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Banks of the Arno

  • Banks of the Arno – for riverside wandering

    The `Field of Miracles’ is set on the northern edge of the city, thus distorting the city geography. Pisans themselves prefer to treat the river Arno as a dividing line between different districts. With its steep, stone riverbanks, Pisa is split in two by the gently curving Arno. The riverbanks, known as the Lungarni, are essential Pisa. Depending on the light, the river is inviting or oppressive. On a dull day, the Lungarno presents a procession of blank, ochre facades that merge together, matched by a muddy-coloured river. But on a sunny day, or during a water festival, the Lungarni come into their own. It’s a place for wandering without an agenda, admiring facades and churches, rather than bridges. Ponte di Mezzo, faced with white Verona stone, was once Pisa’s oldest bridge but is now a shadow of its former self. Like most of Pisa’s bridges, it was rebuilt after its destruction by Allied bombing during the Second World War. During a heartfelt summer festival, it feels very different. In June, the Gioco del Ponte, a medieval tug-of-war fought on the bridge, reveals the Pisan sense of belonging. On the opposite bank, across Ponte Solferino, on Lungarno Gambacorti, stands the remarkable church of Santa Maria della Spina. Don’t worry if this Pisan-Gothic gem is closed. The vibrant exterior is what counts, a tour de force of Gothic pinnacles and niches, crowded with 13th-century statues of saints carved by members of the Pisano family. Back in the days when Pisa was a port, before the harbour silted up, seafarers came to pray here before setting sail.

    Address: Lungarno Paccinotto, Lungarno Mediceo & Lungarno Gambacorti, Pisa

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