For over seven centuries, Palazzo Vecchio has been the symbol of the civic power of Florence. Towering over Piazza della Signoria, where it was built in 1299, the palace hosted the Medici (as their private home) and the headquarters for the Republic. In this Palazzo Vecchio Tour, led by a trained historian, we will dive into the famed palace and its layered history. Using art and architecture as our text, we'll look deeply into the intrigues, dramas, and machinations that fueled the Florentine Renaissance.
Palazzo Vecchio Tour
During our three hours together we’ll look closely at the rise of the Medici family and their influence on the city. In our exploration we’ll encounter such Renaissance thinkers as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and the great Medici power brokers and patrons that helped make their work possible. We’ll watch the old republican democracy of Florence
fade into the quasi-monarchical court of the Medici, and meet a wide array of significant figures from history, including the radical cleric Savonarola whose apocalyptic preaching and eventual “bonfire of the vanities” shook Florence in the last decade of the 15th century. Along the way we’ll gain valuable insight into the politics, biographies, and intrigues that helped shape the Italian Renaissance.
On the Walk
Our visit begins in front of the palace, in Piazza della Signoria, with a brief introduction on the political forces at work during the era of the Florentine Republic. Stepping into Palazzo Vecchio we’ll spend time in the Hall of the 500, a sort of battleground between the Medici and Republican ideals: an enormous chamber packed full of history and fascinating details. Here we’ll encounter and familiarize ourselves with the life-long achievements of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Using the vivid artwork left by Giorgio Vasari and his school, we will retrace the conquests of the Medici grand duchy, discussing the rivalry between Florence, Siena, and Pisa, and how power was consolidated by the Medici family. We will also spend some time discussing a significant and controversial discovery in the Hall of the 500 of a long lost da Vinci fresco and the forty-year research project behind it.
From Art to Feminism
The rest of our visit will include time in Cosimo’s private rooms that highlight the glories of the Medici rulers beginning with Cosimo the Elder, the Pater Patriae, banker and artistic patron who gave rise to the family legacy in the early 15th century. Through Vasari’s stunning Hall of the Elements we will reach the apartments of the powerful and influential Eleonora da Toledo, Grand Duchess, where we will have the opportunity to understand the role of female power in the context of Florentine politics. We will proceed to observe the Florentine Mannerist frescos in the Hall of Justice and after lingering on Donatello's original bronze statue of ''Judith and Holofernes'' in the Hall of the Lilies we will stop at Machiavelli's office and the impressive Hall of Geographical Maps, a massive wardrobe for the Medici possessions. Our discussion will range across topics, from art to politics to sexuality; but our narrative will continue to center on the struggle for power and the use of that power once attained.
At the end of our time together we’ll come away with a much more detailed picture of Early Modern Florence, when the city rose to become one of the most important centers of art and learning in the world. We’ll emerge with a better understanding of the Medici family and their pivotal influence on history.