The Rooftops of Florence seen from Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio on the Piazza della Signoria was completed in the mid 14th century with additions as late as the 16th century. It was the seat of power and influence for the wealthy Medici family. The romanesque, fortress-like exterior of the Palazzo, with its dominant clock tower, gives an austere and foreboding impression.

The“LYS” Salon with coffered gilded ceilings and bronze sculpture of Judith and Holofernes by Donatello


The ornate architecture, gilded columns, frescoes, statuary and paintings in the Palazzo’s interior are among the most spectacular in Renaissance art history. Both floors have reception halls and private chambers, each dedicated to a Medici family member. Immediately after the entrance, the opulent first courtyard of white and gilded stucco and elaborate frescoes of the Austrian Hapsburg estates, painted by Vasari in honor of the wedding celebration of Cosimo de Medici to Emperor Maximillian’s sister Johanna of Austria, greet the visitor with a vivid visual jolt.

Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria


The imposing and most important room is the grand ceremonial chamber or the Hall of 500, (Salone dei Cinquecento). It was the center of Renaissance politics and society. It is still a focal point in modern-day Florence where the office of the Mayor and the City Council are housed. The walls are said to contain works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, overpainted in the 16th century with a mural by Vasari.

Window detail in a staircase, designed by Vasari, leading to the second floor of Palazzo Vecchio.


The second floor houses apartments, such as that of Eleonora de Toledo, with a private chapel of exquisitely elegant religious frescoes by the Florentine painter, Bronzino. The Lys Room has elaborate frescoes by Girlandalo as well as a bronze statue of Judith by Donatello. In the Room of Penelope, a ceiling in frieze depicts scenes from the Odyssey. Paintings by Botticelli adorn the walls. In the Audience Chamber, (Sala dell’Udieza) frescoes from the 16th century depict the Roman General Camillus.

Detail of the Botticelli “Madonna with Christ and St. John”


Just outside Palazzo Vecchio, in the Piazza della Signoria, is a copy of Michelangelo’s David, flanked by Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli. Less than one half block away, is the Uffizi Gallery, home to some of the greatest art treasures of mankind. Only a short walk, is the Duomo, the great cathedral of Florence. So many of the world’s treasures in less than a square mile leaves one breathless but in awe of the collective genius of the mid Renaissance.

Detail of a fresco (Moses Strikes a Rock and Brings forth Water), by Bronzino in the Chapel of Eleonora.


The Audience Chamber with impressive frescoes by Saliati of the life of the Roman general Camillus

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