When I moved to Pisa 16 years ago (dear God!), Pisa was a sleepy city. If you wanted to have fun, you would go to study in Florence; if you wanted to study hard and graduate from a good University, you would go to Pisa. Well, at least in theory… in Pisa, I had much fun as a student, and I am sure there were plenty of excellent courses in Florence.
What’s certainly true is that Pisa had no locales, it was quite dirty and run down, and outside Piazza dei Miracoli there were no tourists – nor would they have known what to do anywhere else in the city, as there were no information points, maps or itineraries. Pisa was essentially the University and Piazza dei Miracoli.
Students would spend time on the Lungarno and around Piazza Garibaldi in May and June, but other than that, the city would be deserted and people would gather in each other’s homes and have dinner parties or just hang out together. Not that that was a bad thing, but there was literally nothings else to do.
16 years later the city is essentially transformed. It is clean, lively, well-organized. There is always something to do and to see. I really like what the present Mayor (Marco Filippeschi) and the new Director of the Tourist Council (Roberto Guiggiani) are doing. I don’t think they work together as much as they should, but since they are both good, each of them is doing some good things.
I was reading an article today: despite the difficulties which the tourism sector has been facing in the recent past, the number of visitors to Pisa is growing. Low-cost airlines certainly have a positive impact: millions of people disembark at Pisa airport every year, and, since the city is such an excellent transportation hub, many stop here and use it as a base. People venture out of the city as well and explore the region (did you know that Volterra is part of the Pisa province?!). Check this monographic issue of Dream of Italy Newsletter: I wrote the Insider’s Guide to Pisa (thank you Kathy for asking me to! And here is another link to her blog)
The several important events that have taken place in Pisa over the last couple of years, such as the exhibition that is presently being hosted at Palazzo Blu: Mirò – I miti del mediterraneo. More than 600 people visit it every day, and there are a lot of other events organized as a corollary to the exhibit.
According to the latest reports, people in the city go out more than they used to, and they go see shows, movies, exhibitions. Apparently, this year cinemas and theatres have sold 35% more tickets than they did in 2009 and 15% more people have attended concerts and music events… The number of the events has increased, and the infrastructure has improved a lot: there are lots of parking spaces in the center and free buses. Every weekend there’s a lot happening. Check this weekend’s events in Pisa: aperitivi, temporary exhibitions, street parties, shopping opportunities at night and more.
The other positive change is that the “center is expanding”. Instead of insisting solely on Piazza dei Miracoli, the local authorities are renovating buildings throughout the center, e.g. San Silvestro, bars and locales, as well as galleries are opening in semi-peripheral areas of the center, such as Le Piagge, the city council is making some unpopular but far-sighted decisions (e.g. decrease the number of pay-parking spots in Piazza Carrara to make the square more enjoyable).
So, Pisa is changing. And it is a great thing.