Palazzo Vecchio


Opening hours: April-September daily 9am-11pm except Thursday 9am-2pm.
Winter months daily 9am-7pm except Thursday 9am-2pm.
Extended opening for public holidays except closed Christmas Day.
The tower can be climbed April-September daily 9am-9pm (except Thursday 9am-2pm).

During the winter months (October - March) the tower can be climbed daily from 10am - 5pm (except Thursday: 9am - 2pm).

Admission: Museum or Tower and Battlements only € 10.00, Museum + Tower and Battlements € 14.00
Concessions available.


Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and one of the most important public areas in the city and Italy itself. Originally known as Palazzo della Signoria, named after the Signoria, the ruling body of Florence's Republic at the time, this is also where the piazza gets its name from. The Signoria consisted of a group of nine men, known as priori, who were chosen from the guilds of the city to rule Florence. To avoid corruption, terms of office were only for two months each, and the nine men elected were to move into and live in Palazzo Vecchio during this entire time. In addition, the way men were elected was by randomly drawing names from a hat. To be eligible for office, the members had to have not recently served a term, had to have no relation to the names already drawn and not be in debt.

The interior of the Palazzo Vecchio is now largely filled with the renovations, painting and sculpture that the Medici family of the 16th century left us from their time here, Grand Duke Cosimo I (1519-1574) being the major patron of the arts. Cosimo married the seventeen-year-old Spanish Eleonora di Toledo (1522-1562) in 1539. The following year the family moved to the Pitti Palace, under renovations, across the river. Around this time Cosimo had Vasari and other artists transform Palazzo Vecchio, especially the main hall, known as the Hall of Five Hundred, taking into account the new role of the Palazzo as government seat and as a part time residence for the new family. This is also when the name of the Palazzo changed from Palazzo della Signoria to Palazzo Vecchio, “the old palace.” Not long after this, Cosimo then had Vasari add on an enclosed passageway to connect the Palazzo Vecchio to the new family palace, snaking its way across the city at rooftop level, known now as the Vasari Corridor.

The main façade, the oldest part of the building, is finished in the typical Florentine pietra forte stone, crowned by a Guelf-style crenellated gallery supported by round-arched brackets. Beneath some of them we can still see the embrasures that were used to pour boiling oil or throw rocks at attackers. Each arch is decorated with the coats of arms of the Florentine Republic. The one with the red lily on a white, is the symbol of the city.

Note that the tower is not in the centre of the façade. The reason for this is that it was erected over the base of a pre-existing tower-house, known as “della Vacca.” The tower is crowned with Ghibelline style swallow-tailed crenellation. Inside the tower are two small cells, where important prisoners were held. This is where Cosimo the Elder was imprisoned upon his return from exile in 1435, as was Savonarola before he was hanged and burned at the stake in the square on the 23rd of May, 1498.

Above the gallery are the three, still functioning bells: the Martinella which is used to summon Florentines to assembly, the noon bell and the bell that sounds the hours. There is also a large, seventeenth century clock on the tower's facade.

One small, hidden detail can be found on the right corner of the façade of the palazzo. There is a roughly carved profile on a stone, popularly attributed to Michelangelo. While there are many different legends, one of the favourites tells that Michelangelo, challenged to a bet, carved the portrait of a man condemned to the gallows without looking, with his hands behind his back!