Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and has been an important and popular square in Florence since the 13th century. It was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio (old Palace). It is the focal point of the origin and of the history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political hub of the city. It is the meeting place of Florentines as well as the numerous tourists.
The impressive 14th century Palazzo Vecchio is still preeminent with its crenellated tower. The square is also shared with the Loggia dei Lanzi (14th century), the Uffizi Gallery (Palazzo degli Uffizi), Palazzo del Tribunale di Mercanzia (14th century)Â and the Uguccioni Palace (16th Century, with a facade probably by Raphael).
In the middle of the square is a bronze equestrian statue of “Cosimo I,” by Giambologna (1594). In front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a copy of the “Statue of Michelangelo’s David” (original in the Accademia Gallery), while other highlights include Bartolomeo Ammannati’s “Neptune fountain” (1563-1565); a copy of Donatello’s “Marzocco” – the heraldic lion of Florence – (original in the Bargello), and a copy of Donatello’s bronze statue of “Judith and Holofernes” (original inside the Palazzo Vecchio).
The Palazzo Vecchio, the present town hall, was built by architect Arnolfo di Cambio, commissioned by the medieval government in the late 13th century, to be the civic home of the Signoria.
The original name Palazzo della Signoria was used until Cosimo Medici asked the architect Giorgio Vasari to build a corridor between the Palazzo through the Uffizi and over the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti: The Vasari Corridor. He also moved the government to the Uffizi. The old government palace got the name Palazzo Vecchio, which means Old Palace. Throughout history it also had many other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori and Palazzo Ducale.
The facade of the building remains much the same as Cambio designed it. The Palazzo’s tower, at 94m (308ft) is the tallest in Florence.
The interior of the palace features a court yard designed by Michelozzo and frescoes by Giorgio Vasari. The staircase leads up to the imposing chamber Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred), built by Simone del Pollaiolo in 1494 and ordered by Savonarola.
The Salone dei Cinquecento was supposed to be a seat for the Grand Council consisting of 500 members. The hall was once enlarged by Giorgio Vasari and it is decorated with tapestries and statues, of which Michelangelo’s marble group “The Genius of Victory” (1533-1534) is an highlight. On the walls of the hall are large frescoes depicting battles won by Florence over Pisa and Siena. The side room at the end of the hall is filled with paintings, one of which is the portrait of Cosimo I and his wife Eleonora of Toledo by Bronzino. The other rooms are also decorated by Vasari, Bronzino, Ghirlandaio. And of particular note is the original bronze statue of Donatello’s “Judith and Holofernes”.