Holiday in Pisa
According to legend, Pisa was founded by Greek refugees from Troy, a city which was once located in the Alfeo River valley near Peloponnesia. With its glorious complex past, this Tuscan city offers visitors its brightly lit lungarni (roads on the river bank), noble Renaissance buildings, a web of narrow medieval streets and the green Piazza dei Miracoli, declared a World Heritage site, hosting four of Pisa's Romanesque masterpieces: the cathedral, the baptistry, the Leaning Tower which acts as a bell tower for the church, and the Camposanto Monumentale. It's a city to enjoy during a relaxing cultural weekend, thanks to the numerous holiday promotions for Pisa.
Discovering the city's marvels is easy. Strolling through its streets and squares, you can uncover the secrets and myths that have made it famous. A simple itinerary suitable for everyone would start from the Piazza del Duomo, better known as the Piazza dei Miracoli. The heart of the city, for nearly one thousand years this square has been home to its four architectural miracles, one more beautiful than the next. The Duomo's cornerstone was laid in 1064. Shortly thereafter the Baptistry was erected, followed by the bell tower (the famous Leaning Tower) and finally the Camposanto Monumentale in the late 1200s. Without a doubt, just a glimpse of this square is worth the journey to visit the city. Inside of these architectonic marvels are works of great artistic value. Having passed through the Duomo's bronze doors, you'll be met by the marble pulpit created by Giovanni Pisano and stalls by Andrea del Sarto, Sogliani, Sodoma, Cimabue and Giambologna. Close to the Baptistry you can visit the Sinopie Museum and the Museo dell'Opera, displaying the Duomo's Treasure, precious works of art, sacred furnishings and archaeological findings.
Continuing on from Porta San Zeno, you'll come across the Church of San Zeno with an evocative tufa stone façade and tripartite floor plan. Nearby, on Piazza Santa Caterina stands the Church of Santa Caterina, while heading towards the Arno, you'll find the Church of San Francesco with a Gothic cuspidal bell tower. A stone's throw from here is the San Matteo National Museum, exhibiting sculptures from the Pisa school, local and Islamic medieval ceramics and paintings by the most important Tuscan masters from the 1200s-1500s. Another important destination close to the museum is Taverna di Pillo, where you can try some of Pisa's traditional dishes prepared with organic ingredients. After a delicious healthy meal, you can head to Piazza dei Cavalieri, the city's true historic centre and, until the 1500s, the headquarters of the order of the Knights of Saint Stephen who fought against the Saracens. Also known as the "Square of the Seven Streets", it is home to the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, with a bell tower on its right, the Palazzo dei Cavalieri and the Palazzo dell'Orologio, in whose tower Count Ugolino starved to death.
In the western part of the city lies the Citadel, better known as Fortezza Vecchia (the Old Fortress), which looms over you from the Guelfa Tower. Crossing the Citadel's modern bridge, you'll walk along the left bank of the Arno River and through the lively crowded residential neighbourhoods, all with a heavy 19th-century influence. Keep walking and you'll reach the Church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno, which was destroyed by the heavy bombings during WWII. Just past Solferino Bridge stands the Church of Santa Maria della Spina, a gem of Romanesque-Gothic architecture. You can continue your walk along Lungarno Gambacorti, with its peculiar tower-homes, arch vaults and homes of ancient nobles, such as Palazzo Gambacorti, built in the 1300s.
Of course a visit to Pisa should also please the palate. One of the city's historic cafés is Caffè dell'Ussero inside the 15th-century Palazzo Agostini. In the 19th century the café was also known as Caffè delle Stanze for its connection to the upper floor's Stanze Civiche, venue of the first Italian Scientists' Congress in 1839. Its walls are covered with memorabilia featuring its illustrious guests. If you're in the historic centre, stop in at Osteria La Grotta, where you can enjoy a fine assortment of traditional and innovative dishes. If this preview of the city has piqued your curiosity, start planning your visit by taking advantage of the many last-minute holiday promotions for Pisa.