The Royal Palace, or Granducale, stands on the area of the ancient palace of the Marquises of Tuscia and the tower houses of the wealthy Dodi and Caetani families. In 1583, the palace was completely rebuilt at the behest of Francesco I de’ Medici, by Bernardo Buontalenti, who turned it into the Grand Ducal Palace, but the current appearance is due to the intervention of the Lorraine in the 18th century. The three suspended bridges that connect it to the Church of San Nicola and the Palazzo delle Vedove date from this period. After the unification of Italy, the palace was the winter residence of the Savoy until 1919, when it became state property. Since 1989, it has housed the museum (National Museum of Palazzo Reale) and the A.P.P.S.A.E. Superintendence for the Heritage of Pisa and Livorno. The museum is one of the richest in the city and boasts works by Raffaello, Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino and Guido Reni. Of great value is the exhibition of the five tapestries of Medicean Manufacture of the 16th-17th century, coming from the villa of Poggio a Caiano, in addition to the picture gallery of Antonio Ceci, with works by Francia, Peter Brueguel the Elder and Canova. Through the portraits, from Eleonora of Toledo to Vittorio Emanuele II, it is possible to relive the history of the palace and the city, while the section dedicated to the Game of the Bridge, a Pisan historical re-enactment, reveals the ludic aspect of the city over the centuries.
The Medici in the palace: the first Medici palace, purchased by Cosimo the Elder, was the current Palazzo Spinola. Francesco I commissioned Bernardo Buontalenti to build the new Grand Ducal palace over the buildings of the Gaetani. It had a geometric garden on Via Santa Maria, a beautiful internal loggia (still visible along the museum route) and the two overpasses allowed the Grand Dukes to attend religious functions in San Nicola without mixing with the faithful. A third overpass connected to the Palazzo delle Vedove (widows’ palace)of the Medici. In addition to the grand ducal palace, the so-called Uffizi Pisani included the aforementioned palace church of San Nicola, the Palazzo delle Vedove, the Teatro Nuovo (in the 18th century) and the Scrittoio delle Regie Fabbriche, today a university department.The tower of Galileo, or Torre del Cantone, also known in Pisa as the Verga d’Oro (Golden rod), is a construction of the 12th century probably built to defend the Domus dei Dodi, one of the tower houses forming part of the original nucleus of the building. The tower is located between via Santa Maria and via San Nicola and is connected by an arch to the Palazzo delle Vedove, and by another to the church of San Nicola. In 1609, the great scientist Galileo Galilei invited the Grand DukeCosimo II de‘ Medicito observe together the stars and the discoveries made by him thanks to his greatest invention: the telescope. These findings were extensively discussed in the astronomy treatise Sidereus Nuncius, from 1610, among which we recall the surface rough and uneven of the moon, the star composition of the Milky Way, the four satellites of Jupiter, called Medicean in honour of Cosimo II.Still on the subject of scientific discoveries, the building also hosted the illustrious professor Francesco Redi, considered the father of modern parasitology.Here, in 1690, he wrote the famous Letter about the invention of glasses, after having found in the convent of Santa Caterina a handwritten chronicle relating to the important invention of the Pisan Dominican Alessandro Della Spina.