Via San Martino, Pisa, on the left bank of the Arno, stands in an area of the city that was once called Kinzica. Here, there is a curious marble statue of an elegant Roman matron that dates from the 3rd century AD. Over time, the figure depicted became identified with the name of the district itself.
Although there are various versions of the story of how a young woman named Kinzica saved the inhabitants of Pisa from Saracen raiders, it does seem the story is based on real events.
In 1004-1005 or 1016 or 1024 – the date varies – the Pisan fleet was besieging Reggio Calabria in order to drive out the Saracens. But the pirates took advantage of the fact that Pisa itself had been left almost undefended and attacked the city. According to one account, Kinzica, who could not sleep that night, raised the alarm by ringing the bell in the Palazzo degli Anziani, thus awakening the people of the city and enabling them to escape…or perhaps arm themselves and drive off the Saracens… or perhaps (according to a third version) the mere sound of the bells scared off the attackers. There is even a version in which Kinzica, first to see the advancing enemy, took up arms against them and distinguished herself by her courage in battle.
Then there is her name itself: some argue it comes from the Arabic (the district where the girl lived was that inhabited principally by foreigners), others that is derives from the old Lombard dialect…
One this is for certain: for the people of Pisa, Kinzica is a heroine. She is remembered with particular veneration during the annual Regatta delle Repubbliche Marittime, a boating competition between the four great maritime republics of Italy: Pisa, Venice, Amalfi and Genoa. The event is hosted by each of these four cities in turn.
So, next time you are visiting Pisa, take the time to seek out this statue – a statue commemorating a young lady who saved Pisa from attack!!
(Adapted from Secret Tuscany by Carol Caselli, published by JonGlez)