The Baptistery, dedicated to St. John Baptist, is the largest in Italy, with a circumference of 107.24 meters and a height of 54 meters and 86 centimeters. Inside, sculptures such as the pulpit, the baptismal font and the bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist. You will enjoy a unique echo due to the exceptional acoustics that makes this monument a real “musical instrument”, thanks to its height, shape and structure of the dome.
Leaving the Baptistery, you’ll arrive in the center of the square, where the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is located.
Built in Romanesque Pisano style with Byzantine and Arab influences, it represents a new model of church for the polychrome architecture and the use of the loggia. The facade in white and gray marble is rich in details and its interior in black and white marble goes very well with the ceiling, covered with gilded wooden drawers. The apse with the mosaic by Cimabue and the pulpit by Giovanni Pisano, considered the masterpiece of Italian Gothic, deserve your attention.
Also, you can admire the monumental tomb of Henry VII of Luxembourg, located behind the high altar, in the apse. The choice of place was intended to demonstrate the devotion of the Pisan Ghibellines to the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
Finally, we reach the monument symbol of the city: the Leaning Tower or Bell Tower. It was born as an independent bell tower from the Duomo and the first problems emerged from the beginning of its construction in 1173. The slope was evident, especially when the third order of the tower was built and, from that moment, the successive orders were deliberately constructed with crooked planes to counterbalance its natural slope.
The tower, closed to the public a few years ago, has been reopened and today you cannot deprive yourself of the beautiful 360 ° panorama over the city. The effort to climb the 294 steps will be fully rewarded.
Next, the Monumental Cemetery, which began as a cathedral cemetery to house the graves of the most illustrious Pisans. It is defined as a sacred place from the moment the Pisans, returning from the Crusade in the Holy Land, filled the interior with earth brought from Mount Calvary.
From the sixteenth century, it was the subject of a “museum” process with the application of Roman inscriptions on the walls and other precious testimonies of the city’s history. This Pisan “pantheon” became the first museum of the city by natural vocation and the mixture of ancient and modern, between the celebration of history and reflection on death, was the basis of the melancholy charm that it exercised on travelers of the romantic era, making the Camposanto one of the most loved and visited monuments of Italy.
When in 1944 an American artillery shell hit the roof of the Camposanto there was a fire and the molten lead dripped onto the frescoes. The only remedy considered then possible for the conservation of the paintings was the detachment, using the technique of the “tear”, which led to the discovery of the sinopias: preparatory drawings with red ocher underlying the frescoes.
Recently the important cycle of frescoes “The Triumph of Death“, one of the first to have been carried out between 1336 and 1341, was placed on the wall of the Monumental Cemetery following a long restoration. Painted by Buonamico Buffalmacco, it consists of three different scenes: the Stories of the Holy Fathers, the Last Judgment and Hell and the Triumph of Death.
You can admire the precious drafts at the Museo delle Sinopie, which houses the largest collection of medieval drawings in the world.
Not far away, the Museum of the Cathedral Works , born by the will of the Opera Primaziale Pisana in 1986. Its wonderful collection is particularly representative of the flourishing sculptural production in Pisa between XI and XIV century, but also of the significant practice of re-use of Roman materials in the buildings of the Piazza. In addition, it houses the cathedral treasure, the war booties of the then Maritime Republic and the statues and artifacts removed for restoration by the monuments of Piazza dei Miracoli.
Located in the area adjacent to the Piazza dei Miracoli, in correspondence of the ancient Lion’s Gate, you can visit the Jewish Cemetery, which has housed the city tombs of the Israelites since 1674. Of particular interest are the variety of artefacts and their artistic value, for which the Jewish cemetery presents an extraordinary range of testimonies: from the burial mounds of the seventeenth-century tombstones transferred here from a previous burial place, up to the different geographical origins of the buried.
This last feature offers an excellent example of how the Jewish presence in Pisa has been variegated over the centuries, and also testifies the choice of some foreigners to be buried in the Pisan cemetery, by virtue of the monumental context in which it is inserted.
The last stop on our itinerary is the Medieval Walls, that you can finally walk on top for three kilometers around the city, thanks to a long and accurate work of recovery and enhancement. The walls were built as a grandiose defensive work which, over the centuries, especially after the Medici occupation, was reinforced with bastions, towers and easier walkways, to reach a perimeter of over six kilometers. From this unusual perspective, discover and admire a lesser known Pisa, but one that will surprise you.