Pisa is a fabulous city and there is plenty to do and see here, but if you fancy a day trip, why not head to Lucca!
Lucca is a gorgeous walled town located in the Tuscan countryside.
It is conveniently only 30 minutes by train from Pisa!
For more details, check out my Lucca Page.
While Pisa is so famous for its Leaning Tower, not everyone realises that it was, and to some extent still is, a city of towers. In medieval times, a tower house was the usual choice of edifice, and according to the Rabbi Benjamin of Jona from Tuleda in 1159 there were nearly ten thousand towers in this town. And while many of these have long since gone, plenty still remain. My main photo shows one in the Piazza Daneti, nowadays used rather prosaically as a bank (the Cassa di Risparmio), and photo 2 a glimpse of another tower seen from the banks of the Arno. While these are not exactly “off the beaten path” I place this tip here as these towers are relatively little known and are overshadowed by their less upright neighbour.
This is now Palazzo Borgo in daylight, and I have to say I really like that very special kind of architecture.
There is a bank in this house and private appartments, so you are not able to enter it, but you may of course take a picture from outside !
This building is in the street "Borgo Stretto", close to Ponte d.Mezzo
Just like I did when I was in Florence, I did my best in Pisa to keep my head up in case I could spot a marker indicating when someone famous had lived in a particular house, and I managed to find two. One has to do with literature, the other with science. As we were walking along Via San Martino, we spotted a sign indicating that the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley - the husband of Mary Shelley, the author of "Frankenstein" - lived in Pisa for a few months shortly before his death in 1822. The house where he lived has been almost entirely destroyed, but a portion of the exterior wall remains and the marker indicates that Shelley most likely wrote his famous poem "Adonaïs, an Elegy on the Death of John Keats" while he lived there.
On the other side of the Arno River, at No. 24 Via Giusti, it's possible to see the house where Galileo, the father of modern science, was born on February 15, 1564. Galileo spent about 8 years in Pisa before his family decided to move to Florence, but he eventually returned to study and then teach at the University of Pisa. His biographer, Vincenzo Viviani, claims that Galileo conducted his first experiments in gravity by dropping balls of different masses from the top of the leaning tower, and that he first got interested in pendulums by watching a bronze chandelier sway at the Cathedral of Pisa.
Next to the leaning tower in Pisa you may visit the Museo dell Opera del Duomo.
It has nothing to do with the Opera, but you may see there the original sculptures from the Duomo and the Battistro, where replicas are shown for various reasons.
You may as well see the treasury of the Duomo and a small archeological collection.
This museum is included in the combination-ticket with the Duomo, the Battistero, and Camposanto.
On my pic : The museum seen from the leaning tower !
The project of Keith Haring's mural was born in New York by chance, after the young artist had met a student from Pisa. This 180 sq mt depicted wall can be seen in the quarter of San Antonio, which is situated on the left bank of the river Arno. Search for Convento di San Antonio. "Tuttomondo" means all the world.
The small Church of Santa Maria della Spina is a remarkable example of Pisan Gothic. It was built in 1230 on the banks of the river Arno next to an important bridge, called Ponte Novo, that used to join the streets Santa Maria and Sant’Antonio. The bridge was destroyed during the 15th century and was never rebuilt. Being the church close to the bridge, it was given the name of Santa Maria de Pontenovo, changed in 1333 to Santa Maria della Spina, when it preserved the reliquary of a thorn of the Saviour’s crown (spina = thorn). Today the reliquary is in the church of Santa Chiara.
OPENING HOURS to visit the Church
January, February, November, December:
on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays: 10 am until 2 pm.
Every second Sunday of the month: 10 am until 7 pm
March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October, : on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays: 10 am until 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm until 6 pm,
on Saturdays and Sundays: 10 am until 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm until 7:00 pm
16th June: 11 am until 1,30 pm. and 2,30 pm. until 11 pm.
Porta a Mare (The Sea Gate) is one of the few left medieval gateways into the town of Pisa, which was surrounded by the massive walls. I've discovered it only by chance because nothing about is mentioned in the city guide book I bought. The gate is situated nearby the church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno and right opposite to the Torre Guelfa.
The old core of the town, todays city centre, was fortified by the massive and high walls, which are pretty well preserved. Even the city walls, in some segments, were built in so characteristic Romanesque - Pisan style. Medieval Pisa had very important role in controlling the waterways, making the town commercial emporium, and its inhabitants were ready to take to arms to defend its trade.
San Frediano is situated in a small square near the Univercity of Pisa. Originally ot was founded in the 11th century by Buzzacherini Sissmondi family and renewed in the 16th and 17th centuries.
As you can see, it has simple Romanesque facade with Pisan style influence, and the bell tower which looks more like defending tower.
The church of San Piero in Vinculis existing since the beginning of the 11th century. In 1072 bishop Guido founded a rectory here of San Agostino order. At the same time the cloister and the bell tower were annexed to the church. After more chagings, in a course of the centuries, in late 18th century it became parish church as priory.
Pisa did have a Roman settlement, although nothing much remains of its grid street system except the (possibly) the north-south line of Via Carducci > Borgo Sretto, and the east-west of Via Lorenzo.
The only extant Roman ruins are those of the town baths. These were most usually set ouside the town proper (for fear of fire), so their position gives a pretty good idea of where the northern extent of Roman Pisa was.
There is not much to see (and it is not particularly well-presented) but it's worth having a look if you happen to be in the area. Called the 'Terme di Nerone' and fed by water from the nearby river Auser and the Caldaccoci aquaduct, the baths were associated in Medieval times with 'Nero's palace'.
Walk along Via Cardinale Pietro Maffi from the Campo dei Miracoli and yu'll find the baths near the Porta a Lucca city gate.
A wedding-cake confection, SM della Spina sits on the edge of the Arno looking somewhat out of place amongst the traffic.
It's not in its original position, which was nearer the river. Amazingly, in 1871 it was taken down stone by stone and rebuilt higher up the bank.
SM della Spina was first rebuilt in 1323 (original date 1230) by a local who had obtained one of the thorns from the crown of Christ (the 'spina'). That is no longer kept within this tiny church and, to be honest, its interior is rather plain. The 'Madonna del latte' sculpture by Pisano is now in a museum (there is a copy in the church) but the 'Madonna of the Rose' (Andrea & Nino Pisano) is still in place.
Outside is a swirl of Gothic pinnacles and ornamentation: 13 statues of the disciples and Christ as well as many other carvings (some by the Pisanos), arches and windows and Christian symbols.
The church is open most days from at least 10 - 4, later in summer and at weekends. Entrance is (as I recall) 2 euro.
It'll take a while to get to this church, walking upstream along the Arno into Pisan suburbia, but you may consider it worthwhile (I did).
It's the third leaning tower, and it is seriously impressive. In fact, the whole building is very much askew.......inside the columns are obviously not quite right, and the main building has a drunken tilt.
San Michele was documented in 1025, but the existing building dates from the 12th century. It was originally part of a convent. Inside there is a nave and two aisles, some of the column capitals being recycled Roman ones. There is also a 13th century painted wooden crucifix.
On the facade are two 12th century carvings (one a copy, as the original is in a museum) and the brick and stone bell-tower is decorated with copies of its original ceramic discs (also in museums).
Walk upstream along the Lungarno Bruneo Buonzi and just keep going along Viale delle Piagge (about 20 minutes walk from the start of Lungarno B.B.): you can't miss the church. It's a pleasant tree-lined walk along the river bank.
The interior is the result of the many misfortunes that the church went through and that caused the loss of most of the furnishings, including statues and paintings; it contrasts with the rich decoration on the exterior. The church has a single nave, with a trussed ceiling, painted during the 19th-century restoration; the raised presbytery is separated by two pilasters with archivolt and houses at the centre one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic sculpture, the remarkable Madonna and Child, known to the believers as Madonna of the rose.
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