PALAZZO VECCHIO IN FLORENCE: TICKETS AND WHAT TO SEE
Florence is the city that gave birth to some of Italy’s greatest artists and men of letters and is home to numerous masterpieces that are the expression of centuries of cultural and artistic hegemony. In particular, Piazza della Signoria is a concentration of works of art: from the Loggia dei Lanzi, a true open-air museum, to Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Galleries. In this artistic context, Palazzo Vecchio is the symbol of 14th-century civil architecture and visiting its most famous rooms, as well as the more hidden ones, is a must for visitors to the Tuscan capital.
Palazzo Vecchio in Florence: what to see
With the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio you have access to the true stronghold of Florentine power: the palace, known to have been the Medici residence: it was in fact founded in 1299 and built in only fourteen years as Palazzo dei Priori, thus expressing the power of the Republic. During the 15th century it was called Palazzo della Signoria, while it only assumed the appellation by which we know it, ‘old’, in 1565, when Cosimo I moved the Medici residence to Palazzo Pitti.
The interior, witness to the succession of power at the helm of Florence, is still today the place where the political and civil life of the city takes place, as it is the seat of the Municipal Administration. Not only: the rooms house works of art and secret passages of great historical and artistic value. Among the things to see in Palazzo Vecchio, you cannot miss:
- the Salone dei Cinquecento
- the Arnolfo Tower
- the Studiolo of Francis I
- the hidden staircase of Duke Gualtieri di Brienne
All that remains is for you to purchase tickets for your preferred experience and enter these magnificent rooms.
Tickets for Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
This is a very popular, almost compulsory destination for anyone visiting the city, but by purchasing tickets for Palazzo Vecchio in advance you will be able to skip the queue and, in the event of unforeseen events or changes of schedule, cancel your ticket free of charge up to 24 hours in advance. Also included is a video guide that will take you on a tour of the many rooms of the Palazzo, now larger than its original core. A tablet will be provided for the videoguide, leaving an identity document as a deposit at the entrance; the visit to Palazzo Vecchio is facilitated for those in wheelchairs or with reduced mobility.
The opening hours of Palazzo Vecchio are every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. However, it must be considered that it is still the seat of the Municipality of Florence, as well as a place used for official and cultural events, so on some days access may be limited to certain areas.
Salone dei Cinquecento
The Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio is probably one of the main reasons for a visit: at 54 metres long, 23 metres wide and 18 metres high, it is the largest room expressing civil power in Italy.
It was commissioned from Simone del Pollaiolo and Francesco di Domenico by Girolamo Savonarola and was built in just seven months, between 1495 and 1496. When, a few years later, it went from being a representative and executive place of the power of the Republic to being a symbol of the Grand Ducal power of Cosimo de’ Medici, it was radically altered.
The ceiling, now so high, was raised seven metres by Giorgio Vasari, who also created the coffered decoration. Moreover, when Florence became capital of the newly formed Italian state much later, it housed the Chamber of Deputies.
Climb the Arnolfo Tower at Palazzo Vecchio
The most characteristic and most visible element of the palace is undoubtedly the Arnolfo Tower, named after the architect who designed it, which towers 95 metres above Piazza della Signoria. Like all towers built at the time, it represented the power of the family and also served a defensive function.
Tickets to climb the Arnolfo Tower include the skip-the-line option and the video guide, which will accompany you during the two-hour visit from the tablet provided at the entrance. From the top of the tower you can enjoy a unique panorama of the city.
If it rains you cannot visit the tower, but don’t worry, because the ticket can be rescheduled up to 24 hours in advance: check the weather the day before your visit.
The Secret Passages and the Studiolo of Francesco I
Besides the Tower of Arnolfo, the Salone dei Cinquecento and the Sala delle Mappe, among the best known places inside the Palazzo Vecchio, it is also possible to visit more hidden and lesser-known parts, such as the Studiolo di Francesco I.
With the ticket for Palazzo Vecchio and its secret passages, in addition to access to the palace, you can also visit the Studiolo, located right next to the more famous Salone dei Cinquecento. An expression of Florentine Mannerism, the Studiolo was commissioned to Vincenzo Borghini and Giorgio Vasari as a sort of Wunderkammer, a room of wonders that accommodated Francis I during his scientific and alchemy studies, but was also a sort of personal museum for the materials he collected.
Also included in the ticket is a visit to the secret staircase built by Duke Gualtieri of Brienne, who settled in the Palazzo Vecchio in 1342 and completed its transformation into a veritable fortress. It is located in the thickness of a wall and today you can climb its steps up to the first floor of the palace. Due to the nature of these rooms and passages, the visit is not recommended for people with reduced mobility.
The visit to the Palazzo Vecchio and its secret passages lasts 75 minutes and is for small groups (maximum 4 people at a time), due to the rather cramped nature of both the staircase and the Studiolo. A guide (in the flesh in this case) will accompany you to discover these less majestic but certainly equally enchanting places.