P I S A
Pisa is an important city in Tuscany, Central Italy. It was established on the banks of the River Arno, just before it goes into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Namely its location predetermined its maritime role in ancient times. The Pelasgi, the Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Ligurians are thought to have been the first founders of the city.
Pisa was a very important port (Portus Pisanus) in the Ancient Roman Empire because it was the one and only port on the western coast. The ancient Romans used it for their naval expeditions against the Ligurians, Gauls and Carthaginians and it was their maritime base on their way from Ostia to Genoa (then a very small settlement). In fact, in this period of time Pisa arose over the sea, at the confluence of the Arno and Serchio Rivers (today’s northern parts of the city).
The Golden Age of Pisa was between the 11th and 13th centuries when it became one of the maritime nations. In the 11th century the city became one of the mighty Repubbliche Marinare (Maritime Republics). These thalassocratic city-states such as Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Ragusa and Amalfi (Gaeta, Ancona and Noli being less popular) flourished very much in Italy at that time and Dalmatia in the middle Ages.
Nowadays Pisa is an important, industrial centre in Tuscany. The major industries are glass industry, metalworking, textile industry, pharmaceutical, ceramics and packaging It has always availed of its strategic location near the river and sea. It is also a prominent agricultural area of Italy which gives a great variety of products. Apart from this, Pisa and the surroundings possess woods, stone quarries, etc. As to the climate, the city has moderate temperatures having in mind it’s a Mediterranean city.
But above all, Pisa is a very significant cultural, historic, educational (the University of Pisa was founded in 1343 as well as the famous Scuola Normale Superiore) and tourist centre which attracts millions of visitors annually. Let us be one of these numerous tourists and have a short walk in the city.
Imagine arriving at the Pisa International Airport “Galileo Galilei” which is only 1-2 km far away from the Pisa itself. If you’re an enthusiast, you will roll your suitcase and explore the outskirts on foot. But if you are not, you will surely take advantage of the subway, shuttle buses and city’s buses linking the airport to Pisa. The bus connection is very convenient and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the “backyard” of the railway station because the bus stop is just behind the last binario (platform) which gives you the unique opportunity to get acquainted with the station upon your arrival.
When you get out of the railway station, you will see the beautiful Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It was constructed at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately, its construction was part of one urbanistic plan, according to which the medieval walls and the San Gilio Gate were demolished. The square is surrounded by the amazing buildings of the Commercial Chamber, the Italian Posts and the building of the Province while the centre of la piazza is occupied by the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II.
After having enjoyed all this beauty, we can continue our walk along il Corso Italia. It is a major pedestrian street where you can have a cup of strong Italian coffee, have a traditional meal and do the shopping. By the way, there are really too many shops offering clothes, shoes, bags, souvenirs, etc. So, it’s your place where you can get “supplies” of any type.
At the end of il Corso Italia, you will reach finally the River Arno which separates the city into two almost equal parts. You can choose any of the numerous bridges over the river which will bring you to the other bank. The views are una meraviglia (marvellous). Why? Because the two banks are dotted by delle piazzette (small squares) full of trattorie and osterie. The surrounding buildings are typical for Tuscany and attract with its splendor while la Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina on one of the banks is just amazing.
Now we have no other chance but dive into the labyrinth of tiny, winding streets in which we can get lost easily. But only this way, we can feel the rhythm and atmosphere of the town. Do you dare it? 😉 If you do, you won’t regret it because you will enjoy too many treasures of Pisa on your way. For example, you will enjoy the beauty of la Piazza dei Cavalieri. The Knights’ Square is the English name and it was given to this place in the middle of the 16th century. It was the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen and a centre of education (it was the main place where the higher learning institution was established, i.e. la Scuola Normale di Pisa, which is part of the University of Pisa).
After having wandered here and there, your way will bring you to l’Orto Museo botannico. It is the very first university botanic garden in the world which was founded by Luca Ghini (a naturalist, med person and botanist) in 1543-1544. In the beginning it was constructed on the banks of the Arno River. It occupied the buildings of l’Arsenale mediceo (the Medicean Arsenal) and later, in 1591, it was moved to its current place. Nowadays the Botanic Garden of Pisa houses plants from the 5 continents (from the African and American deserts, orchids from the Asian tropical forests, aromatic Mediterranean plants, distinct ones from the Tuscan marshes and many others.
Apart from this, l’Orto botanico possesses an adjacent museum. It was commissioned by Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici who loved the town of Pisa too much. He wanted to institute a “Gallery” which would give home to true “natural masterpieces”. This way he wanted to encourage and stimulate a lot of scientists at the Ateneo (at the University). Today the Botanic Museum of Pisa offers on display various objects for studies used till the 17th century which have turned into true masterpieces through the centuries.
We have already enjoyed the quietness and beauty of this “plant kingdom” and now it’s high time we headed to the most famous square in Pisa and one of the most visited places in the world – la Piazza dei miracoli (the Square of Miracles) which will reveal to you its treasures and pearls.