Palazzo Vecchio is a large, Romanesque palace that now serves as the town hall of Florence. Palazzo Vecchio is Italian for “Old Palace.” Indeed this structure is both palatial and a fortress at the same time. This famous palace in the capital of Tuscany was constructed between 1299 and 1302, a fact that seems nearly impossible when you gaze upon the immensity of the building in person. It overlooks the beautiful Piazza della Signoria.
The Old Palace is sometimes referred to as the Palazzo della Signoria. A replica of Michelangelo’s David still stands outside the Palazzo in the courtyard. The original occupied the same position from 1503 until it was moved to the Duomo Museum in 1873. The replica took its place in 1910. You can take advantage of Palazzo Vecchio tours to see all of the highlights in and around the famous building. Even though many of the Palazzo Vecchio statues have been moved to the nearby Duomo Museum or Accademia Gallery, the building itself, the artwork it contains, and the bell tower are attractions you simply must see.
The Palazzo Vecchio has been the seat of government in Florence for centuries. Even today as nearly the entire building has been transformed into a massive museum, the mayor of Florence and other city officials still work there. There is huge number of rooms, a chapel, and a chancellery that was once the personal office of Machiavelli when he was Secretary of the Republic of Italy. As you wander through such impressive chambers as the Ceres Room, the Room of Jupiter, the Lion House, and the Terrace of Saturn, you will be struck by how amazing and elaborate the interior design and decoration in fact are. You must only remember that the Palazzo Vecchio was a long-time residence of the Medici family, under whose de facto rule the city of Florence remained for centuries. When the Medici’s moved in, signaling the end of the city-state as it then was, the Palazzo was completely redecorated and shifted from many of the Gothic styles and conventions that designers had employed in the past. Now when you take Palazzo Vecchio tours, you will see many of the works of art that the Medici’s brought into the palace.
Perhaps the biggest draws at this popular destination are the Palazzo Vecchio statues. Many of the most famous of them are located at the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi. Among the most famous of all the Palazzo Vecchio statues is the bronze of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini. It took nearly ten years to complete this daunting statue of the Roman god with sword in one hand, Medusa’s head in the other. There are many more statues to be seen at this wonderful complex in the Piazza della Signoria. The bell tower is one of the most distinguishing buildings in all of Florence, and a climb to the top permits a fantastic view of the city below. Savvy travelers will make reservations for Palazzo Vecchio tours in advance of their trips in order to skip the long lines and ensure getting in that day. It is small fee for admission and the museum is open Friday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.