Guide to Pisa

If you’re looking for the-not-so mainstream holiday picks in Italy, the medieval town of Pisa promises an exciting getaway! Located on the western coast of Italy, Pisa is a city in Tuscany region that rises just above the alluvial banks of the river Arno. The city is only 20 minutes from the Ligurian Sea and provides great transport links to Florence, Livorno and La Spezia.

While the region is best known for ‘The Leaning Tower of Pisa’, confining yourself to this architectural beauty wouldn’t do justice to your day in Pisa. So how about a little homework to back the trip with historical data and facts to spice up the zest.

Pisa, Italy

History of Pisa

While the origin of the city remained unknown for centuries, archaeological evidence suggests that Pisa was founded by the Estrucans in the middle VI century. Etruscans called the city ‘Pise’ and gradually developed its economy through arts and crafts production. Further, they took advantage of the city’s strategic position, because is the only port along the western coast between Genoa and Ostia.

In medieval times, during the XI-XII centuries, Pisa became a Maritime Republic. The busy port of Pisa not only enjoyed a thriving economy but also helped the city flourish financially, politically and artistically, overshadowing other Tuscan cities. But this didn’t last for a long period.

During the late 12th century, Pisa went through tussles with Florence, followed by defeat to Genoa, and by the end of the 13th century, the Guelphs invaded the Port. This resulted in internal rifts within the city and in 1288 the city witnessed a period of strong regression and political instability.

The renaissance of Pisa began from the 16th century onwards, thanks to the Medici rule that advanced the city both financially and culturally, building noble residences such as Palazzo Reale, the wonderful Cavalieri Square, and the cathedral of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri. Moreover, the University of Pisa, founded in 1343, remains one of the city’s major attractions and is a globally recognized institution of learning.

Although there’ve been many ups and downs in the history of the city, yet it extends a warm welcome to a great number of tourists every year through an array of world-class museums, cathedrals and bridges with breathtaking sightseeing across the river.

What else to see in Pisa besides the Leaning Tower?

Pisa is one of the most visited cities in Italy due to the iconic leaning tower where tourists venture to get a clichéd picture of them propping up the tower. But there’s much more to explore in this legendary city. From Romanesque buildings to historical churches to magnificent piazza, different points of interest in Pisa allow visitors to truly appreciate the grandeur and history that lies in each of them. Here, we’ve master-crafted a list of city’s hotspots worth visiting besides the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

  • The splendiferous assemblage of Romanesque architecture

    Cathedral in Pisa

    Located in the north-western edge along the city’s fortified wall, Duomo di Pisa showcases incomparable Pisa’s glorious past with greyish-white marble monuments which stand out on the surrounding green garden. From the Islami-domed cathedral to Pisa’s largest Baptistery with opulent interiors and not to forget the peaceful Monumental Cemetery with beautiful frescos, the Square of Miracles has much more to offer besides the incredible Leaning Tower of Pisa.

  • Beating heart of Pisa

    Piazza delle Vettovaglie

    Piazza delle Vettovaglie is an amphitheatre-shaped square surrounded by a circular, fully-pedestrian open gallery full of shops, restaurants, wine bars, and pubs. Stroll around the winding alleys of the piazza that offer insights into the city’s medieval past with several buildings boasting arches and loggias. The centrally placed fountain complements the surrounding administrative core of Pisa.

  • A hidden gem off-the-beaten path

    San Francesco, Pisa

    The Church of San Francesco in the eponymous quarter of Pisa is the modest 17th-century facade tucked between later buildings (with a single nave) and six serene stone altars. This imposing church with a very tall truss ceiling and fabulous stained-glass windows has an interior adorned with frescoes in the choir by prominent artists and a marble altar by Tommaso Pisano.

  • Retrace the history of medieval art

    Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa

    Located on the bank of the Arno River, the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo boasts of the largest assortment of Pisan and Tuscan artworks from 12th-15th centuries. It exhibits the striking artefacts wooden sculptural masterworks in addition to large crucifixes and wonderful paintings of the Virgin Mary. Also, its wonderful collection of medieval illuminated manuscript, antique ceramics, invaluable jewels, and coins never fail to amaze the art aficionados.

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