Sift through Europe’s best flea markets
By Sukie Chapman
5 June 2015
While on your railway holidays in Europe, spend an afternoon looking at a range of eclectic antiques. Here are some of the best flea markets to discover.Read more
At the merest mention of Pisa thoughts inevitably turn to a notoriously tilted medieval construction but there is far more to this beautiful and historic Italian town than the Leaning Tower alone.
Situated ten in Tuscany, north-west Italy and kilometres inland of a bay of the Tyrrhenian Sea where the Arno and Serchio rivers meet, Pisa was already a well-established town by the time the Romans colonised it in 180BC. In subsequent centuries Pisa's favourable location established the city as an important trading centre and maritime port and by the Middle Ages Pisa's naval fleet had proven its might in numerous conflicts with neighbouring towns and cities, going on to participate in the Crusades.
In the fourteenth century Pisa gained its university and found a new prosperity and reputation as a seat of learning and culture; something that the city retains to this day.
The result is a city that is a joy to explore, thanks to a rich legacy of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, the cultural buzz and colour that a thriving student community brings, a host of impressive galleries and museums and some beautiful public parks and gardens. Not forgetting, of course, the iconic architectural anomaly present by the curiously-listing bell tower of Pisa's magnificent cathedral…
Pisa's unmissable 'Square of Miracles' is, in reality, the Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) and is the site of the freestanding -and famously leaning - eleventh century bell tower. The stunning Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Ranieri itself dates back to 1092. The Piazza dei Miracoli attained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1987.
Standing opposite the cathedral, the magnificent circular and domed Battisterois Italy's largest baptistery and is notable not only for its beautiful Romanesque façade but also as the place in which the astronomer and physicist Galileo was baptised.
Pisa's National Museum is housed in a former Benedictine monastery and is dedicated to the protection of Italian artworks from twelfth to the eighteenth centuries which were originally displayed in the city's churches. Exhibits include fine sculptures and paintings from artists including Pisano, Fra Angelico and Donatello.
Now in its third location since its establishment in 1544, Pisa's Botanical Garden was the first in Europe and remains an oasis of natural beauty within the city. The garden is divided into themed sections including succulents, coastal plants, tropical plants, hydrangeas and aquatic plants, and features one of the oldest iron-constructed hothouses in Italy.