Last updated on September 8th, 2018
It is impossible to speak of Pisa without referring to its characteristic leaning tower. But this incredible bell tower is just one of the beautiful monuments that this city of Tuscany can offer to you.
Exactly in the same place where the Tower is located, you can find the main monuments of Pisa that is the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Campo Santo. All these monuments are located within the famous Campo dei Miracoli!
But Pisa has some other artistic wonders that make it one of the most beautiful cities in Italy.
Walking through the historic center of Pisa will take you back in time, at a time when this maritime republic controlled a large part of the Mediterranean.
In this post, I’ll tell you my experience and I’ll explain what to see in Pisa if you want to take a short historical tour to discover the unknown places of this city.
What to see in Pisa between history and art
The history of Pisa is millenary: already inhabited by the Etruscans, it was then a Roman city and an important commercial hub. In the Middle Ages Pisa was one of the most important cities in Europe: from the XI century it was a maritime republic and based its fortune on maritime trade.
Pisa clashed several times with the Saracen fleets and came to control vast territories with possessions in Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. At the time it had a port at the mouth of the Arno that was much closer to the sea than it is now.
The decline of Pisa then came in the thirteenth century after the battle of Meloria and the clash with the Republic of Genoa, due to the lost territory and prestige.
What to see in Pisa in addition to the Tower
What do you think when people ask you what to see in Pisa? Obviously we all think of the leaning Tower, forgetting the other beauties of this city.
Starting from the baptistery, the cathedral and the cemetery, which complete the Piazza dei Miracoli, you can continue with the museum of the Opera del Duomo, the museum of the sinopias and other churches such as San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno, or the splendid Madonna of the Spine.
If you really want to find out what to see in Pisa, read on!
The Madonna della Spina on the Lungarni of Pisa
Pisa is very famous for the beauty of its Lungarni: the two streets that line the river Arno. In addition to being a meeting point for Pisa evenings, the Lungarni of Pisa host important medieval buildings, sometimes transformed and reworked over the centuries.
Right on Lungarno Gambacorti is a little gem, one of the churches that you absolutely must visit in Pisa. This is the Madonna della Spina. This delightful little church was built by a noble family in 1230, on the banks of the Arno. The name Spina derives from a relic of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, here kept until the nineteenth century.
This church is one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic style in Italy, thanks to the splendid decoration created between 1323 and 1376 under the direction of Andrea and Nino Pisano. The roof is covered with cusps, inlays, rosettes and sculptures by the greatest Pisan masters of the fourteenth century as Lupo di Francesco, Andrea and Nino and Giovanni di Balduccio.
The building was restored several times due to the subsidence of the land but at the end, the church was completely moved and rebuilt in 1871, under the direction of Vincenzo Micheli.
The effect was magnificent: it looks like a precious little treasure chest next to the Arno!
San Paolo in Ripa d’Arno
Pisa is a magnificent and well-kept city, with the exception of a church, San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno. This majestic building was the most important place of worship in the city, at least until the construction of the Cathedral of Pisa.
Attention is drawn first to the chapel of Sant’Agata, which looks like a huge fairy hat forgotten in a meadow. The chapel dates back to around 1060 and was built to celebrate Pisa’s victory over Palermo. It has an octagonal plan in simple bricks, invisible to the outside because it was incorporated in a cloister until the bombings of 1943.
It is not expected that behind this small building there is an incredibly beautiful basilica, whose origins date back to 925.
Unfortunately, the conditions of San Paolo in Ripa d’Arno is very bad: the grass grows wild on the roof of the chapel of St. Agatha as on the interspaces of the ancient walls of the facade.
The church is protected by some “protective” enclosures that follow the entire perimeter making it, unfortunately, not open to visitors.
The bell towers in Pisa
Perhaps you do not know about it but in addition to the famous Tower, Pisa has many other two hanging bell towers: even the bell tower of the church of San Nicola and the church of San Michele degli Scalzi in fact have a considerable slope.
These two bell towers both belong to two medieval churches, built in the XIII century, and present structural problems due to the conformation of the ground which made part of the structures sink, making them “hanging”.
That’s really incredible!
Piazza dei Cavalieri in Pisa
If you want to know what to see in Pisa, I can not forget Piazza dei Cavalieri, with its Palazzo della Carovana, home of the Scuola Normale Superiore. The palace was built on a design by Giorgio Vasari in 1652 and its facade is very articulated and very particular. Also on the same square is the church of Santo Stefano.
Piazza dei Cavalieri in Pisa has been for centuries the place of civic power, even if today it is above all a cultural and study place.
Right next door there is also the Palazzo dell’Orologio, a medieval building where the “Torre della Fame” was built, where in 1289 the Count Ugolino Della Gherardesca died with his sons and grandchildren (if you read the Divine Comedy you will surely remember his sad story).
Other treasures to see in Pisa
If you are in love with botany, I suggest you visit the botanical garden and museum of Pisa.
Built in 1544, today it is part of the biology faculty with the museum annexed which can be visited from 9 to 19: it certainly does not leave you disappointed thanks to its beauty and variety of vegetation in every season.
Comments on Pisa?
Here’s what to see in Pisa according to me! If you explore this beautiful city, do not stop just to take pictures of the leaning tower, take a walk to discover its treasures!
Do you have any other monuments to recommend in Pisa? Write me below in the comments!