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Pisa is famous all over the world for the Leaning Tower in Piazza dei Miracoli, but not everyone knows it has numerous monuments of artistic and historical value even outside the famous square.
This can be seen from the monuments along the Arno, such as the flamboyant Church of Santa Maria della Spina. On the other bank of the river, you can see from the Guelph Tower and the complex of the Arsenals of the republic of Pisa, as well as from Borgo Stretto, a small and ancient district, rich in history and monuments, which easily leads to Piazza dei Cavalieri and Piazza dei Miracoli., as the culmination of a small itinerary.
There are other buildings of historical interest, such as San Michele in Borgo, the Church of San Sisto and more. The city boasts a thousand-year history and the apex of its power was reached in the medieval era of the Maritime Republics.
Pisa is also famous for being the birthplace and life of Galileo Galilei, who made the well-known experiment on the fall of bodies from the Tower of Pisa.
It is one of the most connected cities in central Italy, both by car and by train. The international airport is also quite close to the center. Given its modest size, the best way to get around the center is on foot or by bike.
Our route starts from Piazza dei Miracoli, also known as Piazza del Duomo and included by UNESCO among the World Heritage Sites. Due to its notoriety, it is one of the most visited squares in the world, but it is not chaotic at all due to its large spaces. Bordered by walls that can be walked on on one side and enlivened by green lawns, its greatest attractions are the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cathedral of Pisa, the Baptistery and the Camposanto.
An architectural masterpiece that dominates the Piazza dei Miracoli is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. The Duomo is a Pisan Romanesque style masterpiece, which was created starting from this church and exported to Florence and the rest of Tuscany, but also to Corsica and Sardinia. Visiting the historic center, you will encounter numerous churches in this style.
The Cathedral was built starting from 1063, with classical, Norman, Byzantine, early Christian and Arab elements. In fact, since its construction, it was intended to represent the prestige and wealth achieved by the maritime republic of Pisa, at the moment of its maximum expansion. This is testified to the outside of the cathedral, for the rich decorations with multicolored marbles, mosaics and bronze objects; and also inside, for the precious black and white marble and for the gray marble columns.
The Tower of Pisa was born as the bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, despite being a unique bell tower in the world. The works for its construction began in 1173 but lasted for centuries, precisely because of its inclination, which soon manifested itself due to the sandy and clayey soil. Its inclination is about 4 ° with respect to the vertical plane.
There are the 294 steps and 56 meters high on ninth floors, to get to the top of the belfry and enjoy a spectacular view over the whole square and the city center. In addition, climbing such a crooked tower is undoubtedly a unique experience.
Although it is the tallest and most famous tower, it is not the only leaning tower in Pisa: the Church of San Michele degli Scalzi and the Church of San Nicola also have one, both centuries old and located near the Lungarno.
In Piazza dei Miracoli there is the Baptistery of San Giovanni, which rises in front of the facade of the Cathedral. We are talking about the largest Baptistery in Italy, whose construction was begun in 1153 by the architect Diotisalvi and completed, after about a century, by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Inside, the baptismal font(where Galieo Galilei was baptized in 1564) and the pulpit are magnificent, where scenes from the Life of Christ are carved.
In piazza dei miracoli there is also the Monumental Cemetery. The cemetery was started in 1277, both to complete the scenography of the square and to collect the sarcophagi and the various burials that for centuries crowded the area around the Cathedral.
Piazza dei Cavalieri owes its name to the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano, the Palazzo della Carovana(or Palazzo dei Cavalieri), commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici, of which a statue was erected in front of it. The palace is decorated with allegorical figures and zodiac signs and today houses the Scuola Normale di Pisa, one of the most prestigious universities in Italy. On the square there is also Palazzo dell'Orologio, where once there was the Torre della Muda, the place where Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy, died of hunger. Finally we find the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, famous for the relics inside.
Not far from the square, there is the Church of San Sisto, a church dating back to the 11th century, in the classic Pisan Romanesque style but with a dark color in the pilasters, which distinguishes it greatly from other churches of the same style in the city.
From Piazza dei Cavalieri you can easily reach Borgo Stretto, one of the most characteristic and ancient districts of Pisa. This is the area where nobles and merchants had their homes, but it is also the area of medieval markets, which took place under its arcades. The center of the village is Piazza delle Vettovaglie, which has always been the site of a famous food market, which in the evening turns into one of the liveliest areas of the city, thanks to the wine bars and clubs. Along the narrow street the Church of San Michele in Borgo is indistinguishable, an ancient church of the 11th century, white and in the classic Pisan Romanesque style reminiscent of the cathedral.
The Lungarni are the streets that flank the Arno river. They are among the most important meeting places for young people in the city and also for tourists, who come here to admire the buildings, towers and churches that overlook them.
The Palazzo dei Medici is an ancient palace renovated several times, starting from the 11th century. Initially home to the noble Pisan Appiani family, it was purchased by the Medici family in the 15th century. Near this building there is the ancient medieval convent of San Matteo, which houses the National Museum of San Matteo, mainly dedicated to medieval religious art.
The Royal Palace is a 16th century palace, built by the Medici to replace the previous residence in the Palazzo dei Medici. Today it houses the National Museum of the Royal Palace which collects the works of the families who have succeeded one another inside the Palace, including masterpieces created by Raphael, Canova and several others.
In Pisa there are two historical arsenals to see, both located on the Lungarno: the Republican Arsenals, the oldest, dedicated to the production and repair of the galleys of the ancient Republic of Pisa, and the Medici Arsenals. The latter were built thanks to the will of Cosimo I de'Medici who wanted to increase the naval power of the city. Here, in fact, the galleys, the great warships of the Medici fleet, were built.
The arsenals are located next to the Guelph Tower, an 18-meter outpost from the 15th century, which is part of the Citadel complex, an ancient fortress guarding the arsenals and the city.