Pisa and its leaning tower
Pisa is certainly one of the best known Italian cities abroad, especially thanks to the fame of its leaning tower. The charm of Pisa is undeniable and the city is pleasant to visit in all seasons of the year. Pisa, despite its modest size, has played a central role in Italian history in different eras, in particular when, as a Maritime Republic, together with Amalfi, Genoa and Venice, it dominated the trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea.
Pisa – wonderful city in the unique landscape of Tuscany.
Our walking itinerary in Pisa starts from Piazza dei Miracoli (or, better, Piazza del Duomo), listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987. The monuments that you can visit in this huge green square are the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Monumental Cemetery and, of course, the Tower. These are the monuments which are the fulcrum of the religious life of the city, of extreme beauty and particularity. Hence the name of “Piazza dei Miracoli” (Square of miracles).
Arriving in Piazza dei Miracoli, the first building you will notice is the Baptistery dedicated to San Giovanni, the largest in Italy. Its construction lasted for more than a century and that is why the building mixes the Romanesque and Gothic styles. The visit of the Baptistery is subject to charges.
At the center of the Piazza dei Miracoli is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a medieval cathedral in Romanesque style. Some of the most beautiful works of art that you can admire inside the Cathedral are the Gothic pulpit sculpted by Giovanni Pisano, the Tomb of Emperor Arrigo VII by Tino da Camaino and the mosaic of Christ in Glory, completed by Cimabue in 1302.
The visit to the Cathedral is free, but you still need a ticket. If you buy online the entrance to another of the monuments in Piazza dei Miracoli, at your choice, you will also receive a ticket for the Cathedral, free and without timetable.
The Camposanto (the Monumental Cemetery), built by Giovanni di Simone in 1278, houses the tombs scattered around the Cathedral and was the last monument to stand on the Piazza del Duomo. In the 1300s wonderful frescoes were created, many of which, unfortunately, were destroyed in a fire in July 1944, during the Second World War. The Camposanto can be visited in combination with the Baptistery. Tickets can be purchased online or directly on site.
The Leaning Tower is certainly the most famous monument in Piazza dei Miracoli and one of the most famous in Italy. It is the symbol of the city. Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, the Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, although it is separated from the main building. The works for the construction of the bell tower began in 1173, but were interrupted in the middle of the third floor due to a subsidence of the foundations. The ground of the square, in fact, consists of soft and very yielding clay. Work resumed in 1275 and, in an attempt to straighten the tower, the next three floors were built with a slight slope in the opposite direction. It is possible to climb the Tower of Pisa by purchasing the ticket (online purchase is strongly recommended because tickets, divided by time slots, sell out quickly). The climb is on foot and there are 251 steps. From the top of the tower there is a wonderful view over the city of Pisa.
Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights Square) is one of the most beautiful in Pisa. This square constitutes the Renaissance center of the city. One of the most majestic buildings is the Palazzo dei Cavalieri (Knights Palace), designed by Vasari in 1562, home to the prestigious Scuola Normale Superiore, established in 1810 by Napoleon.
Another building with an important history is the Palazzo dell’Orologio (Clock Palace). It is an ancient medieval building which, during its construction, also incorporated the famous Torre della Muda or “della Fame” (a tower). Here, in 1289, Count Ugolino Della Gherardesca and his sons were imprisoned and starved to death. The episode was mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy. The Palazzo della Carovana and the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri also overlook the Piazza dei Cavalieri.
If during your stay in Pisa you want to try the unique experience of going back in time and walking through the same corridors that saw Galileo Galilei pass, the entire Medici court and many other important figures of the time, then the museum of the Palazzo della Signoria of Pisa is something not to be missed. In fact, the Royal Palace of Pisa can be considered one of the most prestigious buildings in the city (built in 1583 by Bernardo Buontalenti) and currently houses, among others, works by Raphael, Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino and Antonio Canova. The Museum preserves period furnishings that frame the works of art coming not only from ruling families, but also from private collections. The museum certainly deserves to be seen and is part of the many hidden treasures of the city of Pisa.
Pisa, like Florence, is crossed by the Arno river. A walk along Lungarni is one of the best things you can do to discover the town of Pisa. The Lungarni (river banks) are spectacular during the day, but especially at sunset. The most beautiful is the Lungarno Mediceo, flanked by the elegant residences of the Pisan Lords of the past, such as Palazzo dei Medici and Palazzo Toscanelli, but also by other pieces of the city’s history, such as the Church of San Matteo in Soarta, which today houses an interesting museum.
On the Lungarno Gambacorti there is one of the most beautiful and particular churches in Pisa, the Church of Santa Maria della Spina, one of the few examples of “Pisan Gothic” from an architectural point of view. People say that one of the thorns of the crown worn by Jesus during the crucifixion was kept inside. Despite its small size, this church, covered in marble, is rich in rose windows and statues. On the church there are several statues and works by Giovanni Pisano.
On June 16th of each year, on the occasion of the Luminara di San Ranieri, Pisa is illuminated by hundreds of lights and the night lights up with warm colors and romantic atmospheres.
Borgo Stretto, flanked by arcades, is one of the main streets of the historic center and one of the most evocative districts of Pisa. Loved by both tourists and Pisans, Borgo Stretto is a must during an itinerary in Pisa. After strolling through the charming alleys of Borgo Stretto, take a short stop in Via Santa Maria, just a 5-minute walk away. Via Santa Maria hides one of the other two “leaning towers” of Pisa: the bell tower of the Church of San Nicola, inclined by about 2.5 degrees. If you also want to see the third “leaning tower” of Pisa, go to Via Michele degli Scalzi, where the Church of San Michele degli Scalzi is located: its bell tower is inclined by 5 degrees.
The last but not least stop is Keith Haring’s Tuttomondo mural. Keith Haring was an American painter and writer. His murals are characterized by a somewhat “cartoon” style, full of children, dogs and comic book figures. The Tuttomondo mural, created in 1989, represents 30 figures that touch each other, linked together to symbolize the peace and harmony of the world.
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