The Great Piazzas of Florence-Piazza della Signoria

Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Florence ItalyGuest Post By: Karen Mills

The most dramatic and historical piazza of Florence, Piazza della Signoria is today still the civic center for the city. It is the political hub and meeting place for Florentines. Upon entering the piazza you will be awe struck by the looming Palazzo Vecchio. It was erected at the end of the 13th century and was originally the location of the city’s governing body, The Signoria. Cosimo Medici used it as the ducale palace until the mid 16th century, when he moved his family across the river to the Palazzo Pitti. Today, it still functions as the city’s town hall, and there is a museum inside. The first floor entry of the building is free, and worth walking into. The David by Michelangelo stands in front of the Palazzo, but this one is a replica. The original is in the Galleria Accademia.

The piazza also houses the Loggia dei Lanzi named after the architect who created it. This loggia houses many important sculptures, some of them originals and others copies when the original was moved into a museum. Some of the noteworthy sculptures on the Loggia are Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine, the bronze Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Cellini, and Judith and Holofernes by Donatello.

Grand Fountain of Neptune, Piazza della Signoria, Florence ItalyThe grand fountain of Neptune by Ammannati, has a colorful history. Used as a washbasin in the end of the 16th century for the cities laundry, it was not particularly appreciated by the Florentines who to this day call it Il Biancone (the white giant).

Historically, the piazza was the location for the great “Bonfire of the Vanities” when Savonarola burned books, fine dresses, art, and fine furniture in the center of the piazza. There is a round plaque on the ground in front of the Neptune fountain noting the exact location where Girolamo Savonarola was hanged and burned for heresy in the spot where he had conducted the “Bonfire of the Vanities” earlier.

Around this piazza there are many bars and restaurants. Rivoire, a beautiful historical tea room, bar, and restaurant has the patio directly across from the Palazzo Vecchio where you can enjoy views of the entire piazza. Plan to pay a large premium for the view. The corner bar, Perseus, also has a restaurant and you will find the prices slightly more moderate. In the evenings there is a nice apertivo inside and their gelato is said to be some of the best in the city.

To the side of the Loggia and before you enter the Piazza dei Uffizi, you will find entertainment day and night. Classical guitarists play during the day and there are street performers dressed in costume emulating some of the statues contained in the piazzas. A mime performs regularly from 3-5, and you can sit on the steps of the loggia to watch his wonderful comedic act. Every evening, Ken Mercer plays guitar and sings American pop music favorites from Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, U2, and Cat Stevens.

Street Mime, Piazza della Signoria, Florence ItalyNo matter what time of the day or night you wander into Piazza dell Signoria there is sure to be an abundance of activities and sites to delight the senses. For more information on Florence sites, visit

Karen Mills is an American woman who made the decision to leave her corporate life behind to live “la dolce vita” in Florence, Italy. Read more about her experiences at or contact her at

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Guest Post By: Karen Mills

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