The Piazza della Signoria is an animated public square in the middle of old Florence. When I say “animated,” I, of course, don’t mean that it is an illustrated background populated by cartoon characters graphically set in artificial motion. Instead, I mean it’s lively and full of activity. But you probably figured that out, so, never mind.
It’s called a square, but that’s true only in the urban form sense. It’s actually L-shaped, not square. That’s not terribly relevant to the essence of the Piazza della Signoria, so, never mind.
If you speak Italian, it likely came as no surprise to you that the Piazza della Signoria is a square because piazza is the Italian word for for square. Then again, if you speak Italian you already knew that, so, never mind.
The non-square square is surrounded by buildings, including the Palazzo Vecchio, the subject of the previous post. Of course, there are exceptions to this “surrounded by buildings” rule. The buildings aren’t all contiguous. There are streets that run up to the square between some of the buildings. That was undoubtedly obvious to you because I called it a “public square.” A square that you could get to only by going in through the front door of a building and out through the back wouldn’t be particularly public, would it? So, never mind.
That’s four “never minds” already, which seems excessive. So what should you pay attention to about the Piazza della Signoria?
Well, if you’re in the middle of old Florence and you’re hungry you likely want to know that there are restaurants on a couple of sides of the non-square square. The restaurants have patios in front of them, right in the square. On this trip, I was in Florence at the beginning of July and it was very hot. However, the restaurants had misters on their patios on the square, so eating there was quite pleasant. I don’t imagine it would be particularly pleasant in the middle of the winter. Judge the weather accordingly.
I had lunch at restaurants in the square twice while I was in Florence, a different restaurant each time. They were geared to tourists, which is to say that, while not overly expensive, they were probably somewhat higher priced than an equivalent class of restaurant that a local would frequent off the beaten path. Also typical for touristy mid-priced restaurants, the food was good (I think it’s a capital offense to serve a lousy meal in Italy), but not fabulous. Based on my experience, you can do better in terms of flavourfulness elsewhere in Florence.
Then again, if you are looking for the opportunity to have a leisurely meal with a glass or two of wine while you watch the world march on before you in the Piazza della Signoria, you pretty much have to be in or beside the Piazza della Signoria, don’t you?
On the corner of the non-square square, opposite the restaurants and beside the Palazzo Vecchio, are a number of beautiful old sculptures, including a copy of Michelangelo’s David. (You’ll find the original version in the Accademia, which will probably be the subject of my next post in this blog.) Some of the statues are out in the open on the sides of the square, while others are under cover in a two-walled building toward the back of the square (or toward the front if you enter the piazza from that end, making that the front from your perspective). There is no charge to get into the square, including the statue-filled covered area, so if you go to Florence and you don’t buy a Firenze Card (I recommend you do), but you want to see some sculptures without paying anything to do so, this is the place to go.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there are generally a lot of people and activity in Piazza della Signoria. For example, when I was there, there was a group of Hare Krishna devotees chanting Hare Krishna for the crowd. Who said free live entertainment was dead? Probably no one, but in case someone did or does in the future say that free live entertainment is dead, here’s proof that they are wrong.