This small church next to the museum complex is a hidden delight we discovered by accident wandering to the Tower from the Railway station. Inside are hidden delights or artwork including a truly impressive cieling that can be seen close up from a terrace inside the church. The Santa Maria della spina church is just across the water and is more impressive ouside. This little church is far more impressive where it counts. Inside!
The Palazzo Reale was designed by Bernardo Buontalenti and built between 1583 and 1587 as the summer residence of the Medici family who would often spend time in Pisa when it got too hot to stay in Florence. Many parties were thrown at the Palazzo over the years to which royal families from all over Europe were invited. As with the majority of Medici residences, the Palazzo is large but rather unassuming, at least from the outside. Many rooms of the building now house city offices, but some 20 rooms were restored to their original appearance in the 1980s and are now open to the public. The collection on display is actually made up of several private collections that, taken together, give a nice overview of Pisan culture through the ages. Several portraits of the Medici, Lorraine and Savoy families can be seen, along with a group of 35 Flemish tapestries, paintings, manuscripts, and a collection of plaster casts by Italo Griselli.
The most interesting part of the museum for me had to do with the "Gioco del Ponte", or "Joust of the Bridge". This fairly dangerous game was played in Pisa during a tournament established by the Medici. Two teams wearing armours and bearing weapons would take a spot on either side of the Arno River, run across a bridge and fight until a team managed to take possession of the bridge - injuries were numerous and death wasn't unheard of, especially when men wearing full metal armours would fall off the bridge and drown. A few towers were built along the river to allow upper class people to watch the tournament, including the Palazzo Reale's Torre della Verga d'Oro. The museum houses a nice collection of decorated armours and weapons that were used during the tournament.
The Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Reale is open every day from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Admission is 5 Euros, which I thought was rather expensive since there isn't that much on display, but at least I got to learn about the Gioco del Ponte :o)
Located opposite the Cathedral on Piazza dei Miracoli, this small museum exhibits le sinopie, the sketches made before the frescoes were painted in the galleries of il Camposanto Monumentale. Fire from Allied bombings in 1944 damaged much of the Camposanto and its frescoes, but exposed these sinopie that were meant to be hidden forever. The sketches were transferred to their current location and turned into Museo delle Sinopie for viewing. The building that houses the museum was built in 1257 as lo Spedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito, a charitable house for pilgrims, orphans and the poor.
Pisa's Museo dell'Opera del Duomo houses many of the original works that adorn the cathedral, including the original version of the bronze griffon that adorns the cathedral rooftop (the one in the rooftop is a replica). Admirers of the cathedral will also find the presentations on the cathedral's historical origins and plans interesting and worth a few minutes of their time.
Entrance to the museum is included in the combined Piazza dei Miracoli tickets. Please see my tip on the cathedral for details on buying these tickets.
This museum, which is housed in a what used to be a hospital in the Middle Ages, serves as a display center for the initial sketches of frescoes that now adorn the Camposanto, that elegant cemetery across the lush green lawn of Piazza dei Miracoli. These "sinopie" or sketches, present an interesting prelude to what lies ahead in Camposanto. This makes it quite logical as to why the main ticket office for the Piazza dei Miracoli attractions is located in this building.
It was a fantastic tour of the inside. The National Museum of San Matteo, which is housed in the Benedictine Monastery, features a group of paintings from the 12th- to 18th- centuries, and a rich collection of sculpture from the Pisano School. The sculptures were absolutely wonderful, but not to be outdone, the paintings were well presented and preserved. It really is a library beside being a museum and the university right close to it uses the facilities for research.
This museum housed in a former hospital, boasts long corridors lined with relief drawings. These frescos are the most valuable and well preserved from the Monumental Cemetary. There are so many here and they are all so similar you may be bored with them before your half way around.
Pisa boasts several museums:
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo: exhibiting among others the original sculptures of Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano and the treasures of the cathedral
Museo delle Sinopie: showing the sinopias from the camposanto, the monumental cemetery.
Museo Nazionale di S. Matteo: exhibiting sculptures and painting from 12th century - 15th century
The most valuable frescoes from Camposanto are conservated and preserved in the Museum of Sinopias. A particular technique, called "a strappo" (by pulls) have been used to restore them, the sketches and designs the srtists used to make before colouring, which was carried on by their pupils, have come to light. These designs, which were realized by using a brush with a reddish earth called "sinopia", reveal the hand of the master and a surprising vividness. It is very interesting to compare the finished fresco with its sinopia.
I went to two museums while I was in Pisa. I spent about a minute in the Museo delle Sinopie before leaving. Sure the frescoes there dated back millennia or so, but it just didn't hold my interest despite its historical value.
The museum that lies closer to the Leaning Tower, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, however was very good. It shows the structure of the surrounding buildings, small models of them, showing minute details of each construction. There are also paintings, sculptures and other pieces of art here. Make sure you check out both the upstairs and downstairs part of the museum (I almost missed going upstairs, because I didn't even see the stairs!). From the verandah on the first floor you can get a great view of the leaning tower - excellent photo shot!
For opening hours, check out the website below for more details.
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