The Palazzo Vecchio
the Piazza della Signoria
(Picture 1), Renaissance sculptures embellish the piazza and historic cafes
flank its sides. It is no doubt a picture-postcard image which has
remained an important centre in Florence’s history. It was the meeting point in many of the turning points in Florence’s history and the setting where people
were summoned to hold a referendum to vote in favour or against a fraction
or another. This piazza saw Savonarola
burning part of the legacy of books and arts of the Medici at the end
of the 15th century in what he called the “Bonfire of Vanities”. It was
also his own blazing bonfire in which he was sentenced to death.
A commemorative plaque is placed in the fire´s spot in front of the Fontana di Nettuno
by Ammannati, adorned with satyrs, gods and goddesses, but to all
accounts, quite unattractive. Other statues are much more interesting
such as Giambologna’s Cosimo I, a reproduction of David, occupying the
place where the original used to be, reproductions of the heraldic lion of
Florence and Judith and Holoferne
s by Donatello.
The Loggia dei Lanzi
sits opposite these beauties. This arcade dating back to the 14th century houses the Rape of the Sabine Women
by Giambologna, Perseus
by Benvenuto Cellini and Seven Virtues
by Agnolo Gaddi, made in the 14th and 16th century. The building was
named after the Lanzichenecchi, Cosimo I’s bodyguards, whose station
was and is (at least symbolically, for they stay in there) this loggia.
The Florentines congregate here before heading out on a passeggiata
and tourists snap endless photographs amongst the statues.Palazzo Vecchio
(Picture 2 and 3), the
centre of political decisions operated in the Middle Ages and the
Renaissance. Its creations are Arnolfo di Cambio´s work, including the Torre
d’Arnolfo and the impressive crenellations built between the end of the
13th century and the first years of the 14th century. It was the temporary
home of the nine consuls chosen randomly for their two-month office.
In the 16th century it became Cosimo I
and his family’s home and the seat of government. Vasari was in charge of
renovating it, but the family decided to move to the recently purchased
Palazzo Pitti which became their permanent residence after the death of
Cosimo I’s wife and two sons. It was then that the Palazzo took the name
Palazzo Vecchio (tel. 055 276 82 24; www.palazzovecchio-museoragazzi.it
; open 9am, to 7pm Fri-Wed, to 2 Thu). Today It is still the seat of the local government.
To make the most of its interiors it is advised to take up a guided tour. One of its main attractions is the Sala Grande
also known as the Salone dei Cinquecento
of the Five Hundred) built for the numerous councils which took
political decisions in the last part of the 15th century. It is
enthroned by Genius of Victory
by Michelangelo, not
finished by the master as he died while still painting it. This enormous room
was decorated by Vasari and his students and the frescoes cover the whole height of
the wall. The scenes depict Cosimo I beating Pisa and Siena. The
ceilings, which at the time were made 7 metres higher, a commission
given to Vasari and consulted with Michelangelo, depict Cosimo I as a
god. It is truly captivating.
Near this enormous room is the Chapel of SS Cosmas and Damian
housing a triptych panel by Vasari in which Cosimo the Elder and Cosimo I represent both saints respectively. Next door is the Sala di Leo X
, where Giovanni de’Medici, who would later become pope, used to stay.
Upstairs are the apartments of Eleonora di Toledo
and her ladies-in-waiting, luxuriously decorated and mirroring the
splendour the Medici used to live in. Highlights are Bronzinos’s
colourful and bright frescoes adorning the chapel and Ridolfo del
Ghirlandaio’s green room’s ceilings which were modelled on Nero’s Domus Aurea
On the same level, the Sala dei Gigli
houses the original Judith and Holofernes
by Donatello. The room is painted with a frieze composed of a
fleurs-de-lis, symbol of the Republic of Florence. Also in the same
room is a fresco with Roman personalities by Ghirlandaio.
Near the Sala dei Gigli
is Niccolò Machiavelli
’s study. The Sala delle Carte Geografiche
keeps the maps that Cosimo I collected in the 16th century, which by then was the most update.
by means of a tour guide is it possible to visit the secret passages
and rooms. A group of up to 12 can walk along the tunnel especially constructed
for Walter de Brienne, Duke of Athens, self proclaimed Lord of
Florence in the 14th century who was soon expelled by the Florentines.
There is also a secret treasury for Cosimo I, where he kept his private
collection and a study for Francesco I
adorned by Vasari and Mannerist artists´work. In this study there are 20
cabinets hidden by the artists’ creations which kept Francesco ‘s
Children can have a special tour in which actors in
period costumes re-enact and interact with them while comparing and contrasting the traditional with today´s customs.
Tours to the museum can be reserved the day before the tour by e-mail (email@example.com
) or on the telephone (tel. 055 276 82 24).
can pay for a guided tour to the museum added to the admission ticket
(visits: 9.30am, 12.30, 3.30 and 6.30pm Mon, Wed and Fri; 9.30am
12.30pm Thu, 10am 1.30, 3 and 6.30pm weekends).