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Pisa - The Town Today

Gloria - Casina di Rosa

Symbol of Pisa

Pisa is known throughout the world because of the Leaning Tower. Campo dei Miracoli is no doubt a wonderful place to visit, and it's not by chance that it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. However, being the town of such a popular monumental complex has not been totally positive for the city. For a very long time, this part of the city was valued above all others, at the expense of many other incredibly beautiful spots and other possible itineraries.

Until few years ago, Pisa didn't have proper tourist maps of the city with itineraries through the city center. Tourists arrived by train or by bus, were taken on a short guided tour of the Campo dei Miracoli, and then back to their bus or train. Very few tourists know the other Pisa, the city that Pisan people have built and lived in, and where they still live.

There is no doubt that the Duomo and the Tower tell much of the history of the city, especially its artistic history, since they represent the most excellent expression of the so-called Pisan Romanesque style, which brings together the simplicity of the Romanesque style and Oriental suggestions and decor. However, Pisa also has very important Etruscan elements, many Roman remains, Gothic churches, and magnificent Renaissance buildings.

Palazzo Medici

Palazzo Medici

A person traveling to Pisa has two choices: to come for few hours and take a quick tour of the Campo dei Miracoli and rush away, or to spend at least a whole day in the city (and possible longer) and discover the city which has been neglected for such a long time, and which has things very different from anywhere else in Tuscany.

Two Neighborhoods and Four Historic Quarters

Pisa's city center is divided by the River Arno into two neighborhoods and four historic quarters (Quartieri storici).

  • Mezzogiorno south of the river contains the historic quarters of Sant'Antonio and San Martino.
  • Tramontana north of the river contains the historic quarters of Santa Maria and San Francesco.

Map of Pisa showing walking route - Sant'Antonio Quarter, © Touring Club Italiano, Milano
Click for larger image.

The 12th century city walls, which are considered among the longest walls built in the Middle Ages, enclose these neighborhoods. Pisa started to expand outside the city walls only at the beginning of the 20th century, therefore all of its history is within the ancient town boundaries.

The first settlements were on the northern shore of the River Arno, approximately where Piazza delle Vettovaglie is now.

The next pages describe these neighborhoods in detail and take you on a suggested walk starting at the train station, on the southern edge of town, and working your way around the town in a clockwise direction.

  • Walk north on the Corso Italia, the main shopping street, to the River Arno
  • Head west to explore the Sant'Antonio quarter
  • Cross the river and explore the Santa Maria quarter
  • Continue east and explore the San Francesco quarter
  • Cross back over the river and explore the San Martino quarter

This will give you a good tour of Pisa.

>> Start the walking tour on Corso Italia

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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