If you’ve ever been to Florence, you’ve probably been to Piazza della Signoria.
Located near the city center and behind the Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Signoria once began in the early 1330’s as a hub for the city council to meet. Today, the Palazzo Vecchio, which translates to “old palace” serves as the meeting point for government officials. The square also acts as an open-air museum showcasing many original statues from the Italian Renaissance.
Loggia dei Lanzi
The loggia is an open-air covering situated in the corner of the square nearest to the Uffizi Gallery. On either side of the steps, one can notice two Marzoccos, or lion sculptures – the symbol of Florence. In the loggia you can find works by Benvenuto Cellini, Giambologna and a handful of other artists. One recognizable work is the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. You can also find a copy of this sculpture in the Academy Gallery on your way to visit The David by Michelangelo.
Once upon a time, The David by Michaelangelo was displayed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio building. Now, you can find a copy of the statue standing while the original is well preserved in a gallery just a 15-minute walk away. David is a masterpiece but the placement and subject matter of the sculpture is intentional. Did you know that David was originally commissioned to sit on one of the buttresses atop the Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral? Of course, once the final result was unveiled there was a discussion on how a piece of this magnificence should be more visible.
The David comes from the biblical story of David and Goliath, where a little bit of bravery and faith resulted in the triumph of David. Similarly, Florence, though small, was a city that was courageous and faithful in its ability to remain powerful. The city even served as the capital of Italy for a period of time.
Fountain of Neptune
Located adjacent to The David is the Fountain of Neptune which was commissioned by the Medici family in celebration of the marriage between Francesco Medici and Johanna of Austria. Sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati, the fountain depicts Neptune, the Roman God of the Sea. If you look at the face of Neptune, it is actually the face of Cosimo Medici, one of the most powerful men in the family. Adjacent to the fountain you can also find a bronze statue by Giambologna of Cosimo Medici on a horse.
In front of the Palazzo Vecchio building, near the Fountain of Neptune you’ll see a memorial plaque. This marks the exact spot where Girolamo Savonarola, an Italian Dominican Friar, was hanged. Above is an illustration of his death in the image. Today, the ground of the square is covered in cobblestone as opposed to a red flooring during earlier times.
It is obvious there is an immense amount of history within the Piazza della Signoria and this is just a fraction of it. If you find yourself in Florence, make sure to take in these sights and imagine what the square would have looked like years ago.