Articles Index: Florence Hotels, Piazza della Signoria – The Uffizi Gallery
It is the focal point of the origin and of the history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political hub of the city. It is the meeting place of Florentines as well as the numerous tourists.
The impressive 14th century Palazzo Vecchio is still preeminent with its crenellated tower. The square is also shared with the Loggia della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery, the Palace of the Tribunale della Mercanzia (1359) (now the Bureau of Agriculture), and the Uguccioni Palace (16th Century, with a facade probably by Raphael). Located in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is the Palace of the Assicurazioni Generali (1871, built in Renaissance style).
The various eye-catching statues in this square include:
• At the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, a copy of David. The original by Michelangelo is being kept at the Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts.
• The “bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I” by Giambologna (1594)
• The Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1575)
• “The Lion”, referred to as “il Marzocco” with a copy of the “Florentine Lily”, originally made by Donatello (copy)
• “Judith and Holofernes”, by Donatello (copy)
• “Hercules and Cacus”, by Bandinelli (1533)
• “The Rape of the Sabine Women”, by Giambologna
• “Perseus with the Head of Medusa”, by Cellini (1554)
This splendid open-air museum evokes centuries of greatness and power. It was already a central square in the original Roman town Florentia, surrounded by a theatre, Roman baths and a workshop for dyeing textiles. Later there was a church San Romolo, a loggia and an enormous 5th c. basilica. This was shown by the archaeological treasures found beneath the square when it was repaved in the 1980s. Even remains of a Neolithic site were found. The square started taking shape from 1268 on, when houses of Ghibellines were pulled down by the victorious Guelphs. The square remained a long time untidy, full of holes. In 1385 it was paved for the first time. In 1497 Girolamo Savonarola and his followers carried out on this square the famous Bonfire of the Vanities, burning in a large pile books, gaming tables, fine dresses, and works of poets. In front of the fountain of Neptune, a round marble plaque marks the exact spot where Girolamo Savonarola was hanged and burned on May 23, 1498.
The Uffizi Gallery, is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world. It’s housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, a palazzo in Florence, Italy.
Building of the palace was begun by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de’ Medici as the offices for the Florentine magistrates — hence the name “uffizi” (“offices”). Construction was continued to Vasari’s design by Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti and ended in 1581. The cortile (internal courtyard) is so long and narrow, and open to the Arno River at its far end through a Doric screen that articulates the space without blocking it, that architectural historians treat it as the first regularized streetscape of Europe. Vasari, a painter as well as architect, emphasized the perspective length by the matching facades’ continuous roof cornices, and unbroken cornices between storeys and the three continuous steps on which the palace-fronts stand. The niches in the piers that alternate with columns were filled with sculptures of famous artists in the 19th century.
The Palazzo degli Uffizi brought together under one roof the administrative offices, the Tribunal and the state archive (Archivio di Stato). The project that was planned by Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany to arrange that prime works of art in the Medici collections on the piano nobile was effected by Francis I of Tuscany, who commissioned from Buontalenti the famous Tribuna degli Uffizi that united a selection of the outstanding masterpieces in the collection in an ensemble that was a star attraction of the Grand Tour.
Over the years, further parts of the palace evolved into a display place for many of the paintings and sculpture collected by the Medici family or commissioned by them. According to Vasari, who was not only the architect of the Uffizi but also the author of Lives of the Artists, published in 1550 and 1568, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo gathered at the Uffizi “for beauty, for work and for recreation.”
After the house of Medici was extinguished, the art treasures remained in Florence by terms of the famous Patto di famiglia negotiated by Anna Maria Lodovica, the last Medici heiress; it formed one of the first modern museums. The gallery had been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century, and in 1765 it was officially opened to the public.
Because of its huge collection, some of its works have in the past been transferred to other museums in Florence — for example, some famous statues, to the Bargello. A project is currently underway to expand the museum’s exhibition space by 2006 from some 6,000 metres² (64,000 ft²) to almost 13,000 metres² (139,000 ft²), allowing public viewing of many artworks that have usually been in storage.
In 1993, a car bomb exploded in Via dei Georgofili and damaged parts of the palace, killing five people. The most severe damage was to the Niobe room, the classical sculptures and neoclassical interior of which have been restored, although its frescoes were damaged beyond repair. The identity of the bomber or bombers are unknown, although it was almost certainly attributable to the Sicilian Mafia who were engaged in a period of terrorism at that time.
Today the Uffizi is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Florence. In high season (particularly in July), waiting times can be up to five hours. Visitors who reserve a ticket in advance have a substantially shorter wait.
In the summer 2007, in early August, Florence was caught with a large rainstorm, and the Gallery was partially flooded, with water leaking through the ceiling, and the visitors had to be evacuated.
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