The beautiful Piazza della Signoria is Florence's main square, in the medieval centre, south of the Cathedral (Duomo) and a few dozen yards from Ponte Vecchio and the Arno. Palazzo degli Uffizi, also known as Palazzo Vecchio or Palazzo della Signoria, built by Vasari in the middle of the XVI century and completed by Buontalenti, is found in the square. On completion, 13 Uffizi (offices), previously housed in various seats, were all moved into the building. Today the Palace is the seat of the Comune di Firenze (Florence Comune or City Council) and also houses the most important art gallery in the world, the Uffizi Gallery, originally the private gallery of Francesco I and later opened to the public by Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici.
From the Palazzo degli Uffizi ticket office, climb the stairs to the first floor where the exhibition rooms and the Drawings and Prints room are. The Uffizi art gallery is actually on the second floor, containing paintings ranging from the XIII to the XVIII century, and also has sections dedicated to foreign works and to an important collection of sculptures from the Roman era. The Corridoio Vasariano (Vasari Corridor), a raised covered passage which connects Palazzo Vecchio Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti via the Uffizi Gallery and which runs above Ponte Vecchio, also contains over 700 works of art including the famous Self Portraits. The famous Corridor was built on the instructions of the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1565 by the architect Vasari, who had already built the Uffizi Gallery. The idea of a raised passage was conceived in order to allow the Grand Dukes to move freely without danger from their residence to the palace of government.
In 1993, the lAccademia dei Georgofili (Georgofili Academy), situated inside the Palace, was the target of a group of terrorists who exploded a bomb causing inestimable damage. After careful restoration work, the Palace has now regained its original splendour.
To the right of the Palace there is a lodge, Loggia della Signoria, which is another Florentine historic monument, also known as the Loggia dei Lanzi, because this was where the Lanzichenecchi stayed in 1527, or Loggia dell'Orcagna, due to being erroneously ascribed to Andrea di Cione, nicknamed Orcagna. The Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) is situated near the north-west corner of Palazzo Vecchio. The fountain is the work of Ammannati, and it was the first public fountain in Florence. It was inaugurated on the occasion of the marriage between Francesco I de' Medici and the Grand Duchess Giovanna d'Austria (Joanna of Austria) on 10th December 1565. The figure of Neptune, in white Carrara marble, has the features of Cosimo I de' Medici and alluded to Florence’s dominion over the sea; it rises on a pedestal decorated with the statues of Scylla and Charybdis at the centre of an octagonal basin.
Photo: Enrico Nunziati.