The towering beauty of Pisa

I have been to Pisa in Italy many times. My daughter lived there for a year so I got to know the city quite well.

Last year I wrote an article about The San Gimignano Towers versus The Leaning Tower so I have now written an article about the town of Pisa itself.

Pisa, though famous for its leaning tower, has a lot more to offer than dodgy medieval building techniques.

The Tuscan capital is so old no one is entirely sure of its origins but it developed into an Etruscan settlement and archeological remains from 500 BC have been discovered and some estimates place its history further back than 1300 BC.

Sitting on the banks on the river Arno in beautiful Tuscany, Pisa has long attracted travellers and artisans that have added to its long prosperity.

‘Modern’ Pisa was first laid out in the mid-eleventh century and the city has retained much of its medieval appearance.

Pisa abounds with historical monuments and buildings many of which compete with the tower in beauty and historical interest, if not in fame.

In fact the Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually the bell tower of the cathedral. Started in 1064 by the architect Buscheto the cathedral is built in the Pisan Romanesque style in architecture, as is the tower.

The tower was begun over a century later and had all ready started to list when builders reached the third gallery level, another century passed before it was actually finished.

A must for any visitor, the tower and the cathedral sit in the Field of Miracles. The field takes up a large area the north-west of Pisa where four impressive buildings stand in gleaming white marble.

As well as the cathedral and its bell tower, the field boasts the circular Battistero (Baptistery) – the largest of its kind in the whole of Italy – and the Camposanto – a cemetery, also known as the Holy Field.

The four buildings are intended to symbolise the four areas of human existence. These being: health (the cathedral), reason (the Leaning Tower), baptism (the baptistery) and death (the cemetery).

Add to this already impressive list of attractions the Palazzo della Carovana, built by Vasari, the church of San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno, founded around 952, the Borgo Stretto, a neighbourhood where you can stroll beneath medieval arcades, the Medici Palace, the Palazzo Gambacorti, and the royal pace and it is obvious to see why many weekend breaks just don’t seem long enough.

Of course with such an historical city museums are also in abundance. The Museo Nazionale di St Matteo exhibits sculptures and paintings from the 12th century to 15th centurys, including the masterworks of Giovanni and Andrea Pisano, the Master of San Martino and Masaccio.

The Museo dell’ Opera del Duomoexhibits the original sculptures of Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano as well as the treasures of the cathedral, and the Museo delle Sinopie has sinopias from the camposanto.

As you would expect food is of the usual high Italian standards and with accommodation to suit all budgets it can be a relatively cheap holiday, and a gateway to all that wonderful Tuscany has to offer.







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