Piazza della Signoria, the beating heart of Florence
Piazza della Signoria is the political center of the city of Florence, if you look at it from the east side you will see that it’s bordered on the right by Palazzo Vecchio, which hosts a bronze copy of the famous Marzocco, the original is kept at the National Museum.
Right in the front, towards the middle of the square, is the magnificent so-called Fontana del Biancone, which Florentines call this way due to the awkward marble figure of Neptune that dominates the fountain (the Fountain of Neptune, indeed) a work by Ammannati.
However, the fountain is enlivened by the small, lovely bronzes arranged around the perimeter of the basin. To the side of the fountain stands the equestrian statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici, a work by Giambologna. The monumental prospect of this side of the square is completed by the Uguccione Palace, designed by Mariotto Folti in 1550, with the tower of Palazzo del Podesta behind on the right and the Badia Fiorentina bell tower on the left.
Piazza della Signoria, one of Florence’s most famous squares, is also host to Loggia della Signoria, built in the late 1300s by Benci di Cione and Simone Talenti, which is called Loggia dei Lanzi by locals, due to the fact that Landsknechts lived there at the time of the Grand Duke Cosimo. The Loggia is based on three large arches which already herald the upcoming Renaissance period with their elegance, and light up the architectural design of the square. At the time of the Medicis’, solemn ceremonies of the Signoria took place under this Lodge, which over time has been enriched even with other wonderful sculptures.
The equestrian monument of Cosimo de’ Medici, on Piazza degli Uffizi is a large bronze statue by Giambologna (1594) as are the three valuable bas-reliefs of the base depicting: the Tuscan senate conferring the title of Grand Duke to Cosimo in 1537, Pope Pius V giving the grand-ducal insignia on March 5th, 1570, and then Cosimo I entering Siena in 1557.
Behind the statue are the three arches of the Loggia while to the left, right in front of Palazzo della Signoria, in succession, are the lively water jets of the fountain, a copy of Michelangelo’s David and a marble work depicting Hercules and Cacus by Bocio Bandinelli. These valuable works are back grounded by the view in prospect of Vasari’s Piazza degli Uffizi that stretches up to the Lungarno.
Entering Palazzo della Signoria, you can admire the Camera dell’Arme, an austere room dating back to the 1300s accessed from the left side of the first courtyard, which is the only one remained intact from the original structure of the building. This was the headquarters for the armed guards who defended the palace and has returned to its original ambiance a few years ago after a long restoration. Palazzo della Signoria is a true memorial of happenings closely linked to the history of Florence as well as a shrine of wonderful works of art. These works are in addition to those already lined up along the facade and the square.
Once through the entrance, you can immediately see Verrocchio’s Putto standing on the fountain by Francesco del Tadda placed in the middle of the first courtyard. This is a wonderful bronze statue depicting a winged little angel of extraordinary vitality holding a wriggling fish in his hands. This lovely work dating from 1476, originally adorned a fountain in the Medici’s Villa of Careggi and was later adapted to the fountain in the city palace.
This first courtyard contrasts with the severe architectural style on the outside of the fortress, due to the redundant stucco decorations made by various artists in 1565 over the large columns that surround it. Under the porch supported by these columns there is a magnificent marble work by Vincenzo Derossi, sculptor of the mid-16th century, which depicts Samson striking a Philistine.
The first courtyard leads to a second one with much simpler outlines and devoid of decorations. Inside the Palace is the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of 500), the largest historic ambience of the city of Florence, entirely decorated with frescoes by Vasari. On the back wall was later placed Michelangelo’s Genius of Victory in celebration of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.
Sala delle Udienze (Audience Hall) is one of the most sumptuous rooms of the Palace thanks to the magnificent wooden ceiling carved by Giuliano da Mariano, the frescoes painted on the walls by Francesco Studiati, and the beautiful door by the Mariano’s. finally, the Studiolo of Francesco I is a charming room with a typical barrel-vault designed by Vasari and decorated with stucco and frescoes by Poppi, paintings by Vasari’s team of artists and bronze statues by Giambologna, Ammannati and De Rossi. On the top side of the “lunette” you can admire the beautiful portrait of Eleonora of Toledo which matches with that of Cosimo I in the lunette on the opposite side, both by Bronzino.