Piazza Duomo is the religious centre of the city, featuring the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the majestic Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the Baptistery of St. John the Baptist, with its world renowned bronze gates.
The square is surrounded by wonderful palaces, such as the Archbishop’s Palace, the 14th-century Loggia del Bigallo and the recently renovated Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Cathedral) which recreates the original sanctity of the 14th-century façade according to the first project by Arnolfo di Cambio with great technical virtuosity. The absolute masterpiece is the Deposition (or Florence Pietà) sculpted by Michelangelo for his own grave, in which Nicodemo, represented at the top centre, has his features. Some parts of this marble sculpture are unfinished, as Michelangelo often did in order to witness the spirit struggling to break free from matter. In 1555, in an outburst of rage, the same artist partially damaged this sculpture with a hammer.
Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the socio-political life, as well as the seat of civil power with Palazzo Vecchio (previously known as dei Priori and della Signoria). The square hosts important works of art such as the equestrian monument of Cosimo I de’ Medici, by Giambologna. Next to the palace, you can admire the fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati, also called the ‘Biancone’ due to the huge white marble statue of the sea god at the centre of the fountain, riding in a chariot roomed by four horses. In front of the main entrance of Palazzo Vecchio, you will find copies of two sculptures by Donatello: Marzocco (the lion symbolising the city of Florence) and Judith Beheading Holofernes, in addition to a copy of the David by Michelangelo, whose original statue is preserved inside the Galleria dell’Accademia (Gallery of the Academy of Florence). Next to David, the statue of Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli, symbolises strength and ingenuity prevailing on evil.
On the right, facing Palazzo della Signoria, you will find the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most important museums in the world, which once hosted the offices and the state archives of the Grand-Duke. The museum boasts an incomparable collection of Italian and European art from the 13th century on. In addition to masterpieces by Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Botticelli, Leonardo, Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Dürer, and many others, there is also a remarkable collection of ancient sculptures. The Vasarian Corridor is a spectacular elevated enclosed passageway, connecting Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti and offering, from above Ponte Vecchio, a breath-taking view on monuments and on the Arno with its bridges. The corridor hosts a collection of self-portraits, in addition to an important 17th and 18th-century collection of paintings.
The Galleria dell’Accademia hosts the highest number of sculptures by Michelangelo, such as the Prisoners, St. Matthew and the famous David, in addition to important paintings from the second half of 13th century to the end of 16th century, as well as the Musical Instruments Museum. The National Museum of the Bargello, located inside a palace built in mid-13th century for the Capitano del Popolo (Captain of the People), boasts some of the most important statues of the Renaissance by Ghiberti, Donatello, Verrocchio, the Della Robbia family, Michelangelo, Giambologna, and others. Do not miss the prestigious collections of little bronze statues, maiolica, wax models, enamels, medals, ivory, tapestry, furniture, seals and textiles coming from the Medicean collections or donated by private collectors.