Pisa is a city in the region of Tuscany that is best known for an architectural project gone very wrong. The place once a maritime power that was strong enough to rival Venice and Genoa. The city has been an educational hub since the 15th century and every year students all around the country compete to get a seat in the city’s extraordinary university. Other than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the city has many other significant architectural wonders including many well preserved Romanesque buildings, Renaissance piazzas, and Gothic churches. The city’s streets are filled with lively locals rather than tourists; to notice this, you must not restrict yourself to the tourist hubs. Here are the best spots you must visit when you are in Pisa.
1. The Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Torre Pendente
This iconic monument of Italy is one of the seven wonders of the medieval world. Like its name states, the tower is indeed leaning; it is about 5.5 degrees off the vertical. It is officially the bell tower of the Duomo and is about 58 meters tall. The structure took nearly 200 years to complete, but sadly the tower has been tilting since the day it was unveiled. The tilt was caused by a layer of weak subsoil and was steadily worsening until a significant stabilization project stopped it in the late twentieth century. This project is expected to guarantee the future of the tower for the next 300 years. The history of the tower’s construction is a journey in itself. The construction started in 1173 under the command of the architect Bonanno Pisano, but sadly things did not go as he had planned. Just as three out of the seven planned tiers had been completed, the tower started leaning. He was forced to quit the project due to this. In 1272, work was resumed on the tower by artisans and masons who were making many failed attempts to bolster the basement. They did not stop though; they kept compensating for the lean by building straight up from the lower tiers. However, work had to be once again be halted, due to war this time. The construction word would thus not be completed until the latter half of the 14th century. The leaning tower can only accommodate 45 people at a time, so many sure you book online in advance to avoid any disappointment. Each tour lasts about 35 minutes, and you will have to climb up 251 steps. Do take care because some of them are slippery. The entry fee is about 18 Euros, and you are not allowed to carry any bags with you on the trip.
2. The Baptistery of St. John
This unconventionally round Baptistery has one dome piled atop another. Each of these domes is half roofed in tiles and half roofed in lead; then they are topped off with a gilt bronze John the Baptist. The construction was started in 1152, but it was later continued and remodeled by Giovanni Pisano and Nicola more than a century later; the building was finally completed in the 14th century. The pinnacled upper section of the arcade along with the dome is gothic while the lower part is Pisan-Romanesque. This was also the place where Galileo Galilei was baptized. You should also climb to the upper gallery to listen to the demonstration of the fantastic acoustics of the double dome. The entry to the Battistero costs about five Euros.
This cemetery is the final resting place for many prominent Pisans. The cemetery is arranged around a garden in a quadrangle. It has also been told that the Camposanto has soil shipped from Cavalry during the crusades lying in its beautiful white walls. During the second world war, many of the frescoes in the structures were destroyed by the Allied artillery. A few of these were salvaged and are now on display in the Sala Affreschi or the Frescoes Room. The most famous of these is the Triumph of Death, an illustration of hell made by the painter Buonamico Buffalmacco. The room also houses Buffalmacco’s Last Judgement & Hell, which is similarly brutal. The allowed hours in the cemetery depends on the month and a ticket to enter costs five Euros.
4. Museo Delle Sinopie
This museum is home to several fascinating frescoes. The museum also has several sinopie; these are preliminary sketches drawn by artists in red earth pigment for the Camposanto. The museum is filled with scale models and short films to fill in the gaps between artworks. The cost of a ticket to this museum costs about five Euros.
5. Chiesa di Santa Maria Della Spina
This triple-spired church was built in the 13th century. It houses many tabernacles and statues. It is located right next to the Arno river, making it a magnificent church.
6. Museo Nazionale di San Matteo
This museum is a medieval Benedictine convent that is on the northern bank of the Arno river. It has an impressive collection of paintings from the Tuscan school, including notable works of Taddeo Gaddi, Ghirlandaio, Gentile da Fabriano, and Lippo Memmi. It also has many Pisan sculptures from the 14th and 15th centuries, including works by Nino Pisano, Francesco di Valdambrino, Donatello, Michelozzo, and Nicola Pisano. When you do visit it, make sure that you check out the Polyptych of Saint Catherine and the Madonna of Humility. The price for entry to the museum is around five Euros.