The Via Santa Maria is the street with the highest number of still existing medieval houses in Pisa. It connects the river Arno with the Piazza del Duomo and there are also townhouses and some churches.
Via Santa Maria Pisa
Location and addresses
The Via Santa Maria leads from the Lungarno Antonio Pacinotti to the Campo dei Miracoli. The most beautiful buildings are the San Nicola Church (n. 2), Palazzo Quaratesi (n. 25), Domus Galileiana (n. 26), Palazzo Boileau (n. 85) and San Giorgio dei Tedeschi Church (n. 102-108).
History and description
What is now the Via Santa Maria, in Roman and medieval times used to be one of the most important connecting roads between the centre and the river.
In the 12th century the Via Santa Maria was used as a market street. In 1182, the Ponte Nuovo bridge was built at the end of the street, only to be demolished in the 15th century.
“Tower houses” were very popular in the Middle Ages. These were originally civilian houses, to which gradually more floors were added. In 1159, there were said to have been almost 10,000 in the city.
One of the best examples is the building decorated with marble elements gracing the corner of the Via Volta.
After the Middle Ages, mansions were also built in the street.
What to see
San Nicola Church
The Romanesque San Nicola Church is located at the beginning of the street. The main attractions are the sloping bell tower and a wooden “Madonna and Child” by (probably) Nicolo Pisani.
The Palazzo Quaratesi was built after a Mannerist design by Pietro Francavilla. It is the seat of the Accademia delle Belle Arti.
Founded in 1942, the Domus Galileiana houses a study centre dedicated to the famous scientist Galileo Galilei. The building also houses an extensive scientific library.
The Palazzo Boileau was built towards the end of the 16th century and is also known as Palazzo dello Stellino. The designer was Raffaele Pagni. Today it is the seat of the Faculty of Foreign Language and Literature. The bust in the middle of the facade depicts Ferdinand I de’ Medici.
Palazzo dell’ex Collegio Ferdinando
The portal of the Palazzo dell’ex Collegio Ferdinando was also designed by Pagni.
San Giorgio dei Tedeschi Kerk
The San Giorgio degli Innocenti Church was built in the 15th century on the earlier San Giogio dei Tedeschi. The former Ospizio dei Trovatelli (Foundling’s House) is one of the few 15th century buildings in the town designed in a Florentine style.