Palazzo della Carovana

Home to one of Italy’s finest universities, the former headquarters of Pisa’s order of knights is still the most bustling building on the huge Piazza dei Cavalieri.

Overlooking Pisa’s second-largest square is one of the city’s most notable works of architecture. Designed by the famous Giorgio Vasari and built between 1562 and 1564, the Palazzo della Carovana is the former headquarters of Pisa’s knights. See this remarkable building on one of the city’s many walking tours. 

The palace was named after the training, called la Carovana, undertaken within its walls. The palace is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture. Today, the building remains a center for education, but of a very different kind. Since the mid-19th century the palace has been the premises of the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, one of the most highly regarded universities in Italy. 

Join a walking tour of the old city and learn about the knights that studied and resided within the palace and the architecture of Giorgio Vasari and his role in redeveloping the Knight’s Square. Keep an eye out for the detailed sculptures carved into the palace exterior, each depicting one of the six Medici grand dukes. Other decorations include zodiacal symbols and symbolic Italian figures. A large statue of Cosimo I, the first Duke of Tuscany, stands just outside the palace.

As the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa is an operational university, you can only access parts of the building. Climb the twin staircases that lead to the main entrance before moving through the historic halls. While the building has been dramatically restructured to accommodate the university, some of the halls still contain paintings dating back to the 16th century.

The Palazzo della Carovana is located on the Knight’s Square in Pisa’s Santa Maria quarter, which is in the heart of Pisa’s historic district. It can be reached on foot or by bus from the other major tourist attractions. Parking spaces in the area are scarce, but some metered street parking can be found. There is no fee to visit the square or the palace and it can be seen daily, but some parts of the school are not accessible to the public.

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