Palazzo Vecchio

The foundations of the palace designed by Arnolfo di Cambio were laid in February 1299. The main facade and the 94-metre tower had already been completed by 1302, but the rear of the building was constructed and amplified in various periods through to the final modifications made by Ammannati in 1588. It was originally conceived of as the residence and offices of the Priori and the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, who were commonly called "Signori". They held office for two months during which time they were obliged to live prevalently in the palace following severe rules similar to those of a convent community.
The name of this palace has changed names a number of times; initially known as the "Palatium Populi" ("Palagio" in spoken language), it was later called the "Palazzo della Signoria". In 1540 it was renamed "Palazzo Ducale" when Duke Cosimo I took power, and only later did it become known as "Palazzo Vecchio". When Florence was the capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871, it was the seat of the Parliament.
There have been few changes to the exterior over the last seven centuries, but the interior has changed appearance a number of times. At the end of the 1400s, when Savonarola was in power, he had the famous Salone dei Cinquecento built where the 500-hundred strong people's council could meet to deliberate. Later, under the rule of Cosimo I, Vasari transformed it in honour of his rise to power with frescoes of the Florentine victories over other Tuscan cities. In 1454, Michelozzo rebuilt the austere medieval courtyard of the palace in the style of the early Renaissance. A hundred years later, Vasari embellished it with gilded stuccoes and frescoes with images of the principal cities of the Habsburg empire in honour of Giovanna of Austria, wife of Francesco De' Medici. At the centre of the courtyard there is a small fountain, the Putto with Dolphin (now a copy) by Verrocchio, positioned on a porphyry basin by Francesco Ferrucci. Around about 1550, Duke Cosimo came to live in the palace together with his family and had it altered to suit his needs by Vasari, who created meeting rooms and family apartments and engaged numerous artists of the age to assist him.
Only some of the artistic treasures of Palazzo Vecchio can be described here. Besides the Salone dei Cinquecento, there is the Studiolo di Francesco I, an extremely atmospheric room shaped like a Florentine chest, without windows and entirely frescoed by various artists. Francesco spent a great deal of time here immersed in his scientific studies. The Sala dei Gigli, with a beautiful entrance portal and a coffered ceiling, was the work of Benedetto and Giuliano da Maiano; inside there is the original of the Donatello bronze entitled Judith and Holofernes, which was commissioned by Cosimo il Vecchio. The room is decorated with gold lilies on a sky blue background (hence the name), which do not refer, as one might imagine, to the symbol of Florence, but to the French lilies of the Anjou, protectors of the Guelph clan.
The Sala delle Udienze, together with the Sala dei Gigli, once formed a single large room used for meetings of the Priori and for court sessions. The artist Giuliano da Maiano decorated both the coffered ceiling and the marble portal with the stem of the Florentine people. The frescoes in this room were done by Salviati.
Today Palazzo Vecchio is the seat of Florence City Council and many parts of it can be visited by the public.

Hall of Maps or Wardrobe

At the time of the Priori, the room today named Sala delle Carte Geografiche [Hall of Maps] did not exist. When the Duke Cosimo I de'Medici moved to Palazzo Vecchio, the surrounding premises become the Guardaroba [wardrobe] district where all properties of the Court were kept.
This room was built later by Giorgio Vasari (1561-1565) by request of Cosimo, in order to fulfill the dual function of Guardaroba and cosmography room.
The geographical maps of Egnazio Danti and Stefano Buonsignori were painted between 1563 and 1589 on the cabinet doors of the hall. The room was the first to be set up with geographical themes, and that was due to the stimulus given by the changes in knowledge after the discovery of America.
At the center of the room stands the famous globe Mappa Mundi that was the largest in the world when made in 1581 by Buonsignori and Ignazio Danti. Over the centuries it has been ruined by later restorations.