PALAZZO VECCHIO, Exterior

Audio File length: 3.01
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, I'm Debbie, your personal guide. Together with MyWoWo, I'd like to welcome you to one of the wonders of the world.

Today I'll accompany you through Palazzo Vecchio, the most important civil building in Florence!

Palazzo Vecchio's construction began in 1299 and was completed in just three years. This building is the civil and secular heart of Florence, and was the stage for centuries of the city's proud history, as well as the perfect counterweight to the religious complex surrounding the Cathedral. As you already saw with the Cathedral, the civil administration building also had a very important symbolic role: its hard and impenetrable mass expresses strength and security; the statues you see in front of it recall virtuous and intelligent heroes (such as Judith, David, and Hercules) who triumph over the brutality of an apparently stronger enemy.

The palace's first nucleus dates back to the architect and sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio, who was the protagonist of Florence's renovation in the age of Dante Alighieri. The tall building with overlapping stone walls, square battlements, and wall-walks probably reminds you of a fortress. The slim tower you see in the front culminates in a small loggia open on four sides.

Looking at the sides of the palace, you can see its different stages of enlargement. In the 15th century, when the Republic of Florence was ruled by a group of noble families led by the Medici, the building was remodeled and renamed Palazzo della Signoria, a name that remains in the square you now stand in, facing the building.

In the 16th century Cosimo I de' Medici moved the court and had apartments for himself and his wife Eleonora da Toledo arranged here. 25 years later the Medici, who had since become Grand Dukes, left the building to move to their "new" home in Palazzo Pitti, and for this reason the building was renamed "Palazzo Vecchio". In the second half of the 19th century it became the seat of the parliament of the new Kingdom of Italy.

You should also know that the Tower has a cell where illustrious prisoners were kept, including the Dominican preacher Gerolamo Savonarola, who had taken power over Florence at the end of the 1400s. Condemned as a heretic, he was hanged and burned right in front of the Palace, and his ashes were scattered in the Arno River.

 

FUN FACT: the right corner of the façade has a carved profile: popular legend attributes it to Michelangelo. In fact, only a celebrity like him would have been allowed to touch the façade. It is said that he sculpted it with his back to it while watching the procession of a man who had been condemned to death.

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