To walk around the city of Florence means encountering works of art everywhere you go: palaces, churches and statues await visitors around every corner! The city itself is an open-air museum! But if there is one place where this definition takes on its full meaning, it is the Loggia della Signoria. Or Loggia dei Lanzi. Or Loggia dell’Orcagna! Whatever its name, the loggia is a unique example of an open-air sculpture gallery containing antique and Renaissance art and one of Florence’s landmarks (and it’s free!).
It consists of wide arches open to the street and the name Loggia della Signoria comes from its location along one side of Piazza Signoria, adjoining the Uffizi Gallery. The name Loggia dei Lanzi has been used since the mid-sixteenth century, when the place was used by Grand Duke Cosimo I to house the German mercenary pikemen, known as “Lanzichenecchi”. The name Loggia dell’Orcagna, on the other hand, is due to an incorrect attribution of a project. It was built between 1376 and 1382 by Benci di Cione and Simone di Francesco Talenti, possibly according to a design by Jacopo di Sione, to house the assemblies of the people and to hold public ceremonies of the Florentine Republic. Since the sixteenth century, with the creation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Loggia became an expression of Medici power and was intended to accommodate some sculptural masterpieces, becoming one of the first open-air exhibition areas in the world. Note that the sculptures were not positioned according to merely aesthetic criteria but to affirm and represent specific political meanings. After the construction of the Uffizi, Buontalenti created a roof garden above the arches of the Loggia and the roof became a terrace from which the Medici could watch ceremonies in the piazza (today, it is one of the most spectacular terraces in Florence, attached to the Uffizi Museum, and it houses the museum’s bar and various events). After admiring the Loggia from the square, go up the stairs passing between the two huge Medici lions, symbolic of Florence: the one on the right dates from Roman times, the one on the left was sculpted by Flaminio Vacca in 1598 and was originally placed in the Villa Medici in Rome and in the Loggia in 1789. Take the time to admire the statues up close and from all sides. A little tip: visit the Loggia at night (yes, it’s always open!), when the number of tourists decreases dramatically and the statues stand out against the dark sky.