Off to Pisa, Italy!

Finally we are in Zone Yellow and able to travel from commune to commune within our regione. I am so fortunate to live in Tuscany and there are so many great communes to visit; it will keep me occupied until we can leave our regions.

On the first sunny day in quite a while, I took off for Pisa. It felt great to be at the train station once again and I was so happy to get on the train!

I made a short video of my visit, but the pictures below give more color of the wonderful things I saw.

After taking a quick spin around the Piazza Vittorio Emaneule II, not far from Pisa’s central train station, I spotted the first church on my itineary:

The Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate is a Romanesque-style building, founded in 1341, with an adjacent convent. It was nearly destroyed in World War Two, and was rebuilt. The façade, in two colors of marble, was the design product of Lupo, Giovanni di Gante, and Simone di Matteo of Siena.

On a back wall that was rebuilt after WWII, the American graffiti artist, Keith Haring, painted a great mural he entitled Tuttomondo, in 1989.

Speaking of graffiti artists, I enjoyed some less retrained examples around Pisa.

Next up, I spotted the Chiesa di S. Maria del Carmine, with its statue of the famed Pisan sculptor, Niccolo Pisano, out front. The church was originally built for the Carmelite order in 1324-1328. Perhaps most notably, at least for art historians, is that the Florentine Quattrocento painter, Masaccio, created a polyptych for this church, by 1425. Unfortunately, the altarpiece has been dismantled and parts of it are dispersed around the world. Only one panel of the altarpiece remains in Pisa in the National Museum of San Matteo. You can find info about the Masaccio masterpiece here:

I enjoyed looking at the various door styles found around Pisa, which are distinctively different than those I see every day in Florence. I particularly admired the spare, modern brass on this simple door.

I also enjoyed browsing at the store windows. One shop, on the left below, was sited in an elegant, old shop space, with mosaic floors and gorgeous woodwork and windows, while the ultra current H & M store was sited in an elegant old palazzo.

Here is an array of door knocks I spotted:

And equally interesting were some iron torch holders still visible on an old palazzo.

There were many door ensembles to admire throughout the old center of the city:

As I headed north through the city center, towards the Arno river, I saw this Medici coat of arms, reminding me that while Pisa and Florence were often in conflict through the centuries, the Medici dukes eventually ruled both communes.

I enjoyed walking along the Lungarno Mediceo on the north side of the river, as well as along the Lungarno Galileo Galilei on the south side. As you can see from the pictures, it was a spectacular February day, with temperatures in the 60s F.

While walking along the Lungarno Galilei, I spotted a plaque commemorating Percy Bysshe Shelley. I remembered that Shelley had spent some time in Pisa and I looked it up.

Here’s what I learned about Shelley’s stay in Pisa from this source:

“After wandering around Europe and in particular Italy, Shelley arrived in Pisa in 1820 with his family and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, author of the novel Frankenstein. It was a relatively happy stay for Shelley in his turbulent life; in fact, his goal was to move there permanently and create a circle of English gentlemen who could devote themselves to poetry.

“At the invitation of Shelley, in 1821 George Gordon Byron also reached Pisa where he settled in Palazzo Toscanelli on the Lungarno Mediceo. Byron brought his doctor, John Polidori, who was originally from Bientina, near Pisa, with him. Polidori was also the uncle of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a British painter and poet, as well as one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement.

“Shelley’s group, called the Circolo Pisano, and for two intense years, the poet’s home became a cultural center where English writers passing through Italy gathered. Many illustrious personalities were attracted to Pisa, among them the English writer Edward John Trelawny, who arrived in Pisa in 1822 and later also the poet and journalist Leigh Hunt.

“After Hunt’s arrival in Pisa, Byron and Shelley also founded a periodical called The Liberal. This literary periodical was supposed to host the works of poets, but the magazine was short-lived. Only four issues came out, in which appeared a series of translations of Shelley’s Faust and a work composed by Byron, the Vision of Judgment.

“In 1822 Shelley moved to Lerici, on the coast of the Ligurian sea, where he lost his life a few weeks later. A book of poems by Keats and the manuscripts of the works composed in Pisa were found together with his body .

“Thus ended the adventure of the Circolo Pisano and with it also a great period of English romantic poetry in Italy.”

On the opposite bank of the Arno river, along the Lungarno Mediceo, sits this fabulous palazzo, bearing a plaque commemorating the other famous English Romantic poet, Lord Byron.

There is much more to show and tell about Pisa, which I will be doing in coming posts!


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