In Santa Croce square there is a typical Christmas village decorated with decorations and lights that sparkle on the stands of about fifty exhibitors. An interesting path between objects for the nativity scene and Christmas decorations, gift ideas and gastronomic temptations, for a journey into taste and traditions in the round. The house of Santa Claus is dedicated to the children, with a post office for the letters.

Corso Italia

The two historical quarters of this side of the city, Mezzogiorno, are divided by a very lively street: Corso Italia, the High Street of Pisa.

An ideal walk can begin from the Central Station, which was built in 1863 and then refurbished after the bombing of the Second World War.

Actually, this part of the city still has very clear signs of the atrocious bombings of 1944 when Pisa was attacked for 45 consecutive days: 57 bombings, over 3000 civilians killed and 50% of the buildings were destroyed.

This tragedy is evident walking from the station towards Corso Italia. All the buildings are modern or have been rebuilt.

Walking through via Gramsci, we arrive at an elliptical square, quite chaotic because of the traffic: this is Piazza Vittorio Emanuale, represented by the statue in the middle. Remember this square: most of the city busses stop here, there will soon be a major underground parking garage and the central Post Office is located here.

The buildings in the square are neo-gothic in style and were built with the square in 1872 after the demolition of part of the city walls and the old Gate of San Giulio.

Also located in this square is the church of Sant’Antonio, which gives its name to one of the quarters. The church was rebuilt after the bombing with the exception of the façade, which is in the typical Pisan style.

Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

In business since 1612, this exquisite perfumery-pharmacy began life when Santa Maria Novella’s Dominican friars began to concoct cures and sweet-smelling unguents using medicinal herbs cultivated in the monastery garden. The shop, with an interior from 1848, sells fragrances, skincare products, ancient herbal remedies and preparations for everything from relief of heavy legs to improving skin elasticity, memory and mental energy.

It also sells teas, herbal infusions, liqueurs and scented candles. A real treasure, the shop has touchscreen catalogues and a state-of-the-art payment system, yet still manages to ooze vintage charm. After a day battling crowds at the Uffizi or Accademia, you might just want to come here for a cup of carefully prepared tea in its Tisaneria (Tearoom) or to buy a bottle of Aqua di Santa Maria Novella, one of the pharmacy’s oldest herbal concoctions, taken to cure hysterics since 1614.