GALILEO GALILEI’S BIRTHPLACE
Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa on 15 February 1564. Inside the Cathedral is kept his baptismal paper, reporting clearly the place where he was baptized: the “Chapel of Saint Andrea”. From this information, attempts were made for a long time to find out the real birthplace of Galilei, and over the centuries, many locations have been given for sure, according to some thesis,that have proven to be highly unreliable. Among these, one was based on the memorial plaque still visible between Borgo Largo and via Mercanti. Finally 50 years ago, a definitive location has been determined, with reasonable certainty. That is Casa Ammannati, located in via Giuseppe Giusti. There lived Galileo Galilei’s grandparents, by a church named “S.to Andrea foris porta” at that time. On the walls of the building, a commemorative plaque was placed, in order to indicate the real birthplace of Galilei.
Address: via Giuseppe Giusti, 24
The Archbishop’s Palace (Palazzo Arcivescovile) is located in Piazza Arcivescovado and it’s certainly one of the most imposing building in the city. It dates back to 1400s, but it was modified afterwards several times, especially in the façade, which dates back to 1700s. The palace includes a wide inner courtyard, surrounded by a fifteenth-century porch, where some busts of several Pisan archbishops are preserved, together with a statue of Moses by Andrea Vaccà, dating back to 1700s.
Address: Piazza Arcivescovado
How to get: bus lines 4 and 21
PALAZZO LANFREDUCCI or PALAZZO ALLA GIORNATA
Palazzo Lanfreducci, called “alla giornata”, stands on Lungarno Pacinotti. The building, by the architect Cosimo Pugliani, was built by the order of Fra’ Francesco Lanfreducci, knight of Malta, in late 1500s and early 1600s.
There are many curiosities around this palace, beginning with its name: Pisans call it palazzo “alla giornata” because of the cryptic sentence standing on the façade, above the front door. According to someone, the expression “alla giornata” would be the translation for the famous Orazio’s “carpe diem”; according to others, it would go back to a vow by fra Francesco Lanfreducci during his captivity in Turkey. A different explanation is that the motto represented a sort of perpetual challenge because, at the times the palace was built, the expression “alla giornata” was used to indicate the day of the battle. Below the mysterious inscription a piece of chain hangs. Several explanations have been suggested also for this detail: for someone it would be a memento of the long period of Lanfreducci’s captivity in Turkey, for others the chain would be a rest and a reminder of the church of Saint Biagio, called “alla catene”, which used to stand there before the construction of the palace incorporated it.
Now this elegant building is the seat of Pisa University Chancellorship.
Address: Lungarno Pacinotti
How to get: bus lines 2, 4, 5, 13, 21 and 22, “green lam”
PALAZZO GAMBACORTI or PALAZZO COMUNALE (TOWN HALL)
Palazzo Gambacorti is the City council’s seat since 1689 and it’s located on Lungarno Gambacorti. The building, presumably designed by Tommaso Pisano, was realized between 1370 and 1392 at the request of the Gambacorti family, one of the wealthiest and most influential families belonging to the pisan merchant nobility. The building has two façades: the north façade, in Gothic style and decked with mullioned windows, remained intact since its construction; while the south façade, characterized by a marble doorway and the great Medici crest, dates back to the 17th century.
Address: Piazza XX settembre
How to get: bus lines 2, 4, 5 and 14, “red lam”, “green lam”
PALAZZO GIULI or PALAZZO BLU
Palazzo Giuli stands on lungarno Gambacorti and it’s also known as Palazzo Blu because of the unusual colour of the plaster and of the name of the museum hosted in some of its rooms. The building was at first the result of the renovation of some medieval tower houses, then many architectural changes were made, also according to the frequent change of the ownership. The greatest renovation dates back to the end of 1500s, when the palazzo, a medieval domus in the origin, was turned into a late Renaissance palace; and in 1700s, when Palazzo Giuli hosted guests from St. Petersburg, who made some changes according to the russian art of that period. Just then the building gained the blue colouring, characteristic of St. Petersburg’s palaces. Today inside Palazzo Giuli you can admire the collections and the cultural activities of the Foundation Palazzo Blu - Centro D’Arte e Cultura.
Address: via Pietro Toselli, 29
How to get: bus lines 2, 4, 5 and 14, “red lam”, “green lam”
THE AGOSTINI PALACE or THE USSERO PALACE
The Agostini Palace, also known as the Ussero Palace, is one of the most beautiful and authentic buildings that embrace Pisa's lungarnos.
The building was made between the XIV and the XV century, as one of the first examples of the civil Gothic architecture in Tuscany. Through time, the palace was the property of some different families such as the Astai, da Celino da Capannoli, and at the end it became the property of the Agostini family.
Since 1775 it is the home of the Ussero Caffè, the historic bar that was often visited by some famous Italians at the time, like Giuseppe Giusti, Giosuè Carducci, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, etc..
The palace is also known as the home of the oldest active Italian cinema, the Cinema Lumiére. The first idea of the cinema started in 1899 with some projections in the billiard hall of the Caffè dell'Ussero. The cinema hall then moved in the back of the building, occupying its present position.
Pietro Pierini, a professor of the University of Pisa, made here his experiments in the field of the addition of a sound.
After the World War II, Lumiére changed its name into Supercinema.
The ancient Palazzo della Gherardesca is another wonderful work by Vasari, who decided to join two pre-existing towers: Torre delle Sette Vie or jail of the municipality on the left and Torre della Muda on the right. The second one was later called “della fame” (Hunger Tower), after the count Ugolino della Gherardesca starved to death there, imprisoned with two of his sons and nephews and charged with treason. This fact was celebrated by Dante in the famous 33rd canto of Interno. Torre delle Sette Vie and Torre della Muda belonged to the Della Ghelardesca family and they were connected by an arch, in order not to close the access to the square. In 1696 a clock was placed over this arch, that is why it has been called Palazzo dell’Orologio (Clock Palace).
Today, it hosts the library of Scuola Normale Superiore.
The Nero’s Baths are the remains of a thermal structure going back to 1st century d. C. and they represent the only excavations of the city in Roman times. The attribution to Nero is due to a longstanding tradition by which relations between the roman emperor and Pisa was very close, but, according to many historians, it’s an incorrect attribution.
The best conserved room is the sala ottagona of the“sudatio laconicum”, a room used for the warm air bath. The others buildings, in poor state of conservation, nowadays are nowadays ruins and remains of walls. Address: largo del Parlascio, 26 How to get: bus line 4
TORRE GUELFA AND OLD CITADEL
The Torre Guelfa or “New Citadel tower” stands where, in ancient times, there was the Republic Arsenal, an area devoted to the intense shipbuilding activities of the city. There the fleets of the maritime Republic of Pisa were built, and they established themselves over the entire Mediterranean in 1200s. In 1400s, during the first Florentine domination, the Arsenal was turned into the actual structure of the Old Citadel, a fortress at the end of the pisan walls.
At the first years of 1400s dates the Torre Guelfa too, tall enough to control the sea and the whole of Pisa, initially used as fire tower.
The tower was completely destroyed through bombings in 1943-1944, but it was re-built after the war. Today the tower is open to the public: inside there is a collection of crests belonging to all families who ruled the city and on the top you can admire an amazing view.
Address: Piazza Tersanaia, lungarno Ranieri Simonelli
How to get: bus lines 6, 10, 20 and 21