Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio (6)

The Palazzo Vecchio was built in the late 13th century as the seat of the City Council, a function it still carries out today. 

The palace was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and completed in 1303, though during the reign of Cosimo I it was fully reformed when the Grand Duke decided to move to Florence and wished to convert the palace into a comfortable residence. To this end he entrusted the project to the celebrated architect Giorgio Vasari. It wasn't until 1550, when Cosimo once again relocated, this time to the Palazzo Pitti, that the palace was renamed Palazzo Vecchio, or "Old Palace".

This is a fascinating place to visit as it houses many wonderful works of art. One of the most notable areas of the palace is the Cortile or central courtyard, designed in 1453 by Michelozzi Michelozzo, a favourite architect of the Medici dynasty. Here visitors can contemplate a copy of "The Fountain of the Angel", by Verrocchio. The frescoes and stuccoes seen here were created by Vasari and the series of paintings of Austrian cities seen on the walls was designed to make Joanna of Austria's stay here more comfortable.

From here staircase takes you to the immense Salone dei Cinquecento, a hall that Cosimo I used both as reception hall and a meeting place for the 500 members of the Florentine assembly. The decoration of the ceilings with frescoes enhancing the figure of Cosimo I was the work of Vasari. The walls also feature a series of paintings depicting Florentine military victories. The most important work in this room, however, is the statue "The Genius of Victory" by Michelangelo, which is represented by the figure of an old man being dominated by a young man. Initially the sculpture was designed to preside over the tomb of Pope Julius II, but Michelangelo's heirs donated it to Cosimo I in 1565 following the military victory of the Duke of Siena. 

Next door is the Studiolo, the studio used by the Prince Francisco I to store both his treasures and the instruments he used for his experiments in alchemy. 

Those you climb to the second floor can enjoy fantastic views of the city from the Terrazza di Saturno in addition to a further series beautiful rooms. Among these is the Chapel of Leonor, decorated by Bronzino, or Chamber of Elements, dedicated, as its name suggests, to earth, air, fire and water. 

But perhaps the most beautiful of all is the Sala dei Gigli, which features a gold coffered ceiling and frescoes painted by Ghirlandaio representing a series of Roman politicians complete with the emblem of Florence: the golden lily. Here you will also find the original statue of "Judith and Holofernes", a splendid work by Donatello. 

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