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Piazza dei Cavalieri

  • Piazza dei Cavalieri – for a peaceful part of town

    Critics say that Pisa, unlike its Tuscan rivals, has no real centre. That’s not quite true: it’s simply that the centre isn’t where you most expect it, or that there are several centres. During the Pisan Republic, Piazza dei Cavallieri was the political and administrative heart. Now it’s back to being just a quietly beautiful square. After escaping the hordes by the Leaning Tower, get your bearings back in this deceptively peaceful Pisan square. Dante’s Inferno relates that it was in one of the towers of the Palazzo dell’Orologio (the building with a clock-face to the north of the square) that Count Ugolino, wrongly convicted of treason in 1284, was left to starve to death with his sons. The square is named after the order of knights (cavalieri) founded by Cosimo I (1561) to fight the Turks in the Mediterranean. The duke gave the knights Palazzo della Carovana, the former council chambers of the Pisan City State. The magnificent sgraffito decoration, complete with floral patterns and coats of arms, was based on plans by Vasari (1511–74), as was the next-door church of Santo Stefano. In 1606 Giovanni de’ Medici added the marble façade and the knights’ emblem above the doorway. Displayed inside are trophies and spoils of war from Pisan naval victories against the Ottomans.

    Address: Piazza dei Cavalieri, Pisa

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