Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Palazzo Vecchio

Another grand landmark of Florence is the Palazzo Vecchio (translation: old palace).  It sits in the Piazza della Signoria and is easily identified by it's tall clock tower.

I could easily write several posts about this old palace, and could fill a book with the amount of photos that we took within its walls.  (It is one of the few places where you are actually permitted to take photos!)  The palace itself is a square building that was begun in 1299.  The Medici Family moved there in 1540, and today, it houses the office of the Mayor of Florence and the City Council, as well as a museum.

As you enter the palace, you will find yourself in an enclosed courtyard that has several fountains and sculptures.  The ticket office is there, as it the gift shop.  Once you get your ticket, you'll enter into the Salone dei Cinquecento, a HUGE room that was commissioned by Savonarola in 1494 to be used as a seat of the Consiglio Maggiore, which consisted of 500 members. 

Salone dei Cinquecento
The Salone is definitely impressive.  Giorgio Vascari painted the huge frescoes on the walls depicting military victories over Pisa and Sienna, as well as the ceiling tiles, which represent important episodes in the life of Cosimo I.  There are many sculptures in the Salone by Bartolommeo Bandinelli, as well as a few by Vincenzo de'Rossi and one by Michelangelo called "Genius of Victory".

Climb the impressive staircase to the second floor and you'll be rewarded to dozens upon dozens of rooms, each exquisitely decorated, that will cause your jaw to drop in sheer amazement.  There is so much to see in each room!  As you walk through a doorway, your eyes will immediately be drawn up to the amazingly decorated ceilings.  I was afraid that our necks would be sore after spending so much time looking upward!

One of the many impressive ceilings in Palazzo Vecchio
But it's not just the ceilings...look down and you might be treated with something like this:

Of course, in between the ceiling and the floor are the walls, many of which are covered with frescoes or framed paintings by some of the most famous artists, such as Botticelli, Bronzino, and DaVinci. 

Walk through the Sala dell'Udienza (Hall of Justice) and pass through the large inlaid wooden doors carved by Del Francione (depicting Dante on one door and Petrach on the other), you will enter  the "Hall of Lilies".  This room has a wall covered with frescoes painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1482.  The ceiling is decorated with gold fleur-de-lys on a blue background, carved by brothers Benedetto and Giuliano da Maiano.

The Hall of Lilies
Also in this room is a rather large statue, "Judith and Holofernes", which was sculpted by Donatello.
Judith and Holofernes
Walk through another doorway and you'll find yourself in the Stanza del Guardaroba.  This room is where the Grand Dukes kept some of their precious belongings.  The walls are lined with cabinets, with doors decorated with maps of various places around the world.  These maps were painted by a Dominican monk by the name of Fra Ignazio Danti and Stefano Buonsignori.  Dominating the center of the room is a large globe, "mappa mundi". 
"Mappa Mundi" in the Stanza del Guardaroba
Of course this is only a small taste of the palace (I didn't even touch on the few chapels that are there).  You really must see it for yourself.  Tickets are 6 euro, but if you are a family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children), you can buy a family ticket for 14 euro.  Set aside a few hours to tour the palace.  It will take awhile to get through all of the rooms, and you will definitely want to linger in some.  Museum opens at 9, so it would be a nice thing to do in the morning and then you can stop somewhere for lunch nearby, as there are a lot of little restaurants, bars and trattorias around the Piazza della Signoria (as well as a few yummy gelaterie!)

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