All the attractions of Piazza della Signoria


The most famous square in Florence is definitely the Piazza della Signoria. But the Piazza della Signoria is not the oldest square. Its typical L shape, along with its name, comes from the 13th century, when the Palazzo Vecchio was called the Palazzo della Signoria.

The Piazza della Signoria (along with the Palazzo Vecchio) has always been considered a civic symbol of the city, in contrast to the cathedral of the Duomo, which is considered its religious center.

In 1500, festivals, shows, and tournaments were organized and held here. In the piazza in front of Palazzo Vecchio, Florentines would listen to and approve new laws, argue about problems in the city, or simply get together for a drink. Meanwhile, over the course of the centuries, dukes and lords beautified the square with sculptures and works of art, such that the piazza eventually became an extraordinary open-air museum.


Around the year 1000, construction was begun on the old medieval quarter, formed from high towers and narrow alleys. But in 1300 something happened that radically changed the fabric of the city, giving life to the Piazza della Signoria.

In the 13th century, Guelphs and Ghibellines fought in the streets of Florence for supremacy of the city. The Guelphs (the faction favored by the Pope) came to be represented by the Buondelmonti family, while the Ghibellines (the faction favored by the Holy Roman Emperor) were represented by the most powerful family in Florence: the Uberti.

The two families had already been fighting for years when in 1266, after the Holy Roman Emperor's defeat at the battle of Benevento, the victorious Guelphs permanently expelled the Uberti family from Florence. As a warning, 36 towers of the defeated family were destroyed. The ruins of these buildings were left on the ground for 10 years, and it was forbidden to build on the land, which was sowed with salt so that even the grass could not grow there. Those lands were then called "cursed." This was how Piazza della Signoria was born.


Piazza della Signoria is also tied to another important Florentine character: Girolamo Savonarola. His story is tied two times to that of the square.

In 1497, Savonarola, together with some Dominican friars, organized the Bonfire of the Vanities. On this occasion, the people of Florence were invited to burn a number of different objects (books, paintings, musical instruments, mirrors, poems, board games, and fine clothing) in a giant bonfire. These things were considered to be insignificant and the source of a great vice: vanity.

The Dominican friars were celebrated for their sermons against the corruption of the Catholic Church, authoritarian laws and the abuse of the poor. For this reason many Florentines participated in the bonfire.

It was for this same reason that Savonarola was prohibited from preaching his beliefs, however he did not obey the order. Savonarola was duly proclaimed a heretic by the Pope, and just a year after his great bonfire, Savonarola himself was put in chains, strung up, and then burned alive.

The day after his execution, the square was covered with flowers, palms and rose petals by the people of Florence. Today it is possible to see a marble plaque posted in the square which shows the place where Savonarola was burned and in all likelihood where the Bonfire of the Vanities took place.

This is why every year, on the day of remembrance of the assassination of Savonarola, the civic and religious authorities bring flowers to the commemorative plaque and throw leaves and flower petals into the Arno where Savonarola's ashes where also thrown.


All of the statues of the Piazza della Signoria have a political value. Oftentimes contradictory, given that over the years many different and varying powers ruled the city. Today the statues have been substituted with copies, but each one tells a story of a particular moment in the political life of the city.

Marzocco (1455) by Donatello - a powerful lion accompanied by the heraldry of the republic of Florence: the Giglio.

Judith and Holofernes (1455) by Donatello. After the expulsion of the Medici from Florence, the statue was brought to the piazza by the people to symbolize their victory over tyranny.

The David (1500) by Michelangelo is surely one of the great works of the Renaissance. Positioned in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, it symbolizes the victory of the people's republic thanks to the help of God (David) over the tyranny of the Medici (Goliath).

Hercules and Cacus (1534) by Bandinelli - it was placed next to the David by the Medici upon their return from exile to symbolize their re-appropriation of power.

Fountain of Neptune (1575) by Ammannati, called by the Florentines the "Biancone" it celebrates the maritime ambitions of the Medici.

Duke Cosimo I (1595) by Giambologna symbolizes the king on a horse, and is an elegant portrait of the man who with his Medici army conquered all of Tuscany.



Above and beyond the history and the art, Piazza della Signoria is full of attractions that should be visited.

Palazzo della Signoria

Known also as the Palazzo Vecchio, it is both the seat of the municipality of Florence, as well as a museum and a monument of the city. The building was completed in 1302 and was connected to the Palazzo Pitti by the Vasari Corridor that passes over the Ponte Vecchio.

The Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery is without doubt the most important museum in the city. This building was also designed by Giorgio Vasari and displays works of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, Tiziano, and many others.

The Loggia della Signoria

Also called the Loggia dei Lanzi, it was transformed from a closed meeting space into an open-air museum. Among the more important sculptures hosted here are the Perseus (by Benvenuto Cellini), the Rape of the Sabine (by Giambologna), the Rape of Polissena (by Pio Fedi), and the Medici Lions (by Flaminio Vacca and Giovanni di Scherano Fancelli).

The Tribunale della Mercanzia (The Tribunal of Merchandise)

A real tribunal where disputes between merchants were resolved, today it is used to host the Gucci museum.

Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali (General Insurance Building)

Built in Renaissance style, this is the home of the historic Cafe Rivoire, which today brings to life the full tradition of the classic Florentine cocktail: the Negroni.

Data: 10/01/2016 - Category: Attractions


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