History of Pisa - The Maritime Republic
Originally founded on the shore, Pisa was historically an important port city and centre of traffic. Moreover, it was the capital of a maritime empire and a fair competitor, in the Mediterranean, to the other Italian maritime republics: Amalfi, Genoa and Venice. After the coastline relocated approximately 6 miles outland, Pisa, as we know it today, is recognised as having significant historical and cultural importance, both for its marvellous monuments and its important University.
From its humble beginnings as an Etruscan port, Pisa rose to become a maritime powerhouse during the Middle Ages, thanks to its strategic location on the Arno river. As a result, Pisa could counter the commercial expansion of the Byzantines and Saracens and even established its colonies and commercial hubs throughout the Mediterranean.
However, the city's dominance began to decline in the 14th century, and by the early 15th century, it fell under Florentine control.
The Leaning Tower and Piazza dei Miracoli
Piazza Dei Miracoli, one of the most famous sights in Italy and the world - also nominated a UNESCO World Heritage Site - was built during the maritime republic period and represented Pisa’s splendour. The square has changed during the centuries (especially during the Medicean domination), and took on its final appearance in the 19th century.
Here lies the Duomo, one of the world's prominent examples of Pisan-Romanesque architecture, housing works of art such as the pulpit by Giovanni Pisano.
Next to the Duomo stands the world-famous Leaning Tower. The height of the Tower is 55.86 metres (183 feet 3 inches) from the ground on the low side and 56.67 metres (185 ft 11 in) on the high side. There are seven bells, the largest of which was cast in 1655 and weighs three and a half tons.
Close by is the circular Baptistery - the largest of its kind in Italy - and the Campo Santo Monumentale , a cemetery built in the form of an abbey, sitting alongside both the Baptistery and the Duomo.
University of Pisa
The University of Pisa was born in 1343 and is one of the most important in Italy. Incredibly prestigious are the Scuola Normale Superiore (founded by Napoleon in 1810, following the example of the Parisian École Normale) located in the beautiful Piazza dei Cavalieri, and Scuola Sant’Anna.
At the Ateneo, there are nearly 300 courses (including masters and specialisation schools), 20 different departments and 17 libraries. As one can imagine, the university and the students are a big part of daily life.
Being a university town, Pisa is very young and vibrant, full of places to enjoy an aperitivo, inexpensive and cheerful restaurants and good libraries for a bit of shopping.
Events in Pisa
Pisa is a lively city and celebrates its historical events and traditions with passion and good humour. Although there are many events in Pisa, the well-known are the ones that celebrate the saint patron of the city, St. Ranieri.
The first of these is the Luminara di S. Ranieri: it takes place on June 16th, and, on this occasion, all the buildings along the Arno are lit with candles hanging on the facades. The atmosphere is very evocative, and on the same evening, fireworks are launched from the river bank.
The following day, on June 17th, the Regata di S. Ranieri takes place.A rowing race on the Arno between the four ancient quarters of the city. Finally, we have Il Gioco del Ponte - The Game of the Bridge - held on the last Sunday of June. This is a "push-of-war" played in mediaeval costume and a dispute between the north and south sides of the river.
Pisa Surroundings - Valdera, L’Alta Val di Cecina and the Etruscan Coast
The province of Pisa is vast and studded with many charming old villages worth visiting, and the main areas are Valdera and the Alta Val di Cecina.
Valdera is a geographic area of Pisa’s Province which consists of several municipalities. The most relevant are: Lari, Plaia, Vicopisano, Lajatico, Peccioli and Buti. The landscape of the area is characterised by gentle hills interspersed with small streams.
Valdera is equally suggestive as more famous areas in Tuscany (like Montalcino or Chianti), but it is significantly less touristy and, in a way, more authentic. This is a very varied rural area where those who love nature can discover fun trekking routes, go horseback riding or cycle on the panoramic roads that wind through farms and villages full of history.
L’Alta Val di Cecina lies south of the Province of Pisa and retains traces of its long and intricate history and traditional way of life. Step into an otherworldly landscape of unspoiled countryside and scenic views, where a unique geothermal area beckons with its steaming jets and fumaroles. Take your time to fully experience the magic of this special place – the rewards of your patience will be well worth it. In Val di Cecina lies Volterra, famous for being an important Etruscan city and for its alabaster.
Finally, we have the Etruscan Coast: even though Pisa was one of the 4 Maritime Republics during the centuries, it has lost most of its shores. Nowadays, the only direct access to the sea is Marina di Pisa and the coast that stretches from Livorno to Piombino, an area that used to be Pisa's but now belongs to the province of Livorno. This coast is characterised by its 90 km of wild beaches alternated with rocky capes, clear waters teeming with fish, long pine forests and Mediterranean bush.
Pisa offers the best of both worlds – the hustle and bustle of city life combined with the beauty and tranquillity of the Tuscan countryside. Along with its stunning monuments and world-renowned university, Pisa is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in art, architecture, and Italian culture. With our extensive selection of handpicked villas to rent in Pisa and Valdera, you can experience it all in style.
If you have any questions or you need support, please don’t hesitate to contact the Salogi Team. Our expert will help you plan your tailored holiday in Tuscany.
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Only a few regions can offer such a beautiful and rich panorama as Chianti: green hills sketched by miles and miles of vineyards and olive groves, ancient walled villages, panoramic curvy roads.