The first settlements probably date from the ninth century BCE, although it was the Etruscans who considerably developed the residential centre, encouraged by its proximity to the Arno and the sea. This strategic position attracted the aims of the Ligurians. Pisa defended itself from their attacks, and became a Roman ally and later a Roman colony. Pisa’s importance as a Tyrrhenian port grew during the Lombardic period. It continued to expand by sea, taking control of Sardinia and participating actively in the first Crusade. With the wealth amassed during the sea battles, the Duomo, a masterpiece of Romanesque style, was built in the mid-eleventh century. The Baptistery, the Camposanto and the bell tower (the Leaning Tower) were added in later centuries.
The politically ambitious Pisa clashed with the aims of Genoa, Amalfi and Venice. Internally, the rivalry of the Della Gherardesca and Visconti families was followed by the establishment of the government of the twelve “People’s Elders”. The defeat at the hands of the Genoese in the Battle of Meloria, in 1284, began a long period of decay, studded with clashes with the Florentines, who took definitive control of the city in 1509, implementing a series of measures intended to drastically reduce the importance of their main commercial and political rival.
With Cosimo I de’ Medici, who loved Pisa’s milder climate, the city was reborn artistically: the Lungarni were rebuilt; Piazza dei Cavalieri and the Logge dei Banchi were built; Pisa began to look more and more as visitors see it today. Thanks to Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the university became a fundamental centre of Pisan life. It was Napoleon who founded the Scuola Normale Superiore school. The nineteenth century brought strong waves of support for Italian unification to Pisa; in fact the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini lived there until his death in 1872. Unfortunately, part of Pisa’s artistic wealth can no longer be seen, because heavy bombings in World War II destroyed entire neighborhoods.

Pisa stands on a flat area of ​​alluvial origin, closed off by the Monti Pisani to the north and crossed by the Arno. It is Italy’s second largest floodplain, after the Po Valley. In Roman times the mouth of the Arno met the sea right in front of the city, but the shore is now 8 km away. Because it caused many floods, the course of the river was repeatedly diverted and now contains twists to slow down the flow somewhat. There is also a drainage channel that diverts the excess water towards Calambrone. To the west, the Pisan plain is bordered by a vast area lush with vegetation, within the territory of the Migliarino San Rossore and Massaciuccoli Park.

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56121 Pisa
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Arsenali Medicei
This complex designed by Buontalenti was built under Cosimo I for the construction of ships. There were 8 very long naves; today they exhibit archaeological finds.ù

Arsenali Repubblicani, the Fortilizio and the Torre Guelfa
Located in Via Bonanno Pisano, the Arsenali Repubblicani, together with the Fortilizio and the Torre Guelfa, have undergone a major restoration operation to restore them completely. This involved upgrading the “Area of ​​the Citadel”, a space of great strategic importance because of its position, slightly decentralized but in line with the Lungarni riverbanks. Today, the Arsenali Medicei host social and cultural initiatives and exhibition events.

The Baths of Nero
In the Porta a ​​Lucca zone are the baths of Nero, an archaeological site located near Piazza dei Miracoli, with the remains of a thermal bath building.

Basilica di San Piero a Grado
It dates to the eleventh century and was built on a pre-existing fourth-to-fifth-century early Christian temple. According to legend, St Peter landed here on his journey from the Aegean Sea to Rome. It is constructed of tuff and white marble and is a worthy example of Pisan Romanesque style. Outside, you can admire pilasters, blind arches and ceramic basins of Islamic origin. Inside, the large columns grab the attention, as do the paintings of all the popes up to the fifteenth century. In addition, Lucca’s Deodato Orlandi painted the Histories of St Peter’s Life.

Borgo Stretto
In this area you can take a stroll under the shelter of the porticoes. It is bordered by the Casino dei Nobili and the Baths of Nero.

Jewish cemetery and synagogue
Near the monumental complex of Piazza dei Miracoli and the medieval walls is the Jewish cemetery, built in 1648. Set on terrain at various levels, it contains sepulchres of great historical and artistic importance, as well a wealth of tombs, monuments and tabernacles dating from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. The seventeenth-century synagogue is a wonderful example of religious architecture, important both for its interior furnishings and as a testimony of a community that arrived in Pisa as early as the fifteenth century.

Church of Santa Maria della Spina
Located near the banks of the Arno, it was once moved precisely because it had been erected too close to the river. It is considered one of the masterpieces of Italian Gothic style and contains numerous works by Nicola and Andrea Pisano. Its name – spina means thorn – comes from the thorn relic it was once home to, supposedly from the crown Jesus wore when crucified. The interior of the church is currently used for contemporary art exhibitions.

Domus Mazziniana
The Domus Mazziniana, established in 1952, gathers together the spiritual and material heritage from the house of the Nathan-Rossellis, where Mazzini lived at the end of his life. The building was destroyed in the bombing of 31 August 1943 and rebuilt after the war, but the antiques had been kept in safety. It is home to the Mazzini research facility, with an important library on the history of Italian unification, and the museum, which contains memorabilia, medals, flags, original manuscripts, books, documents and personal belongings of Mazzini.

Lungarni riverside embankments
Pisa’s most evocative views follow the course of the Arno, interspersed with its bridges. Among the splendid buildings overlooking the Arno, we notice Palazzo Medici on the Lungarno Mediceo and the Church of San Matteo along with the National Museum of San Matteo. For the Luminara of San Ranieri on the evening of 16 June during the annual event Giugno Pisano, architectural structures such as churches, residential buildings and the towers of the lungarni are decorated with candles to create a unique and evocative spectacle.

Medieval walls
Built around 1155, they stretched over seven kilometres in length and were eleven metres tall. They were restored by the Medicis in the sixteenth century and some of the gates still exist: Porta a Lucca, Porta Santa Maria and Porta Calcesana. They opened for tours in May 2018.

Mural by Keith Haring
On the right wall of the Convent of St Anthony is the mural Tuttomondo by Keith Haring. Completed in just four days in 1989, it depicts his concept of world ​​peace. It is the largest mural ever realized in Europe.

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum)
The museum, located in the Piazza del Duomo, opened in 1986 and is home to very important sculptures from Islamic, Byzantine and Classical Pisan art. A large space houses the festive medieval liturgical furnishings and celebrated works by Giovanni and Nicola Pisano.

Museo della Sinopie
The restoration of Camposanto following the fire during World War II led to the discovery of a collection of frescoes unlike any others in the world.

National Museum of San Matteo
The medieval convent of San Matteo overlooks the Arno and houses a rich collection of works by the most important Tuscan artists who worked between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries, as well as sections with archaeological remains and ceramics. Works by Nicola, Giovanni and Andrea Pisano, panels by Ghirlandaio, works by Cigoli and Tempesti – there are all sorts of reasons for a visit to Pisa’s most important museum of painting and sculpture.

Palazzo Blu – Exhibition hall and permanent collection of the Fondazione Pisa
The Dell’Agnello family, one of the most prominent in Pisa in the late Middle Ages, were the complex’s original owners. Today it belongs to the Fondazione Pisa and is used for exhibitions, events and cultural activities. Palazzo Blu has become the home for Pisa’s most important temporary exhibitions, especially the one held annually from October to February. The works exhibited here come from the collection of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Pisa, works by artists who were natives of Pisa or in some way connected to the city. The pieces cover a period from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries and constitute invaluable testimony of the city’s history. They include the polyptych by Cecco di Pietro and the sacred images by Francesco Neri da Volterra, Benozzo Gozzoli and the workshop of Della Robbia. There are also works by great twentieth-century masters, such as Carlini, Viviani and Severini.

The Knights’ Square
The city’s second most famous square. It was once the heart of the city’s power; today it maintains its value for cultural reasons, and is home to many important structures. The piazza is overlooked by the Palazzo della Carovana (1562-64), the church of San Stefano dei Cavalieri (1565-69), the Palazzo della Canonica (1566), the Palazzo del Consiglio dei Dodici (1603), the Palazzo Puteano (1594), the church of San Rocco (1575) and the Palazzo dell’Orologio (1605-8). In the centre stands Pietro Francavilla’s statue of Cosimo I (1596).

Piazza dei Miracoli
This is the piazza of the towering medieval Pisa Cathedral, the “Leaning Tower” or bell tower of the cathedral; the Baptistery of St John and the monumental Camposanto. There are also two museums not to be missed: the Museo delle Sinopie and Museo dell’Opera del Duomo or Cathedral Museum, not to mention a stroll on the medieval walls (reopened to visitors in May 2018) and the Jewish Cemetery just outside the walls.

Piazza delle Vettovaglie
Vettovaglie means supplies, and this piazza was always used for trade. Over time it has undergone numerous renovations, but its original function never changed. It is located between Via Borgo Stretto and Piazza Sant’Omobono.

Sistema Museale di Ateneo – University of Pisa
The University of Pisa has built up an extraordinary museum heritage over the years. The collections and museums that make up the Sistema Museale di Ateneo tell the story and describe some of the most important periods in the evolution of scientific thought and European culture to date. The museums within the system include: Collezioni Egittologiche, Gipsoteca di Arte Antica, Museo Anatomico Veterinario, Museo di Anatomia Umana, Museo di Anatomia Patologica, Museo degli Strumenti per il Calcolo, Museo degli Strumenti di Fisica, Museo della Grafica, Orto e Museo Botanico and Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio (this last located in Calci).

Villa Medicea di Coltano
The villa, somewhat hidden by the large trees that stand around it, is located on a vast plain in the Tenuta di Coltano. It was designed for the Medici family by Buontalenti.


Food and wine

Miele di Spiaggia
Organic and produced exclusively in the Regional Park. Both the smell and the flavour recall the scent of the Mediterranean scrub, especially because of the flowering plant known locally as camuciolo.

Mucco Pisana
These cattle are raised in Pisa and in the Regional Park. They have been raised since the eighteenth century, and come from a cross between the Bruna Alpina and indigenous breeds.

Pecorino Pisano
Made from whole sheep’s milk, strictly from local sheep. Its taste is sweet and its consistency soft.

Pinolo Biologico del Parco organic pine nuts
They come from the Regional Park and are Europe’s first organic pine nut. In addition to their pleasant taste, they offer nutritional and dietary properties. They are harvested following traditional methods.

Pisanello tomatoes
Pisa’s tomatoes are harvested from June to September. They have a flattened shape, a bright red colour and a taste that is sweetish, sometimes slightly acidic.


Activities for visitors

Giardino Scotto and Bastione San Gallo
The Giardino Scotto is located in the Fortezza Nuova or Cittadella Nuova, a large defensive fortress built by the Florentines in the sixteenth century following their second conquest of the city. In recent years a major restoration and enhancement project has made it the city’s most important historical garden. It can be enjoyed safely by children, families, students and tourists and is used for performances of institutional and cultural events and entertainment. The restoration project also involved the interior spaces of the Bastione Sangallo, a sixteenth-century fortress inside the garden.

Lungarni riverside embankments
The route is 6.28 km long and can be walked in three hours and fifteen minutes, allowing for the various stops to admire buildings and churches. The route follows the line of the Arno river.

Botanical garden
Pisa’s botanical garden is the finest in the world. It was created in 1543 to 1544, thanks to naturalist Luca Ghini, and now spreads over three hectares and is home to plants from every continent.

Parco Galileiano
Located in the Parco della Cittadella, which was bombed during World War II, it is named for the famous Pisan scientist Galileo Galilei.

Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli Regional Park
This protected area is located in the strip of coastline straddling the provinces of Pisa and Lucca. A third of the park is covered with forests rich in extremely varied vegetation that is home to birds of various species, fallow deer, wild boar, fish, foxes and rabbits.

Piazza dei Miracoli
The route is 2.89 km long. It is a short journey through the history of Pisa, by way of the most important places of interest. It starts at the station, cuts through the city and ends at Piazza dei Miracoli.

A 2.54-km route that starts from the city centre and goes as far as the small alleys just past the lungarni river embankments.

San Francesco
Two routes. To the north, 3.86 km by palaces, deconsecrated churches, cloisters and piazzas. An archaeological site in the centre of the city. To the south, a 1.41-km route to discover the central figures in the city’s history, such as Galileo Galilei. It is a less well-known but surprisingly beautiful and interesting itinerary.

San Martino
A 1.94-km route. In addition to Pisa’s riverside embankments, it reaches historic villas, gardens and churches. A simple itinerary that reaches some of the city’s unique places.

Santa Maria Est
Two routes. One, 1.69 km long, stretches eastward, reaching the corners of the “authentic” Pisa through Piazza delle Vettovaglie, The Knights’ Square, tower houses and the university. The other, 2.09 km long to the west, retraces the history of “commercial” Pisa. Visitors will cross the places of the maritime republic.

Viale delle Piagge
It runs for 2 km along the right bank of the Arno, and is very popular with local families with children and with joggers who enjoy the shade of the trees. Near the avenue are the church of San Michele degli Scalzi, in Pisan Romanesque style, its leaning bell tower and the contemporary art exhibition space SMS.


Camper area