The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The History of Pisa

Pisa is a city that is beautiful, ornate, and rich in history. It is home to some of the most magnificent tourist and cultural attractions in Europe.

Pisa is much more than a city with a funky bell tower- it is a mecca of centuries-old culture, commercial endeavors, ancient settlements and high education. Though it is most famous for its incredible leaning tower, it is quite clear to those who spend some time in Pisa that there's much more going on that flawed construction.

The City of Pisa, as we know it today, is the result of many global influences that affected the entire world, not just Italy and the surrounding areas. World War II took its toll on the city, damaging many of the famous buildings and historic areas. However, both residents of the City of Pisa and Italy itself have beautifully restored Pisa to a state that is modern and functional, as well as historic.


The Early Years

Map of Pisa in Italy

The Location of Pisa in Italy

The City of Pisa was first settled in a region of Italy that was relatively uninhabited at the time. Of course, " Italy " wasn't around then, and Pisa was a Roman settlement. Pisa was a coastal town and acted as an important Roman port and merchant center. Pisa , which is separated in the middle by the River "Arno", began its long life with zeal as it expanded along the coastline.

Pisa existed long before the Roman empire though, in ancient Roman texts Pisa is called an old city. Who actually founded Pisa is not sure, but it is thought that the founders where one of these:

  • The Pelasgi
  • The Greek
  • The Etruscans (in 1991 an Etruscan burial ground, aka necropolis, was found)
  • The Ligurians

Of course, no great city's history is complete without the typical myriad of wars, conflicts, and skirmishes, and Pisa fails to disappoint. Pisa acted as a commercial center first and foremost, but during times of war it acted as a port, where it was able to launch a devastating array of vessels and was able to maintain control of the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans used the port of Pisa to launch naval atacks against the Gauls, Ligurians and Carthagenians.

In 180 BC Pisa was actually called Portus Pisanus, a Roman colony. In 89 BC it was named Colonia Iulia Obsequens and the city was fortified by emeror Augustus.


Pisa During The Middle Ages

During the middle ages Pisa was involved in many conflicts that were a source of military victories and economic wealth for the city. Believe it or not, but there was a long period of time where Pisa, as a military and economic body, was feared and respected for its might. In the 12th and 13th century, Pisa had its heyday and conquered Sardinia, amongst others.

Over time the City of Pisa began to expand from a shoreline encampment and eventually became a full-fledged city, with the cultural backing that rivaled its initial military might. Major religious symbols, such as the Duomo (and its world-famous bell tower), have changed Pisa's image over time, and it is now better known for its top-tier university (which is one of the most prestigious universities in Europe) and the beautiful architecture and religious significance of the Duomo, Baptistery, and Camponsanto.


Pisa's Decline

Pisa's decline started in 1284 when it was beaten by Genoa in the Battle of Meloria.

In 1509, Pisa was conquered by the Florentines and this was the finish of Pisa's independence. Pisa was no longer the most important port of Tuscany, that role went to Livorno.

In 1871 Pisa became a part of Italy.


Pisa Today

World War II showed its ravages on this historic city, with the Duomo bearing the brunt of an incendiary bomb. However, Italy has spent a lot of time, money, and resources restoring the City of Pisa to its original state. In fact, the leaning tower of Pisa has even been reopened and declared stable for the next couple hundred years.

There's no better time than the present to visit Pisa , especially with the beautiful artistic restoration that's taken place over the last several decades.