Until 1848, the year of the battle of Curtatone and Montanara in the First War of Independence in which many students from the University of Pisa also took part, it was known as Piazza delle ‘grascie’, or grain square. It has always been one of the city’s vital centres, being located between the main Corso Matteotti and Via Gotti/Via Castelli.

The square dates back to 1270, coinciding with the construction of the present Cathedral and the Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix. It is overlooked by the Palazzo Pretorio (home of the PALP exhibition centre) with the Civic Tower, built in the late medieval period and later transformed. The palace was the seat of the podestà and vicars under the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The characteristic loggia from 1674 was at the time occupied by the grain market. When it became the seat of the vicariate, the entire building was completely renovated as we see it today. The windows are divided into two orders and panelled in pietra serena in the late Renaissance style. Under the portico a plaque from 1345 (the oldest in the city) bears the coat of arms of Pisa and a three-arched bridge. In the basement, the rooms that once served as salt warehouses.

Two 19th-century palaces designed by Pontedera architect Luigi Bellincioni complete the square, one of which bears his name and is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings (1866). In front of the palace, Pietro Cascella’s white marble sculpture ‘Il Toro’ (The Bull) has stood since 2001 on a terracotta and travertine base with two benches on either side. It represents, with the bull bearing a boulder on its back, a symbol of the heaviness of work.

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