Its Sunday and the city is hosting a half marathon and we are hoping to beat the crowds and get to the Palazzo Vecchio ahead of the crowds. The race is starting at Santa Croce which is on our way to Piazza Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio. Kerry stops to consider competing but changes her mind. The pre – race queue for the toilets deters her.
We arrive at the Palazzo and as we planned there is no queue so we purchase tickets for the tour of the palace exploring the secret passages and the tower with a guide for the palace museum. We could have also visited the archaeological dig underneath the Palazzo but we have seen roman ruins.
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi. Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name (meaning the old palace) when the Medici duke’s residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.
The original ground floor courtyard is remarkable for its artwork on its walls its view of the tower and the statue of a nymph in the centre. The newer parts of the ground floor is decorated with large tubs of flowers.
Our guide Molloy turns up and is a 20 something US student studying Art History in Florence and doing the guided tour to fill in. The first stop is the room of the Five Hundred being the meeting hall for the city delegate until the Spanish installed Cosimo as the Grand Duke and he took over the reins of government. This is an enormous hall decorated by the Medicis with wall panels and ceiling panels to justify their importance and position. Passing from the hall we entered the palace proper. I have included my photos below. We visited the deck (altana to the Italians), saw the crest of the Medicis in the Dukes room and the joint crest in the rooms used by the Duchess. In the map room we were shown the secret door (through a map) which led to a veranda to which was later added a room for the mistress of one of the dukes who was interested in alchemy (prohibited at this period) and her presence was not welcome at court so the room included a secret panel (on the left) so she could view the goings on in the Room of the Five Hundred.
After visiting the apartments, we passed into another stairwell to access the tower. To my surprise, we had to go to the end of the queue for the tower despite having done the tour of the apartments. Fortunately, the queue was short but it soon grew as they limit numbers as the staircase is narrow and I am not that certain the tower is designed for thousands of tourists to be hanging off it. Once we were allowed to climb the 418 narrow stairs to the top of the tower we were given an extraordinary view of Florence. One of the views is the umbrellas on the Uffizi veranda and the Piazza Signoria below that.
The climb down was a little more harrowing but less fatiguing.