Pisa much more than just a leaning tower? Pisa's historic grandeur was established when it controlled large tracts of the Mediterranean, between the 11th and 13th centuries, before losing influence to Genoa, Florence and Lucca. We have split this guide into three sections the first covers the area around Piazza dei Miracoli (including Pisa's cathedral and tower) we then move south and encompass Pisa's other sites north of the Arno river and the third extends our visit south of the Arno. Walking around each area is the most practical means of exploring Pisa.
|Approaching Tower||Tower East View||Tower & Duomo|
Approaching Piazza dei Miracoli from the East you get your first direct view of Pisa's famous tower (1173), typically you will see people lining themselves up in their photos as if supporting it from collapsing. Pisa's leaning tower is not a new phenomena indeed, even at the time of its construction the original Romanesque design by Bonanno was halted at its third storey due to its limited 3m foundations and subsidence in the ground below. A century later Giovanni di Simone continued its development to its seventh storey and ingeniously made each storey not level but slightly angled to compensate for its tilt. The narrower Gothic bell-chamber level was the design of Tomaso di Andrea Pisano in the mid 14th century. You can appreciate its twisting architecture by looking at it from different perspectives and distances; Tower East View.
|Duomo||Baptistery, Duomo & Tower||Ospedale di Santa Chiara|
Pisa's Duomo (1063-1118) is the largest Romanesque church in Tuscany. Internally it is a five-naved basilica with three-naved transept with a wooden ceiling supported by 68 Corinthian columns. Of particular note is Giovanni Pisano's early 14th century Pulpit. At the far end of the cathedral is the marble Battistero di San Giovanni (1153-1363) itself the largest Baptistery in Italy.
Across from Pisa's Duomo is the Ospedale di Santa Chiara which is shortly to be relocated outside the site. There has been a hospital there since 1257 and the modest Chiesa di Santa Chiara (1277) has been its chapel ever since.
|Largo dei Parlascio||Piazza Santa Caterina||Piazza Martiri della Liberta||Piazza dei Cavalieri|
Proceeding east from the Duomo you can see the ruins of Pisa's 3rd century Roman thermal baths of Adriano in Largo dei Parlascio. Nearby is the Piazza Santa Caterina with the Chiesa di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria (1251-1300) next to the hospital (1210). Inside are 14th and 15th Century paintings and 14th century sculptures by Andrea Pisano "Tomb of Archbishop Simon Saltarelli" and his son Nino Pisano, "Annunciation". Passing through Piazza Martiri della Liberta we then head west to Piazza dei Cavalieri, Pisa's medieval political heart. Here you will find in the top corner the Palazzo dell'Orologio (in its current form with clock straddling two former buildings ;1605-8) to its right with a statue of Grand Duke Cosimo I de Medici in front the Palazzo della Carovana (1562-4), next the Chiesa di Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri (1565-9; the church of the knights of Santo Stefano founded by Cosimo 1) and finally on the south side the Palazzo del Consiglio dei Dodici.
|Chiesa di S.Francesco||Chiesa di S.Francesco||Convent of S.Francesco||Convent of S.Francesco|
To the east along Via San Francesco we find the Chiesa di S.Francesco de' Ferri (rebuilt 1261-70). Far larger than you will expect from the outside this is one of Pisa's most impressive churches with adjoining convent and cloister. Its facade and the interior were revamped in the early 17th century although the altar, cloister and frescoes are 14th century.
|San Paolo all'Orto||San Michele in Borgo||Piazza San Omobono|
In Piazza San Paolo all'Orto is a deconsecrated 12th century church with a marble facade and a large belltower (1595) now used for exhibitions. San Michele in Borgo (1016) was originally built outside Pisa's city walls but now it can be found on a main thoroughfare (Via Borgo Stretto) just a short distance from the Arno. Inside are a 14th century crucifix and paintings by Giuseppe Melani, Matteo Rosselli, Baccio Lomi and Aurelio Lomi. Pisa has many street markets such as in Piazza San Omobono.
|Piazza Garibaldi||Piazza Gambacorti||S.Maria del Carmine||S.Maria del Carmine|
At the end of Borgo Stretto is Piazza Garibaldi in front of the Ponte di Mezzo, standing proud in the middle is the man himself, born in Nice (when it was part of Italy) and the great revolutionary leader that helped unification of the Italian states. Crossing the river you then reach Piazza Gambacorti and can then proceed up Pisa's upmarket shopping thoroughfare Corso Italia where you will find the small Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine (1324-8) inside is the body of Andrea Ravani, 14th century frescoes and paintings by Santi di Tito and Baccio and Aurelio Lomi.
|Corso Italia||S.Paolo a Ripa d'Arno||Ponte Solferino||Lungarno A.Pacinotti|
Proceeding up you reach the top of Corso Italia and Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle II. Leaving the piazza along Via Nino Bixio just before you reach the river you will find Chiesa di San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno belived to have been founded in the 10th century and a monastery since 1147. Home of the Vallombrosani monks. Inside is a 4th century Roman sarcophagus and 13th century frescoes. You can then get great views of Pisa from the river by walking along the south bank of the Arno before crossing the river at Ponte Solferino and then along Lungarno Antonio Pacinotti with its grand riverside palaces.