The city of Pavia lies beside the Ticino river and in the shadow of Milan, which is just a half-hour away. It was an important place under the Roman Empire. When the Longobards invaded Italy they made Pavia their capital. Unfortunately, not much remains from this time as the Hungarians burned Pavia down in 924. It remained the capital of the Italian Kingdom until the 12th century. Nowadays it’s a peaceful city with its most famous sight situated outside the city, the Certosa di Pavia. Below, you can find the most impressive historic sights listed. Just follow our itinerary to get most out of your visit to Pavia!
Certosa di Pavia
The Certosa di Pavia is an extravagant late 14th-century monastery. The building was commissioned by the powerful Visconti family from Milan. The highlight is the church with beautiful tombs. The rest of the monastery can only be visited by guided tour. Check out the website for opening times, it’s closed on Mondays and for midday mass every day.
Piazza della Vittoria
Start your walk through the town at the Piazza della Vittoria. This cobblestoned square has a lot of bars and restaurants to get a drink and a bite to eat. On the southern end of the square stands the Broletto, the medieval town hall from the 11th century.
Duomo di Pavia
South of the Broletto can you find the Duomo di Pavia, the cathedral of Pavia. Construction started at the end of the 15th century and the cathedral supplanted two earlier churches located there. Construction was not finished until the 1930’s and has a history of collapses. First, the dome collapsed in 1885 just after it was finished. Second, next door Civic Tower collapsed and killed four people in 1989. The remains of the tower can still be seen today.
If you head southwest towards the river you walk along the romanesque San Teodoro church. This small red-bricked building has some nice frescos inside.
As you reach the river you’ll see one of the remaining city gates, the Porta Calcinara. This 12th-century gate is one of the few reminders of the medieval city walls.
Go down to the banks of the river for a nice view of the medieval covered bridge, the Ponte Coperto. This bridge is a 20th-century reconstruction of the medieval bridge as the bridge was heavily damaged by Allied bombardments during the second world war. The medieval bridge was built in 1354 to replace the earlier Roman bridge which was also situated at this crossing point.
Basilica di San Michele Maggiore
Head back northeast into the city, the view the beautiful and important 11th-century Basilica di San Michele Maggiore. It’s a fine example of a Lombard style church and it is historically important too. It was here that the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (Redbeard) was crowned King of Italy in 1155, and so were many other Italian kings.
Continue northwards towards Piazza Leonardo Da Vinci. Here you’ll find a couple of interesting buildings. Most photogenic are the three medieval towers standing in the corner of the square. They give you some idea why Pavia was once called the city of hundred towers, as the city used to be covered with towers like this. The towers are some 40-50 meters high and date from the 12th century.
Another interesting site is the remains of the Chiesa di Sant’Eusebio. All that remains is the 7th-century crypt but this is an early example of Lombard Christian architecture.
On the northern end of the square lies the University of Pavia, one of the older universities in the world as it was founded in 1361.
The castle lies in the northern part of town and houses the city museums of Pavia (Musei Civici). The castle dates from the end of the 14th century and served as a palace for the dukes of the Visconti and later the Sforza families.