National Museum of San Matteo, Pisa, Italy

It is well known that Pisa’s main attraction is its Leaning Tower, but a visit to this Tuscan city should not overlook the hidden gem, the National Museum of San Matteo, Pisa, Italy, or St. Matthew.

Located in a scenic setting on the banks of the River Arno, the museum is housed in the Benedictine Convent of San Matteo. Recently renovated, this beautiful structure is well worth a look just for itself. The museum’s collections showcase art works by leading Pisan and Tuscan masters dating between the 12th and 18th centuries such as stunning paintings, sculptures, ceramics and illuminated manuscripts. Because it contains a wealth of valuable and historic objects, the National Museum of San Matteo is included among Europe’s most important medieval art museums.

National Museum of San Matteo, Pisa, ItalyAmong the museum’s outstanding display of paintings is the group of 12th and 13th century painted crosses. Collected from Pisa’s oldest churches, these paintings are the works of fine artists such as Giunta di Capitino, Maestro di San Martino and Berlinghiero Berlinghieri. Also included in this section are panel paintings by Giovanni di Nicola, Simone Martini and Benozzo Gozzoli. Paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries feature works by masters like Buonamico Buffalmacco, Francesco di Traino, Gentile da Fabriano, Spinello Aretino and others. A couple of notable works on display in this collection include a 15th century painting of Jesus Christ and an illustration of St. Ursula saving the city of Pisa from flooding.

The museum’s sculpture section features 15th century works that were collected from the city’s churches for better preservation. Examples of these beautiful pieces include masterpieces like Tino di Camaino’s “Nativity,” a polyptych by Simone Martini and the “Breastfeeding Madonna,” or the “Madonna del Latte,” by the artist brothers Nino and
Andrea Pisano. Additionally, there are a few impressive wooden pieces here by Agostino di Giovanni and Francesco di Valdambrino.

A collection of medieval ceramics contains the famous bust-relic of St. Lussorio by Donatello as well as glazed terracotta earthenware from the school of Della Robbia. Also of worthy attention are the ceramic basins that formerly adorned the outside walls of Pisa’s historic churches.

A number of illuminated manuscripts dating between the 12th and 14th centuries can also be viewed in the museum. The shining piece in this collection is the Bibbia di Calci, an illustrated Bible dating back to 1168.


Cathedral of St. Ranieri, Pisa, Italy

In the wide square known as Piazza del Duomo known as the Cathedral Square or Piazza dei Miracoli, the Duomo or Cathedral of St. Ranieri, Pisa, Italy is an impressive structure in Romanesque architectural style. People come from all over the world to admire the building as well as to see another building in the square, the famous Leaning Tower or bell tower. Admiring the architecture, visitors enter the cathedral for veneration and worship as well as for studying the design and history of the stunning piazza and Pisa.

The cathedral is laid out in the shape of the cross with the dome on the eastern end. While the structure is definitely built in the Romanesque style, hints of influence from the Bysantines show in the details of arches with points and interior mosaics. One of the most impressive mosaics that remained after the devastating Duomo fire of the late 1500s was “Christ in Majesty.” The ceiling is gilt and much of the beautiful interior was redecorated and filled with new art after the fire.

Cathedral of St. Ranieri, Pisa, ItalyAlso of interest is the use of marble in white and various other colors on the exterior and interior. The floors are quite elaborate and lovely. Because of the use of the light colored marble, the play of sunlight on the exterior changes breathtakingly as the sun travels across the sky.

Saint Ranieri is the patron saint of Pisa. He was born and lived much of his life in Pisa during the mid-1100s. He lived a spiritual life like a saint with only a little variance in when he was very young. Upon his death, Ranierius Scacceri was entombed in the cathedral that was in the process of construction in Piazza del Duomo in Piza where his casket was made into an elaborate shrine at the altar in the mid-1600s.

To visit and explore, the Cathedral is spectacular. The small entrance fee is definitely worthwhile. Inside is a museum and throughout the building are tombs of well-known people, amazing artwork and historic relics. This cathedral in this square in Pisa, Italy is one of the most beautiful churches on the planet.


Baptistry of St John, Pisa, Italy


Most guests who consider the offerings of Pisa, Italy, immediately think about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, the location offers a bountiful array of architectural feats that deserve equal if not more attention. The Baptistry of St John, Pisa, Italy an architectural marvel, abounds with beauty, design and historical significance that every guest has the opportunity to appreciate.

The building draws on traditional Italian Romanesque and Gothic architectural influences. The baptistery was the second structure to be completed in the Piazza dei Miracoli after the completion of the Duomo Cathedral to signify the city’s wealth and prominence.

Baptistry of St John, Pisa, Italy The completion of the building took 200 years, and it stands approximately 55 meters high, slightly taller than the Leaning Tower. The lower extremities of the baptistery consist of a spacious gallery buttressed by classical arches and pillars. The upper levels echo the Gothic style with sharp arches pointing to the heavens. Hovering above the entrance way of the baptistry is a relief portraying the life of Saint John the Baptist as well as one of Christ, the Madonna and a medley of evangelists and angels. The apex of the entrance is marked by a significant statue depiction of the Madonna with the child.

The interior of the baptistery features vibrant stained glass windows and the signature baptismal pool. The baptismal at the center of the space originates from 1246 and is large enough to accommodate baptisms by total immersion. An pillar reveals the identity of the architect responsible for creating the structure known as “Diotisalvi”. This architect also built the Church of the Santo Sepolcro housed in central Pisa. Moreover, the inside of the structure boasts perfect acoustics enabling a visitor to experience sound that travels around the dome for several seconds. Applause too fosters a splendid echo effect demonstrated often by the staff of the institution.

Photographers have the opportunity for great views and shots from the upper balcony of the space with vistas of the the Leaning Tower, the Duomo Cathedral and the rest of the Piazza dei Miracoli. Legend maintains that the private citizens of Pisa founded the construction of the structures beginning in the early 12th century with each family to pay one denaro for the building. In addition, most visitors are surprised to learn that baptistry like the cathedral and the tower also leans slightly 0.6 degrees towards the cathedral. This and other surprising curiosities await visitors of the Baptistry of St John.


Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa Italy


One of the most iconic architectural structures of Italy is part of this famous Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa Italy or la Piazza del Duomo. That iconic building is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The historic piazza is spectacular with its lovely green grass and treasured architecture. The hallowed features of the piazza that draw visitors from all over the globe are the baptistery, the duomo, the bell tower and the cemetery.

People come to see this lovely place for many reasons from just desiring to step foot in such a famous location to needing to photograph the site for extra credit on a school report or multi-media presentation. When they arrive, the scenes before them are captivating. Therefore, visitors soon understand why the square is considered the most beautiful piazza in Italy and even the world.Duomo Pisa, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa Italy

This square has been a World Heritage Site since 1987. In Pisa, Italy, the spot is named la Piazza del Duomo or the “Cathedral Square.” However in 1910, an Italian author and poet wrote concerning the piazza describing it as a field of miracles under Heaven. The thought took hold and the piazza has become known as Piazza dei Miracoli.

Those visiting observe the Romanesque design style and the architectural details on the buildings’ exteriors and interiors. The Duomo was constructed starting in the mid-1060s. The Baptistery began rising in the mid-1100s. The Bell Tower, Campanile or the Leaning Tower of Pisa as it is better known was built in the late 1100s. Then, the Campo Santo or monumental cemetery building in Gothic style was constructed beginning in the late 1200s.

The spacious green grassy areas and the dominating historic structures are impressive. No matter how many people are in the square at the same time, no one feels crowded because of the immensity and the presence of the sacred edifices. Although the features are placed in opposition to the natural order of time as exists in the pathway of the sun across the sky from east to west, the west to east layout of the piazza represents the seasons of life.

Consequently, visitors can take the journey of birth to death as they tour the square. The baptistery represents birth, the duomo is the lifetime, the bell tower is like life’s culmination and the cemetery is death. The inspiring walk can bring new inspiration and perspective on living.


Camposanto Monumentale, Pisa, Italy


The Camposanto Monumentale, Pisa, Italy has a long and interesting history. Visitors to the historic “Holy Field” will see architecture dating back to the crusades of the middle ages as well as the art and design of the renaissance period. The Camposanto is one of the must-see attractions for anyone visiting Italy with an interest in religion, art and design.

Designed by Giovanni di Simone, the same man who designed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Camposanto encompassed holy ground. Italian knights on crusades to the holy lands during the 12th century brought back to Italy soil gathered from Mount Golgotha. This is the mount where Christ was crucified according to Christian tradition.

Camposanto Monumentale, Pisa, ItalyThis soil was considered holy and served as the center of the monument developed by Simone. His design included an open rectangle maintained as a lawn that contained the Golgotha soil. Surrounding the lawn were marble columns and cloisters decorated with artistic paintings and frescoes.

Camposanto Monumentale became the cemetery of choice for anyone with financial resources and the proper community connections in Pisa. This continued from the project’s completion in the late 1200s through about 1779 when the cloisters were filled with remains. The monument contained numerous monuments including many reused from the earlier Roman eras.

Visitors today see a Camposanto Monumentale reconstructed after the destruction of the monument by Allied bombs during the battle for Italy in 1944. The monument was rebuilt as closely as possible to the original although some of the art as well as some of the decorative sarcophagi that housed the bodies. The reconstructed monument managed to salvage more than 80 of these ancient funeral artifacts as well as some of the art. The rebuilt Camposanto Monumentale contains some of the most important pieces of early and renaissance period art displayed to the public anywhere in the world.

The Camposanto is located within the modern city of Pisa. On the same grounds are the Baptistry of St. John built in the 12th century. The Pisa Duomo also shares the grounds creating three major religious structures on the same grounds. The cathedral and the baptistery both lean slightly due to the unstable ground of the area although neither offers the noticeable angle of the Leaning Tower.

Guided tours of the religious and historic sites of the Pisa area are available. Some visitors choose to tour the area on foot or with the use of a rental car.


Duomo, Pisa, Italy


The Leaning Tower of Pisa typically garners most of the attention of visitors who come to the city. The Duomo, Pisa however, represents a monumental architectural feat that deserves attention and recognition.

The structures exemplifies the beauty of Pisan Romanesque style. Construction began 1093, establishing the foundation for the artistic trend. Buscheto, the principal architect responsible for the structure, is buried to the left of the facade in the arch. Rainaldo, the architectural successor to Buscheto, constructed the facade.

Cathedral of St Ranieri, Duomo and Leaning Tower of Pisa, ItalyThe foundation level of the worship space features arcades with pastel marble and three openings with bronze doors. Four rows of arcades with stand above the structures with sensuous columns and arches of Moorish inspiration ascending to the summit.

The pupils of Giambologna cast the main door to the cathedral following the fire of 1595 that caused the destruction of the originals. Created by Bonnano Pisano in 1180, the original door of San Ranieri rests toward the south of the structure near the Leaning Tower. The Baroque bronze master Giambologna created the angels guarding the entry way to the choir section of the space. Andrea del Sarto painted the splendid St. Agnes with her Lamb in a Renaissance style.

Because of the fire in 1595 that destroyed most of the interior, much of it is decorated with Renaissance artwork and a few select medieval works that survived the inferno. The Tomb of Emperor Henry VII by Tino di Camaino is one of the surviving works located in the southern transpet as well as the pulpit by Giovanni Pisano. Ironically, after the fire, the pulpit had many detractors who thought that the piece was unsuited for the space. The pulpit, consequently, was dismantled and stored for approximately 400 years until it was rediscovered in the early 20th century and placed again for all to see.

Adjacent to the pulpit exists a low-hanging bronze lamp that Galileo supposedly observed during church services inspiring the law of the pendulum. History has proven, though, that the lamp in question was originally manufactured in 1586, years after Galileo had established his theory, though many believe another lamp had certainly hung in the space previously.

Filled with architectural and artistic splendor and historical intrigue, the Duomo is a site in Pisa that rivals the attraction and value of the Leaning Tower. Guests encounter a seminal space that provides a lens into the rich history of the city’s past.


Leaning Tower of Pisa

Many historical sites and monuments in Italy warrant the bevy of visitors they attract from around the world. However, the Leaning Tower of Pisa offers more than just another historical point of interest. The structure draws a medley of guests to marvel at its architectural elegance and eccentricity.

The signature feature of the tower, the campanile of the cathedral, is its peculiar, unintentional tilt. Located behind the Pisa’s cathedral, the structure is the third oldest in the city. Interestingly the tilt of the tower became apparent during construction in 1178 resulting from a poor foundation on ground too weak on one side to buttress the weight of the structure.Leaning Tower of Pisa

The long history of construction for the tower mirrored the vibrant history of the city. Building took place over 344 years in three separate stages. Once the tilt became apparent coupled with the city’s ongoing conflicts with Florence and Genoa, among other city-states, construction was halted for nearly 100 years.

Mystery and intrigue surrounds the identity of the true architect of the structure. Traditionally credit for the design was attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano. But, recent historical investigation has challenged this thinking. Some now believe the architect Diotisalvi was the original master architect because of the extent of time of construction as well as the endearing feelings toward the architect’s works, namely the the baptistery and bell tower of San Nicola in Pisa. Doubts, though, remain on whether Diotisalvi is the true architect because he traditionally signed his works, and no signature of his has been found, which has cultivated further speculation.

In addition to identifying the architect behind the tower, the structure has inspired historically significant moments. Galileo Galilei allegedly dropped two cannon balls with distinct masses from the structure to illustrate that their speed was not dependent on their mass. Like other tower legends, this has been disputed by historical research. The only source that has substantiated Galileo’s experiment has been his secretary. In World War II, the Allied forces found out that the German military was occupying the tower for its observational prowess. An American soldier sent to confirm the use of the tower by the German forces was so impacted by the magnificence and elegance of campanile and cathedral that he refused to order a military attack to spare the architectural wonder.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is not just another historical landmark or site. This structure offers a key into a world of historical intrigue and architectural beauty that continuously evolves to challenge the generations.


La Spezia, Italy

Italy. From the heights of the Alps to the stunning ruins of Rome, there is much to see and enjoy in this beautiful country. One of the loveliest places to visit in Italy is La Spezia. Nestled at the head of the Gulf of Le Spezia in the Liguria region of Italy, it is a quaint and distinctly Italian region. It is a northern city, and is a part of the capital city of Le Spezia. It also sits right between Pisa and Genoa on the Ligurian Sea. As a gateway to the ocean, it is one of the most well known commercial and industrial harbors in Italy. As well as hosting commercial industries in the harbor, it also holds Italy’s biggest military producer, OTO Melara.

La Spezia Harbor, Ligurian Coast, ItalyThe history of La Spezia dates back for nearly a millennia. It was settled during Medieval Times, but the height of its popularity and productivity came during the golden age of prosperity for the Roman Empire. It was the capital of the Niccoli Fieschi Signora between the years of 1256 and 1273. Obviously it was a short lived title. It was a part of the Genoese vicissitudes until the fall of the Geneon Empire, after which point it developed and changed into the Ligurian Capital. Today the Ligurian influence can be seen in the architecture and culture of the La Spezia area. During the late half of the 19th century, the military commissioned a naval base to be built under the Savoys. At the end of World War II, La Spezia became an important departure point for Jews who had survived the Nazi concentration camps. Many Jews were able to depart for Palestine from here without being detected.

La Spezia is a large and beautiful Italian province that draws visitors every year. Although it is not as famous as Rome, Almafi or Pisa, there is much to explore in this region. Because of the ancient history, there are many historical sites and sounds to experience when you visit. The climate of La Spezia is typical of a Mediterranean region, with hot, dry summers and springs and rainy falls and winters. Although there is no snow during the winter, sometimes an exception occurs and the village is dusted with a fine layer of white. The chief economic export of the region is their naval station and arsenal and their school of navigation, as well as their industrial and commercial sea ports.

There are many old historical sites to visit. The first and most famous is the Christ the King of Centuries Cathedral. Although not historical – it was consecrated in 1975 – it is an architectural feat and a popular center for worship in the area. The Santa Maria Assunta is an Abbey Church that was erected during the 13th century, thus holding much historical value. There are many museums, ruins and ancient sites of villages and churches in La Spezia, as well. The Castle of San Giorgio was built by Niccolo Fieschi in 1262.


San Gimignano, Italy

San Gimignano was a small village during the 10th century. Travelers on religious pilgrimages stopped there during medieval times. The town flourished during the 12th and 13th centuries. The townspeople sold produce grown in the countryside around the town. Several of the town’s towers were built during that time. The Black Plague decreased the town’s population and it came under the rule of the city of Florence. The town flourished again when it became a tourist destination in the 19th century.

The Collegiate Church of San Gimignano in the Piazza del Duomo is also referred to as the Duomo. It dates back to the 11th century. It was transformed from a small village church into a basilica between the 13th and 18th centuries. The Chapel of St. Fina in the church was built in 1468. The church is adorned with artwork from the 13th and 14th centuries.

San Gimignano, ItalyThere are more paintings from the 13th and 14th centuries in the Palazzo del Podesta. The palace is also in the Piazza del Duomo. It has a tower that was built in 1300. There are four other medieval towers in the Piazza del Duomo.

The Palazzo del Popolo is on the south side of the Piazza del Duomo. The entrance to this palace is in a courtyard from the 14th century.

Visitors can see items dating back to the 14th century in the Museum of Sacred Art. Religious items from the 12th to 19th centuries are on display here. This collection includes paintings, sculptures and reliquaries.

The Etruscan Museum has items found in the countryside around San Gimignano. Jewelry and pottery are displayed here.

Items made in Tuscany are available at some of the shops. Beconcini sells painted ceramics. Items made from olive wood are sold at Casa & Cose. Olive oil, wine and cashmere items made at a local farm are available at Ai Quattrorsi.

Local ingredients are used in dishes served at some of the town’s restaurants. The cookies at Bristot are made from natural ingredients from Tuscany. Fresh fruit is used to make the ice cream at the Gelateria dell’Olmo. Tuscan dishes served at Dulcisinfundo include white boar and pork meatballs in a saffron potato cream.

Visitors can stay in hotels or farmhouses. The Relais Cappuccina hotel has a wellness center with a heated pool, a sauna and a solarium. The farmhouses at Sassi Bianchi were built in the 16th century. They are close to woods and a lake. The farmhouse at Poggiacolle is on a hill overlooking the town.

The closest international airport to San Gimignano is in Florence. Travelers can take a train from Florence to the town of Poggibonsi. There is bus service from Poggibonsi to San Gimignano.


Pisa, Italy

Pisa, Italy is a city of around 90,000 people located on the western coast of central Italy in the Tuscany region . Its position on the Ligurian Sea and the proximity of major rivers has given it a long, rich history of culture and maritime power. While it is known primarily for its famous leaning tower, the city of Pisa has many other sights and attractions for the visitor or tourist.

The history of Pisa goes as far back as the 5th century BC, and possibly further. The first evidence of occupation places Etruscan origins on the city. The city is even mentioned in Virgil’s Aeneid as a thriving port of the time. During Roman times, Pisa became a primary base for naval expeditions, a tradition that would stay with it for more than a thousand years. All the way until 1290, when the Pisan fleet was finally defeat by the Genoese, they maintained control of the water with their impressive merchant fleet and navy. Pisa is also famous for being the birthplace of Galileo.

Pisa has a long and illustrious tradition of architecture. From its origins to modern day, each era saw new construction and many of these buildings still stand as testaments to the prowess of their builders. The most famous of these is, of course, the leaning tower. Built as a bell tower for the cathedral, the construction of this building began in 1173, though it did not finally see completion until 1319.

Aside from the leaning tower, there are many other wonders of architecture, including palaces, a host of historic churches of varying styles and eras, and the University of Pisa, which boasts an academic tradition dating all the way back to 1343. The Piazza del Duomo is the largest baptistery in all of Italy and is a wonder to behold. Knights’ Square, also known as the Piazza dei Cavalieri, was once home to the Order of the Knights of St. Steven. There are many museums throughout Pisa as well.

Pisa has a variety of tours for visitors to take, including bus tours, walking tours, boat tours along the rivers, and even segway tours. The coastline of the area is made up of stunning cliffs and small beaches for those that enjoy the natural scenery. Camping is even available for those that prefer the outdoors to a hotel.

Getting to and around Pisa is easy using the Galileo Galilei Airport, buses, or trains. There are a large number of hotels that vary in prices ranges and themes to match any tourist’s needs. With thousands of years of history and a reputation as a top tourist location, Pisa, Italy is a must see for lovers of culture, architecture, and art.