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. The building acquired its current name when the Medici dukes residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti. The cubical building is made of rusticated stonework, with two rows of Windows on each floor, the upper ones divided by small columns, while the ground floor has larger arched windows. The ascent to the upper floors is by means of a discreetly hidden stairway within one of the side courtyards and then through a series of artfully designed rooms, some of which were intended for use as studies for various members of the Medici family.
The Palazzo Vecchio is one of the most prominent symbols of the city of Florence and has been described as “the greatest architectural achievement of the Florentine Renaissance”. Under Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who moved his official residence from the Palazzo Pitti to this building in 1540, it became the seat of government. Thus it became known as the Palazzo Ducale, or “Ducal Palace”. The Palazzo Vecchio is mostly brickwork with stone details and pink, white and green marble. It has an L-shaped plan with a courtyard that is open to the Arno River at its far end.
In 1565, the Medici family returned to Florence after a brief exile in Rome and reoccupied the Palazzo Vecchio. In addition to being the seat of government, it also housed the Medici bank on its ground floor. The Palazzo Vecchio was the site of Girolamo Savonarola’s “bonfire of the vanities” in 1497, in which he burned books and works of art that he considered immoral. It was also the scene of several episodes in Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, including the assassination of Giuliano de’ Medici.
In 1861, after Florence became the capital of Italy, the Palazzo Vecchio became the seat of the Italian government. It has been the home of successive Italian governments ever since. The Palazzo Vecchio is currently used as the seat of local government in Florence, and is also open to the public as a museum.