The Political Heart of Florence
Duration: 2 hrs
Site visited: Palazzo Vecchio*, Piazza della Signoria
Price for 1-4pax: €160
Additional price headsets from 5-10 pax: €30
*Entry fees: not included
The Palace with many names
Palazzo Vecchio, the aggressive castle-like structure, has been the political heart of the small but proud City State of Florence since the early 1300s, a testimony of sacks, of tyrants, of patronage, power and control.
Piazza Signoria, the square where Palazzo Vecchio stands, is where the population would congregate to witness and celebrate important political events such as the visit of popes, but also the backdrop for social upheavals and revolts, and in more gory moments of Florentine history, the site of executions.
It is also an outdoor museum of sculptures where the bronze statue of Cosimo I, the powerful Fountain of Neptune and the copy of David adorn the square. In the Loggia dei Lanzi, other masterful pieces, Perseus of Benvenuto Cellini and the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna.
The palace changed names about 4 times, speaking volumes of evolving political situations through the centuries. In 1285, members of Florence’s economic elite stipulated an edict by which the city would build a palace in stone where the Priors of the Arts were to meet, govern and legislate. Palazzo dei Priori was to represent all “citizens” in the hope of settling conflicts among powerful families and divided factions. In the 15th century, it was then called Palazzo Della Signoria, an emblem of the Republic of Florence and its political fluctuations. From 1540 to 1565, it will be referred to as Palazzo Ducale, the residence of Cosimo I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. It wasn’t until the Medici’s move to their new palace, Palazzo Pitti, did it become known what it is today, Palazzo Vecchio, Old Palace.
We see how according to different needs and changing ideals, the “old” palace and the square where it stands, Piazza Della Signoria, will be modified in the 16th century to become complementary to each other when renovations and artworks were commissioned in order to celebrate Medici rule and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. This piazza has been witness to some of the most important events in Florence’s history including the execution and burning at the stake of Girolamo Savonarola, the same site where important books and works of art were burned in the Bonfire of the Vanities which he inspired.