Pisa ( ; ) is a city in
Tuscany, central Italy, on the right bank of
the mouth of the Arno
River on the Ligurian Sea.
It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa
. Although Pisa is known
worldwide for its Leaning Tower (the bell tower of the
city's cathedral), the city of over 87,500 residents contains more
than 20 other historic churches, several palaces, and various
bridges across the Arno River.
Pisa's origins remained unknown for centuries. The city lies at the
junction of two rivers, Arno and Serchio in the
Sea forming a laguna area. The Pelasgi, the Greeks, the
Etruscans and the Ligurians have
variously been proposed as founders of the city.
Archeological remains from the 5th century BC confirmed the
existence of a city at the sea, trading with Greeks and Gauls
. The presence of an Etruscan necropolis
, discovered during excavations in the
in 1991, allowed to clarify its Etruscan origins.
authors referred to Pisa
as an old city. Servius
wrote that the
, or Pelopes
king of the Pisei
, founded the town thirteen
centuries before the start of the common era. Strabo referred Pisa's origins to the mythical
Nestor, king of Pylos, after the
fall of Troy.
Virgil in his Aeneid
states that Pisa was already a great and developed centre by the
times described; the foundation of the city in the 'Etruscan lands'
has been credited to settlers from the Alpheus
maritime role of Pisa should have been already prominent if the
ancient authorities ascribed to it the invention of the rostrum: it took advantage of being the only port
along the western coast from Genoa (then a
small village) to Ostia. Pisa served as a base for Roman naval
expeditions against Ligurians, Gauls and Carthaginians.
Old half of Pisa (view from Leaning
In 180 BC, it became a Roman colony under
Roman law, as . In 89 BC, became a municipium
. Emperor Augustus
fortified the colony into an
important port and changed the name in . From 313 it became the
seat of a bishopric.
Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages
During the later years of the Roman
. Pisa did not decline as much as the other cities of
Italy, probably thanks to the complexity of its river system and
its consequent ease of defence. In the 7th century Pisa helped Pope Gregory I by supplying numerous ships in
his military expedition against the Byzantines of Ravenna: Pisa was
the sole Byzantine centre of Tuscia to fall
peacefully in Lombard hands, through
assimilation with the neighbouring region where their trading
interests were prevailing. Pisa began in this way its rise to the
role of main port of the Upper Tyrrhenian Sea and became the main
trading centre between Tuscany and Corsica, Sardinia and the southern
coasts of France and Spain.
had defeated the
Lombards under the command of Desiderius
in 774, Pisa went through a crisis but soon recovered. Politically it became
part of the duchy of Lucca.
930 Pisa became the county centre (status it maintained until the
arrival of Otto I
the mark of Tuscia
. Lucca was the capital
but Pisa was the most important city, as in the middle of 10th
century Liutprand of Cremona,
bishop of Cremona, called Pisa ("capital of the province of Tuscia"),
and one century later the marquis of Tuscia was commonly referred
to as "marquis of Pisa".
In 1003 Pisa was the protagonist of
the first communal
war in Italy,
against Lucca of course. From the naval point of view, since the
9th century the emergence of the Saracen
pirates urged the city to expand its fleet: in the following years
this fleet gave the town an opportunity for more expansion. In 828
Pisan ships assaulted the coast of North
. In 871 they took part in the defence of
Salerno from the Saracens.
In 970 they gave also
strong support to the Otto
expedition, defeating a Byzantine
fleet in front of Calabrese
The power of Pisa as a mighty maritime nation began to grow and
reached its apex in the 11th century when it acquired traditional
fame as one of the four main historical Maritime Republics
of Italy ( ).
time, the city was a very important commercial centre and
controlled a significant Mediterranean merchant fleet and navy.
It expanded its
powers by the sack in 1005 of in the south of Italy. Pisa was in
continuous conflict with the Saracens
had their bases in Sardinia and Corsica, for control of the
Mediterranean. In 1017 Sardinia was
captured, in alliance with Genoa, by the
defeat of the Saracen king Mugahid.
victory gave Pisa the supremacy in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
When the Pisans subsequently ousted the
Genoese from Sardinia, a new conflict and rivalry was born between
these mighty marine republics. Between 1030 and 1035, Pisa went on to
successfully defeat several rival towns in Sicily and conquer
Carthage in North Africa. In 1051–1052 the
admiral Jacopo Ciurini conquered Corsica, provoking more resentment from the Genoese.
admiral Giovanni Orlando, coming to the aid of the Norman Roger I,
took Palermo from the Saracen pirates.
The gold treasure
taken from the Saracens in Palermo allowed the Pisans to start the
building of their cathedral and the other monuments which
constitute the famous .
In 1060 Pisa had to engage in their first battle with Genoa. The
Pisan victory helped to consolidate its position in the
Mediterranean. Pope Gregory VII
recognized in 1077 the new "Laws and customs of the sea" instituted
by the Pisans, and emperor Henry IV
granted them the right
to name their own consuls, advised by a Council of Elders. This was
simply a confirmation of the present situation, because in those
years the marquis had already been excluded from power. In 1092
Pope Urban II
awarded Pisa the
supremacy over Corsica and Sardinia, and at the same time raising
the town to the rank of archbishopric.
sacked the Tunisian city of Mahdia in
Four years later Pisan and Genoese ships helped
Alfonso VI of Castilla
push El Cid
out of Valencia
. A Pisan fleet of 120
ships also took part in the First
Crusade and the Pisans were instrumental in the taking of
Jerusalem in 1099.
On their way to the Holy Land
the ships did not miss the occasion to
sack some Byzantine
Pisan crusaders were led by their archbishop Daibert
, the future patriarch of Jerusalem
. Pisa and the
other took advantage of the crusade to establish trading posts and
colonies in the Eastern coastal cities of the Levant
. In particular the Pisans founded colonies in
Antiochia, Acre, Jaffa, Tripoli, Tyre, Joppa, Latakia and Accone.
had other possessions in Jerusalem and Caesarea, plus smaller colonies (with lesser autonomy) in
Cairo, Alexandria and of course Constantinople, where the Byzantine
Emperor Alexius I Comnenus
granted them special mooring and trading rights.
these cities the Pisans were granted privileges and immunity from
taxation, but had to contribute to the defence in case of attack.
In the 12th century the Pisan quarter in the Eastern part of
Constantinople had grown to 1,000 people. For some years of
that century Pisa was the most prominent merchant and military ally
of the Byzantine Empire, overcoming
Pisa and the Pope Paschal II set up,
together with the count of Barcelona and other contingents from Provence and Italy (Genoese excluded), a war to free the Balearic
Islands from the Moors: the queen and the
king of Majorca were brought in chains to Tuscany.
though the Almoravides soon reconquered
the island, the booty taken helped the Pisans in their magnificent
program of buildings, especially the cathedral, and Pisa gained a role of pre-eminence in the
In the following years the mighty Pisan fleet, led by archbishop
, drove away the
after ferocious combats. Though
short-lived, this success of Pisa in Spain increased the rivalry
with Genoa. Pisa's trade with the Languedoc and Provence
(Noli, Savona, Fréjus and Montpellier) were an obstacle to the Genoese interests in
cities like Hyères, Fos, Antibes and Marseille.
The war began in 1119 when the Genoese attacked several galleys on
their way to the motherland, and lasted until 1133. The two cities
fought each other on land and at sea, but hostilities were limited
to raids and pirate-like assaults.
In June 1135, Bernard of
took a leading part in the Council of Pisa, asserting
the claims of pope Innocent II
those of pope Anacletus II
, who had
been elected pope in 1130 with Norman
support but was not recognized outside Rome. Innocent II resolved
the conflict with Genoa, establishing the sphere of influence of
Pisa and Genoa. Pisa could then, unhindered by Genoa, participate
in the conflict of Innocent II against king Roger II of Sicily
. Amalfi, one of the
Maritime Republics (though already declining under Norman rule),
was conquered on 6 August 1136: the Pisans destroyed the ships in
the port, assaulted the castles in the surrounding areas and drove
back an army sent by Roger from Aversa.
victory brought Pisa to the peak of its power and to a standing
equal to Venice.
later its soldiers sacked Salerno.
In the following years Pisa was one of the staunchest supporters of
party. This was much
appreciated by Frederick I
in 1162 and 1165 two important documents, with the following
grants: apart from the jurisdiction over the Pisan countryside, the
Pisans were granted freedom of trade in the whole Empire, the coast
from Civitavecchia to Portovenere, a half of Palermo, Messina, Salerno and Naples, the whole
of Gaeta, Mazara and Trapani, and a street with houses for its merchants in
every city of the Kingdom of
Some of these grants were later confirmed by
, Otto IV
and Frederick II
. They marked the apex
of Pisa's power, but also spurred the resentment of cities like
Lucca, Massa, Volterra and Florence, who saw their aim to expand towards the sea
thwarted. The clash with Lucca also
concerned the possession of the castle of Montignoso and mainly the control of the , the main trade
route between Rome and France.
Last but not least, such a
sudden and large increase of power by Pisa could only lead to
another war with Genoa.
Genoa had acquired a largely dominant position in the markets of
Southern France. The war began presumably in 1165 on the
Rhône, when an attack on a convoy,
directed to some Pisan trade centres on the river, by the Genoese
and their ally, the count of Toulouse failed.
Pisa on the other hand was allied to
. The war continued until 1175
without significant victories. Another point of attrition was
, where both the cities had privileges
granted by Henry VI
Pisa managed to conquer Messina. This episode was followed by a series of
battles culminating in the Genoese conquest of Syracuse in 1204. Later, the trading posts in Sicily were lost
when the new Pope Innocent III,
though removing the excommunication
cast over Pisa by his predecessor Celestine III, allied himself with the
Guelph League of Tuscany,
led by Florence.
Soon he stipulated a pact with Genoa too,
further weakening the Pisan presence in Southern Italy.
counter the Genoese predominance in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea,
Pisa strengthened its relationship with their Spanish and French
traditional bases (Marseille, Narbonne, Barcelona, etc.) and tried to defy the Venetian rule of the Adriatic Sea. In 1180 the two cities agreed to a
non-aggression treaty in the Tyrrhenian and the Adriatic, but the
death of Emperor Manuel Comnenus in
Constantinople changed the situation.
Soon there were
attacks on Venetian convoys. Pisa signed trade and political pacts with
Ancona, Pula, Zara, Split and Brindisi: in 1195 a Pisan fleet reached Pola to defend its
independence from Venice, but the Serenissima managed soon to reconquer the rebel sea
One year later the two cities signed a peace treaty which resulted
in favourable conditions for Pisa. But in 1199 the Pisans violated it by
blockading the port of Brindisi in Puglia.
following naval battle they were defeated by the Venetians.
The war that followed ended in 1206 with a
treaty in which Pisa gave up all its hopes to expand in the
Adriatic, though it maintained the trading posts it had established
in the area. From that point on the two cities were united against
the rising power of Genoa and sometimes collaborated to increase
the trading benefits in Constantinople.
there were in Lerici two
councils for a final resolution of the rivalry with Genoa.
twenty-year peace treaty was signed. But when in 1220 the
II confirmed his supremacy over the Tyrrhenian coast from Civitavecchia to Portovenere, the Genoese and Tuscan resentment against Pisa
grew again. In the following years Pisa clashed with
Lucca in Garfagnana and was
defeated by the Florentines at Castel del
The strong Ghibelline
position of Pisa brought this town diametrically against the Pope,
who was in a strong dispute with the Empire
. And indeed the pope tried to
deprive the town of its dominions in Northern Sardinia
Pope Gregory IX formed an alliance
between Genoa and Venice against the
Empire, and consequently against Pisa too.
One year later he
excommunicated Frederick II
and called for
an anti-Empire council to be held in Rome in 1241. On 3 May 1241, a
combined fleet of Pisan and Sicilian ships, led by the Emperor's
son Enzo, attacked a Genoese convoy carrying
prelates from Northern Italy and France, next to the Isola del
Giglio, in front of Tuscany: the
Genoese lost 25 ships, while about thousand sailors, two cardinals
and one bishop were taken prisoner.
After this outstanding
victory the council in Rome failed, but Pisa was excommunicated.
This extreme measure was only removed in 1257. Anyway, the Tuscan
city tried to take advantage of the favourable situation to conquer
the Corsican city of Aleria and even
lay siege to Genoa itself in
Ligurian republic of Genoa, however,
recovered fast from this blow and won back Lerici, conquered
by the Pisans some years earlier, in 1256.
expansion in the Mediterranean and the prominence of the merchant class urged a
modification in the city's institutes.
The system with
consuls was abandoned and in 1230 the new city rulers named a
Capitano del Popolo
("People's Chieftain") as civil and
military leader. In spite of these reforms, the conquered lands and
the city itself were harassed by the rivalry between the two
families of Della Gherardesca
. In 1237 the archbishop
and the Emperor Frederick II
reconcile the two rivals, but the strains did not cease. In 1254
the people rebelled and imposed twelve ("People's Elders") as their
political representatives in the Commune. They also supplemented
the legislative councils, formed of noblemen, with new People's
Councils, composed by the main guilds and by the chiefs of the
People's Companies. These had the power to ratify the laws of the
Major General Council and the Senate.
decline began on 6 August 1284, when the numerically superior fleet
of Pisa, under the command of Albertino Morosini, was defeated by the
brilliant tactics of the Genoese fleet, under the command of
Benedetto Zaccaria and Oberto Doria, in the dramatic naval Battle of
This defeat ended the maritime power of
Pisa and the town never fully recovered: in 1290 the Genoese
destroyed forever the (Pisa's Port), and covered with salt
. The region around Pisa
did not permit the city to recover from the loss of thousands of
sailors from the Meloria, while Liguria
guaranteed enough sailors to Genoa. Goods continued to be traded, albeit in
reduced quantity, but the end came when the Arno started to
change course, preventing the galleys from reaching the city's port
up the river.
It seems also that nearby area became infested
. Within 1324 also
Sardinia was entirely lost in favour of the
, Pisa tried to build up
its power in the course of the 14th century and even managed to
in the Battle of Montecatini
the command of Uguccione della
. Eventually, however, divided by internal struggles
and weakened by the loss of its mercantile strength, Pisa was
conquered by Florence in 1406. In 1409 Pisa was the seat of a
trying to set the question
of the Great Schism
. Furthermore in
the 15th century, access to the sea became more and more difficult,
as the port was silting up and was cut off from the sea. When in
1494 Charles VIII of France
invaded the Italian states to claim the Kingdom of Naples
, Pisa grabbed the
opportunity to reclaim its independence as the Second Pisan
But the new freedom did not last long. After fifteen years of
battles and sieges, Pisa was reconquered in 1509 by the Florentine
troops led by Antonio da
, Averardo Salviati
and Niccolò Capponi
of major port of Tuscany went to Livorno.
Pisa acquired a mainly, though secondary,
cultural role spurred by the presence of the University of Pisa
, created in 1343. Its
decline is clearly shown by its population, which has remained
almost constant since the Middle Ages.
Pisa was the birthplace of the important early physicist, Galileo Galilei
. It's still the seat of an
archbishopric; it has become a light industrial centre and a
railway hub. It suffered repeated destruction during World War II
View of the (Plaza of miracles).
Pisa experiences a Mediterranean
climate classification Csa
) characteristic of Central
and Southern Italy.
The Monumental in the
Tower is the most famous image of the city, it is one of
many works of art and architecture in the city's , also known,
since XX century, as (Square of Miracles), to the north of the old
town center. The also houses the (the Cathedral), the
Baptistry and the (the monumental cemetery).
St' Francis' church
Other interesting sights include:
- Knights' Square ( ), where the , with its impressive façade
designed by Giorgio Vasari may be
- In the same place is the church of , also by Vasari. It had
originally a single nave; two more were added in the 17th century.
It houses a bust by Donatello, and paintings by Vasari, Jacopo Ligozzi, Alessandro Fei, and Jacopo Chimenti da Empoli. It also contains
spoils from the many naval battles between the Cavalieri (Knights
of St. Stephan) and the Turks between the 16–18th century,
including the Turkish battle pennant hoisted from Ali Pacha's flagship at the 1571
- Also close to the square is the small church of St. Sixtus. It was formally consecrated in 1133,
but previously used as a seat of the most important notarial deeds
of the town , also hosting the Council of Elders. It is today one
of the best preserved early Romanesque buildings in town.
- The church of St. Francis,
designed by Giovanni di Simone,
built after 1276. In 1343 new chapels were added and the church was
elevated. It has a single nave and a notable belfry, as well as a
15th‑century cloister. It houses works by Jacopo da Empoli, Taddeo Gaddi and Santi
di Tito. In the Gherardesca Chapel are buried Ugolino della Gherardesca and his
- Church of San Frediano, built by 1061, has a basilica interior with three aisles, with a
crucifix from the 12th century. Sixteenth century paintings were
added during a restoration, including works by Ventura Salimbeni, Domenico Passignano, Aurelio Lomi, and Rutilio Manetti.
- Church of San Nicola, built by 1097, was enlarged between 1297 and 1313
by the Augustinians, perhaps by the
design of Giovanni Pisano.
The octagonal belfry is from the second half of the 13th century.
The paintings include the Madonna with Child by Francesco Traini (14th century) and St.
Nicholas Saving Pisa from the Plague (15th century).
Noteworthy are also the wood sculptures by Giovanni and Nino Pisano, and the Annunciation by Francesco di Valdambrino.
small church of Santa Maria della Spina, attributed to Lupo di Francesco (1230),
is another excellent Gothic building.
- The church of San Paolo
a Ripa d'Arno, founded around 952 and enlarged in the
mid-12th century along lines similar to those of the Cathedral. It
is annexed to the Romanesque
Chapel of St. Agatha, with an unusual pyramidal cusp or peak.
- The , a neighborhood where one can stroll beneath medieval
arcades and the Lungarno, the avenues along the river
Arno. It includes the Gothic-Romanesque church of San Michele
in Borgo (990). Remarkably, there are at least two other
leaning towers in the city, one at the southern end of central ,
the other halfway through the riverside promenade.
- The Medici Palace, once a possession of the Appiano family, who
ruled Pisa in 1392–1398. In 1400 the Medici acquired it, and
Lorenzo de' Medici sojourned
- The is Europe's oldest university botanical garden.
- The ("Royal Palace"), once of the Caetani patrician family. Here Galileo Galilei showed to Grand Duke of Tuscany the planets he
had discovered with his telescope. The edifice was erected in 1559
by Baccio Bandinelli for Cosimo I de Medici, and was later
enlarged including other palaces.
- , a Gothic building of the 14th century, is now the town hall. The interior shows frescoes boasting
Pisa's sea victories.
- , a Gothic building also known as , with its 15th century
façade and remains of the ancient city walls dating back to before
1155. The name of the building comes from the coffee rooms of ,
historic meeting place founded on 1 September 1775.
- The mural , the last public work of Keith Haring, on the rear wall of the convent
of the Church of Sant'Antonio, painted in June 1989.
Pisa boasts several museums:
- : exhibiting among others the original sculptures of Nicola Pisano and Giovanni Pisano and the treasures of the
- : showing the sinopias from the
camposanto, the monumental cemetery. These are red ocher underdrawings for frescoes, made with reddish,
greenish or brownish earth colour with water.
- : exhibiting sculptures and painting from 12th century–15th
century, among them the masterworks of Giovanni and Andrea
Pisano, the Master of San
Martino, Simone Martini, Nino Pisano and Masaccio.
- : exhibiting the belongings of the families that lived in the
palace: paintings, statues, armors, etc.
- : exhibiting a collection of instruments used in science,
between whose a pneumatic machine of Van Musschenbroek and a compass
probably belonged to Galileo
- , located in the Certosa di
Calci, outside the city. It houses one of the largest cetacean
skeletons collection in Europe.
Pisa hosts the University of
, especially renowned in the fields of Physics
and Computer Science
, the and the , the Italian
academic élite institutions, mostly for research and the education
of graduate students
Construction of a new leaning tower of glass and steel 57 meters
tall, containing offices and apartments was scheduled to start in
summer 2004 and take 4 years. It was designed by Dante Oscar Benini
Palaces, towers and villas
Notable people associated with Pisa
For people born in Pisa, see People from the
Province of Pisa
; among notable non-natives long resident in
- Gaetano Bardini, tenor;
- Sergio Bertoni, Italian
- Andrea Bocelli, Italian
- Andrea Buscemi, actor;
- Giancarlo Ceccarini,
- Giorgio Chiellini, Italian
- Enrico Fermi and Carlo Rubbia, physicists & Nobel prize
- Galileo Galilei, physicist;
- Antonio Pacinotti, physicist,
inventor of the dynamo;
- Andrea Pisano, sculptor;
- Bruno Pontecorvo,
- Leonardo Fibonacci,
- Giosuè Carducci, poet &
Nobel prize winner;
- Antonio Tabucchi, writer;
- Orazio Gentileschi,
- Leo Ortolani, comic writer;
- Afro Poli, baritone;
- Gillo Pontecorvo,
- Marcello Rossi, baritone;
- Titta Ruffo, baritone;
- Jason Acuña, appears in
- Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and
Giovanni Gronchi, politicians,
former Presidents of the Republic of Italy;
- Giuliano Amato, politician,
former Premier and Minister of Interior Affairs;
- Giovanni Gentile, philosopher
- Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, noble
(see also Dante Alighieri);
home to the Galileo Galilei Airport.
The centre can be reached in 10 minutes
by city bus — the bus line L.A.M. Rossa (Linea ad Alta Mobilità)
connects the airport, the central railway station
and Piazza dei Miracoli.
Otherwise the centre can be reached in 5 minutes by train.
Local bus service in Pisa is managed by Compagnia Pisana Trasporti
(CPT). Intercity buses depart from the main bus station
in Piazza Sant'Antonio. There are also
several privately run bus services going from the airport to
Florence, Siena and other
cities in Tuscany.
The city is served by three railway stations: Pisa
, Pisa Aeroporto
and Pisa San
is the main railway station and is located
along the Tyrrhenic railway line. It connects Pisa directly with several
other important Italian cities such as Rome, Genoa, Turin, Naples, Livorno, Grosseto and Florence.
San Rossore links the city with Lucca (25 minutes
from Pisa) and Pistoia and is also reachable from Pisa
It is a minor railway station located near
the Leaning Tower zone.
connects the airport to the central railway
station, as well as the city of Florence. It is located next to
the Galileo Galilei International
two exits on the A11 Genova to Livorno road, Pisa Nord and Pisa
Pisa Centro leads visitors to the city
is the main sport in
Pisa; the local team, Pisa Calcio
currently plays in the Italian Serie B
(second-highest division), and has had a top flight history
throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, featuring several world class
players such as Diego Simeone
during this time.
- Gioco del Ponte (folklore)
- Luminara di San Ranieri
- Regate delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare
- Premio Nazionale Letterario Pisa
- Pisa Book Festival
Twin towns — Sister cities
Pisa is twinned