On day 5 we were transferred by minivan to Piazza Signoria, the large square   located near Ponte Vecchio and Piazza del Duomo and gateway to Uffizi Gallery.

This would be a good time to look at the very good Florence maps we were given or here- FLORENCE MAP    
As we learned yesterday, Piazza del Duomo is where the Baptistery, Florence Cathedral (and Duomo), Palazzo Vecchio, and Giotto's Bell Tower are located.
As you see on the map, Piazza del Signoria is not far away.  Palazzo Vecchio (old palace) was originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence and became the palace or the Medici until they built Piti Palace on the other side of the Arno.

Prof Giavanni Guidetti showed us the many statues adorning the square including the copy of Michelangelo's David (not shown) where the original had been for hundreds of years and afterwards the Piazza Vecchio.

Palazzo Vecchio  This 14th century fortress like building has participated in 7 centuries of Florentine government administration, its lofty tower and clock dating to 1353.  Here in the 15th century, the 9 elected Priors, each governing for only 2 months to prevent grasping of power, lived together in the first Republic since the ancient world.  This seat of the governing body of the Republic, the "Signoria," was also known as the palace of the people- Palazzo del Popolo- until the earlier Medici became first among equals making it their palace while still observing many of the Republican traditions. 

Within, 3 courtyards and a great room  or salone dei cinquecenis dominate the first floor.  The great room is vast,  a marvel of engineering- 176ft long, 71.5ft high and 61.3ft wide, the work of Simone del Pollaiolo, known as Cronaca (1495). The walls were once decorated by two famous paintings, Michelangelo's "Soldiers Bathing" and Leonardo's "Battle of Anghiari", but both have been lost. The ceiling is divided into 39 panels richly decorated with allegories and scenes from the history of Florence and of the Medici family.
We ascended a narrow, secret staircase that leads to the Tesoretto, Cosimo I's  study, with hidden doors and ceiling paintings by pupils of Vasari-

From there, one can look out at the Duomo and Bell Tower-

This was a beautiful example of furniture-

We ascended the great stairs designed by Vasari to where we could look out over the great room. Here is a photo of the great room looking down from a high balcony and a reconstruction of how it looked 500 years ago-

Most of the paintings and statues in Piazza Vecchio celebrate the victories of City-state Florence over rivals of the members of the Medici family.  Here is a famous Michelangelo statue called the Genius of Victory-

Everywhere, ceiling and walls are more statues and paintings celebrating fabled and real victories-

From the third floor we saw the original structure that supports the ceiling of this great room and a model of same-

Returning to the second floor and the "Lilly room" we saw a large fresco by Ghirlandaio and the famous  "Judith and Holofernes" by Donatello-

We had lunch at Cavallino restaurant and then walked to  the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and il Duomo which had previously been closed for a funeral.

The walk with some candid street photography-

We walked by the Baptistery admiring scenes from the magnificent doors by Ghiberti-

Brunelleschi's Dome- is the engineering marvel of Renaissance Italy.  Finished in the 1430's, it remains the largest brick dome ever constructed almost 600 years later! Brunelleschi was trained as a goldsmith, and was second to Ghiberti, another trained as a goldsmith,  in the famous contest to construct the Baptistery doors across the square from the Duomo. The two of them were fierce competitors and the most famous  sculptors of their time. They and many others entered the competition to build the cathedral dome.  Brunelleschi won this competition and becoming not only famous artist, but the leading architect of his generation with interests and accomplishments as varied as Leonardo di Vinci.

The Duomo, adorning the cathedral of Florence, "Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower" which is the largest church in Florence-

Cathedral and small dome-

The cathedral nave-

The smaller Cathedral dome-

That evening we enjoyed a wonderful "concerto d'organo" - "The Musical Genius of Florence Since the Age of the Medici Onward" by Lucia Baldacci, Giovanni Guidetti's wife, at nearby Chiesa di Francesco Poverino with its 1700's organ.

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