Come by night and admire the illuminated Fountain of Neptune with a gelato
Along with Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria is one of Florence’s main hubs. The history of Florence is one of warring families, and the Piazza della Signoria rose from the rubble of one such feud. In the 13th century the area was owned by the pro-imperial Uberti family, whose chief rivals were the pro-papal Buondelmonti family. In 1266, the defeat of the imperial army at the Battle of Benevento led to the expulsion of the Uberti family. All their properties were razed and, as a symbol of victory, the ground was salted and the rubble was not cleared for more than a decade. Thereafter, it became the open square it is today.
The piazza is dominated by the massive Palazzo Vecchio and its crenellated tower, Florence’s city hall, and the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open air museum that showcases various Renaissance sculptures, ranging from Giambologna’s ‘Rape of the Sabine Women’ to Cellini’s ‘Perseus’.
Hero upon Hero
Piazza della Signoria is not the biggest square in Italy, but it is one of the most beautiful, in part due to its buildings, but also because dotted around it are some of Florence’s most recognisable statues.
Foremost among them is a replica of Michaelangelo’s ‘David’, the original of which can now be found in the Accademia. It was originally found on the steps of the Palazzo Vecchio, flanked by two even older statues, the Marzocco and Judith, both by Donatello. The first shows a lion holding the heraldic shield of the city. The lion was the emblem of the Florentine republic, and indeed several lions used to be kept in a caged area behind the palace in what is now known as the Street of Lions.
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