In ancient times, the square represented the center of civil power, while starting from the second half of the 16th century it became the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen, commissioned by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici.
Starting with 1140, Piazza dei Cavalieri became the heart of the municipality of Pisa, with buildings and churches used by the different magistrates of the city.
After the seizure of power by the Pisan people in 1254, it was built by merging pre-existing buildings the Palazzo degli Anziani (Palace of the Elders), today the Palazzo della Carovana. The Captain of the People (Capitano del Popolo) resided in the nearby Palazzo dell’Orologio, which belonged to the Gualandi family and incorporated the famous Tower of Muda or Della Fame, where in 1289 the Count Ugolino died.
The works for the complete transformation of the square began in 1558, after Cosimo I decided to dedicate it to the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen, founded with papal approval in 1562. Giorgio Vasari was comissioned to transform the square.
The first reconstruction involved the Palace of the Elders, which became the Palazzo della Carovana, intended to house the headquarters of the knights. The architect continued with the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, intended for the exclusive use of the knights.
To the south of the square, near the Church of Santo Stefano, we can find the Palazzo della Canonica, dating from the 16th century, built from several adjoining buildings.
The Palazzo dei Priori, now Palazzo del Consiglio dei Dodici, was completed in 1603 by Pietro Francavilla, who also sculpted the Statue of Cosimo I placed at the center of the square. At the same time, the Church of San Rocco was rebuilt, which later became the seat of the Chancery of the Order. Adjacent to the former church, there is the Palazzo del Collegio Puteano, built at the end of the 16th century.
Between 1912 and 1952, the square was affected by the presence of the tracks and a dedicated stop of the tram network of Pisa.
Between 2012 and 2013, a renewal of the area was carried out, replacing the existing asphalt with a sandstone paving and changing the lighting system.
HOW TO GET THERE
Piazza dei Cavalieri is located about 1.4 kilometers away from the Pisa Centrale train station. The closest bus station is Pacinotti 2, on the bus Lines 2, 4, 5, 13, 21, 22, LAM Verde and Navetta E, located about 300 meters away.