Processione delle Paniere

Typical religious procession with the famous basket of flowers in the streets of the village of Santa Maria a Monte. Santa Maria a Monte was the birthplace Galileo Galilei’s father Vincenzo, a distinguished composer and lute player. The family of the poet Giosuè Carducci lived in Santa Maria, where his father was a rural doctor. Every year on Easter Monday, the Processione delle Paniere (procession of the baskets) winds its way through the town. At this festival, girls carry a basket of flowers on their heads in honour of the Blessed Diana Giuntini, a wealthy fourteenth-century lady who gave up her belongings to live in poverty.

Scoppio del carro

The explosion of the cart is a manifestation of the popular secular-religious tradition that takes place on Easter Sunday in Florence. The brindellone, a pyrotechnical tower positioned on a cart, is pulled by a pair of oxen on the streets of the historic center of Florence and positioned between the baptistery and the cathedral. At the height of the ceremony, the archbishop lights a dove-shaped rocket from the altar of the cathedral, which, through a cord mechanism, runs through the central nave of the church and reaches the wagon outside, causing it to explode.

Camelie Lucchesia

Exhibitions, tastings, walks in the countryside, concerts and her, the undisputed queen of the event: the camellia. Secular camellia plants that recall the far east and thrill with their colors, their variety, with names that evoke characters and situations that know magic.A good opportunity to take advantage of it and visit the city of Lucca.

Capodanno Pisano (Pisan New Year’s)

At noon, the city will enter the new year, according to the calendar “in Pisan style” that makes coincide the first day of the year with that of the Annunciation (this calendar remained in force until the Grand Duke of Tuscany ordered everyone to adapt to the beginning of the year with the first of January, but there are still some irreducible fanatic who take the opportunity to celebrate the new year twice!).

Viareggio’s Carnival

One of the best known in Italy, the Carnival in Viareggio has its origins at the end of the 19th century.

The parades draw thousands of visitors of all ages, who come to see both the spectacular floats and parade as well as participate in the festive air that can be breathed in the town on the days of the masquerade processions.

The Carnival in Viareggio is not just for adults, children are more than welcome and have loads of fun together with their parents. The whole procession takes place during daylight hours, in great celebration with everyone in costumes one way or another and lots of music. The festive spirit draws everyone to join in and dance around as well.

I would personally add the Carnival to the list of “things to do at least once in a lifetime”, but I’d also bet that anyone who has the chance to visit and participate will come back more than just once.

Keith Haring Mural

The idea of creating a mural in Pisa happened by chance when a young Pisan student met Haring on the street in New York. The theme, peace and harmony in the world, can be read through the links and divisions between the 30 figures which, like a puzzle, occupy 180 square metres of the south wall of the church of St. Anthony in the centre of Pisa.

Each figure represents a different aspect of peace in the world: the “human” scissors are the image of solidarity between Man in defeating the serpent (symbol of evil), which is already eating the head of the figure next to it; the woman with a baby in her arms represents maternity, and the two men supporting the dolphin refer to Man’s relationship with nature.

Choosing subtle colours, toning down the violent colours which had always been characteristic of his work, Haring takes his inspiration from the colours of the buildings in Pisa and of the town in general, to create a work which would be in harmony with its social and environmental setting. It is one of the very few outdoor public works created by Haring for permanent display. In fact, he spent more time producing it, a full week, than the one or two days it took him to paint most of his other murals. On the first day, working on his own, and without any preparatory sketches, Haring drew the black outline. For the rest of the week, he filled in the outlines assisted by students and craftsmen from the Caparol Center, the suppliers of the acrylic tempera paint, selected because it keeps its colour for a long time.

Botanical Garden and Museum

The Botanical Garden in Pisa, founded in 1543-1544 on the banks of the Arno by the naturalist Luca Ghini, is the first university botanical garden in the world. In 1591, it was moved to its current location in the heart of the historic center, between piazza dei Miracoli and piazza dei Cavalieri. The botanical garden extends across three hectares and is home to plants from all over the world, including medicinal plants like foxgloves, aquatic plants, and centuries-old trees, such as a majestic magnolia and a ginkgo planted at the end of the 1700s and an enormous camphor tree planted in 1872.

The Botanical Museum is also located here, which began as the Gallery of Natural History, founded in 1591 by Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando I de’ Medici as a place to collect “works of nature”: visitors can admire 17th-century portraits of famous botanists, a collection of objects used for teaching botany at the university, including didactic watercolours, and the splendid Herbarium, comprising over 300,000 samples and of particular importance for its size, historic interest and the modernity of its use.

The Knights’ Square

The Knights’ Square or Piazza dei Cavalieri, lined with splendidly decorated buildings, has for centuries been the political heart of Pisa and is the second most important square after The Square of Miracles. A visit to the Renaissance church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri will give you a real insight in the colourful maritime history of the city.

It was in this square that in 1406, Florence’s emissary proclaimed the end of the independence of Pisa. One hundred and fifty years later Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, asked his favourite architect Giorgio Vasari to modernise this space in Renaissance style. He dedicated the square to his recently founded military order of the Knights of Saint Stephen, whose duty it was to fight the advancing Ottoman Empire.

Pisa Cathedral

Pisa Cathedral Dome is the Cathedral, it is not sacred as Basilica (the only one in Pisa is San Piero a Grado), but is the main church as well as the Archbishop’s Office.

Its origins are medieval and although devoted to Santa Maria Assunta, it was originally called Santa Maria Maggiore.

Begun in 1063/1064 (Pisan Calendar applicable at that time) by the architect Buschetto, with part of the loot of the battle/war in Sicily against Muslims, it was created with the merger of different stylistic elements from classical, Byzantine, Lombard-Emilian and Islamic, as a demonstration of the power of the markets of Pisa at that time at international level.

In 1092 from simple Cathedral, the Church became Primatial (title of primate conferred by Archbishop Daibert and Pope Urban II ), today only formal title.

The Cathedral was consecrated in 1118 by Pope Gelasius II, expanded over the years, with projects of changing the façade until the present appearance of the complex building, which is the result of repeated restoration campaigns occurred in different ages (the more radical intervention was a result of the disastrous fire of 1595, where even the roof was rebuilt!).

Magnificence in prevalent Romanesque style (Pisan Romanesque), it symbolizes the prestige and wealth of the maritime Republic of Pisa at the height of its power and of its strength. Five naves compose its structure with transept to three naves, architecturally composed from three basilicas (Central Body and two transepts). Its external style is full of multi-coloured marble decorations, mosaics, including the most important one, that of the ” Apse Catino made by Cimabue, and many bronze objects. The arches recall the Muslim influences and southern Italy and many objects and decorations are the result of war spoils, as the immense granite Corinthian columns between the nave and the apse, which come from the mosque of Palermo.

Fonte Gaia Fountain

The magnificent Fonte Gaia fountain, designed by Jacopo della Quercia around 1419, adorns the higher part of Piazza del Campo. The fountain we see today stands on the exact spot occupied by a previously existing fountain in 1346. The water that feeds the fountain travels from a spring in the nearby countryside through 25 kilometres of underground passages known as Bottini, built in the Middle Ages and named thus on account of their barrel vaulting.

The fountain is named Fonte Gaia on account of the great celebrations that took place when the inhabitants of Siena saw the water gushing out from the fountain for the first time. Although Jacopo della Quercia received the commission to design the fountain from the Comune in 1409, construction did not actually take place until between 1414 and 1419 because of the sculptor’s prior engagements in Lucca, where he was completing the tombstones of Lorenzo Trenta and his wife in the Trenta family chapel at San Frediano in Lucca.

Della Quercia drew the inspiration for his design of the fountain from the traditional designs of Medieval Senese public fountains. A large, altar-like rectangular basin is surrounded on three sides by a high parapet. The sides are decorated with reliefs of The Creation of Adam and The Flight from the Garden of Eden. Two female figures adorn the front two columns, traditionally believed to represent Rea Silvia and Acca Larentia, in remembrance of Siena’s legendary associations with Rome. The long section of the fountain is adorned at the centre with a Madonna and Child, surrounded by allegories of the Virtues.

Although in poor condition, the sculptures are still a clear indication of the originality and power of Jacopo della Quercia, who has managed to capture an extraordinary sense of movement in so few simple lines. By the mid-19th century the fountain was in such precarious condition that it was decided to replace the original with a copy. Tito Sarrocchi was commissioned to sculpt the new fountain in 1858 and he completed it in 1869, albeit without the two statues on the final pilasters. What remains of the original fountain by Jacopo della Quercia is kept in the Loggia of the Palazzo Pubblico.

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