Step into a storybook of history in the heart of Florence: Piazza della Signoria.
This beautiful square encaptures Florence's essence like no other, with beautiful sculptures and home to the iconic Palazzo Vecchio.
Located in the heart of the city, Piazza della Signoria is a place you do not want to miss.
The magic of Florence, in one spot.
As soon as you step onto Piazza della Signoria, you will be struck by the evocative combination of art and the city.
It's a true artistic showcase and the ultimate gathering spot for Florentines and tourists alike.
On this page, we'll be delving into:
The Piazza della Signoria is one of the most iconic public squares in Florence.
With its blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture surrounding an open-air sculpture museum, this piazza encapsulates the passion, politics, and art of Florence.
The site of the Piazza della Signoria has been a public gathering space since ancient Roman times.
Archaeological remains found under the piazza reveal that it was the site of an ancient Roman forum used for public meetings, trading, and rituals with a theatre, baths and a workshop where fabrics were dyed.
When Florence was founded in the 1st century CE, this square was already at the heart of it.
The unusual shape of the square comes from the intense rivalry between the Ghibelines and Guelphs in the thirteenth century.
The victorious Guelphs demolishing the houses of their rivals and vouching never to rebuild as they believed the place was damned.
With the erection of Palazzo Vecchio, a new chapter began.
Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, this impressive palace would show the importance of the city of Florence and the l shaped piazza would become the civic center of the city.
Palazzo Vecchio with its tall tower was constructed to house the city's governors and became the focal point of the space, as well as a distinctive feature on the skyline of Florence.
Over the following centuries, Piazza della Signoria remained at the heart of Florence's civic activity, being the stage for festivals and rallies.
Piazza della Signoria's history is marked by the influential de' Medici family.
The de' Medici, patrons of the arts, shaped the square with structures like the Palazzo Vecchio.
In 1494, conspiracies against the de' Medici family led to their exile and Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola stepped into the vacuum.
Savonarola criticized Renaissance excesses, leading to the "Bonfire of the Vanities" in the square when art, books, rich furniture and clothing was burned in a huge pyre, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes forced.
His rule was violent but brief, and he was executed in 1498.
When the de' Medici family returned to power in 1530, they ordered renovations to the buildings surrounding the public square to reassert their authority.
They commissioned statues and fountains to decorate the piazza, demonstrating their wealth and influence.
The Loggia dei Lanzi was installed to showcase sculptures including Cellini's famous bronze Perseus.
Today, the Piazza della Signoria is an open-air sculpture gallery, with a copy of Michelangelo's David statue standing in the place where the original statue was first installed in 1504.
The Piazza della Signoria is bordered by iconic buildings like the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, the Renaissance Palazzo Uguccioni and Tribunale della Mercanzia, and the modern Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali.
Palazzo Vecchio is one of the most important medieval buildings in Italy.
The construction of the town hall began in 1299 (originally called Palazzo della Signoria) but continued over several centuries.
While Arnolfo di Cambio is credited with the early designs, the building underwent modifications by subsequent architects, including Francesco Talenti and Giorgio Vasari.
While Palazzo Vecchio was designed to be the home of civic life in Florence, it has served various functions over the years, including as a residence for the ruling Medici family.
Originally built as the town hall, and still used as such today, it now also houses a museum with an amazing collection of art spanning the 13-19th centuries.
Highlights include the courtyard with its frescoes and statues, the Salone dei Cinquecento with epic 16th-century frescoes by Vasari, and the Studiolo, a small barrel-vaulted room which houses a cabinet of curiosities.
The building's most iconic feature is the 308-foot-tall Arnolfo Tower, a landmark on the Florentine skyline.
The tower offers incredible views from the top.
An interesting fact about the tower is that it houses the prison cell where both Grand Duke Cosimo Medici and Girolamo Savonarola were locked up.
The tower is part of the complex of the Palazzo Vecchio, but you can also buy a ticket just to climb the tower.
The museum is open daily from 9AM-9PM.
On the southern side of Piazza della Signoria stands the imposing former Tribunale della Mercanzia.
Built in the late 13th century, this palace housed Florence's commercial court.
The coats of arms still visible on the facade represent the different merchant and artisan guilds whose disputes were settled here.
The magistrates revered Saint Thomas as their patron saint for his perceived impartiality.
After the court moved in the 17th century, the building fell into disrepair.
Today, the restored Palazzo della Mercanzia serves as the home of the Gucci Museum, allowing visitors an interesting view into the history of this iconic Italian fashion house.
The museum is open daily from 10AM-8PM and tickets cost €8.
The early 16th-century Palazzo Uguccioni adds a captivating contrast to the piazza.
Named after its original owner, this small yet striking palace features the classical style of High Renaissance architects like Raphael and Bramante.
The decorative columns and ornamental window frames on its facade lend a verticality that contrasts beautifully with the strong horizontals of the neighboring Palazzo Vecchio.
Though relatively little is known about the origins of the palace, its elegant design has made it a distinctive part of the Piazza della Signoria ensemble for over five centuries.
Its harmonious interplay with the Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque elements surrounding it encapsulates the rich architectural layers that make Florence such an enchanting city.
The Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali is a neo-Renaissance-style building constructed in the late 19th century for the noble Fenzi banking family.
It stands on the former site of the Loggia of the Pisani and Santa Cecilia church. Designed by architect Emilio Sala, its ornate facade featuring both Classical and Gothic elements is typical of the Eclectic style popular in 19th-century Florence.
Today the ground floor of this palace is home to numerous shops, including the historical Rivoire Café, a dainty and elegant chocolatier-pastry shop, offering handmade chocolate as well as gourmet treats, including their delectable pralines and cantucci biscuits.
The Piazza della Signoria is not just defined by the buildings surrounding it, but is a true open-air museum with the famous Loggia dei Lanzi housing just part of the impressive sculpture collection on this square.
It is a wide, covered loggia (gallery) that was built in the 14th century. First constructed under the early Florentine Republic, the arched loggia initially hosted public councils and ceremonial gatherings.
In the 16th century during the rule of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Loggia dei Lanzi was transformed into an open-air sculpture gallery.
The Loggia, which was until then called the Logia della Signoria, was renamed after the so-called lanzi: the lancers who were bodyguards of Cosimo I de' Medici.
The Loggia dei Lanzi is renowned for housing a collection of impressive sculptures, including several masterpieces of Renaissance art.
Some famous sculptures on display include Giambologna's "Rape of the Sabine Women," and "Hercules Beating the Centaur Nessus", Benvenuto Cellini's "Perseus with the Head of Medusa," and various other classical and mythological figures.
Adorning the front of the Loggia, just beneath the railing, you'll find trefoils featuring symbolic representations of the four cardinal virtues (Fortitude, Temperance, Justice, and Prudence) skilfully crafted by Agnolo Gaddi.
Flanking the entrance are two marble lion statues, one an ancient Roman original and the other sculpted by Flaminio Vacca (1538-1605).
A symbol of power, justice and honor, the use of sculpted lions as guards of a building dates back to the dawn of civilization.
The loggia's open design allows visitors to appreciate these sculptures in an outdoor setting, adding to the charm and cultural richness of the Piazza della Signoria.
The Neptune Fountain in Piazza della Signoria stands as a majestic symbol of artistic mastery.
Located near the northwest corner of Palazzo Vecchio, the fountain is one of the most photographed spots in Florence.
Sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati in the 16th century, this impressive fountain portrays the sea god Neptune in all his might with the signs of the zodiac engraved below his chariot, surrounded by mythical creatures and nymphs.
The intricate details and powerful stance of Neptune create a captivating focal point.
As water gracefully flows from the sculptures, the fountain exudes a sense of timeless elegance.
This artistic masterpiece, situated in the heart of Florence, invites visitors to admire its craftsmanship and immerse themselves in the allure of Renaissance sculpture.
The Neptune fountain is also known as il biancone, nicknamed for the high-quality Carrara marble sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati selected.
The white of the marble was so intense, that the very first time it was shown in public, the statue seemed to be glowing!
In between the fountain of Neptune and the equestrian statue of Cosimo de' Medici, a discreet yet significant round marble plaque marks the spot where Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican friar and reformer, was hanged and burned in 1498.
A poignant reminder of historical events in Florence, the plaque remembers the turbulent times of the Bonfire of the Vanities.
The inscription on the plaque commemorates the historical significance of this location, inviting contemplation on the intersection of politics and religious fervor in Renaissance Florence.
Next to the fountain, the Marzocco, a lion representing the city's grandeur, rules over the square.
The lion is named after the Latin term "Marticus" associated with Mars, the God of War. Donatello, a renowned sculptor, selected the lion as a symbol for the Republic of Florence, adorning its feet with the Lily (Giglio), the city's coat of arms.
Notably, this statue holds the distinction of being the first secular public sculpture commissioned, with the original now safeguarded in the Bargello Museum.
Another prominent piece, the bronze sculpture "Judith and Holofernes" by Donatello, is replicated in front of Palazzo Vecchio, while the original resides within the museum.
Overlooking the square, an equestrian statue by Jean de Boulogne pays homage to Cosimo I De Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Lastly, flanking the main entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio Museum, are two impressive marble statues: a copy of Michelangelo's David (the original found in the Galleria dell'Accademia) and the Hercules of Baccio Bandinelli, a devoted follower of Michelangelo.
Piazza della Signoria is located in the heart of Florence, between Piazza della Repubblica and the Uffizi Gallery.
It's a short walk from landmarks such as the Ponte Vecchio and Florence Cathedral.
The best part? It's free and open all the time.
Although easily reached by foot, several lines of public transportation connect to the square: nearby stops are Condotta and Galleria degli Uffizi.