Built around the end of the thirteenth century as a symmetrical contrast to the city's religious centre, Piazza della Signoria was enlarged through demolitions of the tower-houses of the Uberti, Foraboschi and other powerful Ghibelline families.
Right from Medieval times, Piazza della Signoria has always been the civic centre of Florentine life. Although some original buildings (the Loggia dei Pisani and the Church of St. Cecilia) and the ancient brick paving, which gave it greater unity of style, have now disappeared, it remains in all its aspects a square of incomparable beauty and elegance. Dominated by the fourteenth century Palazzo della Signoria with its high crenellated tower, it is surrounded by other important buildings: the Loggia della Signoria and the Palazzo degli Uffizi on the south side, the sixteenth century Palazzo degli Uguccioni on the north side and the Palazzo del Tribunale di Mercanzia (about 1359) on the east side.
The Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali on the west side of the square, a could imitation of Renaissance style, was built by Land in 1871. The square, where public tournaments and feasts took place between 1400 and 1500, was transformed almost into an open-air museum in the sixteenth century by the addition of several statues.
From left to right one can admire: the bronze equestrian statue of Great Duke Cosimo I, a late work of Giambologna (1594); the large and monumental Ammannati Fountain (1575), ironically called "Biancone" because the remarkable difference between the ugly and heavy central statue of Neptune and the slender figures of the satyrs and nymphs leaning on the waved border of the fountains.
In front of the fountain, almost at the centre of the square, a granite disc commemorates the place where Savonarola and his faithful followers, Fra' Domenico and Fra' Silvestro, were hanged and burned (May 23rd, 1498). On the steps of Palazzo della Signoria from left to right: a copy of the Marzocco, a lion with the Florentine lily (the original preserved in the Bargello) and a copy of the group of Judith and Holofernes (original is in the Piazza della Signoria Museum), outstanding works by Donatello (about 1460), a copy of the famous David by Michelangelo, the original of which is in the Academy Gallery, and the marble group of Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli (1536).
In the same square, at no. 5, one can visit the collection of Alberto della Ragione, donated to the city of Florence in 1970. This important collection of Italian contemporary art includes works well-known painters and sculptors of our time, as for example, Carrà, De Chirico, De Pisis, Guttuso, Morandi, Fontana and Manzù.