Since its construction around 1300 Florence‘s Palazzo Vecchio has served as the seat of the various Republican governments that settled here. Even today it still is the city’s town hall. Its interior is decorated by famous artists such as Vasari, Bronzino and Ghirlandaio. It is located in the Piazza della Signoria and is considered the symbol of Florence.
Palazzo Vecchio Florence
Address, opening hours and admission
The address of the Palazzo Vecchio is Piazza della Signoria – Florence (tel. +39 0552768325). The nearest bus stop is Galleria degli Uffizi (line C1). Opening hours: From April to September from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.); from October to March from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). The box office closes one hour before closing time. Closed: Christmas. Entrance fee: 10 Euro; age 18 to 25 and university students: 8 Euro. Combi-ticket museum + tower: 14 Euro (12 Euro with discount). Combi-ticket museum + excavations: 14 Euro (12 Euro with discount). Combi-ticket museum + tower + excavations: 18 Euro (16 Euro with discount).
History Palazzo Vecchio Florence
The architect of Palazzo Vecchio (“Old Palace”) was Arnolfo Di Cambio. Construction lasted from 1299 to 1302. The palace is characterized by elegant Gothic windows with thin columns and an almost 100m high bell tower.
Originally it was the seat of the Priori delle Arti. In the 15th century, however, the Signoria took up residence there and it is to this that the square owes its present name.
In 1540 Cosimo I (of the Medici family) made the castle to his residence. All kinds of decorations were immediately added to the palace.
The courtyard, designed by Michelozzo in 1453, was painted by Vasari. To celebrate the marriage between Francesco de’ Medici and Joanna of Austria, these frescoes had Austrian themes.
Leonardo Makes a Mess
The monumental staircase leads to the Sala dei Cinquecento, so called because in pre-Republican times 500 people used to gather here. Leonardo Da Vinci was meant to have painted a large war scene on one of the walls of this room. He experimented by mixing wax into his pigment. When the wall did not dry quickly enough, he had the room heated, which caused the wax to melt and the paint to slide down. Then, when he wanted to start painting the other walls (probably without using wax), Pope Julius II ordered him to come to Rome to give the Sistine Chapel a fresh layer of paint. Eventually, Vasari would paint the Sala dei Cinquecento with scenes glorifying Cosimo I de’ Medici and his family.
The Sala dei Cinquecento also contains a sculpture (“Vittoria”) by Michelangelo. The unfinished work, like the “Slavs” now on display in the Galleria dell’Accademia, was originally intended for the tomb of Julius II, which would eventually end up less grandiose than planned in the San Pietro in Vincoli Church in Rome. The distorted, spiraling posture of the statue would later often be imitated by the Mannerists.
Dante’s death Mask
What is supposed to be Dante’s death mask is in a glass case in a hallway between Eleonar’s rooms and the Sala dei Priori. Unfortunately, it is not authentic (and neither is any of the other 20 death masks of the author of the “Divine Comedy”). The one in the Palazzo Vecchio was probably copied from a sculpture that used to decorate Dante’s tomb in Ravenna.
On the second floor there are a number of rooms which together are called the Quartiere degli Elementi and are also decorated with frescoes by Vasari.
From the balcony above the Sala dei Cinquecento one enters the Apartments of Eleonora di Toledo, the Spanish wife of Cosimo I. Her private chapel in this room is painted by Bronzino.
The Sala dei Gigli is painted with the fresco “Saint Zenobius ascending the Throne” by Domenico Ghirlandaio. The original bronze “Judith en Holofernes” (1455) by Donatello can also be seen here.
There is a Children’s Museum (Museo dei Ragazzi) in the Palazzo Vecchio. The aim of the museum is to stimulate interest in art.