The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi.
Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke’s residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.
Palazzo Vecchio has been the symbol of the civic power of Florence for over seven centuries. Built between the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth to house the city’s supreme governing body, the Priori delle Arti and the Gonfalonier of Justice, over time it has been subject to a series of extensions and transformations. Its current appearance is mainly due to the splendid restoration work and interior decoration carried out in the mid-sixteenth century to adapt the building to its new function as ducal palace as ordered by Cosimo I de’ Medici. After the transfer of the Medici court to Palazzo Pitti, it continued to host the Guardaroba (where the ceremonial costumes and family treasures were stored) and various governmental offices, until it became the seat of the Florence City Council in 1871.
The visit begins in the Cortile di Michelozzo, the courtyard adorned with stuccoes and frescoes, and continues on the first floor with the Salone dei Cinquecento, where a majestic cycle of pictures celebrates the apotheosis of Cosimo de’ Medici and the city of Florence and a rich array of statues accompany Michelangelo’s celebrated Victory. On the second floor of the museum are the private rooms of the Medici court, all sumptuously decorated and furnished, and among these the marvellous Chapel of Eleonora with paintings by Agnolo Bronzino. Important testimonies of the Palazzo’s oldest decorations are kept in the Audience Room and the Room of the Lilies, where the original of Donatello’s Judith is also found. In the Room of the Maps an exceptionally large globe and more than fifty painted panels provide an extraordinary glimpse of all the parts of the world known in the sixteenth century.
The Tower of Palazzo Vecchio
Literally “towering” over Florence, the 95 mt. hight Tower of Palazzo Vecchio is one of the city’s unmistakable symbols and focal points. It is also one of the oldest parts of the building built between 1299 and the early 14th century, possibly to a design by Arnolfo di Cambio, as the seat of the city’s government.