The Palazzo Vecchio is one of the finest town halls in Tuscany, Italy. This palace, located in the beautiful city of Florence, originally had the name Palazzo della Signoria. Interestingly, it had a number of other names too, including Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo del Popolo. Different names signify different uses of the place in different times of history.
How did the palace come into existence?
During the year 1299, when turbulence was common and magistrates were not very safe, the commune as well as the people of Florence resolved to build a palace that not only reflects the city’s significance, but also enhances overall safety. The famous architect behind Santa Croce and Duomo church, Arnolfo di Cambio, took the job in hand. He began building the structure upon Palazzo dei Fanti and Palazzo dell'Esecutore di Giustizia ruins, associated with the Uberti family in the past.
Some interesting facts about the palace
The rectangular tower accentuating the look of the structure has two cells. It may be worth noting that the cells contained Girolamo Savonarola in 1498 and Cosimo de' Medici in 1435. Note that the original tower clock created by Nicolò Bernardo was replaced by another clock created by Vincenzo Viviani in the year 1667. The tower has a total of 3 bells. Since 1872, the Palazzo Vecchio has also acted as the office for the mayor of Florence.
Entrance and courtyards
The entrance to the palace is very fascinating, especially because there is a frontispiece ornamented with marble, having two gilded lion structures. Slightly above the middle region of the two lions, the Monogram of Christ can be seen. The entrance originally had Michelangelo’s David near the front between 1504 and 1873, however, after the original statue was relocated to Accademia Gallery, a replica took its place from 1910. The palace consists of 3 courtyards. While Michelangelo designed the first one in 1453, the second one, referred to as ‘The Customs’, was actually built by Cronaca in the year 1494. The third courtyard primarily served official purposes.
Salone dei Cinquecento is not to be missed
Salone dei Cinquecento is a chamber inside the palace having a width of 23 meters and length of 52 meters. Simone del Pollaiolo was behind its creation in the year 1494. The walls of the chamber exhibit beautiful frescos signifying battles that Florence won over Siena and Pisa, for instance, war between Florentine troops and Pisa, Porto Ercole conquest, Siena annexation etc. The ceiling proudly boasts of 39 different panels that Vasari and his assistants painted. The enormous windows, wall tapestries, Studiolo etc. make the chamber quite an interesting place to explore.
The impressive second floor
With the Hall of Justice, Chapel of Signoria, Study Room and a few other important rooms, the second floor is presented by a staircase which Vasari designed. While the name Terrance of Saturn refers to the ceiling fresco, the Hercules Room gets its name from the ceiling subjects. The Ceres Room, Dining Room, Room of Penelope etc. are a few of the many other rooms that exist in the floor. Once Machiavelli’s office - Old Chancellery also exists here.
The vastness of the structure is something that makes you wonder about many unanswerable questions. The versatility of different aspects of its architectural beauty will not only delight you, but will also astonish people who have no interest in buildings at all. The colors, stones, ceilings, frescoes and everything else cumulatively make this palace one of the most wonderful palaces in the world. Its historical significance is important of course, but even without that, this palace is an exceptional example of the Italian Renaissance and the talent of the many artists who contributed to its decoration and design.