was one of the great maritime republics of medieval Italy - an immensely
wealthy city trading with the Orient.
Of course our sightseeing trip has to start with the leaning tower. But
over nearly two hundred years, Pisa's wealth funded not just the tower,
but a fine cathedral, a beautiful circular baptistery, and an elegant cloistered
cemetery. It's one of the most stunning pieces of townscape to have come
down to us from the early Middle Ages - and it's almost unchanged since
We'll also visit a magnificently austere octagonal church by the same architect
who built the baptistery, a delightful Renaissance square with painted palaces,
peaceful back streets and gardens on the other side of the river from the
cathedral, and a spiky Gothic chapel. We see the ruins of the Arsenal where
the Republic's great ships were built - and visit a bustling vegetable market.
From the 'Field of Miracles' we take
the back streets to visit the Piazza degli Cavalieri, with its Renaissance
painted palaces and ornate architecture. Then we visit the medieval centre
of the city with narrow streets, tower houses, and more fine Romanesque
churches playing variations on the design of the cathedral. Finally we make
our way over the Arno to the delightful octagonal church of Santo Sepolcro
- by Diotisalvi, the architect of the cathedral baptistery - and the lonely
huge church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno.