About Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio, translated as “Old Palace” and also known as Palazzo della Signoria, is an iconic 14th century palace in Florence most famous for its association with the Medici family. Today, the palace is part of the UNESCO site of Historic Florence.
History of Palazzo Vecchio
Completed in 1322, it served as the seat of the city’s governing body – a function it still fulfils today. In 1540, Palazzo Vecchio underwent a renovation campaign under the remit of Duke Cosimo I, who employed the artist Vasari to add a series of frescos depicting important Florentine events. Many of these frescos can be seen at Palazzo Vecchio, notably in the Salone del Cinquecento, which also contains a beautiful statue by Michelangelo entitled “Victory”.
Palazzo Vecchio played a central role in Florence’s civil history, with its bell being the main method of communicating important events, including meetings and any dangerous elements such as fires or possible attacks.
Palazzo Vecchio’s location in Piazza della Signoria is also of interest, not only because of the statues and fountains, such as the sixteenth century Fontana do Nettuno, but also as this was the site of the execution of Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola was a Dominican priest and a leader of Florence who was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI and burnt at the stake in 1498.
Palazzo Vecchio today
Housing a stunning collection of artwork and sculptures by some of Italy’s most celebrated artists such as Donatello, Bronzino and Michelangelo, Palazzo Vecchio is a fascinating and beautiful site. It also has an interesting sixteenth century map of the world in its Room of Maps.
For children, Palazzo Vecchio has a series of “secret rooms” to explore, although note that this must be booked in advance. Guided tours are available. The Palazzo closes at 2pm on Thursdays.
Make sure to climb the Torre d’Arnolfo for arguably some of the best views of Florence – capacity is limited and in high season it can feel a little rushed, but it’s worth it!
Getting to Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio is in the heart of Florence, on the Piazza della Signoria. You’ll walk past it multiple times, even if accidentally. It’s easiest to get here on foot if you’re staying in the city – Florence’s central station is only a 15 minute walk away if you’re coming from further afield. Mototaxis will also be able to drop you nearby, but bear in mind the city’s centuries’ old streets get terribly congested and travel by taxi can be extremely slow.
Italy Historic Sites
Discover the varied delights of Italy's past through our guide to the country's historic sites. From medieval palaces to off-kilter towers, there is plenty to explore.