Three Swiss in Florence – Enjoying museums and palaces

Again to recapitulate: The architecture time line – now focusing on the second part with the secular buildings


Let me now present some of  the museums and palaces we visited…



The palace was built in 1254. Some say that 40 years later this palace was the model for the Palazzo Vecchio. I can see similiarities and even confused the two buildings in the beginning. Town leaders lived in this palace – sometimes local  representatives, sometimes representatives of the German emperor. In 1574 the Bargello became the seat of the “bargello”, the head of the Florentine police. Today, the palace is another renowned art museum.


In the ground floor I am impressed by the works of Michelangelo – below is his Bacchus.


Also on the ground floor are the prototypes that Cellini casted before creating his famous Bronzeperseus with the head of Medusa around 1550.


Cellini’s Perseus stands in the Loggia near Palazzo Vecchio. Cellini was a goldsmith. His bust is venerated on Ponte Vecchio. Franz Kotteder gives this title to the biography of Benvenuto Cellini “the life of an artist like an overheated roadmovie” (“Florenz, eine Stadt in Biographien”, Merian 2014). He repeatedly got involved in quarrels and fights. Due to his good connections (even to the Pope) he always obtained pardon.

On the first floor there are various gothic and renaissance sculptures and paintings. Here is the marble statue of David that Donatello created in 1409 – it attracted my attention.


About 30 years later Donatello made a second David out of bronze that is more famous than his first David.

On the first floor there is also an exhibition of artworks from various countries. For instance this porcelain elephant from Persia.



Palazzo Vecchio

Originally the Palazzo Vecchio was called “Palazzo della Signoria”. It was built between 1299 and 1343, as the townhall for the town republic or the place of work and residence for their “Signoria”. The Palazzo was amplified several times, for instance in the 16th century, when the Medici reconstructed it – it was then their “Palazzo Duccale”. When the Medici moved to the Palazzo Pitti around 1570, they renamed their “old” palace to “Palazzo Vecchio” Above the front door are lions protecting the lily flowers. Lions and the flower are symbols of the town. Often they appear as a lion protecting a lily with his paw (called “Marzocco”). The lion is the symbol of the pope or the Guelphs (symbol of freedom as opposed to the eagle that is the symbol of the German emperor). Why the lily became the symbol of Florence is subject to guesses. Some say that the goddess “Flora” had founded Florence.


The Palazzo Vecchio can be visited, but we decided to postpone it to our next trip to Florence. This is an impression taken in the first courtyard. P1070184


Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is THE place in Florence. If a tourist does not remember anything else, he always remembers this bridge crossing the Arno. This bridge was built around 1340.  The common roof above the small houses is the Vasari Corridor. It was ordered by the Medici after they had settled in the Palazzo Pitti around 1560 to connect their “new” palace with the Uffizi and their “old” palace. Until 1593 there were butchers in the small houses on the bridge, but the dukes did not like the smell, when walking through their corridor. They doubled the rent and goldsmiths and jewelers moved in (Dumont).


We spent quite some time with one of the jewelers in his shop. From his workbench, he has a great view of the Arno.


Palazzo Davanzati

There are many, many rich palaces in the city center. We visited one of them, the Palazzo Davanzati. It was constructed around 1350.


I am impressed how modern this palace is. A tube brings water into the upper floors.


There is a toilet on each floor.


And there is a bathroom on each floor.


The most beautiful salon is the Papagalli room with the frescos covering the walls.


In one of the rooms we come across the brother of the famous Masaccio that died at the age of 27 after having painted the magnificent “Expulsion from the Paradise” and the “Crucification”. His brother Scheggia painted scenes from everyday life – and this helps today to understand what life in Florence was like.



Ospedale degli Innocenti

The Ospedale degli Innocenti or the house for the orphans is not only a great piece of Renaissance architecture built by Brunelleschi, but it was also a very social institution. It was completed in 1445. Today it is still an orphan house, and also a museum. We just enjoyed the harmonic architecture of the Piazza SS Annunziata dominated by the archades of the Ospedale and the church.



Palazzo Medici-Ricardi

The Palazzo Medici, Renaissance from around 1450, was later amplified by Ricardi after they had acquired the palace in 1584.


THE treasure here is the small chapel with the frescos by Benozzo Gozzoli, ca 1460, showing the adoration of the kings. There are guidebooks that claim to recognize the Zar from Byzanz and the Patriarch from Jerusalem as wel as Lorenzo Il Magnifico. Dumont does not believe this. He just recognizes Piero de Medici and the artist.



Let us continue with the Palazzo Pitti, the Uffizi and the Accademia in one of the next blogs.      

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