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Pisa - Corso Italia

Gloria - Casina di Rosa

The Mezzogiorno, south of the River Arno, has the two historic quarters of Sant'Antonio and San Martino. They are divided by a very lively street - Corso Italia, the main street (high street) of Pisa.

Before starting our walk through the city centre, there is a rule that every visitor in Pisa should remember; you must look up. Pisa can only be appreciated if you raise your eyes and look at the beautiful buildings.

>> See Gloria's Google Map for Pisa

Things to See on Corso Italia

Central Train Station: Our walk begins from the Central Train Station, on the southern edge of the center, south of the River Arno. The Central Station was built in 1863 and then refurbished after the bombing of World War II. This part of the city still has very clear signs of the atrocious bombings of 1944 when Pisa was attacked for 45 consecutive days: 57 bombings, over 3000 civilians killed and 50% of the buildings were destroyed. This tragedy is evident walking from the station towards Corso Italia. All the buildings are modern or have been rebuilt.

Map of Pisa showing walking route - Corso Italia,  Touring Club Italiano, Milano

Map of Pisa showing walking route - Corso Italia, © Touring Club Italiano, Milano

Piazza Vittorio Emanuale: Walking through via Gramsci, we arrive at an elliptical square, quite chaotic because of the traffic. This is Piazza Vittorio Emanuale, represented by the statue in the middle. Remember this square: most of the city busses stop here, there will soon be a major underground parking garage and the central Post Office is located here. The buildings in the square are neo-gothic in style and were built with the square in 1872 after the demolition of part of the city walls and the old Gate of San Giulio. Also located in this square is the church of Sant'Antonio, which gives its name to one of the quarters. The church was rebuilt after the World War II bombing with the exception of the facade, which is in the typical Pisan style.

Near the church, in the square, is one more thing you must not miss - in Via Zandoni, there is a massive mural by Keith Haring from 1989. The artist chose Pisa as the host city for his last impressive work of art before his premature death in 1990.

Corso Italia: Continue and walk down Corso Italia, the liveliest and most crowded street in the city. Corso Italia belongs to the Quarter of San Martino, which we will visit again at the end of the tour.

This is a very good place to shop; the best shops can be found here and in Borgo Stretto, on the other side of the river. There are also numerous jewelers here.

At the beginning of the Corso Italia on your right is the little Church of San Domenico, part of a convent of Dominican nuns. The little church was built in the 14th century by Pietro Gambacorti for his daughter, the blessed Chiara. Next to the church is a beautiful building in liberty style, built in 1911 by the architect Studiati, and now home to a nice commercial centre, called Corte di San Domenico.

Just a few steps north and on your right, there is a beautiful noble palace called Palazzo Gambacorti (14th century); it was built according to the style in fashion in Venice at the time. Palazzo Gambacorti is beside a small square and the huge Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine. The side walls are original from the 14th century, while the facade belongs to the 17th century. The statue in the square represents Nicola Pisano and was made by Salvini in 1826. The interior is decorated in the baroque style, with the exception of the vestry which is furnished with original wooden pieces from the 15th century. The church has a beautiful cloistered court.

If you continue towards the river you find several other beautiful noble palaces until you finally come to the Logge dei Banchi, a porticoed building built at the beginning of the 17th century where once were the jails. It once held the wool and silk market, and later the food market. Now it houses the monthly antique market (second Sunday of the month) and the Christmas market. The top room is part of the National Archive and can be accessed from a bridge connected to the Town Hall building, Palazzo Gambacorti.

Palazzo Gambacorti is one of the most beautiful noble buildings built by the powerful Pisan families on the Lungarni. It faces the river and Ponte di Mezzo (literally, the middle bridge). Pietro Gambacorti had it built at the beginning of the 14th century and the tradition says that he was killed here, on the doorstep in 1393.

Opposite the City Hall, on the other side of the Logge dei Banchi there is the Palazzo dell'Orologio, with the clock that still represents a reference point for all the people who go out for the evening struscio in Corso Italia.

Palazzo dell'Orologio on Corso Italia

Palazzo dell'Orologio on Corso Italia

www.comune.pisa.it/doc/webcam.htm: Webcam of Corso Italia seen from the Torre dell'Orologio

What you don't want to miss on the Corso Italia:

  • A piece of Pisan pizza, cooked in baking tins upside down or a piece of cecina, a soft thick omelette, a sort of polenta, made with chickpea flour. To be eaten with pepper and with or without focaccia.
  • A Nutella wafer - you will smell the shop.
  • Need a haircut? Jerry or Cheope are the trendiest hairdressers in the whole city.
  • Need an Internet cafe? There is one in Via della Nunziatina, the first street on the left after the Feltrinelli bookshop (going towards the river) or the second on the right (going towards the station), and one in the beautiful Piazza Gambacorti or Piazza la Pera opposite Via della Nunziatina.
  • Do you like comics? Go to Fumettando, a comic shop in Piazza Gambacorti.

You have now walked along Corso Italia and reached the river. Let's say that you are a real slow traveler and you want to see Pisa for real, then you must explore the historic quarter of Sant'Antonio, to the west side of Corso Italia.

>> Continue to Sant'Antonio Quarter

Gloria lives in Pisa and runs two vacation rentals: Casina di Rosa, a house in a village in the Tuscan countryside south of Siena, and Behind the Tower, an apartment in Pisa.

© Behind the Tower, 2005

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