Pisa University Museums: easy for everyone

The University of Pisa, founded in 1343, has built over time an extraordinary museum heritage that in 2012 was collected within the University Museum System. Ten exhibition centers, nine in the city and one in Calci (the Museum of Natural History, next to the splendid Certosa) allows you to admire the historical, scientific and artistic heritage of the University of Pisa. And at the same time, discover a different, hidden, more authentic Pisa.

This itinerary, more accessible to the public, represents “knowledge within everyone’s reach”.


Near Piazza dei Miracoli there is the Botanical Garden, the oldest university botanical garden in the world. It was the Medici who realized it by moving it from the seat of the Arsenali Medicei (current home of the Museum of Ships of Pisa). It houses plants from the 5 continents: succulents from the African and American deserts; aromatic plants from the Mediterranean maquis; species from the Tuscan marshes; numerous centuries-old trees. Inside the Garden is the Botanical Museum, with its eighteenth-century facade enriched with a whimsical fantasy of shells and madrepores. Two real “miracles” of the botanical world just a few steps from the artistic “miracles” in Piazza del Duomo.


Near the splendid setting of Piazza dei Cavalieri, home of the prestigious Scuola Normale Superiore, we come to the site of the Egyptological Collections. You may wonder what Pisa has to do with Egypt and the pharaohs! Ippolito Rosellini, the “father of Italian Egyptology”, was born in Pisa. Together with the Frenchman Champollion, he led the expedition to Egypt and Nubia in 1828, which later proved to be fundamental for the study of ancient Egypt. The collections have been enriched by a series of precious pieces, the result of donations from private people.


After Egypt, the next stop is the Gipsoteca of Ancient Art, in the former Church of San Paolo all’Orto behind the Teatro Verdi. The collection includes about one hundred pieces, including replicas of masterpieces of Greek but also Etruscan and Roman statuary. The particular location lends itself to the organization of events and workshops.


Returning to the Lungarni, but from the opposite bank, we arrive at the Museum of Graphics, housed in Palazzo Lanfranchi. The Museum houses one of the most important public collections of contemporary graphics whose origin dates back to the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe dell’Università di Pisa, founded in 1957 by Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti. Offered by the artists or donated by cultured collectors, such as the scientist Sebastiano Timpanaro or the art critic Giulio Carlo Argan, the engravings and drawings represent a precious patrimony that has been enriched by the perpetual deposit of the Calcografia Nazionale. The Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions.


For the last stop we must move 10 km to Calci, at the foot of Monte Pisano. Next to the Monumental Certosa is the Museum of Natural History: the visit to the museum is not boring at all, as it presents in the various rooms and galleries anecdotes and curiosities for young and old. A unique experience, an exceptional place where wonder and enchantment are mixed with science, history, art and nature. The Museum, born at the end of ‘500, boasts collections among the oldest in the world, as well as the largest freshwater aquarium in Italy, and offers the opportunity to admire fossils, minerals, skeletons and stuffed animals.

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