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Your In-Depth Guide to the Piazza Della Signoria

Ajitsa A.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Ajitsa A.

Last updated : Apr 04, 20249 min read

Travel Tips

To touch down in the "City of Lilies" means to indulge in an in-depth discovery of its heart. Piazza Della Signoria paints an intimate, captivating picture of Florentine history, culture, politics, and art. If you want to know what Florence was like in the past, where it is today, and what it'll be in the future, there's no better place to start. 

 

To take your Piazza Della Signoria adventure to the next level, get in touch with one of our skilled guides and plan a personalized group or individual tour. There's so much to see, so let's dive right in! 

History 

blog imageHopeful at some turns and heartbreaking at others, the history of this square has humble beginnings with small structures dating back to 1267. By 1268, the old houses of the Ghibellines who supported the Roman Emperor were torn down by the Guelphs who supported the Pope. This was the first of many battles between papal and secular rule. Things picked up in 1299 with the construction of the Palazzo Vecchio and its Arnolfo tower to serve as the imposing center of the Florentine Republic. 

 

By 1434, Florence was a powerful and central city in terms of Italy's political atmosphere, and it was ruled by the House of Medici. The Medici’s poured finances and mentorship into the city's arts and science development, backing the careers of many legends, including Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, and Vasari. Their works can be seen all throughout the square and in accompanying museums. 

 

The Medicis were temporarily dethroned from 1494 to 1498 by Girolamo Savonarola, a priest with a zealous passion for moral and upright living who led a democratic republican government and changed the Palazzo's interior. They also faced exile from 1527 to 1530 after a popular revolution.

Places like ‘The Salone dei Cinquecento’ or Hall of the 500 were commissioned by Girolamo Savonarola during his reign. This hall held all five hundred members of the Maggiore Council of the Republic. It's even documented that Renaissance heavyweights such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti had a face-off when both were instructed to fresco the Council Hall with epic scenery from the battles of Anghiari and Cascina. Leonardo was able to begin some work along the east wall, but all we have of Michelangelo's contribution are some preparatory sketches. Giorgio Vasari ended up completing the frescoes we see today.  

 

Judith and Holofernes by Donatello, and David by Michelangelo became pivotal monuments to the Florentine people's desire for freedom and prosperity. Through power shifts, scandals, war, and renovations, the Piazza Della Signoria has stood the test of time. 

Things to See 

blog imageOnce you've basked in the overall magnificence of the Piazza, it's time to feast your eyes on these spectacular scenes, sculptures, and architectural feats. Our experienced guides can take you through each attraction so that you don't miss a thing. 

1. The Fountain Of Neptune 

Commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici, the Duke of Florence - the Fountain of Neptune is a celebration of Francesco de' Medici's marriage to the Grand Duchess Joanna of Austria. The fountain was designed by Baccio Bandinelli, but its actual creation was helmed by Bartolomeo Ammannati (helped by several other artists) between 1560 and 1574. Talk about a brilliant wedding gift. 

 

Ironically enough, in front of the fountain is a tribute to Girolamo Savonarola, the Italian Dominican priest, and reformist whose time in the political spotlight was marked with success, controversy, power, and pain. Referring to the people and leadership of Italy as "blindly wicked", he led a moral revolution that resulted in the "bonfire of the vanities” where "overly luxurious" items like art, books, jewelry, and musical instruments were burned. Loved by many and hated by some, Girolamo made a lot of enemies during his lifetime. He was ultimately tried and executed, but his influence on Florence's political, social, and cultural spheres are still felt today.  

 

Other famous statues in the Loggia Dei Lanzi sculpture gallery include the menacing Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa, designed by Cellini and meant to be a warning to the enemies of ruler Cosimi I. You can also check out "Hercules and the Centaur" by Giambologna and "The Robbery of Polyxena" by Pio Fedi.

2. 2. Bargello National Museum & Palace

Spend some time in one of the oldest buildings in Florence, the Palazzo Del Bargello. This former palace now holds influential works of art from greats like Donatello, Luca Della Robbia, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Cellini. In fact, it's the oldest and first museum under a united Italy dedicated to Middle Age and Renaissance art. If you're into eerie, imposing, yet interesting pieces and architecture, this is the place for you. The first floor is a celebration of sculptural works, including Donatello's David and pieces from Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. You'll also see remnants of the time when this palace was a prison. It's a hidden gem that's not nearly as hyped as the Accademia Gallery or the Uffizi, but it's just as charming and full of odd little tales. 

3. Palazzo Vecchio Museum

Take a trip back to 13th-century Florence when you enter the halls of the Palazzo Vecchio, a building with a long history of political significance. Constructed to house the Florentine governing body, its exterior was the brainchild of Arnolfo Di Cambio, while the stunning interior is the work of Giorgio Vasari, whose name you'll often hear during your time at the Piazza. He was a popular artist, painter, architect, and close friend of the Medici family. Designed after typical civic, Romanesque, and Gothic architecture, the Palazzo has undergone several renovations over the centuries. And guess what? It's still the seat of the city's government to this day.  Be sure to say hello to one of two replicas of Michelangelo's David at the entrance. 

Things to Know 

blog imageOkay, so you’re convinced, and you cannot get to the Piazza fast enough. As you plan your trip, here are a few things to keep in mind so that your journey is fruitful and fun. 

When Should You Go? 

If you're looking for that perfect sweet spot of weather that's not too hot but not too cold, schedule your trip to Florence for April, May, or September. Cooling winds and warm sun will provide the perfect weather for strolling around the Piazza. August brings sweltering temperatures, so you'll arrive just as the locals run away from the heat. To avoid a day spent boiling in the sun, shoot for the above months. While there likely won't be snow, colder months like October and December aren't great for touring either. 

 

Since you'll be walking around the open square, try and schedule your tour for early morning to midday, when locations like the Bargello National Museum and Palazzo Vecchio are not as crowded. Though much of the Piazza is considered an open museum, the Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello National Museum require prior booking. Tours of the Palazzo run from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm every day of the week except Thursdays and special holidays, when it closes at 2:00 pm. Bargello tours run from Wednesday to Monday from 8:45 am to 7:00 pm. Tuesday tours run from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, but it's best to check with a guide as museum schedules constantly change. 

 

For those who love an evening stroll, try a Palazzo tour followed by a walk along the Loggia dei Lanzi, which is brilliant at sunset. You can freely view the statues outside. 

How Do You Get There? 

blog imageEven if you're a novice traveler, you're in luck because the Piazza Della Signoria is hard to miss. This location is smack dab in the middle of Florence's metropolitan area, and you can take a taxi, bus, or tram straight from Florence Airport. After all, it's only a 6 km drive. Though heavy traffic isn't usually anticipated, it can get pretty packed during peak tourist season. 

 

Pro Tip: Though the Loggia dei Lanzi outdoor museum is free, tickets to tour the Palazzo Vecchio Museum run on average 10 euros for those aged 18-25 and 12.50 euros for anyone above that age. Kids up to 18 are permitted free entry. Prices are around the same for the Bargello Museum with reduced offers of around 2 euros for those aged 18-25. Tours inside the Palazzo and Bargello Museum usually last 1-3 hours, so eat something beforehand and wear comfortable clothing. 

Conclusion 

blog imageWith so much to see, it’s no wonder Florence is considered a must-see for anyone who values history. Break down your trip into bite-sized pieces and absorb every major site by getting in touch with our knowledgeable guides who will help you every step of the way with your own personalized tour

Florence Tour Guide - Mila L.

Mila L.

Italy

Hi! I am a licensed Tour Guide of Florence and its district, with a M.A. in English and French Literatureo. I have been working for over 30 years in Tourism, also as an International Tour Manager, organizing and guiding customized tours for English and Spanish speaking guests. All my tours are private and LGBTQ friendly. It would be fantastic to become one of your guides.                                                                                                                                 

Florence Tour Guide - Eva G.

Eva G.

Italy

Hi, I'm Eva! I've been living in Florence since 2012 and I've become a professional licensed tour guide in 2016, since then I did a lot of private tours around Florence and in Tuscany, working with families and small groups of friends. I'm still very curious and constantly learning new things about local history and artists, and Florence always gives you an opportunity to discover something interesting. I'm in love with my city and I live quite an active life, so I can tell you a lot of things not only about history, but also about modern life of Florence. During pandemic period I have finished the Wine Courses, so now I'm also professional sommelier, working in wine industry, and I can share my experience with you. We also have a nice wine cellar in the city center, where you can join one of our wine-tasting evenings. My concept of exploring Italy is doing it with taste and style. So during our tour we will have no rush and you will have an opportunity to really enjoy Italian style of life. Yes, I give a lot of historical information, but I'm very flexible and I always put your needs and wishes at the first place. So every tour is adopted to the client's preferences.                                                                                                                                 

Toscana Tour Guide - Giacomo C.

Giacomo C.

Italy

Giacomo is a travel operator based in Tuscany. He specializes in private food and wine tours in Tuscany. All his itineraries include visits to organic or biodynamic farms and wineries. He is able to customize departures from almost any accommodation in all of the provinces of Florence and Siena.                                                                                                                                 

Florence Tour Guide - Simona T.

Simona T.

Italy

I started riding by chance when I was about 20, I never stopped and enjoyed show jumping, cross country and the country trail riding with my horses. Today it is my life and I share my experience and my emotions on horseback with my guests and in the beauty, the history and the flavors of the Tuscan hilly countryside surrounding Florence.                                                                                                                                 

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