Piazza della Signoria is an open-air museum that, at every step, gives glimpses and views of particular beauty, evidence of a thriving past and architectural treasures of enormous value. What, then, we found on the whole Florence, famous worldwide since ancient times, and probably the most important cultural center of Italy, the cradle of art and Italian language, chest of an artistic heritage of inestimable value and hometown of celebrities worldwide as Giotto, the great painter, and Dante Alighieri, father of Italian language.
The Piazza della Signoria was since the Middle Ages the center of political power in the city, the square is entirely centered on the Palazzo Vecchio, which is its main monument. The unusual shape “L” of Piazza della Signoria is the result of centuries of changes, which have always favoured the most important monument in the square itself, the Palazzo Vecchio. Built at the end of 13th century as the seat of the Priori of Arts in the 15th century became the seat of Signoria and from 1540 to 1565 housed the powerful Medici family-lords of the city-until their final move at Palazzo Pitti, a new palace beyond Arno river.
On the square is also the original Loggia della Signoria, established as a place for public meetings of the City, and in the ‘500 transformed by Cosimo I de’ Medici in an open air gallery of Roman and Renaissance statues. A real open-air museum with ancient statues, including masterpieces like Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus. In the center of the square stands the so-called “Biancone” by Bartolomeo Ammannati, a majestic fountain with satyrs, sea gods, characterized by the marble statue of the god Neptune, nicknamed by the Florentines “Biancone” for his clumsiness. There is also the bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I by Giambologna.
On the square are the palace of the Tribunale di Mercanzia, the palace Condotta, the palace Uguccioni, the palace Guiducci and the palace of the Assicurazioni Generali. On the side towards the Arno, Piazza della Signoria is delimited from the Uffizi, one of the most famous and visited museums in the world. Masterpiece of Vasari, the palace was designed as the headquarters of administrative records of the State. In 1581 Prince Francesco I ordered that the grand-ducal collection, housed in the Gallery of the building, were visible to anyone who requests it.
Thus developed the modern concept of museum as a place of public enjoyment of works of art and the Uffizi Gallery became, therefore, the oldest museum in Europe. Today is the biggest collection of Italian paintings in the world, including masterpieces by Giotto, Paolo Uccello, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, which is flanked by hundreds of paintings, of the major international artists.