Established in 1543 by Luca Ghini who had been invited by Cosimo I de’ Medici to teach botany in Pisa, the Botanical Gardens of Pisa were the first ever founded and still encapsulate a unique and unmatched combination of scientific vision and sheer beauty.

The creation of the Pisa Botanical Gardens coincided with the beginning of the study of botany, that at the time was still a branch of medicinal studies. The first Orto Botanico started as a educational facility dedicated to on-site study of plants, particularly of those defined as “simple”, intended for medicinal products. In 1591 Giuseppe Casabona moved the Orto to its present location between via Santa Maria and via Roma. An 18th-century plan shows the garden was subdivided into eight square garden beds with a sandstone basin at the centre of each one: a layout that was still underpinned by a part scientific part ornamental vision. Some partitions that changed the original layout were subsequently introduced in keeping with the development of botanical classifications. Currently the Orto is composed of various areas: the Scuola Botanica, the oldest late 16th-century part with six basins from the original layout and about 120 garden beds with plants arranged following systematic criteria; the Orto del Cedro with the oldest trees; the Orto del Mirto; the piazzale Arcangeli which is the central section; the Orto Nuovo that was acquired in 1841, intended mainly as an arboretum; the Orto Del Gratta, added at the beginning of the 20th century, with mountain plants and a small lake with rocaille. The garden is home to some centuries-old trees such as the magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and the fan-shaped leaf tree Ginkgo Biloba, both planted in 1787 as well as the plane tree (Platanus orientalis planted in 1808), the myrtle (Myrtus communis planted in 1815) and a camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora, planted in 1842). Of extraordinary historical and scientific importance are the naturalistic collections and the herbariums, collections of dried plants that still have a fundamental role in research on plant diversity today.