Visit Palazzo Vecchio: its history, halls and secrets

Discover the symbol of political power in Florence, a palace in the city’s historic center.

Palazzo Vecchio is one of the city’s treasures that can’t be missed.
This building stands as the symbol of Florence’s political power, first for the Republic and then for the Medici dynasty.
Today, Palazzo Vecchio retains its timeless allure, its imposing size dominating one of the most beautiful squares in Florence, piazza della Signoria, today the seat of the City Council.


History (abridged)

Visit Palazzo Vecchio and you’ll discover an extraordinary palace boasting centuries of history.
The building was designed and built between the 13th and 14th century to house the city government (the so-called Priori) under the Republic of Florence.
Under Medici rule, the palace became the official seat of the Signoria. It then served as the Doge's Palace until 1565, when Cosimo I decided to move to the "new" Palazzo Pitti and gave this palace the term "vecchio", meaning “old.”
The palace was repeatedly expanded and renovated until it came to vaunt its current appearance. From 1865 to 1871 it was the seat of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy, while today it serves as the seat of the Mayor of Florence and a number of municipal offices.
It was also featured in the film Inferno, though not all scenes from the movie reflect its actual appearance. 


The halls

Palazzo Vecchio gives visitors a rather emotional experience, as already at the entrance guests are greeted by two impressive statues, the copy of David and Hercules and Cacus, before entering Michelozzo’s beautiful courtyard
Upstairs you’ll make your way to the magnificent first-floor rooms, where Bronzino, Ghirlandaio, Giorgio Vasari and many others worked, not to mention the works by Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrocchio exhibited in the space.
The real show begins in this magnificent hall and subsequent series of spaces – all sure to leave you breathless.
You’ll find wonders from the impressive Salone dei Cinquecento, with striking sculptures and Vasari’s enigmatic frescos of the Battle of Marciano (legend has it that Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari is found underneath) to other beautiful frescoed rooms such as that of Leo X, Cosimo I, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Clement VII
On the second floor you’ll find the private apartments of Cosimo I and Eleanor of Toledo, the Apartment of the Elements and other incredible rooms, including the Gigli Hall and the Hall of Maps (which houses a large variety of age-old maps).


The secrets

Like every noble palace, Palazzo Vecchio is full of secret passageways ... and they’re even open to visitors!
From a hidden doorway in the Hall of Maps visitors may access stairs, corridors and rooms that deviate from the classic palace visit, but that can be accessed via guided thematic tours.
And speaking of Inferno, relive the movie’s chilling scenes by climbing above the imposing truss structure that supports the coffered ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento.
It will be an experience like no other!


From the earth to the sky

And that’s not all, as a visit to Palazzo Vecchio holds a number of other wonderful surprises: you can even buy tickets to discover what’s hiding both underneath and above the imposing structure.  
If you’re an archeology lover, satisfy your tastes by admiring the remains of the ancient Roman theater that once stood where the palace is today.
You can still see the radial masonry corridors on which the semi-circle cavea was set and the vomitorium (the theater’s main entrance).
If you’d rather head upwards, then climb along the walkway of Arnolfo’s splendid tower: the imposing structure that dominates the city.
Quite a long climb awaits you, but Florence from above is unlike anything else!

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