Pisa Tourist Attractions
Pisa, chief town of its province, lies on the Arno in the northern coastal region of Tuscany. In Roman times it was a considerable port, but as a result of the silting-up of the mouth of the Arno it now lies fully 10km/6mi inland.
In all probability Pisa was originally a Greek foundation of the seventh or sixth century B.C. The town, which then lay on the coast, was equipped by the Romans with a harbor which became of great military and commercial importance. In medieval times Pisa was able to maintain its importance as a port in spite of Saracen raids; and the defeat of the Saracens by Pisan and Norman forces at Messina and Palermo in 1063 marked the beginning of Pisa's rise to become mistress of the western Mediterranean. The cathedral was built in thanksgiving for these brilliant victories. The Pisans took part in the first Crusade with a large fleet and brought back huge quantities of booty. Commerce and industry flourished, and architects, sculptors and painters created works famed throughout Europe.
Towards the end of the 11th century Pisa became the first town in central and southern Italy to be governed by the townspeople themselves, political authority being exercised by a Council of Twelve. Pisa took the Ghibelline (Imperial) side in the conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa with the grant of extensive lands in the coastal area between the present-day towns of Portovénere and Civitavecchia. But Pisa had constantly to be prepared to defend itself against attack by its rivals - the land powers Lucca and Florence, the maritime republics of Amalfi and Genoa.
At the peak of its power the Republic of Pisa was mistress of the Near East, Greece, North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and the Balearics; but on August sixth 1284 it suffered an annihilating defeat at the hands of the Genoese in the naval Battle of Meloria and thereafter ceased to exist as a Great Power. Democratic rule alternated with dictatorship; the city was compelled to give up its possessions and its profitable trading activities; for a time it was held by the Visconti family of Milan, and in 1406 was captured by Florence. The Médici who now ruled Pisa took a keen interest in the town, promoting great engineering projects like the regulation of the rivers Arno and Serchio and the construction of bridges and canals. The destinies of Pisa were now increasingly bound up with those of Florence. During the Second World War Pisa suffered considerable damage in Allied air raids, now long since made good.
Pisa is the birthplace of the mathematical and scientific genius Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).