Firenze, Old palace
Duration: 2 hours
The palace was designed to house the Priors and the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia (later moved to the Palazzo del Bargello), the supreme governing body of the city and was erected on the ruins of a palace that belonged to the Ghibelline family of the Uberti, expelled from the city in 1266 for the his political position and remembered by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy. The historical contrast between Guelphs and Ghibellines, which inflamed Florentine politics in Dante’s time, is also present in the architectural elements of the building: the balcony has a battlements called “Guelph” that is square, while the tower has a “Ghibelline” battlements, at dovetail.
The magnificence of this typically medieval building is largely due to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio; the richness of the internal architecture, on the other hand, is largely the work of Giorgio Vasari who also designed the Salone dei Cinquecento, the Studiolo of Francesco I, the Eleonora Quarter and the Elements Quarter.
As a center of power in the city of Florence, Palazzo Vecchio assumed different functions depending on the historical and political period. In the mid-1500s it was the home of Cosimo I de ‘Medici who, making use of the collaboration of artists such as Vasari and Buontalenti, enlarged the building to double its size. It was just when Prince Cosimo I moved his residence to Palazzo Pitti that the Palazzo della Signoria (namesake of Piazza della Signoria in which it is located) changed its name to Palazzo Vecchio.
In 1865-71 Florence was the capital of Italy and Palazzo Vecchio became the seat of government. Today it houses the town hall of the city and a very precious museum where works by Michelangelo Buonarroti, Donatello, Verrocchio are exhibited.