Playing Truant in Pisa

I’ve been playing truant again - this time in Pisa.  I left ‘Norman’ as a pile of pdf proofs on the dining table and caught the train into town.

Pisa is a lovely city, arranged on either side of the river Arno - medieval and baroque buildings sitting side by side in complete harmony, painted in those ochre colours the Italians use so that the street looks like a sunset. Pisa is much more peaceful than Florence, and you can slip down flights of stone steps to sit beside the river and quietly read a book in the sun.

One of my favourite places is the Museo Communale - an old Benedictine Monastery fronting onto the Arno.  Hardly anyone seems to find it - the man in the ticket office was fast asleep at his desk as I tiptoed past. As usual, I had the museum all to myself.  It was founded as a monastery for women in 1017 and has a very quiet, sun-filled cloister.

Everywhere you look there are women clutching books.  This is a marble tomb lid from 1384.

St Eulalia da Barcelona, with stars on her gown, by Bicci da Lorenzo.

The museum is famous for its collection of 13th and 14th century gilded icons.  This isn’t a very good photograph because of the low lighting and the need to take pictures without flash, but it gives some idea of what's there.

In a darkened room at the back, is a collection of very special wooden figures - annunciation scenes –  carved back in the 14th century - some of them by Andrea Pisano.  They are very simple.  Here, Mary is just an ordinary girl in a cotton dress with her hair down her back, modelled from one of the local girls.

The nuns seem to have had a good time, in spite of their seclusion - this is one of the wine vats in the courtyard!

If you ever get to Pisa, do try to get to this Museum - it's a hidden treasure.

Now, I'm off to Peralta to lead a creative writing retreat with American novelist Mary-Rose Hayes.  We have a full house, so it's going to be an intense week. 


  1. Playing truant is part of a balanced life!

    What an amazing museum, but then Italy is covered with spot like that.

    Enjoy the course!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts