Pisa, Da

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PISA, DA , family of bankers, financers, and international merchants ranked among the best-known Italian Jewish families.

In 1393 matassia di sabato, a member of the well-known Bet-El or Min-ha-Keneset Roman family, settled in San Miniato, a small town in Tuscany, under the Florentine government, where he opened a local bank. In 1406 his son vitale jehiel of Matassia established his activities in Pisa, the city from which he derived his new family name. He opened other lending banks in San Gimignano, Prato, Colle di Val d'Elsa, and Arezzo. A scholar and lover of letters, he became known even outside Italy: Profiat *Duran recommended him to his disciple Judah Zark, who found hospitality at the da Pisa home.

After Vitale's death the banking activities were continued by his daughter giusta (d. 1478) who married isaac dimanuele da rimini, who later assumed his wife's surname. Giusta managed the family company together with her husband and later with her son jehiel vitale (d. 1490), who brought their activities to their greatest heights by obtaining, with other associates, an exclusive banking license for Florence. He opened loan banks in several other towns.

Jehiel Vitale was also known as one of the most noteworthy Hebrew personalities of his time and gained the favor of Lorenzo de' Medici. When the Franciscan friar *Bernardino da Feltre preached in Florence against the Jewish loan bankers, Vitale led a deputation of the Jews of the city before Lorenzo de' Medici and succeeded in averting an edict of expulsion (1488). Vitale had family connections with other important families (such as da S. Miniato, da Tivoli, da Fano and da Volterra) and was friendly with notables abroad, including Abraham Ḥayyun of Lisbon, Don Isaac *Abrabanel, and Joseph Yaḥia (d. 1497), whom the da Pisa house helped transfer goods from Lisbon to Ferrara. Vitale's house became known as a meeting place of scholars: among those who stayed there was Johanan *Alemanno, who tutored Vitale's sons.

The distinctive characteristics of the family were maintained also by Jehiel Vitale's sons isaac (d. 1511) and simone samuel (d. 1510). The da Pisa fortunes suffered only limited damage when the family was compelled to leave Tuscany after the downfall of the Medici (1494). When they returned to Florence, with Pope Leo x, the da Pisa were able to recover their properties and resume their banking activities in Tuscany.

Another outstanding member of the family was daniel (d. 1532), son of Isaac. He was active in Pisa, Florence, and Rome, where he was appointed gentleman and familiare of Pope Clemete vii, who entrusted him with the task of drawing up the new takkanot of the composite Roman Jewish Community. This code was approved in 1524.

Daniel welcomed David *Reuveni on his visit to Rome. Daniel had two brothers, salomon and abram. The first developed wide-ranging banking activities from Tuscany to the Republic of Venice. Abram established his activities in Bologna.

vitale jehiel nissim (d. 1574), son of Simone Samuel, was an eminent scholar, with profound knowledge of Scriptures, philosophy, Kabbalah, and astronomy. He wrote Minḥat Kena'ot (publ. by D. Kaufmann, 1898) aimed at demonstrating the superiority of religion over philosophy, and Ma'amar Ḥayyei Olam, a halakhic treatise on matters of finance (publ. in 1962 by G. Rosentha I under the title Banking and Finance among Jews in Renaissance Italy, with notes and biographical sketch). He lived in Pisa and on the vast farming estate that had belonged to the family for more than a century, in the hills surrounding the city. His house was open to the needy.

In 1554 simone samuel, son of Vitale Jehiel Nissim, graduated in medicine from the University of Pisa. Seven years later emanuele, son of Salomon di Isaac, obtained a university degree in Ferrara, by special privilege. Furthermore he was a member of the rabbinical academy in that city.

In the 17th century a branch of the family became established in Ferrara, under the rule of the Church. In the course of several generations their surname was simplified to Pisa.

In 1831 zaccaria of elia pisa (1788–1833) founded a banking house in Ferrara under his name. In 1852 his sons luigi israel (1813–1895), leone leopoldo (1812–1872), and giuseppe (1827–1904) moved the family enterprise to Milan and developed it into one of the most important private banks in Italy. Between 1863 and 1914 the Bank Pisa was engaged in raising public-capital subscriptions and placed bonds issued by the state as well as by the railway companies. It was on the board of directors of such companies as the Strade Ferrate Meridionali (Southern Railways), the Navigazione Generale, and Edison.

ugo pisa, son of Luigi Israel (1845–1910), volunteered in the 1866 war. He entered a diplomatic career, led an economic mission to China and Japan, and was eventually appointed ambassador. He later became president of the Chamber of Commerce of Milan and senator of the Kingdom of Italy. The banking house of the family continued its operations well into the 1930s under the guidance of luigi della torre (a grandson of Luigi Pisa), who was senator of the Kingdom (1913) and president of the abi (Italian Banking Association).

From moses-aron pisa, a brother of Zaccaria, descended the Roman line of the family, headed in the early 21st century by franco pisa, an economist and international merchant. He engaged in the study of Jewish economic history and published several studies on the structure of local banks and their influence on regional economies. He also sponsored several cultural activities.


U. Cassuto, in: ri, 5 (1908), 277–38; 10 (1913–14), 48–59: D. Kaufmann, in: rej, 31 (1895), 62–73; Milano, Italy, index: idem, in: rm1, 10 (1935/36), 324–38, 409–26; Roth, Italy index. add. bibliography: F. Bonelli, La crisi del 1907 (1971); A. Confalonieri, Banca e Industria in Italia (1979); M. Luzzati, La casa dell'ebreo (1985); S. Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews (1991), index.

[Menachem E. Artom /

Aron Leoni (2nd ed.)]