated with marble lions heads while the upper side consists in a roof with a central drum covered by a pyramidal spire.

A particular curiosity is linked to that Church and.reading on the bell there is a plaque with a word in Latin language.."Deusessalvet"which means "God saves you".You can think as a religious phrase to protect the Church but according historic supposition that plaque can evoke that mysterious artist who built the Baptistery "Diotisalvi"and possibly protagonist and architect of that Church too.

The interior after several renovations presents a Baroque style and a highlight is the reliquary bust of Santa Ubaldesca dated 15th century with the bucket believed belonged to the Saint and a 15th century painting on wood depicting a Madonna and Child.

In an open space on Lungarno Medici, next to an unfinished bell tower is located the Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro (Church of the Holy Sepulchre).Erected on an octagonal plan,the facade has three portals opened in Pisan style decorated with mullioned windows and a dome with pyramidal spire dating back to 1153.

The interior has a central cupola on pillars supporting the dome in a niche and as one of its main attractions you can admire a "Madonna",a Virgin attributed to the school of the 15th century by Benozzo Gozzoli.

Palazzo Toscanelli is another historic buildings of Pisa and also famous because it was the residence of Lord Byron in the tears 1821 and 1822 when that famed British artists lived in the Tuscan city.It was from Pisa that the noble departed for Greece where he died.Currently the palace is the seat of the State Archives which houses many documents of the medieval history of Pisa.

Worth a visit the Chiesa di San Martino a Church dedicated St.Martin.That small Sacred construction developed on a rectangular plan consists in a beautiful example of polychrome marble facade,with a triangular pediment.The interior has a nave and it preserves valuable works,including a cycle of frescoes by Giovanni di Nicola and a relevant Madonna and Child.

In Lungarno Mediceo is situated the Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincolis Church of St Peter in Vinculis) and that Church which is also called "San  Pierino"(little St.Peter), was built between 1072 and 1119 in Romanesque style.

The front and side walls are decorated with arches and stones of different colours while the interior retains traces of Byzantine frescoes on the walls,a floor mosaic of the 13th century and an early Christian sarcophagus which was placed the altar behind which lies a wooden crucifix dating back the 13th century.

Still on the Lungarno Medici you can spend an interesting evening at the famous Cafe Pietromani, perhaps one of the most trendy locals of the whole city: environment bright, lively, sparkling it is one of the right places to have a great evening in Pisa

The Museo Nazionale San Matteo located in a small square with the same name offers the visitors the opportunity to admire a wide collection of archaeological artifacts, manuscripts, sculptures of the Pisan school by Donatello,Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.

In addition there are also sections containing local medieval pottery,Islamic ceramics,paintings from 13th to 16th century with works by famous painters as Ghirlandaio,Gozzoli,Fra Angelico,Gentile da Fabriano, Masaccio,Simone Martini among others.

That museum for its relevant patrimony conserved in its rooms is considered one of the most important museums in Tuscany and the visit is very recommended if you are an art lover and you want to enjoy time appreciating authentic historic masterpieces of different periods.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Pisan fleet was so powerful that the intense ship building activities were combined in a single space.The Republic needed an arsenal which was built in the western part of the city and ended in 1264 and called "Arsenale Mediceo".

During the Florentine government the structure was radically changed becoming a defensive fortress,known as the Old Citadel.During the reign of Grand Duke Cosimo I De Medici in the second half of the 16th century,the former armoury was used for the breeding of horses of the army and moved all shipbuilding activities in the former garden of Simples,where even today there are the large sheds.

The Arsenal is home to the Medici permanent archaeological exhibition and it shows the ancient Etruscan and Roman harbours and the ships found on that site.

Crossing Ponte di Solferino"(Solferino Bridge) you can admire Palazzo Reale the Royal Palaceb.Built in 1559 housed the patrician family of the Caetani and the Medici.The palace witnessed representation of Galileo Galilei and planets which he discovered with his telescope.

The name Royal Palace because it hosted Savoy Royal Italian family in the Italian post unification around the year 1870.The construction of the Palace s dated the late 16th century,erected for Medici family when  the construction was commissioned by Duke Francesco Medici to the architect Buontalenti with the reason to host in Pisa that legendary family from Florence and the French family of the Duchy Lorraine

That imposing renaissance palace painted in an ochre tonality hosts today the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale an exhibition displaying a great collection of paintings from the 15th to the 19th century in which the visitor can enjoy magnificent works by Raphael,Rosso Fiorentino and Pieter Brueghel the Elder among others.

Behind that iconic building lies the beautiful  Chiesa di San Nicola (St.Nicholas Church) erected in the 10th century It is a former Augustinians monks Convent,the facade is covered by a coating two tone marble with pilasters surmounted by blind arches and the decoration consists in polychrome inlays added in the 12th century.

The tower on the left has an octagonal perimeter with staircase and loggia and in the interior you can admire a wide altar and interesting paintings on wood by prominent masters from Tuscany such as Traini and Maruscelli.In addition the Church hosts and some important sculptures as a crucifix by Giovanni Pisano and "Virgin with child" by Nino Pisano.

Pisa is a city with many beautiful squares apart the famous "Piazza dei Miracoli" ,Piazza Martiri della Libertá (Martyrs' Square of Liberty) is an authentic urban jewel.

It is a spacious and beautiful tree-lined square and it is a great place for a relaxing break boasting a green environment.It was necessary to destroy the ancient Monastery of San Lorenzo and the nearest houses to get the large area of that square designed in 1800 by Alessandro Gherardeschi.

.The monument you can see in the centre depicts the Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Lorraine linked to the Medici Family and that statue was developed using an  elegant and stylish marble of Carrara.

The city apart the mentioned historical museums offers a wide range of many other interesting exhibitions. Worth a visit for art lovers Centro d´Arte Palazzo Blu hosting a rich collection of artwork mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Museo della Grafica located in Palazzo Lanfranchi is a very interesting museum devoted to modern graphics displaying works of painters such as Joan Miró,Emilio Vedova and Giovanni Fattori among others.Another one worth to be mentioned is the Centro d´Arte San Michele degli Scalzi known with the name SMS is a prestigious gallery characterised by its notable collection of contemporary art.

The Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) of Pisa was the first example in the world of "Garden of Simple" owned by the University dating from 1500 and it was established with funding of Cosimo I de 'Medici.The garden was very important to study the medicinal properties of plants.Of the original structure remain a facade decorated with shells,the pillars of the gate and six of the eight original fountains.

 The birth certificate of the University of Pisa is the document "In Sipremae dignitatis" of Pope Clement VI, have since been nearly seven centuries.Pisa has a population of about 110,000 inhabitants and more than 35,000 are students.

The Prestigious Pisa University received awards and honours worldwide.The city is also well known as the birthplace of prominent scientists as Galileo Galilei astronomer,philosopher, mathematician and physicist,well known about the scientific revolution.

From Pisa was also Antonio Pacinotti the inventor of the dynamo dynamo,Leonardo Pisano one of the most prominent mathematician in the medieval era,Bruno Pontecorvo a prominent  physicist worked in Russia as State Scientific supervisor,and he was a pupil of famous scientist Enrico Fermi.

Today Pisa thanks to its glorious historical name and  prestigious past is also an important place celebrating several international events,festivals and exibithions.

The Internet Festival is a cultural event dedicated to the Internet and new technologies with notable flows of participants and for all what it offers in terms of new trendy products.The famous Mercato Europeo (the European Market) is held every year under the arcades of "Loggia dei Banchi,hosting merchants from all the European countries and selling  a big variety of products, from food to crafts.

The Mercato dell´Antiquariato is another attractions of Pisa consisting in a market held in Piazza dei Cavalieri and "Via Santa Maria Borgo and it  is celebrated every first weekend of the month with exhibitors of antiquity from all over Tuscany.

Festival book is another event ideal for literature and books lovers,and about music Pisa organises many international  festivals,such as Anima Mundi an extensive program of concerts of sacred music which each year attracts very important orchestras worldwide and that event is celebrated in the Pisa Cathedral.

For rock lovers " Metarock"is a rock music festival, held every year in July hosting some of the greatest italian and foreign rock singers."Teatro Verdi often hosts important concerts of Opera and ballet.

June in a month in which Pisa offers exhibitions and also historical events including the famous medieval "Gioco del Ponte" the game of bridge and on 16 June, the feast of the Pisa patron in which the riversides are totally illuminated by many flames the the so-called "Festa della Luminaria",simply spectacular with its light and vivid colours in a very lively and animated atmosphere.


The local delicious and delectable Tuscan gastronomy can satisfy the most demanding palates.The famous Bruschetta Toscana is everytime an excellent appetiser or starter.

You can also taste the excellent Tagliata a tray of beef meat with rocket salad and parmesan with sliced mushrooms,potatoes with rosmary and pink pepper,sliced onions with olive oil and salt.Very famous are also Costolette d´agnello a scottadito (grilled lamb ribs with aromatic herbs and olive oil).

About pasta very famous are the Pappardelle al Sugo di Cinghiale, (big tagliatelle highlighted by wild boar sauce),Pappardelle al Pomodoro with a sauce of fresh tomato and basil,the traditional and popular Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and beans).

Excellent is also fish and seafood with highlight,mussels,prawns and cod,but also meat with Braciole alla Griglia (grilled pork chops) and Bistecche di Manzo (beef steaks) are divine.

Do not miss the typical cake from Pisa the,"torta có bischeri".Tuscany and Pisa are a paradise about wines and gastronomy.Do not miss to taste the fine wines Chianti Superiore,Brunello di Montalcino,or Bruciato.The famous Bruschetta Toscana is everytime an excellent appetizer or starter.

The airport of Pisa Galileo Galilei is one of largest airports in Tuscany and among the first in Italy for cheap flights and low costs.

Lately it has expanded its offer with a direct flight to New York operated by Delta Airlines.It was the first in Italy to be connected to the railroad.trains.

City transport is managed by CPT (Pisa Transport Company) which also operates a few lines serving the Pisa hinterland and the province.The city also has three bus routes with high mobility (LAM) running through Pisa along major transit routes creating a network of connections with the areas of primary interest.

Pisa is a famous destination for everyone,art lovers,young and adult people,excellent food,fine wines, wines,historical monuments and the sublime charm of Tuscany are a great mix to plan a great weekend in the city with a legendary secular history beneath that iconic leaning tower.


Francesco Mari


Recommended Hotels in Pisa

Bologna Hotel Pisa
Hotel Relais Dell´Orologio
AC Hotel Pisa By Marriott
Hotel Santa Croce in Fossabanda
Hotel Royal Victoria
Hotel Amalfitana
Hotel NH Cavalieri
Hotel AC 


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