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Uffizi Gallery

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Piazza della Signoria in Florence and the fountain of Neptune


Piazza della Signoria is a real treasure chest of art treasures, in the heart of historic Florence.

This famous Florentine square is home first of all to the famous Palazzo Vecchio, now the seat of the municipality of Florence, once the headquarters of the Medici and the symbol of their undisputed power in Florence.

Piazza della Signoria is undoubtedly one of the most visited places in Florence, not only for the presence of the Medici palace. In fact, the magnificent courtyard of the Uffizi palace opens just a stone's throw from here. But beyond that, the square is a real open-air museum. The Loggia de 'Lanzi opens onto the square offering visitors the opportunity to admire statuary groups of undisputed importance. Among these statue, there is the copy of Michelangelo's David. Piazza della Signoria was once the location of Michelangelo's masterpiece. Now, however, the David can be admired at the Accademia Gallery and has been replaced here by a faithful copy.

But let's come to the Neptune fountain. This fountain also called "del biancone" is located near the north-west corner of Palazzo Vecchio.


Cosimo I de 'Medici, the Grand Duke of Florence, ruled from 1537 to 1574. Cosimo came from the Mugello area and, despite belonging to a secondary branch of the family, he managed to come to power in Florence. He restored the power of the family in an authoritarian way and the Medici reigned until the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy.

In 1559 Cosimo I de 'Medici launched a competition to create the first public fountain in the city. It was attended by the most important and influential artists of the moment such as Benvenuto Cellini, Baccio Bandinelli and Giambologna. Among the various proposals, Bartolomeo Ammannati's Neptune was selected.Actually his project was considered the most significant art work in exalting the great achievements in the marine field by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.  Piazza della Signoria was the location chosen to place the fountain, just on the west corner of Palazzo Vecchio. The fountain served to unite the square broken up into two separate areas. An aqueduct complex was designed to get the water to the fountain: water comes from the Fonte della Ginevra, descends to the valley crossing the present Ponte delle Grazie, flows into Piazza Peruzzi and finally arrives in Piazza della Signoria.

The sculptural part was carried out between 1560 and 1565: Ammannati also exploited the designs of Baccio Bandinelli, who died in 1560. The figure of Neptune is made of white Carrara marble and recalls the facial features of Cosimo I de 'Medici. The figure stands on a pedestal decorated with the statues of Scylla and Charybdis, sea monsters of Greek mythology, all within an octagonal pool. Although the statue was not much appreciated by the Florentine people, the work lasted for about ten years, the best sculptors in the city were involved in the creation of the edge of the tub.


At the foot of Neptune we find three tritons playing shinbones that gush with water. The triton was, in Greek mythology, the son of Poseidon or the God of the sea. Triton was known as the River God. It was commonly represented with the upper half of the body in human form and the lower half in the shape of a fish. The tub is octagonal and contains the four horses of Neptune, two in white marble and two in pinkish marble, the wheels of the horse chariot contain the zodiac signs, symbolizing the passage of time. At the corners of the tub there are groups of marine divinities such as Teti , Doride, Oceano and Nereo. Each of which has at the feet of the nymphs, satyrs, fauns made by Giambologna. We note the great art of Giambologna, sculpting masterpieces of sophisticated elaborations typical of Florentine mannerism.

During the carnival of 1830, one of the statues representing a satyr sculpted by Giambologna was sensationally stolen. The theft was carried out by a group of buffoons who, after dancing around the statue, disguised it and took it away. It was probably transferred abroad. Since then, traces have been lost. A Milanese artist, Francesco Pozzi, was commissioned in 1831 to remake the statue facing the wall of the Palazzo Vecchio.

The fountain of the "biancone" has suffered not a few mistreatments: in 1580 it was used as a wash house, it was vandalized until, in 1592, a protective railing was placed. In 1848 the city was bombed by the Bourbons following a rebellion, the statue of Neptune was damaged by the use of cannonballs. The last sad episode dates back to 2005 when a vandal climbed Neptune and took his hand off, even chipping the pool below. Since 1720, a plaque has been placed on a wall of Palazzo Vecchio which prohibits "making any kind of dirt, washing inkwells, cloths or other things in it, or throwing wood or other dirt into it".


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The Uffizi Gallery houses the largest collection of paintings from Romanesque period to the 18th century. Nowadays the Uffizi still accommodates famous masterpieces exhibited in chronological order