Palazzo Reale Travel Guide
The Palazzo Reale di Pisa (or “Royal Palace of Pisa”) is a simple, unassuming 16th century structure that is located right along the River Arno in Pisa. Don’t let the simple façade fool you however, as the Palazzo Reale was once a place where the city’s most powerful would meet to discuss important matters of that time.
The Palazzo Reale di Pisa was originally built between 1583 and 1587, as commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici of the famous and powerful Medici family, who also happened to be Grand Duke of Tuscany at the time. He awarded the commission to the Florentine architect and artist Bernardo Buontalenti, and he also selected the location because of the beautiful views of the river from that spot. This newer palace came to replace the original Medici residence which was near the San Matteo church.
The Palazzo Reale mainly served as a sort of vacation home for the Medicis as a way for them to get away from the warm weather in Florence. However, as time went on and as they spent more and more time in Pisa, their residence would also become host to many important people and events. Later on, as governments changed and new ruling families rose to power, the Palazzo Reale also became the appointed residence of other famous families such as the Lorraines and the Savoys.
During the Napoleonic period, it also housed Élisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger sister who was Princess of Lucca and Piombino, as well as Grand Duchess of Tuscany at the time. Known for her love of the arts and theatre, she is credited for being a patron and benefactor for artists in the territories over which she held office.
Much later, during the creation of the Italian Republic, the palace was ceded to the state, and it now houses a museum as well as the headquarters of the Soprintendenza dei Beni Culturali, which is the office of the historical, artistic and ethno-anthropological heritage and for the architectural and landscape heritage of the provinces of Pisa and Livorno.
What to See
Museum of the Palazzo Reale
The upper floor of the palazzo is home to the Museum of the Palazzo Reale, an institution that features the heritage of the courts of the local ruling dynasties who have made the palace their home. It contains an impressive collection of tapestries and historical armor that date from the 15th to the 17th centuries, as well as a collection of paintings, most notable of which are those by Raphael, Rosso Fiorentino, Antonio Canova, and Agnolo Bronzino. There are also displays of archaeological artifacts from excavations of Pisa’s ancient harbor.
Another section of the building features rooms which contain furnishings from the 17th to the 19th centuries which display the richness of the Pisan court. There is also a fresco that was created by artists from the workshop of Luigi Ademollo.
Torre della Verga d’Oro
The Torre della Verga d’Oro, the Tower of the Golden Rod, is a 12th century structure which was later incorporated to the Palazzo Reale. It is most famous for the story that it was at the top of this tower that the famous scientist Galileo Galilei first demonstrated his telescope to the grand duke, allowing them to view the stars.
Tips and Advice
- Museum opening hours are on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 9am to 2.30pm; and on Saturdays from 9am to 1.30pm. The palace and its museum is closed on Tuesdays, Sundays, and public holidays
- Visitors are allowed entry into the museum up until 30 minutes before it closes.
- Regular admission ticket price is EUR 5.00.
- Admission is free for EU citizens who are under 18 years old or over 65 years old. It is also free for university students who study the arts, particularly archaeology, cultural heritage, humanities, and architecture.
- The palace is located on the Lungarno, between Piazza Carrara and Via Santa Maria, which is also the street which leads to the famous Leaning Tower.