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Following in the footsteps of Galileo in Pisa

Discover the sites where the scientist lived and worked

As was customary at the time, Galileo was baptized in the Cathedral of Pisa. The record of the baptism, preserved in the episcopal archives , generated a misunderstanding about the place of his birth, since it made a general reference to a parish of St. Andrew of which there were two at the time of Galileo's birth. On the basis of more detailed documentary studies the birthplace of the scientist was finally located in the district outside the city of St. Andrew, and his birth home was identified at No.s 24 and 26 of today's Via Giusti.

Galileo was born on 15 February 1564 at 3pm, after a particularly difficult birth. His mother, Julia, was from the Ammannati family, entrepreneurs in the trades of timber and construction, and his father, Vincenzo, born in nearby Santa Maria a Monte, was a musician and music theorist of deep culture and broad interests. From the windows of Casa Ammannati the ancient Church of St. Andrew appears on the right. Located behind the Palace of Justice, the Piazzetta San Luca may give a rough idea of the character of the neighborhood at the time of Galileo's birth.

The current building of the Prefecture (Palazzo Medici), on Piazza Mazzini, was the first residence of the Medici family in Pisa. The structure of the Fortezza Nuova (by Florentine architect Giuliano da Sangallo), on the left bank of the shore, define the borders of today's Giardino Scotto.

In the opposite direction, following the course of the river, Piazza Cairoli (Piazza de 'Chavoli), was the heart of Pisa at the time. Bounded on the north by the Church of San Pietro, the square is dominated by the statue of Abundance by Pierino da Vinci. The market that took place there must have been particularly congenial to the young Galileo, with the clamor of the trading, the bustle of the wagons crossing the river on boats loaded with cargo, the dock equipped with hooks, rollers, pulleys and other devices.

The trade center was distributed around the Ponte Vecchio, the old medieval bridge with three arches located further upstream. Here you will find a plaque on the building that Vincenzo Galilei rented a few months after the birth of Galileo.

The sixteenth-century Piazza delle Vettovaglie along with Borgo constitute an almost uninterrupted succession of arcades where many shops are concentrated. It is here that Galileo passed his first years as a teacher - between 1589 and 1591 - at the Studio Pisano, after having been a pupil there from 1581 to 1586. These were carefree years before the sudden death of his father when he had to begin maintaining his mother and brothers. When it became clear that he would not receive a professorship at Pisa, Galileo looked toward Padova to further his career.

The Palazzo della Sapienza (Via Curtatone and Montanara), with its distinctive courtyard and double loggia almost intact, was the key site of Galileo's youth and maturity. When he left the Veneto to return to Tuscany in 1610 Galileo was 46 years old and was given an exemption from teaching to focus on his research.

Galileo returned to Tuscany at the wish of Grand Duke Cosimo II, who paid for his house in gratitude for the newly discovered moons of Jupiter, which Galileo named the "Medici Planets."

In the Royal Palace visit the Tower of Canton and the rooms of the Medici portraits - in particular those of Grand Duke Ferdinando I, Cosimo II, Grand Duchess Maria Christina of Lorraine and Maria Maddalena of Austria.

An effigy of Cosimo II overlooks the Piazza dei Cavalieri from one of the niches that accommodate the oval portraits of the Medici on the facade of the Palazzo della Carovana. In the middle of the sixteenth century the square became the seat of the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano, placed by the Medici at the service of Pope Pius IV and Christianity. Work by Vasari to make the necessary buildings began in 1562 and continued until the early seventeenth century. The military glories of the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri retains extraordinary memories. Within it are portions of the sides of boats, while the walls carry large banners torn from the enemy at the Battle of Lepanto and other clashes that took place in the Mediterranean. Four of the paintings that adorn the ceiling were executed by Cristoforo Allori, Cigoli dall'Empoli and artists linked by relationships of respect and friendship with Galileo. In particular Cigoli, who Galileo believed to be the premier painter of his day and who represented some of Galileo's astronomical discoveries in his paintings.

In 1600, the century inaugurated by the savage Thirty Years War, the sciences and technology were particularly appreciated for their application to the military arts. Galileo spent time working on an instrument - the celatone - which was to perfect the sighting through the telescope of enemy ships on the sea, ensuring the necessary stability and allowing the viewer a better appreciation of the true distances. In 1617 Galileo went first to Livorno, then to Pisa where he conducted research and observations together with Benedetto Castelli, from the gardens of the Convent of the Jesuits, now the headquarters of the Scuola Sant'Anna (Convent of Jesus) in Piazza Martiri Libertà.

Galileo's association with Piazza dei Miracoli has been vaunted by his biographers, even where there is little evidence to support it. Vincenzo Viviani suggests that the great cathedral lamp was in place during Galileo's lifetime and was the inspiration for his discoveries of pendular laws. Others report that he conducted experiments on motion from the Leaning Tower in the presence of teachers and students of the University.

Finally, though not directly linked to the biography of Galileo, the Domus Galileiana (Via Santa Maria, 26), founded in 1942 under the auspices of Giovanni Gentile, Director of the Scuola Normale Superiore, is among the biggest promoters of the history and discoveries of Pisa's great scientist. It has a great library, a couple of original letters by Galileo and material relating to other important figures from the city including Antonio Pacinotti and Enrico Fermi.

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