Founded in 1543, the botanical garden of Pisa is the oldest university botanical garden in the world. A somewhat forgotten garden to discover a few steps from the famous Piazza del Duomo.
Originally built on the banks of the Arno River, the garden was moved to its current location in 1591 and then gradually expanded to its present extent of around two hectares. About 3000 plants are grown there.
The Botanical Garden of Pisa was created by the Italian doctor and botanist Luca Ghini.
The first academic botanical garden
Called as a professor at the University of Pisa by the Duke of Florence Cosimo I de' Medici, Luca Ghini accepted on condition that he could found a university "Jardin des Simples". The "simples" are the name given to medicinal plants in the Middle Ages.
The botanical garden of Pisa is organized in such a way that it can serve as a support for the study and teaching of plants. It is the first academic botanical garden.
The beginnings of herbaria
At the time when Luca Ghini was teaching in Pisa and Bologna, the art of making herbariums – that is, drying and then gluing the plants to sheets of paper – was developing.
Luca Ghini himself uses dried boards to teach but also with his colleagues. One of his students, John Falconer, will be the distributor of this new botanical tool. The herbarium will participate in the dissemination of botanical knowledge, in the many exchanges and visits between botanists.
The architecture of the garden
The garden is designed according to the current criteria of the time. The arrangement of the plants recalls the four elements: the square for the earth, the circle for the sky, the triangle for the fire and the basins for the water.
The garden has undergone many transformations over the centuries. It grew from the 18th century with the addition of greenhouses. In the 19th century, a new arrangement of the garden was put in place with smaller rectangular flowerbeds, interspersed with paths and low walls. The new requirements of botany impose indeed to classify and present the plants according to scientific criteria which highlight the biological affinities.
The current layout is reached at the end of the 19th century.
In the garden, there are exotic and aquatic plants (some of which no longer exist), the Pharaonic collection of plants from Egypt and examples from the tombs of the Pharaohs, the arboretum and a greenhouse entirely dedicated to succulents.
Orto e Museo Botanico - Universita di Pisa : Via Luca Ghini 13 / Via Roma 56, Pisa, Tuscany, Italy.