The Bargello, the oldest public building in Florence, is a real pantheon of Renaissance sculpture where you can move among the masterpieces by Michelangelo, Donatello, Cellini, Giambologna, Verrocchio and Luca della Robbia. But it is, above all, one of the most loved and fascinating places in Florence.
Entering via a splendid courtyard with a loggia, in the heart of the fifteenth-century Palazzo del Podestà, on its three storeys the Palazzo del Bargello houses some of the most important sculptures of the Renaissance coming from the Medici collections.
It first became the seat of the Council of Justice in the second half of the 15th century and, from 1574, the headquarters of the “Bargello”, who was the head of the Guards who handled arrests and interrogations and also carried out executions. In the almost three centuries in which it was used as a prison, in the courtyard the arches of the loggia and the “Verone” balcony were walled up, the larger rooms were divided up with partitions to obtain a larger number of cells, and the paintings and decorations were covered up.
The courtyard, with a portico with round arches on octagonal pillars on three sides, was built in the 13th century and enriched in the following century by the “Verone” balcony and the staircase: today, a number of valuable marble statues are exhibited here, while an attractive octagonal well is positioned at the centre.
When the prison was moved to Le Murate in 1859, it was decided to restore the complex and, starting from 1865, some of the most important sculptures of the Renaissance, including masterpieces by Donatello, Benvenuto Cellini, Giambologna, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Luca della Robbia, Verrocchio and Michelangelo, were transferred to the building, which became a National Museum. The museum was subsequently enhanced with prestigious collections of bronzes, majolicas, waxworks, enamels, medals and coins, ivories, tapestries, furniture, seals, goldsmithery, weapons and textiles, partly coming from the Medici collections and partly from private donations. Today it also includes 2500 art objects and works of goldsmithery from the Carrand Collection.