Palazzo Vecchio, also referred to as Palazzo della Signoria because it stands in the Piazza of the same name, is the result of work done between the 13th and 16th centuries. The Palace overlooks the large square and stands next to the Loggia del Lanzi. The oldest part, originally done by Arnolfo di Cambio at the turn of the 13th century, was seat to the Priors. Later, the palace was sumptuously reconstructed by Vasari with newly reconstructed interiors for the palace’s role both as the seat of government and official residence of the ruling Medici family keeping however, its massive appearance in huge blocks and the asymmetrical tower that dominates Piazza Signoria. From1865 to 1848, it became the seat of Italy’s provisional government, when Florence was the capital of the kingdom of Italy, and housed the Chamber of Deputies. Palazzo Vecchio leads to the Uffizi Palace linked by an overhead passageway above Via della Ninna.
In1872, it returned to its original function as the seat of the City Council. Although the palace today contains the offices of the City Council, much of it can still be visited. The interiors include the entrance from the courtyard with its white and gold stuccoes and sixteenth century frescoes over an elegant 15th century structure. From there you immediately arrive in the old Armoury, where the Town Council of Florence organizes frequent exhibitions. On the first floor find the grandiose Salone dei Cinquecento, (1495) which held the assemblies of the General Council of the People under the State reforms brought about by Savonarola.
The walls of this room, frescoed by Michelangelo and Leonardo; the actual appearance of the interior is the work of Vasari and his pupils and dates back to the second half of the sixteenth century. The paneled ceiling and wall frescoes, the “Udienza” (the raised section of the room with statues by Bandinelli and Caccini) and the sculptures of De’ Rossi showing the Deeds of Hercules, all belong to the complex symbolism and precise historical references glorifying the Medici. Also in the Salone is Michelangelo‘s Genius of Victory. In contrast to the grandiose Salone, is the little Studiolo of Francesco I, dating back to around 1570 and equally sumptuous, a jewel of Mannerist art, where Francesco spent his free time gazing at his treasures.
Each one of the rooms on the first floor, appropriately frescoed, is dedicated to a Medici family member; including Cosimo the Elder, Lorenzo, Leo X and so on. On the second floor find the public can admire the Hall of Five Hundred, the little Study of Francesco I and the four monumental apartments: the Quarters of Elements, the Quarters of Eleonora of Toledo; the little chapel of Eleonora of Toledo is outstanding with its magnificent frescoes by Bronzino (1503-1572), the Residence of the Priors and the Quarters of Leo X, where today the reception rooms of the mayor and the council that governs the city are situated.
The Hall of Two Hundred is being used once more for City Council meetings and therefore not always open to the public. In the final area of the monumental quarters is the setting for the “Loeser Collection” left to the Florentine Town Council by the American art critic Charles Loeser on his death in 1928 which include pieces from the 14th to 16th century from such artists including Tino da Camaino, Berruguete, Rustici, Bronzino and Cellini.