Shortly about Pisa and his History: read about our Folkore
Althought Pisa, like many ancient cities, grew up along the banks of a river, its urban development was complex. In the Middle Ages, prior to the year 1000, the entire city was comprised in what is now the Santa Maria quartiere. As the military and economic power of the Maritime republic grew, so did the population and the city itself, the circle of of the city walls was extended (by Cocco Griffi on XII cent.) until it encompassed much of the area the south of the river: was created one new district. Later the city unification followed and the three old existing quarteri came into four: Santa Maria, San Francesco, located to the north of the river, San Martino and Sant'Antonio, to the south.
So Pisa is divided into two parts by the Arno River, 15 km away from the Tyrrhenean coast, 80 km away from Florence, the regional capital, and 300 km from Rome; Pisa has a number of archeological remains dating the town back to Etruscan people and to Rome.
The city gained in importance from the end of the first millenium, when it became a great Marine Republic with commercial influence on the coast of the Tyrrhenean Sea, Corsica, Sardinia and the Baleari Islands.
Centuries of history lay under four metres of alluvial mud near the Leaning Tower: in occasion of excavations for a new train-line on December 1998, the greatest assortment of ancient Roman and Pisan ships (18 units datable from 5th cent. B. C. to the 5th cent. A. D.) appeared on the surface. They are very well preserved, with their load of pots, tools vases, merchandise and, for the first time, animals and humans rests. It confirms the presence of a fluvial harbour in Pisa in that era.
Pisan power and wealth found material expression in the magnificent 12th cent. Cathedral, built in the new Pisan Romanesque style, for religious functions and meetings for the representatives of the people in the Middle Ages. This new style was inspired to the design and decorations of the Roman basilicas and to Islamic architectural and decorative motives.
This is shown in the use of marbles taken from Roman monuments, in the Islamic design of the Cathedral's dome, in the Gothic taste of the sculptures of the Baptistery etc... Similar cultural influences could be found in many other churches in Pisa, where the same artists of the square worked. Inside the buildings that make up the Square the Museum of the Sinopites and the Cathedral Works Museum worth a long visit; some of the churches you can't miss are along the Arno banks: S.Maria della Spina and S. Paolo a Ripa d'Arno. Some other are near the center of the city as S. Cecilia, S. Francesco, S. Pierino, S. Michele in Borgo: these are splendid examples of the pisan-romanesque style.
You can also visit the San Matteo museum and the "Arsenale delle Galee" on Lungarno Simonelli, where in ancient times the ships belonging to the Kinghts of Santo Stefanoused to be armied.
The role of Pisa is fundamental and not only in the architecture: Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni are the beginners of a new era in sculpture....similar to the one Dante and Petrarca initiated in literature, which would influence the great artists of the following centuries like Brunelleschi, Donatello, Michelangelo, Giotto.
Pisa is also Galileo Galilei's birthplace.
The decadence of Pisa's importance began in the 13th cent., after Pisa suffered a serious defeat by Genoa, and in the 14th century, when it was conquered by Florence. Now Pisa is a quite and gentle town, a little just over 100.000 inhabitants, whose most important cultural poles are the famed University (attended since the 12th century) and the Scuola Normale Superiore, founded in 1810 by Napoleon, who modelled it after the Parisian University, with the same name. In Pisa there's the Sant'Anna School of University Studies and Doctoral Research.
These two centres of learning, the University and the Scuola Normale, have continued to excel in the spheres of scientific and classical studies. Some brilliant minds are: Antonio Pacinotti, who built the first dynamo and laid the way for the electric motor; the poets Giovanni Pascoli and Giosue' Carducci, the Nobels Enrico Fermi and, recently, Carlo Rubbia.
Reading Personalities you can read about subjects who lived in Pisa in different periods, You can read how the city is changed in centuries.