Pisa is one of Tuscany’s finest cities. The time spent on a stroll in Pisa will be well rewarded. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is absolutely one of the most well-known sights of Italy, not to mention the stunning Piazza dei Miracoli itself. In a word, Pisa is a great place to spend a few hours and perhaps snack on a local speciality or just relax and soak up the atmosphere of past eras, amid the key sights of this very special city. Pisa has so much to offer day visitors: old churches and palazzos, and the piazzas – spaces in which time seems to have come to a halt. Check out the many bridges of this city, spanning the river Arno. The city stands at the heart of Tuscany. In its sweetness, we might compare it to the invention of a medieval confectioner. For the historically- and artistically-minded, it is as though time had come to a standstill. Pisa is smaller than other tourist meccas such as Florence or Venice, but it is no less fascinating for that! You can visit Pisa quite happily in a day. Your city tour will remain indelibly impressed on your mind. However small and modest the place is, this little corner of Italy features no end of attractions. You will soon fall head over heels in love with the place. When you leave, your heart will remain here. A true jewel in Tuscany’s crown. The city’s most noted attraction is the Leaning Tower, which will be your first stop as soon as you reach Pisa.
The Torre di Pisa is one of the most frequently photographed sights of this part of the world. How could you visit Pisa for the day and not see the Leaning Tower? It leans (quite clearly) to one side, as the name suggests, and its history is well worth the telling. It took nearly 350 years to build it, and in all that time it never stood perfectly upright! It began leaning in the thirteenth century. The second floor was already up. The apparent reason is that the land is ‘soft’ here. The building work was interrupted twice, once for a century and then again at the end of the thirteenth century. The work stopped not because of this problem but − unexpectedly − because of war. The architect responsible for the original work is unknown, totally lost to posterity.
The city’s Baptistery is a major attraction. The Battistero di Pisa is just one of the many constructions in Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa’s renowned square, positioned slightly higher than the Leaning Tower itself. The Baptistery is one of Italy’s oldest structures.
Very high up on our list of sights to see in Pisa is the Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta). This splendid cathedral occupies the space between the Leaning Tower and the Baptistery. It ‘presides over’ Piazza dei Miracoli, so to speak. The Cathedral is indicated as the oldest of the monuments making up Pisa’s famed ‘squadra’ (or team of monuments, as it were). It symbolises the wealth of the former Maritime Republic of Pisa. During a period of mass bloodshed, but also of art and of complexity in the sphere of things spiritual, the Church served as a guide for Pisa’s citizenry, as an attraction then for the faithful, and today also for tourists. Both the church’s interior and its exterior are a delight for the eye: art, architecture and faith blend seamlessly, thanks to the skills of the masters who constructed and adorned this monument. Embodied are passion and a love of place, as reflected in the stunning mosaics and marvellously polychrome marble works adorning this building. Pisa’s cathedral, a masterpiece of the era of the Romanesque style, is in a class of its own. It was built to attest to the strength and determination of the people of Pisa as they struggled throughout the years of the city’s life as a maritime power. The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta should be viewed from all angles to appreciate its stunningly white, clean-line luminous overall look.
The monumental cemetery of Pisa may seem a rather odd tourist spot to recommend. However, it is most important for the citizenry. It is a remarkable place of worship and monument to the faith. A building in white marble, whose walls are solid and, in their own way, imposing. It will not only attract your attention, it may well disconcert you. The traces of many epochs have been left behind here, dating back even to Etruscan and Roman times, not to mention the Middle Ages. Peace reigns supreme here. An ‘artistic’ tranquillity…
The cathedral works museum also tells us much about Pisa’s history. This is one of the finest and most well maintained museums of the whole of Tuscany. Check out the amazing silverware items, sculptures, paintings and other artworks of all kinds.
Pisa is more than ‘just’ Piazza dei Miracoli and its monuments. Its charm is also to be found in the hidden details, in the hidden attractions that will suddenly seize your attention and imagination: in a word, your heart, mind and eyes – and Santa Maria della Spina is a case in point. This small Gothic church is discreetly sited on the banks of the Arno river flowing through Pisa. The church of Santa Maria della Spina goes back some 800 years. Eight centuries, and yet the church of Santa Maria della Spina is as sprightly as ever, and one of Tuscany’s most beautiful places of worship. A visit is mandatory!
Palazzo dei Cavalieri is one of the major attractions of Pisa. Built in the square now called Piazza dei Cavalieri, this palace stood at the heart of the political life of the city during the Middle Ages. The name comes from a knightly order, as the residence of the Cavalieri di Santo Stefano (the knights of St Stephen), an order founded in the mid sixteenth century by Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Tuscany and Lord of Florence. The knights of St Stephen earned Pisa great prestige. What of Palazzo dei Cavalieri today? It hosts the University of Pisa, no less! The university was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte − who was greatly admired here as a thinker of the first order. A statue of the founder of the order of the Cavalieri di Santo Stefano, Cosimo I, stands before the building.
If you’re going to spend a whole day in Pisa, you will most likely pick up a souvenir at some stage! One of Pisa’s shopping streets that is most noted worldwide is called Borgo Stretto. The habitués of shopping tours in Italy are all fully aware of where Borgo Stretto is and what it has to offer, So, be sure to check out the sales outlets, haute couture boutiques and ateliers here. The atmosphere will stun you, and you will be equally amazed at what you’ll find even in Pisa’s other tiny, pleasingly arcaded Gothic alleyways and narrow streets, which will make your stroll through Pisa most satisfying. You will note just how architecturally accomplished the old palazzos here are – stunning examples of the architecture of the Middle Ages for which Pisa is so rightly famous around the world! Borgo Stretto leads you on to the sixteenth-century Piazza delle Vettovaglie (literally, the provisions or grocery square). The square is an enchanting place to go, as the market sets up to provide the best in coffee beans, Tuscan wines (with a taste that is strong or delicate, as the mood will dictate), fresh meat and fish. The fragrance of freshly baked bread spreads an air of domesticity over the urban landscape. Please also note the marked aromas of spices (a typical feature of the Maritime Republics from the time of their emergence as major sea powers). In the evening, Piazza delle Vettovaglie hosts the city’s dynamic nightlife.