Pisa was once a powerful manufacturing and maritime city that rivalled both Venice and Genoa thanks to its location on the banks of the Arno River.
These days, the city is more famous for that 12th-century architectural mishap — the Leaning Tower — and is passed over by tourists in favour of Tuscany’s capital city, Florence.
Pisa Perfect Italian Getaway
Pisa, however, is the perfect place to visit for an Italian getaway! It is a place rich in art, culture and diverse architecture thanks to its former occupations by the Romans and the Florentines in the middle ages.
The city is also renowned across the continent for its academic facilities; the University of Pisa is over 600 years old and two of the best-sanctioned, Italian Superior Graduate Schools are in the city.
Visitors to Pisa will naturally be drawn to the famous Leaning Tower, but it’s just one of the many breathtaking sites to discover in this charming city.
Pisa’s town centre is particularly vibrant thanks to a lively street culture and the constant influx of students from across Italy who have gained places in its elite schools.
Although the town centre is relatively small, it easy to explore, and includes some of the best Romanesque and Gothic-influenced, Italian architecture in the region.
Pisa is structured in four separate quarters and it has retained much of its impressive 10.5km walls, which form a boundary around the locality.
Within the aptly-named “square of miracles, ”the Pizza del Duomo situated at the north-western end of the medieval town, stands some of the most important architectural sites in Italy.
Next to the Leaning Tower, for example, is the spectacular Duomo di Pisa and its accompanying baptistry and Campo Santo (cemetery).With origins dating back to the 10th century, these holy buildings were built using white marble intersected with black stripes in the classic, Romanesque-Pisan style.
The cemetery contains some renowned Italian Renaissance frescoes with its impressive facade, most notably by Tuscan artist Benozzo Gozzoli. Although many of the frescoes were damaged during World War II, they have since been restored to their former glory.
Throughout Pisa, there is a wealth of piazzas, palazzos and historical churches that will delight lovers of art and architecture.
The Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights’ Square) contains many notable historical buildings that played host to the Medici and other Italian political powers.
At the end of the Lungarno Galilei sits a former fortress, the Giardino di Scotto, which has since been converted into a public park that hosts many open-air concerts, events and cinema screenings during the summer.
A rather unassuming-looking, salmon-coloured townhouse on Via Giuseppe Gusto was the birthplace of one of the key figures in the Renaissance, the man who led the transition from natural philosophies to the creation of modern science — Galileo Galilei. Despite some initial confusion, the Ammannati house has since been recognized as the birthplace of Galileo in 1564.
A renowned polymath, Galileo made many pioneering observations in mathematics and astronomy that paved the way for modern physics.
A little-known fact about Galileo is that he was the first to publish academic essays about the probability of combinations, having been commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici to study the outcomes of three thrown dice, which led casino enthusiasts to declare him one of the earliest innovators in this leisurely pursuit!
Pisa is easy to reach by train and air with regular trains to and from both Florence and Lucca. The Pisa International Airport or Galileo Galilei Airport is the main airport for Tuscany and as such is served by many national and international airlines, including low-cost airlines.
Due to the proximity of the airport, the city centre can be reached in a few minutes by bus, taxi or train in addition to being within walking distance. There is a range of accommodations throughout the city available for all budgets, from hostels to mid-priced hotels to luxury villas.
And as far as nightlife goes, there are a few alternative clubs in the centre, including Borderline Club, but the bar and café culture are more prevalent. Whether you have a weekend or a week to soak up some Tuscan culture, you could definitely do a lot worse than Pisa!
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