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A weekend in Pisa, discovering the city on the banks of the Arno 

Pisa, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, has an ancient history and a rich culture that have always made it a source of inspiration for artists and travelers. Already in the fifth century it was an important Etruscan settlement and, even after the fall of the Roman Empire that had made it an important maritime hub, the city never lost its strategic port role.  

Despite the small size Pisa is full of surprises for the high concentration of monuments and breathtaking architecture. The walking tour on a weekend is not only possible but also particularly enjoyable because the main points of interest are all close together. 

The known Pisa and the unknown: a possible itinerary  

From Piazza dei Miracoli to the picturesque bank of the Arno every corner of the city of Pisa is an opportunity to discover the unique cultural identity of this territory, which offers many reflections on the indissoluble link between past, present and future. 

The most iconic monuments of the city meet in Piazza dei Miracoli. The Leaning Tower dominates the horizon with its unique inclination, architectural wonder that defies gravity for over eight centuries. Right next to it, the Romanesque facade decorated with polychrome marble of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta stands out against the blue sky (the area enjoys a very mild climate), while the Baptistery gives visitors the story of its thousand-year history made of art and sacredness.  

But the beauty of Pisa does not end here: along the banks of the river the picturesque Lungarno houses a series of historic buildings and charming churches. The Palazzo Blu, once a noble residence, now offers contemporary art exhibitions in an interesting dialogue with its past. The Church of Santa Maria della Spina enchants visitors with its grace and timeless elegance, thanks to its Gothic façade adorned with finely worked sculptures.

And while you get lost in the narrow and picturesque streets you may come across hidden treasures that tell stories of everyday life and ancient traditions. Borgo Stretto, with its characteristic shops and artisan shops, is a lively crossroads of culture and commerce, while the Scotto Garden, with its centuries-old walls and medieval towers, offers an oasis of peace and tranquility in the heart of the city. 

Foto . Unsplash

If you are looking for an experience out of the ordinary, consider including some of these stages in your itinerary. 

The mural by Keith Haring: it is located in a little-frequented street but in the center. Realized in 1989, it is the last work signed by the American artist before his death. 

The birthplace of Galileo Galilei: located in a quiet street near the river Arno, it is a place of great historical and scientific importance. Here the famous scientist was born in 1564 and spent the first years of his life, inspired by the beauty and greatness of the cosmos that he would later explore and study. 

The cinema Lumière: authentic retro charm, now converted into live club with a rich billboard. 

The Devil’s Nails: a series of enigmatic engravings of unknown author that are located along the north side of the Cathedral. Always the object of speculation and imaginative theories.

Pisa at the table, the taste of tradition 

Tuscany, rich in beauty even at the table, seduces its visitors with typical dishes handed down from generations of families, chefs and fans of regional cuisine. The raw materials include local products such as extra virgin olive oil, pecorino cheese, leafy green vegetables (especially kale and artichokes), high quality meat and fresh fish caught in the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

If Livornese cod, ribollita, Florentine steak and Chianti wine are known all over the world here is a list of lesser-known dishes, which we recommend you do not miss. 

Tuscan appetizer 

The Tuscan appetizer is an excellent introduction to Pisan cuisine and includes ham, salami of the “finocchiona” type, local cheeses, Tuscan bread croutons and marinated olives. An explosion of rustic and authentic flavors, which prepares the palate for the next joys. 

Bordatino alla pisana 

It is a thick and creamy soup made from corn flour and cannellini beans. Enriched with black cabbage and flavored with rosemary is the ideal comfort food to warm the soul in the colder months. 

Pallette alla pisana 

Pallette alla pisana are meatballs of beef and pork seasoned with Parmesan, parsley and eggs. They are cooked in broth and served with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.

Trenette alla renaiola 

A dish that celebrates together the flavors of sea and land: a fresh pasta similar to linguine, topped with a tuna sauce, fresh tomatoes, capers and black olives.  

Tripe alla pisana 

Tripe alla pisana is a rustic and hearty dish prepared with tripe of beef, tomato, onion, celery, carrot and parsley. It is cooked over low heat until it becomes tender and the sauce is saturated with flavor. 

Cecina 

We conclude with the typical Pisan road dish: a thin focaccia made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt, baked in the oven until it becomes crispy. It is deliciously simple but incredibly tasty. 

In June Pisa is celebrating 

If the crowd does not scare you, the most suitable month to visit Pisa is probably June: the beginning of summer brings with it a magical atmosphere because, coincidentally, many ancient traditions and festivities are celebrated in this period.  

La Luminara 

It takes place on June 16 to commemorate Saint Rainier, patron saint of the city. The banks of the river Arno and the buildings along its path are illuminated by thousands of torches, creating poetic reflections on the waters of the river. While the flickering lights pay homage to the maritime tradition of Pisa the city becomes the scene of an open air show much appreciated by professional and amateur photographers.

The Game of the Bridge 

It is a challenge of strength and skill that takes place on the last Saturday of June on the famous Ponte di Mezzo. Two teams, one representing the Tramontana (the district north of the river) and the other representing the Australe (the district south of the river), compete in a competition to push a cart along the bridge.  

The Historical Regatta 

It also takes place on June 16 along the Arno River: the historic boats face each other in a race that always reserves some surprises. Sailors dressed in period costumes and boats adorned with colorful flags create a fascinating spectacle that attracts tourists from all over the world. 

The Palio of San Ranieri 

The Palio of San Ranieri is the culmination of the celebrations for the feast of the patron saint of Pisa. It is held on the evening of June 17 and sees the four historical districts of the city (San Martino, San Francesco, Sant’Antonio, Santa Maria) compete in a walking race around the Piazza dei Miracoli. Participants wear medieval costumes and compete in a race of speed and endurance that attracts an enthusiastic and festive crowd.

Copertina: Unsplash

Autore: Eleonora Di Mauro

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