Pisa Travel Guide
Whenever anyone talks about Italy, one of the first images that always come to mind is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. While the tower itself is iconic, Pisa actually has much more to offer within the city itself as well as its surrounding areas, and it would actually take more than a quick daytrip to truly enjoy what it has to offer, as opposed to what many people may believe.
Located just southwest of Florence, Pisa was once one of the Mediterranean’s maritime powers, particularly from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. It was during this time that the city was at its Golden Age, and accordingly, this was also the time when Pisa’s main points of interest, the Leaning Tower, the Duomo, the historical Camposanto, and the Baptistry were all constructed to complete the Romanesque ensemble of the magnificent Campo dei Miracoli. Though it began to decline in power and prestige in the fourteenth century, it still flourished and even established The University of Pisa where Galileo was a professor. Up to this day, the university remains active, and its local student population continues to give the city a youthful and vibrant ambiance.
Going into more detail on the city’s other landmarks, the Duomo dominates the Piazza del Miracoli. It is made of fine marble and is decorated in Renaissance art, including the pulpit which was created by Giovanni Pisano and is considered to be a masterpiece. Next, the Camposanto Monumentale has three chapels within its grounds, and is also famous for the number of Roman sarcophagi that rest inside, as well as the many beautiful frescoes on its walls. There’s also the Baptistry which showcases important examples of pre-Renaissance sculptures, particularly those created by Italo Griselli and Nicola Pisano.
Other points of interest include the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo which houses a collection of ecclesiastical sculpture and art, and another museum, the Palazzo Reale that was built in the 16th century and served as a home to prominent families of the time such as the Lorenas, Medicis, and Savoias. The Palazzo currently houses a collection of tapestries, armors, portraits, and paintings (including one made by a young Raphael), all serving as a way to remember the days of the Pisan court.
Another place worth mentioning would be the small Gothic church of Santa Maria della Spina. It is home to one of the highest masterpieces of Gothic sculpture, the Madonna of the Rose, that was created by Andrea and Nino Pisano. This church is also notable because it was constructed and positioned in such a way that despite being beside the Arno, its reflection is never seen in the waters of the river.
Pisa also has several beach resorts, and although they are not quite of the same quality as those in more popular seaside destinations, it serves as a good getaway for those who want a quick dip in the sea. There’s also one of the oldest botanical gardens in Italy, the Orto Botanico, and for those who prefer the slower, scenic route, short boat cruises down the Arno are offered by locals.
If you’re visiting Pisa soon, remember to not let the Leaning Tower distract you, as there are many other places in and near the city that are worth exploring!