Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), Florence

Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), Florence (must see)

Similar to the Duomo complex, the Pitti Palace, and major local art galleries, the Old Palace, known as Palazzo Vecchio, is an indispensable site in Florence for understanding the city's history and culture. This colossal Romanesque-style palace stands as one of the most impressive town halls in Tuscany and has served as the office of the Florence mayor since 1872. Prior to that, since its construction in 1299, it was the seat of Florentine government for centuries. When Cosimo I de' Medici became the Grand Duke and moved in with his family in 1540, he decided to enlarge and renovate the Medieval building in Renaissance style.

Adorned with shields recounting the city's political history, the imposing facade is also embellished with a series of sculptures, including notable works such as Michelangelo's "David", the heraldic lion known as "Marzocco" symbolizing Florence, Donatello's original "Judith and Holofernes", and "Hercules and Cacus". Within the palace, the Tower of Arnolfo stands as a separate attraction, requiring an additional fee for access.

Wandering through the palace, from the grand Hall of the Five Hundred ("Salone dei Cinquecento") designed to celebrate the Duke's glories and victories, to the more intimate quarters, you'll be transported back in time. This journey provides a glimpse into the secluded privacy of the Medici rulers, adorned with magnificent decorations as part of Giorgio Vasari's iconographic program. It is recommended to take your time and explore the property leisurely, allowing for an immersive experience enriched with historical intensity and artistic wonders. However, be prepared for a potential crick in the neck from gazing at the breathtaking ceilings in each room.

Various optional tours of the palace are available, including family-friendly options that offer an extra dose of fun without costing too much extra. For example, the 'Secret Paths' tour lasts approximately 1.5 hours and is led by knowledgeable guides. It provides access to parts of the palace typically closed to the public, including the renowned "studiolo" with its secret doors, enchanting objects, and intriguing exotic substances.

***MICHELANGELO'S MASTERPIECES***
In the central niche at the southern end of the grand hall ("Salone dei Cinquecento"), you'll find Michelangelo's notable marble group, "The Genius of Victory" (1533-1534). Originally intended for Julius II's tomb, this sculpture represents an allegory of triumph rather than depicting a moment of battle. It portrays a victorious figure displaying remarkable agility, dominating a submissive captive. The young and elegant genius stands poised, while the dominated older man bears a resigned expression with a flabby body and a beard, emphasizing the contrast between the two figures. The expressive treatment of the surfaces enhances this contrast further, with the young figure polished to perfection and the old figure left rough and incomplete, still bearing the impression of the heavy stone from which it was sculpted.

***DANTE'S FLORENCE TOUR***
Although Dante's burial place is not in Florence, the city possesses one of the poet's death masks, which you can see here, displayed between the Apartments of Eleanor and the Halls of Priors. Preserved behind glass, it has become a symbol of Dante's political contribution to Florence and his pivotal role in the development of Italian literature and culture. Interestingly, this same mask makes an appearance in Dan Brown's "Inferno".

Tip:
If you plan to take a tour, it is advisable to book directly with the museum via email, indicating your preferred date and time, and wait for confirmation. Payment for the tour will be collected on the day of your visit. Once the tour concludes, you are free to explore the palace at your leisure. However, please note that since the palace is an active municipal office, it may be temporarily closed to the public on special occasions. It is recommended to check the palace's website for any announcements before your visit.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Florence. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) on Map

Walking Tours in Florence, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Creating your own self-guided walk in Florence is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo spent over 20 years of his life in Florence – the birthplace of the Renaissance – during which time he created some of the most beautiful masterpieces the city had ever seen. The most famous of them – the David – was larger than life, and brought a larger-than-life image to the artist. No amount of photos or copies of the statue will do it justice, so to see it with your own...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Arno South Bank Walking Tour

Arno South Bank Walking Tour

The area south of Arno river, also called Oltrarno ("Beyond the Arno"), is a quieter place but not less interesting. Here you can find the Pitti Palace whose collection of paintings is second only to the Uffizi, and the vast Boboli Gardens once enjoyed by the Medici and the royal family. One of the first and most important examples of "Italian Gardens", they later served as...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Duomo Walking Tour

Duomo Walking Tour

Located in the very heart of historic Florence, the Duomo area is deservedly considered the city’s religious and civic center, replete with numerous landmarks. Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, the two most important squares in the city, are steeped in history and the sights and activities found here are truly endless.

The most prominent of these, undoubtedly, is the breathtaking...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Florence's Hidden Art Treasures

Florence's Hidden Art Treasures

The “Cradle of the Renaissance,” Florence is one of Europe’s most beautiful and busiest destinations, home to some of the world's greatest pieces of art and architecture. The iconic masters like Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael and Michelangelo, as well as their somewhat less-known but equally talented counterparts, such as Ghirlandaio, Sangallo and Castagno, have blessed this city with...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Dante's Florence Walking Tour

Dante's Florence Walking Tour

Dante Alighieri was arguably the greatest – albeit also most controversial – of Italy's poets. After having served as one of the six priors governing Florence, his political activities – including the banishing of several rivals – led to his own banishment, upon which he wrote his masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy”, as a wanderer, seeking protection for his family in one town after...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Medici Landmarks Walking Tour

Medici Landmarks Walking Tour

The Medici family helped to establish Florence as the single most important art capital of Renaissance Europe. In order to prove wealth and power, they built numerous palaces, libraries, churches, chapels and personal residences. The Medicis were big lovers of art and they acquired huge, expensive collections, as well as supporting many sculptors and painters of the time.

Designed by...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles

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