Visit the Sinopie Museum in Pisa

The Sinopie Museum (Museo delle Sinopie) in Pisa gives a fascinating look at how the frescoes of the Camposanto Cemetery were created.

Sinopie Museum in Pisa

The Sinopie Museum (Museo delle Sinopie) in Pisa displays the original rough sketches used in the designs of the magnificent 14th-century frescoes in the Camposanto Cemetery. As these drawings were plastered over never to be seen again, they are naturally not colorful or detailed but a very fascinating look into how frescoes are created. It is the only place in the world where these Renaissance-era sinopia may be seen in large numbers.

It is important to know what this museum is about before visiting. A quick glance at Tripadvisor shows that many visitors leave disappointed particularly due to misunderstanding what is on display. Visit this museum first and then the Camposanto Cemetery, not in the reverse order.

Sinopie Museum in Pisa

Sinopia of Hell in Pisa Museum

The Museo delle Sinopie in Pisa displays the original sinopias, or preparatory drawings for the magnificent frescoes in the galleries of the Camposanto next to the Duomo in Pisa, Italy. 

Sinopia refers to a dark reddish-brown natural earth pigment that during the Renaissance was used for rough initial drawings of a fresco. (Sinopie is simply the Italian plural of sinopia.) An artist can thus show the sponsor what the basic fresco will look like in position. Changes may easily be made if desired. 

Cartoon of Sinopia

The sinopia is then traced onto large cartoons, where the drawing is perforated. The sinopia is subsequently plastered over, the cartoon is put in place with charcoal used to mark the drawing outlines onto the wall, and the frescoes are painted on the wet plaster. The sinopie are usually never seen again.

A three-day fire due to an allied bomb raid at the end of the Second World War largely destroyed the Camposanto cemetery and severely damaged its famous frescoes. In order to preserve the surviving frescoes, they were removed from the walls in a process that left the sinopie exposed. 

Sinopia in Pisa

The sinopie were subsequently also removed and it is these rudimentary sketches from mostly the 14th century that are on display in the Sinopie Museum in Pisa. The museum explains the basic process with much detail on the preservation and restoration of the sinopie and frescoes in Pisa.

These sinopie are by 14th-century artists as famous as Buffalmacco, Andrea Bonaiuti, Antonio Veneziano, Spinello Aretino, Taddeo Gaddi, Piero di Puccio, and  Benozzo Gozzoli. While assistants often painted large parts of the frescoes, here the masters’ own work is seen.

For art historians, this is the holy grail. For most visitors, the museum is not that interesting but it is certainly worth paying an extra euro and to see it before visiting the Camposanto Cemetery.

Original Sin Painting in the Sinopie Museum Pisa
Painting of the Burning of Sodom in the SInopie Museum
Painting of the David Legend in the Sinopie Museum Pisa

For most visitors, a quick walkthrough will suffice. Do pay attention to the clear drawings of the scenes — mostly displayed on the top level. These will make it far easier to decipher some of the frescoes in the cemetery. Although many are surprisingly well preserved and restored, others survived only in parts. The triumph of death, the last judgment, hell, and scenes from the Old Testament are particularly famous.

Sinopie Museum Visitor’s Information

As one of the two ticket offices for the Field of Miracle Sites is in the Sinopie Museum, it is a good option to see the museum first (and enjoy the cool air-conditioning on a warm day). See this museum first — visiting after seeing the frescoes in the Camposanto cemetery will be anticlimactic. 

For most visitors, €7 is too much for the Sinopie Museum but at €10 for all the Field of Miracles sites (except the leaning tower), it is certainly worth visiting too.

Admission to the Field of Miracles (Campo Dei Miracoli) in Pisa and the exterior of all buildings in the area is free and possible at all times.

Tickets are available for the following sights in Pisa:

Cathedral (Duomo) — admission is free but only per time slot ticket. Pick up a free pass in person only from any ticket office. On very busy days, there may be a delay in entering the church or occasionally, no more free tickets available on the day. However, any of the paid tickets below automatically acts as a skip-the-line entry ticket to the duomo on the same day.

Climbing the Leaning Tower (Torre) — €20 per time-slot reservation tickets only. A combination pass with all other sites is around €30.

Baptistery (Battistero) / Camposanto Cemetery / Museum of the Sinopias (Museo delle Sinopie) / Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo (cathedral museum) — €7 for any site or great value at €10 for all sights. (Note that the baptistery is being renovated and some sections may be closed off.)

Palazzo dell’ Opera del Duomo — admission depends on the exhibition, if any.

The two ticket offices at the Field of Miracles are inside the Sinopie Museum (near the Baptistery) and in the Palazzo dell’ Opera del Duomo (behind the church near the leaning tower).

Time-slot reservation tickets for the leaning tower of Pisa may be bought online at least a day in advance from Opapisa (tickets valid for a year so no refunds for any reason) or resellers such as Tiqets and Get Your Guide, which have much easier cancelation conditions. Opapisa sells tickets at most 20 days in advance while the resellers usually sell several months in advance. A variety of guided tours are available to see the sights on the Fields of Miracles of Pisa with many including climbing the leaning tower.


Opening Hours of Field of Miracles Sites in Pisa

The sights on the Field of Miracles in Pisa are open every day – exact times may be confirmed months in advance at the OpaPisa site.

All the sites are generally open as a minimum from 9:00 (10:00 for the Duomo) to 19:00. From April to September, the opening hours are usually 8:00 (10:00 for the Duomo) to 20:00 with the Camposanto and Tower open until 22:00 on some nights.

Last tickets are sold around half an hour before closing time (but expect an argument at the door if leaving it that late).

Combination tickets are valid for a year after the selected date so refunds are not given if a site is closed on a particular day(s).

More Information On Top Sights in Pisa

  1. See the Top Sights on Pisa’s Field of Miracles
  2. Tips on Buying Tickets and Tours for the Leaning Tower and Pisa Sights
  3. Visit the Duomo (Cathedral) of Pisa (Cattedrale)
  4. Visit the Baptistery of Pisa (Battistero)
  5. Visit the Cathedral Museum (Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo di Pisa)
  6. See Renaissance Frescoes in the Camposanto Cemetery
  7. Visit the Sinopie Museum in Pisa
  8. Transportation to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
  9. Book Guided Tours of Pisa and Day Trips at Get Your Guide
  10. Buy Tickets Online at Tiqets
  11. Book Italian Train and Intercity Bus Tickets at Omio
  12. More Photos of the Field of Miracles in Pisa on Flickr
Henk Bekker in armor

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.