Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

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Soil shipped from Calvary during the Crusades is said to lie within the white walls of this hauntingly beautiful resting place for many prominent Pisans, arranged around a garden in a cloistered quadrangle. During WWII, Allied artillery destroyed many of the cloisters' frescoes, but several have been salvaged and restored. Most notable are Inferno and Triumph of Death (both 1336–41), remarkable illustrations of Hell attributed to 14th-century painter Buonamico Buffalmacco; find them immediately to the right of the main entrance (second and fourth frescoes), in the southern cloister.

Fortunately, the mirrors once stuck next to the graphic images of the damned being roasted alive on spits have been removed – originally, viewers would have seen their own faces in the horrific scene. The explanatory panel in front of the first fresco, right of the entrance, includes a floor plan (with evocative descriptions in English) of the entire line-up of frescoes in the southern cloister; those in the northern cloister have not been restored.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Pisa attractions

1. Mura di Pisa (Main Entrance)

0.06 MILES

For an alternative bird's-eye perspective of the Leaning Tower and grandiose Piazza dei Miracoli rooftops, take a walk atop Pisa's medieval city walls,…

2. Battistero

0.06 MILES

Pisa's unusual round baptistry has one dome piled on top of another, each roofed half in lead, half in tiles, and topped by a gilt bronze John the Baptist…

3. Duomo

0.07 MILES

Pisa's magnificent duomo was begun in 1064 and consecrated in 1118. Its striking tiered exterior, with green-and-cream marble cladding, gives onto a…

4. Museo delle Sinopie

0.11 MILES

Home to some fascinating frescoes, this museum safeguards several sinopie (preliminary sketches), drawn by the artists in red earth pigment on the walls…

5. Piazza dei Miracoli

0.13 MILES

Pisans claim that Campo dei Miracoli is among the world's most beautiful urban spaces. Its walled lawns provide a photogenic setting for the candy-striped…

6. Leaning Tower

0.13 MILES

One of Italy's signature sights, the Torre Pendente truly lives up to its name, leaning a startling 3.9 degrees off the vertical. The 58m-high tower,…

7. Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

0.15 MILES

Closed for extensive (seemingly everlasting) renovation, this museum is a repository for works of art once displayed in the duomo and battistero…

8. Orto e Museo Botanico

0.35 MILES

For a Zen-like respite from the Piazza dei Miracoli crowd, explore this peaceful walled garden laced with centurion palm trees, flora typical to the…