Palazzo Vecchio is one of the most important monuments of the city of Florence and has been the seat of its government for more than seven hundred years.
The name Palazzo Vecchio (literally: old palace) was given to this building after 1565, when the court of Grand Duke Cosimo I moved to the "new" Palazzo Pitti. The palace changed its name through the centuries following its politics: it was originally called Palazzo dei Priori, then Palazzo della Signoria and finally Palazzo Ducale. It was also the seat of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy when Florence was the capital between 1865 and 1871, and today it is the seat of the Municipality of Florence.
The construction of Palazzo Vecchio was entrusted to Arnolfo di Cambio in 1299, who built it on the ruins of pre-existing buildings by incorporating the ancient Torre della Vacca, the base of the current Torre di Arnolfo. The building we see today is the result of successive constructions and expansions that took place over the following centuries, such as the construction of the Salone dei Cinquecento (=Room of 500) at the end of the 15th century commissioned by Girolamo Savonarola.
Palazzo Vecchio houses the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio which has various rooms of impressive beauty that display the history of Florence and of the Medici family who ruled the city for almost 300 years. One of the most spectacular halls is the monumental Salone dei Cinquecento: it has a length of 117 feet, a width of 75.4 feet and a height of 59 feet. The works that decorate the walls of the room are the work of Giorgio Vasari and his workshop. He received the commission from Cosimo I de’ Medici to transform the hall into a meeting room which would glorify his feats and history. At the center of the ceiling we find the Apotheosis of Cosimo I surrounded by more than 40 allegories regarding the districts of Florence and the domains of the Duchy.
In addition to Vasari's works, the Salone dei Cinquecento boasts Michelangelo's famous Vittoria, one of the eight sculptures that, together with the Captives, was made for the tomb of Pope Julius II.
Of particular beauty is the Studiolo of Francesco I, also created by Vasari and workshop, with walls covered with paintings, stuccos and sculptures that represent the four elements of nature (air, earth, water and fire). You can also admire the portraits of Cosimo I and his wife Eleanor of Toledo painted by Alessandro Allori.
On a sunny day, you should climb the Tower of Palazzo Vecchio which, with its 311.5 feet, rises over the roofs of the city. After climbing the 223 steps you reach the last crenellated sighting level which offers a splendid panorama of Florence.
Where is it?
Piazza della Signoria, 50122, Firenze FI
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