A symbolic building of Florence
Through Palazzo Vecchio tour you will be surprised by the beauties and the secrets kept in what is a symbolic building of Florence. As in other few places in the city, many important events have taken place in Palazzo Vecchio over the centuries, from the Middle Ages – the era of the fierce fights between Guelphs and Ghibellines – to the Renaissance, when the Florentine political climate was inflamed by the Girolamo Savonarola‘s sermons, until the nineteenth century, at the time of Florence as capital of Italy, when Palazzo Vecchio played an important role.
We will start our tour from Michelozzo’s Courtyard, the splendid entrance to the palace, entirely frescoed with refined grotesque motifs and views of Northern European cities. Already from this first space we would have secrets to uncover, such as the unusual representation of cities of Austria and Germany in the historic heart of Florence. Going up the large staircase leading to the upper floor, you will be amazed at the sight of the immense “Salone dei Cinquecento“. Once inside, you will finally be able to realize that you are in a particular celebrated places of Florence, both for the majesty and richness of decorations, and for the mysteries that hover over the decoration of this hall.
The secrets of the Salone dei Cinquecento
Created under the theocratic government of Girolamo Savonarola, the hall today features a sumptuous decoration celebrating the glories of the Medici family and of Cosimo I in particular. We will retrace the salient events that here took place, concerning not only the history of Florence but those of the whole of Italy as well. Among the many important events, not everyone knows that a very special duel took place here, done not with sword strokes but with brush strokes; the duelists were the great Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Since only Leonardo’s fresco remains, we and find out where his work is hidden …
The “Studiolo” of Francesco I, a treasure chest of wonders
We will move on with the Palazzo Vecchio tour with a visit to the “Studiolo of Francis I” (the cabinet), a small and precious room entirely decorated with paintings on wood and copper made by Giorgio Vasari and collaborators, as well as refined bronze sculptures by the most appreciated sculptors in the mid-16th century. It will be enchanting to you to discover the fascinating symbolism that lies behind these wonderful works, all linked to an iconographic program that wanted to enhance the elements of nature and the role of alchemy, a theme that particularly fascinated the Grand Duke Francis I, who commissioned this ‘wonder room’. Together we will then see what is hidden behind each of the painted panels of this “Studiolo”.
We will continue our journey by entering the magnificently decorated rooms in the mid-1500s and each dedicated to an illustrious member of the Medici family: we will then find the ‘deeds’ accomplished by Cosimo I’s ancestors – commissioner of the decorations – including his namesake Cosimo the Elder, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Pope Leo X. In the room dedicated to the pontifex, we find a depiction in painting of Michelangelo’s David. I guarantee you will be baffled by the very particular way in which the artist’s masterpiece was reproduced here ..
The Elements quarter and the Eleonora’s Apartment
The second level of the rooms opens with the “Quartiere degli Elementi” (The Quarter of the Elements), a space where you can admire the fascinating symbolism hidden behind the figures of the Olympians here featured, each associated with a member of the Medici family seen in the level below. On the “Terrazza di Saturno” (Saturn Terrace), you enjoy a beautiful view of the historic centre of Florence and you will notice some usually not visible details of the Uffizi Gallery, the façade of Santa Croce Basilica and a particular structure of the Boboli Gardens whose exotic shape can only be seen from here. After having seen the rooms of the Duke, it will be the turn of the rooms of the Duchess, refined decorated rooms for one of the most illustrious women in the Medici family history: Eleonora of Toledo.
The Dante Alighieri’s mask
We then visit the small and very elegant private Duchess’ Chapel, completely decorated by Bronzino; here I will reveal to you the secret behind the altarpiece and its link with a painting preserved in France … We will then see the other rooms of the apartment, decorated with themes aimed to emphasize female virtues through famous women of the ancient world’s examples. The rooms, gotten in the medieval part of the building, lead us to see some fascinating objects, such as a mask of Dante Alghieri, made famous by a novel by Dan Brown; beyond all the fantastic elaborations, the mask is a truly ancient object and has a history that deserves to be discovered. With a visit to the Prior Chapel, you will see where Girolamo Savonarola spent the last moments of his life before being executed in Piazza della Signoria. In the Audience Room you can see the frescoes by a very virtuous, though less known painters in the history of art: Francesco Salviati; his Furio Camillo Stories exalt a character of the Medici family.
We will conclude our Palazzo Vecchio tour by seeing the “Sala dei Gigli” (The Lilies Room) – where the original bronze group of the Judith and Holofernes by Donatello is kept – and the Geographic Maps Hall, an extraordinary document of cartographic knowledge of the world in the mid-1500s; here I will also show you how well camouflaged is another palace’s secret passages, built on the commission the Duke of Athens in the mid-1300s.
The Palazzo Vecchio tour greatly enriches the experience of your visit in Florence. Thanks to its historical importance and its many works of art, the building will give you one surprise after another.