Symbolic monument of political power in Florence and, simultaneously, the most outstanding piece of civil architecture of the Florentine Trecento, or 14th c., this building was begun in 1299, to plans by Arnolfo di Cambio, as the Palazzo dei Priori.
It became Palazzo della Signoria in the 15th c., and then the residence of the Medici from 1540 to 1565, when its name was changed in ”Palazzo Vecchio”, the old palace, after the grand duke shifted his residence to Palazzo Pitti.
The façade, covered with rustic stone, is divided into three levels divided by cornices on which rest the beautiful mullioned windows whose arches are covered and underlined with the same stone.
The small balcony, sustained by small arched supports underneath, opens out through an arched window, providing great architectural effect. Between these supports are the different family crests and shields of the ancients. A second patrol balcony is on the top floor and is protected by Ghuelf battlements.
The main entrance is near the Loggia dei Lanzi and is flanked by two marble statues from the sixteenth century by Baccio Bandinelli and Vincenzo de' Rossi. Corresponding with the main entrance, moved to the right, raises the powerful tower built in 1310. Constructed on the previous Torre de' Foraboschi, it reaches 94 meters.
On this tower is the still perfectly functioning tower clock. Also very enchanting are the Rocca and la Cella Campanaria. In the XIV and XVI centuries, the Palazzo was under construction and renovation gave it its actual configuration. The main entrance opens up to the first courtyard, which has at its centre a small fountain with the Cupid and the Dolphin by Andrea del Verrocchio.
The decorations in the courtyard were done in 1565 for the wedding of Ferdinand I and Joan of Austria. From the first courtyard, we continue into the Cortile della Dogana, or the Customs courtyard designed by Buontalenti and dall'Ammannati. Between the two courtyards, on the right and the left are the ramps that give access to the upper levels.
On the first floor we enter immediately the Salone dei Cinquecento, designed by Antonio da Sangallo and Francesco di Domenico and frescoed by Michelangelo and Leonardo. On the left is the Office of Francesco I, which leads to the Tesoretto.
On the opposite side is the entrance to the Quarters of Leon X which follow the stupendous chambers dedicated to Lorenzo the Magnificent, Cosimo I and other members of the Medici family and the priceless Sala de' Dugento. From the Leon X salon there is access to the second floor where we find the enchanting Quarters of the Elements and the Quarters of Eleonora.
Palazzo Vecchio, in its long history, has adapted to the times and functions in which it has found itself. Today it is not just a great museum, but it also houses various offices of the City and is often the seat of important conferences and events.
For any information:
Museo di Palazzo Vecchio
Piazza Signoria (055 2768224).
Open 9am-7pm daily, Thu 9am-2pm.
Admission: 6 euro.