Today I walked back home after leaving the office. In my case this means walking from one corner of Pisa to the opposite one.
It was very warm and sunny and the streets of the center were busy: lots of students and tourists!
This was the first thing that surprised me on a Monday morning: since the stores are closed – most of them at least – on Monday, the center is generally not very busy, especially around 1:30 pm when I leave the office.
I crossed the river on Ponte di Mezzo and I saw that they have already started raising the stands along the Lungarni for the audience of the Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics (Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare – Pisa, Genoa, Venice, Amalfi). This year the regatta will be held in Pisa, on June 2nd.
The boat of the Pisan crew is on display outside City Hall. I am not sure it’s the one that will actually compete. Maybe it’s just a copy. It’s still cool, though.
Under the Logge di Banchi there is a European Market… you might wonder what that is… I did while I was walking across the river reading the signs. The smell of bratwurst provided the answer before I could get close enough to actually see the merchandise on the stalls!
It’s a small international market where several European countries are selling their products. The bratwurst and Bavarian beer stand is definitely my favourite, but the French lavender and the Austrian sweets stalls get 2nd and 3rd place… although I am not sure in that order! (By the way the market is open until May 10).
Lots of people were eating outside, chatting loudly. It felt like being on holiday in my own city!
I then decided to walk home via Via San Martino rather than walking along the Lungarno, and I have to say that I realized that Pisa never ceases to surprise me. Via San Martino of course was semi-deserted, only a few locals were walking there or sitting in the bars and restaurants before going back to work. Since the street is slightly outside the major tourist routes not many people go there. But that’s so wrong.
Via San Martino is amazingly beautiful: you have to look up. There are incredible renaissance buildings, small alleys with medieval arches and architectural features, small squares with great restaurants and bars. And there are two amazing churches, the Templar church of San Sepolcro and the huge church of San Martino. I was looking around and I was thinking that nobody sees this in Pisa: this is so different from the Pisa people know.
I also looked inside some of the big portals of these historical buildings, and they have fabulous gardens and courtyards. Most of them are accessible because they are public buildings.
I passed by some rustic restaurants, some ethnic restaurants, a Russian food store(?!), some take-away pizzerias, but the two places really worth mentioning are: Numero 11, a place where you help yourself at the counter and sit wherever there is a free spot, next to whomever is sitting there, and Living bar, a stylish, modern, tastefully decorated bar, which serves meals at lunch time. I think it must be really cool for an aperitivo: we’ll have to check it out (only for research purposes of course…!).
So, here are my recommendations for visitors to Pisa: walk around, don’t just hop on the bus to go to the tower and back to the station, and look up! Via San Martino, Piazza Santa Chiara, Piazza San Martino and the small alleys around there make for an amazing way to discover medieval and early renaissance Pisa.
A couple of useful links:
- our suggestions to discover Pisa walking throughout the center
- something more about the Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics