Piazza della Signoria, Florence
The Piazza della Signoria has been the political center of Florence since the 14th century when houses belonging to Ghibelline families had to make way for the new square. It is notable for its important buildings and statues - the Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo degli Uffizi, Loggia dei Lanzi and the copies of statues by Michelangelo and Donatello.In the 1980s the Piazza della Signoria did not look its best.
Piazza della Signoria Map
Transit: Bus: 3, 13, 14, 15,18, 19, 23, 31, 32.
The Palazzo Vecchio is one of the major attractions in Florence. Easily identifiable by its 94 m high tower, the Palazzo is home a significant number of attractions, including a rare secret staircase.
The massive Bargello Palace now houses the National Museum. Some of the most interesting exhibits are the Coin Collection, Michelangelo Room, and the Giovanni della Robbia Room.
The San Michele in Orto dates from the 14th C. This prominent tourist attraction features impressive elements of architecture, including graceful arches, ornate moldings, and pillared arcades.
Located on Florence's main square, the Loggia dei Lanzi ('Loggia della Signoria') arcade dates back to 1376. Once the site of official ceremonies, the arcade reflects beautiful Gothic architecture.
The spire of the Badia opposite the Palazzo del Bargello is an unmistakable feature of the skyline of Florence. This church and its Benedictine abbey was founded in 978 by Willa, the mother of Ugo, Margrave of Tuscany (commemorated here every year on December 21st, the anniversary of his death). The church was subsequently enlarged by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century and then internally virtually rebuilt by Matteo Segaloni in the 17th century. Interesting features of the Gothic facade are the portal by Benedetto da Rovezzano (1495) with a "Madonna and Child" (early 16th century) in glazed terracotta by Benedetto Buglioni in the lunette. A walk round the church should take in Filippino Lippi's masterpiece (1485) "The Madonna appearing to St Bernard" (left of the entrance), the tomb of Ugo, Margrave of Tuscany (d. 1001), built between 1469 and 1481 by Mino da Fiesole (in the left transept), and, entered from the Choir of the church, the beautiful 15th century cloister, popularly known as the "Chiostro degli Aranci" because of its orange trees, with a fresco of scenes from the life of St Benedict dating from the completion of the cloister (ca.1436-1439).
The Baroque complex of San Firenze consisting of two church facades with a palace between them is in the Piazza San Firenze not far from the city's main square, the Piazza della Signoria. Its appearance reflects its chequered history. The church of San Filippo Neri was built by Gherardo Silvani (1633-1648) on the site of an old oratory dedicated to San Fiorenzo (hence the name "Firenze") that had been passed to the brotherhood of priests of St Philip Neri. The church facade (1715) is by Ferdinando Ruggieri. The church of Sant'Appolinare was built nearby between 1772 and 1775, with a facade also in accordance with Ruggieri's 1715 designs. At the same time a palazzo was built between the two churches, originally incorporating the cloister areas. Nowadays San Firenze is the seat of the Tribunale, the judicial authority.
Fountain of Neptune
The most impressive monument in the square, however, is the Fonte di Piazza (del Nettuno), the Fountain of Neptune. The Piazza della Signoria was to be given a magnificent work of art to commemorate the marriage of Francesco de'Medici, son of Cosimo I, to Princess Johanna of Austria (1565), since this union was to take the Medicis into the ranks of the great ruling houses of Europe - Francesco was even to receive the title of Grand Duke. So a fountain which had already been begun to the left of the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio had to be finished in a hurry, and between 1563 and 1575 Bartolommeo Ammanati and his assistants worked to make this the largest fountain in Florence, with the god Neptune, four horses and three tritons. They may have been in too much of a hurry, since the Florentines were to jeer "Ammanato, che bel marmo hai rovinato" - what lovely marble you've ruined, Ammanato!
House of Dante
The houses that belonged to the Alighieri family are in Via Dante Alighieri. According to Florentine tradition one of them was the birthplace in 1265 of Florence's greatest poet, Dante Alighieri, who did not exactly find favor with his native city. Dante opposed the attempts by Pope Boniface VII to incorporate Florence and the whole of Tuscany into the Papal States. When Charles de Valois was summoned to Florence by the Pope to treat for peace, Dante, as leader of the Ghibellines, was exiled from the city.The building was rather haphazardly renovated in the 19th century. Some rooms contain photographs, editions of the "Divine Comedy", reproductions of Boticelli's drawings for Dante's work and portraits of Italy's greatest poet.
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