Districts of Pisa, Italy.
Pisa is a famous city in northern central Italy, the center of the province of the same name. The unofficial symbol of the city – Leaning Tower, which since 1986, along with the square, the Cathedral and the Baptistery, has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Rainerius is considered the patron saint of Pisa. It is home to about 90,000 people.
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The city is believed to have been founded by the Greeks, then it became Etruscan, and from 193 BC came under Roman rule. Thanks to its considerable port, Pisa in the eleventh century, in competition with Genoa and Venice, became one of the first maritime and trading powers on the Mediterranean Sea. Successful wars against the Saracens and participation in the Crusades brought the maritime republic wealth and extensive possessions across the Mediterranean. Trade and crafts flourished, and citizens ruled the republic under the protection of the emperor. With the construction of the cathedral in 1063 a new era in Tuscan art began. In 1220 Nicolo Pisano, the great innovator of Renaissance art, was appointed chief sculptor; and his son Giovanni and pupil Arnolfo di Cambio combined in their work the characteristics of Pisan and Florentine art. The decline of the Staufen era also entailed the fall of the city that had supported the Ghibellines. And in 1284 the Pisan fleet suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Genoa near the island of Meloria, and the port of Pisa was blockaded by the enemy. The city lost all its possessions and commercial ties; internal strife led to the fact that in 1406 Pisa was taken over by Florence. The economic decline caused many wealthy families to leave the city: the number of inhabitants was reduced to 3,000.
When Livorno became the main port of Tuscany at the end of the 17th century, Pisa had finally lost its importance. The coastline has been displaced by the river loads which have accumulated in the course of the centuries, and today Pisa is about 10 km from the sea.
What to see
Pisa’s Piazza della Wonderland
Campo dei Mnracoli, or “Field of Miracles” is the name of the square of the Cathedral, surrounded on both sides by the eleventh century extension of the city wall. Since 1987, the square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cathedral, the Leaning Tower, the Baptistery and the Camposanto, the monumental cemetery, all built in shining white marble, form an ensemble of incomparable beauty and completeness.
The cathedral, erected in 1063-1118 after the victory over the Saracens at Palermo and rebuilt after a fire in 1597-1604, was the first sacral structure in Italy in which a Romanesque basilica was connected to a transverse nave and an elliptical dome over the median cross. Buscetto’s design combined early Christian, Byzantine, Lombard, Arabic, and ancient architectural elements. Particularly splendid is the facade completed in 1200 with four tiers of loggias with columns and arches. The bronze doors of the main entrance were made in 1595 by the workshop of Giambologna, the doors of St. Ranieri of the southern transverse nave by Bonanno Pisano. The reliefs on the doors depict scenes from the life of Christ. The interior of the cathedral is divided by five naves, their columns somewhat reminiscent of a mosque; antique columns, a military trophy of Pisa, run along the sides of the longitudinal nave. Above the middle nave is a Renaissance coffered ceiling glittering with abundant gilding. The free-standing pulpit is the work of Giovanni Pisano. It was restored in 1926, not entirely authentically, and yet it remains one of the important monuments of Gothic sculpture. In reliefs, magnificently executed dynamic figurative compositions represent scenes from the New Testament and the Last Judgement. The female figures in the lower part of the pulpit are interpreted as symbols of Faith, Love and Hope. The apse of the cathedral is adorned with mosaics from the 13th and 14th centuries, in the work of which Cimabue was also involved: the head of St. John the Evangelist is his work. The magnificent sepulchral chapel of St. Rainer, the patron saint of the city, closes the right cross aisle.
The baptistery was built between 1152 and 1278, designed by Diotisalvi and Giovanni Pisano. A Gothic vestibule (drum) covered with a conical dome was added from about 1360. In the early lower floors of the baptistery one can find architectural echoes of the cathedral. In the spacious and high interior with stunning acoustics, the marble font by Guido Bigarelli of Como and the free-standing pulpit, a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture created in 1260 by Nicolo Pisano are striking. His innovative sculptural compositions later became a model for similar works in Pisa.
The Tower of Pisa
To the east of the cathedral rises the famous Leaning Tower, built between 1173 and 1350 and today attributed to Gerardo do Gerardo. Its architectural design, like that of the cathedral facade, uses tiered galleries with columns. The tower started to lean when it was built, as the ground was too malleable and so work stopped in 1185. When work resumed in 1275, the tower had already lost its vertical axis. Today the deviation is about 5° 30′ to the south-east. The tower is 56.6m high on the north side and 54.25m high on the south. The tower has long been closed to the public. The recent fortifications, however, were successful. The tower was first stabilised with a counterweight and a safety harness and more than seven cubic metres of earth was removed from the northern face. Little by little, the tower tilted back to the north side. At the end of 2001, it was straightened by 43 centimeters, its current inclination corresponds to that of the mid-eighteenth century. It is now possible to climb the Leaning Tower again.
Legend has it that Archbishop Ubaldo Lanfranci brought back from the Crusade (1203) many ships laden with earth from Calvary so that the citizens of Pisa could be buried in the Holy Land. The monumental cemetery of Camposanto in the northern part of the Cathedral Square began to be built in 1277 under Giovanni di Simone in the form of a cross gallery in the Tuscan Gothic style. It was 126 m long and 52 m wide. But the works were not finished until 1463. The white marble halls bypassing the green courtyard are opened by tall windows with tracery ornaments. Tombstones are embedded in the floor, and “reused” ancient sarcophagi and Etruscan tombstones stand on the sides. Some Etruscan, Roman and medieval sculptures installed in the early 19th century are of high artistic merit. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the walls of Camposanto were painted with frescoes by famous artists such as Benozzo Gozzoli and Taddeo Gaddi. During the Allied bombardment on July, 27th 1944 the molten lead from the roof destroyed most of the frescos; they have been removed, restored and now are exhibited in the north wing of the building.
Synopia is a term for red-brown chalk; synopia was applied to fresh plaster before the frescoes were created. When restoring, synopia is usually found under the top layer of paint. In the museum on the south side of Cathedral Square, the synopia found during the restoration can be well viewed. In the former cathedral canon house on the eastern edge of Cathedral Square, the Cathedral Museum displays magnificent works of art collected from the various buildings of the Cathedral complex. Especially valuable is the cathedral’s treasury.
Other attractions in Pisa
After fully enjoying the wonders, it’s worth escaping the crowds and wandering the peaceful streets of the old city, admiring the medieval palaces and university buildings. Admire the graceful bridges and beautiful churches, including the Gothic masterpiece Santa Maria della Spina on the banks of the Arno and the octagonal Santa Agata Chapel.
Pisa has many one-way streets and few parking lots. The easiest place to park is in the parking lot by the cathedral.
Combination tickets are available for visits to the Cathedral, Baptistery, Monumental Cemetery and Cathedral Museum (Museo dell’Opera dell’Duomo).
St. Rapieri (St. Rainieri, Regatta di San Ranieri) Rowing regatta, in which the four districts of the city compete, takes place on June 17.
The Antiques Fair, held every second weekend of the month in Piazza XX Settembre, is a pleasant discovery. Elegant stores are open under the arcades of Borgo Stretto.
When to arrive.
“Field of Wonders” is crowded during the summer vacation season. It is best to go here in June or September.
You should know
If you want to climb the 294 steps of the recently fortified fallen tower, you will have to buy a ticket and wait in line for about two hours.
Surroundings of Pisa
San Piero a Grado
According to tradition, during a trip to Rome in 44 A.D., the Apostle Peter descended to a place later called San Piero-a-Grado, 5 km southwest of Pisa, on the coast at the time. Here he founded Ecclesia ad gradus (church on the steps). The three-aisled basilica, under which were found fragments of a previous ancient structure, dates back to the XI century. When the western facade collapsed in the XII century, it was replaced by an apse. The frescoes were painted by Deodato Orlande around 1300; in the lower part are portraits of the popes, in the center there are scenes from the life of the Apostle Peter, and above is the Heavenly Jerusalem.
The coastline between Viareggio and Livorno is a natural park – a marshy area with dense bush. It is home to rare animal species. Sandy beaches stretch from Marina di Pisa to the south.
It is worth visiting Calci (13km East of Pisa) because of the church of Santi Giovanni e Ermolao built in the XII-XIII centuries in Gothic style. On the eastern edge of the town, do not miss the opportunity to visit the Certosa di Pisa, a Carthusian monastery; its most beautiful Baroque part dates from the XVII-XVIII centuries. The two cloisters (XV and XVI c.) and the Baroque church with a dome fresco by S. Cassiani deserve special attention. In the northern part of the monastery complex there is a museum of natural history and local history of the University of Pisa (expositions on zoology, mineralogy, geology and paleontology).
Districts of Pisa, Italy.
Pisa (Italy) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main sights of Pisa with descriptions, guides and maps.
The city of Pisa (Italy)
Pisa is a city in central Italy in the region of Tuscany. It is located in the valley of the Arno, 10 km from the Ligurian Sea (Mediterranean). Pisa is primarily known for its “falling” tower, which is one of the symbols of Italy. Many people think that in this ancient city, besides the tower and the cathedral, there is nothing else to see. And they are wrong! Pisa offers a whole host of interesting sights that are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Cathedral, Baptistery, Campo Santo, Field of Miracles, Santa Maria della Spina.
Pisa is a quiet provincial university town famous for its artistic and architectural treasures. The city has preserved much of the contour of the ancient walls and a unique historical atmosphere. Pisa is distinguished above all by the remarkable group of buildings in Piazza del Duomo, also called Piazza del Miracle.
View of the main sights of Pisa
What to do (Pisa):
€235 per tour
Pisa is not only the Leaning Tower!
Sightseeing tour of the beautiful and underestimated sights of Piazza della Wonderland
€130 per tour
Pisa – love at first sight
See the city’s iconic sites and learn about their history on an informative sightseeing tour
Geography and climate
Pisa is located on the Tuscan plains on the Arno River near the Mediterranean coast. The climate is Mediterranean. Summers are dry and hot, winters cool and humid. The best time to visit is in the spring and fall. In summer (except for neighboring resorts) and winter, there are significantly fewer tourists.
Streets of Pisa
- Population – 91.1 thousand people.
- Area – 185 square kilometers.
- Language: Italian.
- Currency – euros.
- Visa – Schengen.
- Time – Central European UTC +1, in summer +2.
- The main shopping streets of Pisa are Via Borgo Stretto and Corso Italia. Here you can buy souvenirs, traditional Tuscan products, clothes and shoes. Also here you can find many restaurants and cafes.
In the pre-Roman period, the area around Pisa was inhabited by Ligurians. In 180 B.C. there was already a colony of the Roman Empire and one of its ports. At the beginning of the 4th century a bishopric was formed here. Pisa met the collapse of the empire as the main city of Tuscany.
In the Middle Ages Pisa was the center of the Republic of the same name that was in constant rivalry with Genoa. Thanks to trade, fertile land and advantageous location the city was one of the most prosperous in the Apennine peninsula. Until the 13th century Pisa was the most important city in Tuscany. Its prosperity ended with the defeat of the Genoese and the siltation of the mouth of the River Arno, which cut Pisa off from the sea. In the 15th century the city lost its independence and fell under the power of Florence.
Arno River, Pisa
In 1564 the great Galileo Galilei was born here and taught at the local university, which is one of the oldest educational institutions in the world. Until the 18th century Pisa was a provincial Tuscan city without much political influence. The impetus for further growth and development was the draining of the nearby marshes, the elimination of malaria outbreaks and the development of light industry. During the fighting in 1944 the areas south of the River Arno were heavily damaged.
How to get there
Near Pisa there is Galileo Galilei International Airport, which is served by about 18 airlines. It is easy and simple to reach the city by train / bus from Florence, Rome, Livorno, Genoa.
The most important sights of Pisa (some of them are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
Campo dei Miracoli or Field of Miracles is the area north of central Pisa where the most famous sights of the city are concentrated.
The Tower of Pisa
The Tower of Pisa is the famous falling tower, the main symbol of Pisa. It was conceived as a cathedral bell tower. Built for nearly two centuries since the 12th century. The tower is over 50 meters high, and the deviation from the axis is at least 4% (this value was changed in 2001 during the work to prevent the fall of the tower, when the deviation reached 5.5%). The inclination of the structure appeared during the construction. After that, its construction was stopped. Almost 100 years later construction was resumed, but the “fall” could not be corrected. The open bell tower was added to the white marble tower in 1350-72 by Tommaso Pisano. Admission to the observation deck is chargeable.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is a grand Romanesque cathedral made of white marble. Construction began in the 11th century after the victory over the Saracens. The ornate arcades on the magnificent facade continue around the side walls, and its transepts end in small apses that extend far beyond the aisles. The cathedral is topped with a dome. The main attraction of the interior is the pulpit of Giovanni Pisano.
The baptistery is located to the west of the cathedral. The construction of this structure lasted for two centuries from 1153. That is why the baptistery combines Romanesque and Gothic features. It is a beautiful building of marble, topped with a dome. The main treasure of the interior is the magnificent pulpit by Pisano and the striking acoustics.
Campo Santo (Sacred Field) is a monastery and ancient cemetery formed in the 13th century after Archbishop Ubaldo dei Lanfranci brought back from the Fourth Crusade the land of Calvary. The tombs of the noble inhabitants of Pisa and Roman sarcophagi are located here. The walls were decorated with 14th- and 15th-century frescoes that were significantly damaged in 1944.
Santa Maria della Spina
Santa Maria della Spina is a church on the left bank of the River Arno, one of the most beautiful religious buildings of Pisa. It was built in marble in the Gothic style in 1871.
Palazzo dei Cavalleri
The Palazzo dei Cavalieri or Palace of the Elders is a historic building on the square of the same name. The building was built in the 16th century designed by Giorgio Vasari. The facade is decorated with busts of the six Medici princes. In front of the building is a statue of Cosimo I by Piero Francavilla. On the north side of Piazza dei Cavalieri is the Palazzo dell’Orológio, built in 1607 for the Order of St. Stephen and including the remains of two early medieval tower houses.
Basilica of San Piero a Grado
San Piero-a-Grado is a 10th-century Romanesque basilica located near the old port. The interior of the church is decorated with frescoes, and excavations confirm the presence of an earlier Christian church and even ancient Roman buildings here.
The Blue Palace is a historic building that houses art collections from the 16th through 20th centuries.
Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri
Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri – was designed by Vasari in the 16th century. It is a church with a beautiful marble facade and rarities of the Order of St. Stephen.
What else to see in Pisa:
- Piazza Garibaldi and Piazza XX Settembre are two opposite squares. From Piazza Garibaldi begins Borgo Stretto, an old street with many stores that, together with Corso Italia, which begins on the opposite side from Piazza XX Settembre, create a pedestrian area (interrupted only by the bridge) that is considered the center of the city.
- Santo Sepolcro is a Romanesque octagonal church with a Diotalvi conical spire.
- The Archbishop’s Palace is an important historic building containing works of art.
- San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno is one of the oldest churches of Pisa with a Romanesque facade, completed by Pisano.
- Church of San Nicola – an ancient 11th century church built by the Augustinians.
€160 per tour
How did the Pisans build the tower? A tour for the whole family
Learn the history of Pisa in a fun game: answering riddles and memorizing interesting facts.