Palazzo Vecchio(Palazzo della Signoria) in Florence: Tickets and what to see
Palazzo Vecchio: What to See in Florence
Palazzo Vecchio or Palazzo della Signoria, the political heart of Florence for over seven centuries, is an unmissable destination on a journey to this city. The decisions made within its walls have contributed to transforming Florence into the splendid Renaissance city known worldwide. Let’s now explore its history, rooms, and artistic treasures.
The History of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
Initially, the site where Palazzo Vecchio stands today was occupied by the Roman theater, which still has some underground spaces.
Florence’s prosperous period began in the 13th century when it had its currency and mercantile and financial companies. The desire of the new bourgeoisie to participate in public life became evident, especially with the rise to power of the wealthy Medici family.
The Medici Family of Florence
The Medici family were prominent Florentine bankers who had business throughout Europe but worked tirelessly to turn the city into an artistic capital. Besides improving social living conditions, they sponsored many public works and were active in religious matters. It’s worth noting that three popes descended from this family.
The Medici family is perhaps best known for their patronage, and thanks to them, Florence became the cradle of the Renaissance.
Cosimo I de’ Medici expanded the Palazzo dei Priori to transform it into his residence, where he stayed until he moved to the new Palazzo Pitti, located beyond the Arno River.
For this reason, the building acquired the name “Palazzo Vecchio” (Old Palace). However, it once again became the center of public life when Florence became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1871.
Palazzo Vecchio is still the heart of the city today. It houses the municipal and mayoral offices, but above all, it is one of the most important museums in Florence.
Architecture of Palazzo Vecchio
The building, towering over Piazza della Signoria, results from modifications to a previously fortified structure. The striking Arnolfo Tower, named after the architect, is an extension of this construction. This explains why the tower is not perfectly centered concerning the façade of the Palace.
Due to the turbulent times, the original Palazzo dei Priori (Palazzo Vecchio) resembled a fortress. However, with the arrival of Cosimo I de’ Medici, it was modified and embellished with the contribution of influential artists of the time.
When the dukes moved to Palazzo Pitti beyond the Arno River, they also created the Vasari Corridor. This secret passage connected Palazzo Vecchio with the new Ducal Palace, passing through the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio.
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Facade of Palazzo Vecchio
The imposing exterior facades of Palazzo Vecchio, covered in rusticated stone, still convey a sense of power and solidity. A projecting balcony supported by small arches is alongside the narrow Gothic mullioned windows. The squared battlements of the Palace differ from the swallowtail or Ghibelline battlements of the tower.
A staircase leads to the entrance of the Palace, while a raised platform called the “arengario” extends along its side. The name comes from a railing that once separated the space where the priori observed city ceremonies.
Donatello’s Statues in front of Palazzo Vecchio
In front of the main facade of Palazzo Vecchio, you can see copies of several sculptures that initially had different placements. Donatello was the author of two of these bronze works. His heraldic lion, the Marzocco, symbolized the Florentine Republic with its paw resting on a shield.
The sculpture of Judith slaying Holofernes represented the virtues of the Florentine rulers. The original statue is located inside Palazzo Vecchio, while the lion statue is preserved at the Bargello Museum. Initially placed on either side of the entrance gate, they were moved in the 1500s to make way for two more imposing sculptures.
Michelangelo’s David in Piazza della Signoria
Michelangelo’s David, created in 1504, was initially intended to adorn the square before the Florence Cathedral. However, its perfect forms and embodied ideals were more suitable for representing the Florentine Republic of that period.
The statue replaced Donatello’s “Judith and Holofernes.” Still, in 1873, due to the fragility of the material and the need to protect it from the weather, it was moved to the Accademia Gallery.
The void left in Piazza della Signoria was never accepted by the Florentines. In 1910, through a public competition, sculptor Luigi Arrighetti created a perfect replica that is still visible in front of the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio.
On the other side of the staircase is the statue of Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli. However, Bandinelli never managed to match Michelangelo‘s style, and the criticism towards him was harsh.
Marble Inscriptions of Palazzo Vecchio
Near the portal, you can also see the so-called “lemmi marmoreal,” intended to support a chain prohibiting carts’ passage into the inner courtyard.
I suppose they represent Philemon and Baucis, a Greek mythological couple. According to legend, they were transformed into trees by the gods. The male figure resembles an oak tree, while the female figure resembles a lime tree, evident from the legs of the statues, which are wrapped in branches.
The striking marble facade above the doorway, with a blue background and golden lilies, is surrounded by various elements. In the center is a radiating monogram, while on the sides are two golden lions. The inscription also intended to remind us that Christ was the city’s king, and no one could overthrow Him and take His power. It was commissioned by the gonfalonier Niccolò Capponi in 1551, who held the highest Florentine office at the time, overseeing justice.
Palazzo Vechhio Museum Opening Hours
October to March:
Thursday and Wendsday: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
All the other days: 9 am – 7 pm
April to September:
Thursday: 9 am – 2 pm.
All the other days: 9 am – 11 pm.
Palazzo Vechhio Tower
Friday to Wednesday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and Thursday 9:00 am – 2:00 pm.
Palazzo Vecchio: Museum and Video Guide
Palazzo Vechhio Tickets Price
General admission tickets are 12.50€. Reduced price tickets for students between the ages of 18 and 25 are 10€ with proof of ID. People under the age of 18, as well as visitors with a disability and one carer, are entitled to free entry to the Palazzo Vecchio. However, a reservation is still required for free admission. When booking online for skip-the-line tickets, a 2€ fee is added to the purchase price.
COATS OF ARMS OF PALAZZO VECCHIO
The oversized colorful coats of arms under the arches of the loggia of Palazzo Vecchio depict the various political phases of the Florentine Republic. The nine flags, painted in 1313, repeat along the entire perimeter of the front building. They mainly represented the two main Florentine political factions, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, and the various alliances made with other powers.
NINE FLORENTINE COATS OF ARMS
The most famous symbol still representing the city of Florence is the Red Florentine lily on a white background. In the past, this was the coat of arms of the Guelphs, supporters of the papacy. Conversely, the Ghibellines, supporters of the emperor, had the white lily on a red background on their flag.
The white coat of arms represented the Florentine people and the gonfalonier of justice with a red cross.
The red and white coat of arms represented the alliance between Florence and Fiesole.
The coat of arms of the Church, depicting the golden keys on a red background, was also used by the Florentine Republic as a sign of loyalty to the Pope.
The blue shield with the golden word “Libertas” served the Florentine Republic to represent democracy free from imperial influences.
The flag with a red eagle with a lily on its head and a green dragon beneath it was donated by the Pope to the Signoria. It was a token of gratitude for the support to Charles of Anjou, the King of Naples, in the war against King Manfred of Sicily, supported by the Ghibellines.
The blue shield with golden lilies represented the King of Naples, Charles of Anjou, when he served as the podestà of Florence.
The divided coat of arms with golden lilies on one side and red and gold lines on the other symbolized King Robert of Anjou, the city’s ruler, in 1303.
Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) is immediately recognizable by its 94-meter-high tower. When looking at it, it is evident that it needs to be centered on the building. It is the continuation of an existing tower of the original Palace. It is named after the architect Arnolfo di Cambio, who was responsible for the modifications of the Palace.
At the top of the tower is the so-called “little prison,” a particular prison used for influential personalities, such as Cosimo de’ Medici and Girolamo Savonarola. In the bell chamber, there are three bells. One of them is the Martinella, which used to be located in the city walls and served to announce war or danger. Now it is used on special occasions, such as commemorations or City events. The other two bells are the noon and central bells, used to strike the hours.
The roof of the tower, accessible via a spiral staircase, is adorned with a copy of the weathervane in the shape of a heraldic lion, with the staff ending in the Florentine lily. The original is inside, next to the 13th-century halls. Finally, the large clock on the tower’s facade dates back to 1667.
ENTRANCE DOORS OF PALAZZO VECCHIO
In addition to the entrance facing Piazza della Signoria, there are others. The Porta della Tramontana takes its name from the wind that blows in that direction. It is decorated with a large pediment and two empty side niches. It leads to an area used for temporary exhibitions, while in the past, it was the Armory Room where weapons and ammunition were stored.
On the other hand, the Porta della Dogana used to be the gateway for goods subject to customs duties. The inner courtyard now houses the museum’s ticket office.
Michelozzo’s courtyard is the most beautiful and scenic in Palazzo Vecchio. One is amazed by its magnificent decorations when entering through the main door. It is named after the architect who designed it in 1565 on the occasion of the wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici and Joanna of Austria.
Many of the decorations were executed by Giorgio Vasari. Under the entrance, the emblems of the churches and corporations of Florence from that historical period are reproduced. The landscape views depict the significant cities of the Habsburg Empire, including Vienna, Prague, and Bratislava. Colorful grotesque decorations cover the vaults of the entrance.
When admiring the elaborate columns covered in stucco and looking up at the sky, there is also an unusual view of the towering Arnolfo’s tower.
The elegant porphyry fountain in the center of the courtyard replaces an ancient well with a marble basin and a bronze statue of a putto with a dolphin.
It is a copy because the original, created by Andrea Verrocchio, is preserved inside the Palace. Initially, the statue of the Putto was part of the Fountain of Love located in the Medici villa on the hills of Florence.
SALONE DEI CINQUECENTO
After passing through Michelozzo’s courtyard, you climb the monumental staircase to the first floor, where you find the immense Salone dei Cinquecento. Given its exceptional dimensions – 54 meters in length, 23 meters in width, and 18 meters in height – this is considered one of the largest halls in Italy.
Contrary to popular belief, it was not the Medici who conceived it, but rather Savonarola, the Dominican friar who vehemently opposed the corruption of governors and the Church through his sermons.
In 1494, following the flight of the Medici from Florence caused by Savonarola, the new Greater Council of the Florentine Republic was formed. The five hundred members who composed this government finally represented all citizens, and power was no longer in the hands of a few elected officials.
The construction of this impressive hall was entrusted to influential architects who were also inspired by the Venetian hall of the Doge’s Palace.
When Savonarola was burned at the stake for his heretical prophecies, the Greater Council continued to govern the Florentine Republic.
Prominent Florentine artists were brought to decorate the previously bare Salone dei Cinquecento. The grand frescoes were meant to exalt Florence’s victories over its enemies.
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti were the two Renaissance geniuses who embarked on this immense undertaking. They were not precisely great friends but were constantly competing with each other. It is important to note that they did not work during the same period.
BATTLE OF ANGHIARI BY LEONARDO DA VINCI
Leonardo da Vinci set out to reproduce the famous Battle of Anghiari, which took place in 1440 near Arezzo and saw the victorious Florentines clash with the Visconti Milanese. He experimented with a new painting technique by mixing wax with colors. Unfortunately, it did not prove to be a good idea, and the artist faced numerous problems, ultimately leading him to abandon his project.
Only the cartoons of this work remain, which have inspired numerous artists, including Rubens. However, some theories hypothesize the existence of Leonardo‘s sketch on the back of the subsequently created fresco. Despite various experiments, no confirmation has been found yet.
BATTLE OF CASCINA BY MICHELANGELO
The Battle of Cascina was the subject of the fresco commissioned by Michelangelo. In this case, the artist also only executed preparatory drawings because he had to go to Rome to work on commissions from the Pope. The scattered sketches, now found in many major international museums, depicted the struggle of 1364 between the victorious Florentines and the defeated Pisans.
RETURN OF THE MEDICI TO FLORENCE
When the Medici returned to rule Florence as dukes, they decided to transform Palazzo Vecchio into their residence. Although the Salone dei Cinquecento maintained its original function, it also became where Cosimo I received ambassadors and listened to the people.
Cosimo, I entrusted Giorgio Vasari with modifying and expanding the building. The paintings and frescoes were meant to celebrate the military exploits of the Medici, so he replaced the incomplete ones with Leonardo and Michelangelo.
VICTORY OF COSIMO I AT MARCIANO IN VAL DI CHIANA BY VASARI
Among the frescoes covering the long walls of the Salone dei Cinquecento is “The Battle of Scannagallo” or Marciano. The clash between the Florentines and the Sienese occurred in 1554 in the Val di Chiana, between Arezzo and Siena. According to some studies, Leonardo‘s unfinished Battle of Anghiari might still be underneath this fresco. Many believe that Vasari tried to preserve Leonardo‘s work by painting his fresco on another wall. This is why there are two separate walls with an air gap in between.
Despite various research efforts, there still needs to be a definite answer. Many doubts remain, especially regarding specific details depicted in Vasari’s painting. Although very distant, the microscopic inscription on one of the infinite flags held by the fighters reads “Cerca trova” (seek and ye shall find). Vasari probably intended to allude to the masterpiece hidden beneath his project.
DECORATIONS IN THE SALONE DEI CINQUECENTO
The Salone dei Cinquecento is so large that many artistic masterpieces remain to admire. The 7-meter-high raised ceiling is composed of heavy gilded coffers. A dense structure of tie rods connected to the roof trusses allows its stability. The 42 paintings embedded in between mainly depict the glorious deeds of Cosimo I. The Tribune of Audience, in an elevated position, housed the duke’s throne. It resembles a Roman triumphal arch with niches containing statues. Dominating the center is the sculpture of Pope Leo X.
On the opposite wall, the balcony allows an aerial view of the hall and leads to other rooms of the Palace. Giant statues depicting Hercules‘s labors flank the Salone dei Cinquecento walls on pedestals. Michelangelo‘s “The Genius of Victory” statue was initially intended for Pope Julius II’s tomb.
ROOMS ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF PALAZZO VECCHIO
In addition to the magnificent Salone dei Cinquecento, there are other beautiful rooms on the first floor of Palazzo Vecchio.
FRANCESCO I’S STUDY
Designed by Vasari, Francesco I’s study is an intimate, narrow, and elongated space. It is surmounted by a barrel vault, entirely decorated with allegorical and mythological scenes. This was the duke’s favorite place, where he indulged in his pastimes. He collected jewelry, gemstones, and small valuable objects and dedicated himself to studying sciences and alchemy.
The symbolism used in this study is very significant, as it references the four natural elements of water, air, earth, and fire in every aspect. Behind the paneling of the walls were twenty cabinets concealing the duke’s treasures, although most had been lost. Some of these cabinet doors hid secret passages leading to the duke‘s bedroom, the Treasury Room, and even outside the Palace. The bronze statues placed in niches above the cabinets and the accompanying paintings revolve around the themes of nature and art.
LEO X’S QUARTERS
Leo X’s quarters, located opposite Francesco I‘s study, consist of rooms. The decorations recall the achievements of the illustrious members of the Medici family, exalting their deeds.
These include the rooms dedicated to Cosimo the Elder, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giovanni delle Bande Nere, Pope Leo X, Pope Clement VII, and Cosimo I. However, during the visit, only three of these rooms can be seen, as The others are used as representative rooms for the mayor of Florence.
The room of Cosimo the Elder, is dedicated to the founder of the Medici family, who made Florence economically and politically powerful. Cosimo the Elder lived from 1389 to 1469 and was the first patron who sponsored significant public works in Florence.
The second room is dedicated to Lorenzo the Magnificent, the grandson of Cosimo the Elder, who lived from 1449 to 1492. He was also an art enthusiast, earning the nickname “the Magnificent” due to his intellectual and aesthetic qualities. He played a significant role in promoting the Florentine Renaissance and was a skilled politician who fostered agreements and alliances.
The room of Leo X features a beautiful terracotta floor with the Medici symbol of the diamond ring. This Pope was elected in 1513 and was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. He expanded the Medici family‘s domains, and Rome became an important cultural and artistic center.
A separate visit leads to the Hall of the Two Hundred, originally the Council Chamber or People’s Chamber. It is still the venue for meetings of the city council. The coffered ceiling is decorated with rosettes and fleurs-de-lis, and the walls are covered with a cycle of 20 tapestries depicting scenes from the story of Joseph. They are now exhibited in rotation, but some can be found in Rome.
MEZZANINE OF PALAZZO VECCHIO
The Mezzanine, located between the first and second floors, used to be the oldest part of Palazzo Vecchio. The rooms on this level overlook the courtyard of Michelozzo, and it was also the residence of the long-lived Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini.
Following restoration, the ceilings of this wing of the Palace were lowered, preserving a medieval appearance. Today, the rooms display art objects that belonged to the American collector Loeser. He donated them to Palazzo Vecchio to be displayed in a manner consistent with the Renaissance style.
The rooms house sculptures, paintings, artifacts, and much more. The first room is the terrazzino, which features a wooden ceiling adorned with geometric and floral figures. The stone staircase leads to the terrazzino, which grants access to Cosimo I‘s study, although it is closed to visitors.
Next, you pass through the dining room, with its fireplace and a distinctive wall cabinet, and the corner room. The Hall of the Lilies (Sala dei Gigli) derives its name from the wooden ceiling panels adorned with lily motifs.
The Ducal Apartments on the second floor
Ascending the Scala Grande, a beautiful barrel-vaulted staircase decorated by Vasari with cherubs, lattice-work, and grotesques, you reach the second floor of Palazzo Vecchio.
The various rooms comprise the Apartments of the Elements, the Apartments of the Eleonora , and there are also the rooms of the Priori and the Carte Geografiche (Geographical Maps).
Apartments of the Elements QUARTIERE DEGLI ELEMENTI
The Apartments of the Elements symbolizes mythological deities and is located precisely above the Quartiere di Leone X, representing the powerful territories of the time. The five rooms and the loggia of Saturno constituted Cosimo I‘s private apartments.
The first room you enter is the Room of the Elements, featuring a cycle of frescoes and decorations centered around air, water, earth, and fire. Various allegories, such as justice, fame, and truth, complete the decorative scheme.
The Terrazza di Giunone (Terrace of Juno) was originally a loggia but was enclosed to create another wing of the Palace. Initially, a fountain was intended for this space, reminiscent of Verrocchio’s “Putto and the Dolphin” in the courtyard of Michelozzo. The original copy of this sculpture can be found in this room.
You then proceed to the Rooms of Jupiter and Ops, the wife of Saturn. In this case, the beautiful terracotta floor features the Medici coat of arms. The Room of Ceres houses some antique furniture, while Cosimo kept precious objects in the Study of Calliope, and little marble statues were displayed in the Study of Minerva.
In the Room of Hercules, you will find the round painting of the “Madonna and Child with Infant John.” The painting is famous for being nicknamed the “Madonna of the Flying Saucer” due to a strange luminous cloud resembling a flying saucer.
The tour of Apartments of the Elements ( the Quartiere degli Elementi ) concludes with the Terrazzo di Saturno (Terrace of Saturn), offering a spectacular view towards Santa Croce and the surrounding hills, with the prominent presence of San Miniato al Monte in the distance.
Apartments of Eleonora in Palazzo Vecchio – QUARTIERE DI ELEONORA
After crossing the balcony overlooking the grand Sala dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred), you enter the Apartments of Eleonora di Toledo (Quarters of Eleonora of Toledo). Eleonora was the wife of Cosimo I and the daughter Of the viceroy of Naples. Despite the name, this duchess never managed to move into these apartments specially restored for her as she died before that. The stories of mythological and biblical heroines inspire the themes and decorations of the rooms in this section.
The first room is the Green Room, named after the color of its walls. You can see the Medici-Toledo coat of arms in the center of the ceiling adorned with grotesque decorations. One wall features the beautiful round painting of the Madonna and Child from the workshop of Sandro Botticelli. The next room, which also leads to the Vasari Corridor, is accompanied by the Chapel of Duchess Eleonora, delimited by a marble portal and frescoed by Bronzino.
Next is the Room of the Sabines, which served as a waiting room for the ladies, and the Room of Esther, used as a dining room. The beautiful marble basin seen inside dates from a later period. The duchess’s bedroom was located in the Room of Penelope. The apartments of the duchess conclude with the Room of Gualdrada, which houses an antique piece of furniture decorated with mythological scenes.
SALE DEI PRIORI(Halls of Priors) AND DELLE CARTE GEOGRAFICHE (Hall of Geographical Maps)
The Halls of the Priors are reached by passing through the Apartments of Eleonora and a long, narrow corridor alongside the Arnolfo Tower from the inside.
The Dante death mask
A well-lit display case houses the mask of Dante Alighieri, created around the 16th century. During his lifetime, Dante also served as a prior of Florence for two months in 1300. Initially, it was believed to be a death mask, but scholars now believe it is simply a cast of another sculpture depicting Dante.
CHAPEL OF THE PRIORS
The oldest part of Palazzo Vecchio dates back to the late 13th century and consists of the Halls of the Priors. In these rooms, the Gonfaloniere of Justice and the Priors of the Arts governed Florence with a mandate lasting only two months. At that time, their private quarters were located in what later became Eleonora‘s apartment, while the remaining halls were institutional.
The current Chapel of the Priors, dedicated to St. Bernard, is located in a different position from the previous one. The ceiling and walls are entirely covered with decorations and stucco work. The golden background, on which the frescoes are executed using a mosaic-like painting technique, resembles a mosaic. The 32 Latin inscriptions with moral and religious principles were intended to assist the Priors in making wise and just decisions.
Audience Hall in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
The place where the Gonfaloniere and the Priors gathered and received their subjects was the Audience Hall. The frescoes in this hall depict the stories of General Marcus Furius Camillus, who liberated Rome from the Gauls. It was intended to draw a parallel between the return of Cosimo I de’ Medici to the government of Florence after a period of exile. The door to the Hall of the Lilies is decorated with depictions of Dante and Petrarch, works by Sandro Botticelli.
HALL OF THE LILIES
The Hall of the Lilies takes its name from the decorative lilies on the walls and ceiling, although they are not Florentine lilies. Instead, they represent the French Fleur de Lys, created as a sign of gratitude for the loyalty of the Guelfs to the Angevins. The French emblem is characterized by its gold and blue colors and the absence of the stamens present in the Florentine lily, which is red and silver. The lily has become the symbol of Florence because irises used to be abundant on the banks of the Arno and the hills.
In this hall, Donatello‘s original bronze statue “Judith and Holofernes” stands on a tall pedestal, while a copy is displayed in front of Palazzo Vecchio.
HALL OF THE GEOGRAPHICAL MAPS
A portal with two pillars of black marble marks the entrance to the Hall of Geographical Maps, commissioned by the Medici family. At their request, the side windows were covered to make room for large cabinets around the room, where they kept precious objects, tapestries, and collections of weapons.
The hall is named the Hall of Geographical Maps because of its magnificent decorated doors featuring 53 maps depicting the known territories up to that time. The particular globe in the middle of the room, dating back to 1564, was considered one of the largest of its time.
Looking out the window, you can see the Terrace of Bianca Cappello‘s study, the lover and later wife of Francesco I. She enjoyed secretly observing what was happening in the Salone dei Cinquecento through a grille embedded in the wall.
The last room to visit is the Old Chancellery, which served as the office of the chancellor, the assistant to the Florentine Gonfaloniere. One of these chancellors was Niccolò Machiavelli, renowned as a philosopher, politician, and Florentine diplomat. A bust and a painting on display in the room commemorate him.
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palazzo vecchio location
Address: Piazza della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence – Video
Do you need tickets for palazzo vecchio?
Yes, you need a ticket to Visit Palazzo Vecchio, and we highly recommended to book online your ticket.
What Is the Palazzo Vecchio?
The PALAZZO VECCHIO(PALAZZO DELLA SIGNORIA) is the historic town hall and seat of the city council for the city of Florence.
How Old Is the Palazzo Vecchio?
The Palazzo Vecchio is more than 700 years old.
Where Is the Palazzo Vecchio Located?
Palazzo Vecchio is situated on Piazza della Signoria in the center of Florence.