Directly in front of the Duomo is the Palazzo Vecchio del Podestà, imposing and topped with a tower – the Rognosa.
The initial construction dates back to the 12th century; it was rebuilt during the 1200s and then enlarged in the 1300s. When the seat of the podestà (mayor) moved to the Palazzo Nuovo (New Palace), the former building was renamed the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace). In 1500 a theatre was created inside, which has been restored repeatedly over subsequent centuries.
The façade opens with a large arch and is crowned with "Guelf" battlements. Inside the hall beyond the arch is the Madonna with Child, painted by Sodoma.
The Torre Rognosa is well over 51 meters high and is a palazzo of 17 floors; it is second in height only to the Torre Grossa. The top floor of the tower is a belfry. In the era of the comune, bells had a fundamental role: they served not only to alert citizens in times of danger but also to remind them of public events like fairs and market days, as well as to mark the passing hours. It is no coincidence that it is also called the “Clock” Tower.
The name “Rognosa” (Mangy), comes from the fact that after the podestà left, the palace became a prison, meaning that the place was inhabited by those who had "troubles” or problems.
In 1255 there was a regulation forbidding private citizens to erect towers higher than the Rognosa. One of the two most important families in San Gimignano, the Salvucci, ignored the regulation and built the Torri Gemelle; they were immediately copied by their rival family, the Ardinghelli.