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Pisa, Europe's most ancient maritime city, lies a few miles from the sea on a small plain on which Mount Pisano dominates. The town is divided into two by a loop of the River Arno.

During the great conflict between Christianity and Islamism, represented by the Crusades, Pisa almost founded an empire by opening new routes to the sea trade of the time and founding prosperous colonies on the Mediterranean coasts. On the sea however, in the tragic battle of Meloria, the career of the town came to an end, weakened by civil wars and the rivalry of Lucca and Florence from one side and Genoa from the other.

In this period, between the 11th and 13th centuries, so rich in cultural and economic exchanges, Pisan art flourished. The Pisan artists, taking up and re-elaborating elements of the paleochristian art, the Romanesque Lombard style and Arabian influences, produced the wonderful monumental set of Piazza del Miracoli (the Miracles' Square).

The massive and beautiful structure of the Baptistery rests upon the green, in front of the superb Cathedral. The motif of the façade is reminiscent of the rings of galleries and arches of the slender leaning Tower; to the side lies the beautiful Cemetery, built towards the end of the 13th century, a place of peace and meditation, which conveniently completes this wonderful, organic monumental set, unique in the world.

Piazza delle Vettovaglie is the heart of Pisa's nightlife and also, more importantly the first settlement during the Roman era. Do try to make the 294 step climb to the top of the leaning Tower, because it will give you the most breath-taking view of Pisa. Also a stroll along the Arno with some breaks to see the small chapels along the way, is a peaceful and relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

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