1562, Cosimo moved the rest of his family to Palazzo Pitti permanently. At this time, the
building became known as Palazzo Vecchio (it was orignally called Palazzo della Si-
gnoria). It remains the seat of the city's power, home to the mayor's office and the muni-
cipal council. The best way to discover this den of political drama and intrigue is by them-
Sheer size aside, what impresses most about the 53m-long, 22m-wide Salone dei Cinque-
cento are the swirling battle scenes, painted floor to ceiling by Vasari and his apprentices.
These glorify Florentine victories by Cosimo I over arch-rivals Pisa and Siena: unlike the
Sienese, the Pisans are depicted bare of armour (play 'Spot the Leaning Tower'). To top
off this unabashed celebration of his own power, Cosimo had himself portrayed as a god
in the centre of the exquisite panelled ceiling - but not before commissioning Vasari to
raise the original ceiling 7m in height. It took Vasari and his school, in consultation with
Michelangelo, just two years (1563-65) to construct the ceiling and paint the 34 gold-
leafed panels, which rest simply on a wooden frame. The effect is mesmerising.
Off this huge space is the Chapel of SS Cosmas and Damian , home to Vasari's 1557-58
triptych panels of the two saints depicting Cosimo the Elder as Cosmas (on the right) and
Cosimo I as Damian (on the left). Next to the chapel is the Sala di Leo X , the private suite
of apartments of Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, the son of Lorenzo Il Magnifico, who be-
came pope in 1513.
Up the stairs and across the balcony (from where you can enjoy wonderful views of the
Salone dei Cinquecento), are the private apartments for both Eleonora and her ladies-in-
waiting. These bear the same heavy-handed decor blaring the glory of the Medici as the
rest of the palace. Of note is the ceiling in the Camera Verde (Green Room) by Ridolfo del
Ghirlandaio, inspired by designs from Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome, and the vibrant fres-
coes by Bronzino in the chapel.
Also on the 2nd floor, the Sala dei Gigli, named after its frieze of fleur-de-lis, represent-
ing the Florentine Republic, is home to Donatello's original Judith and Holofernes. Do-
menico Ghirlandaio's fresco on the far wall in this room, depicting figures from Roman
history, was meant to be one of a series by other artists, including Botticelli.
A small study off the hall is the chancery, once Niccolò Machiavelli's office. Another
room, the Sala delle Carte Geografiche (Map Room), houses Cosimo I's fascinating collec-
tion of 16th-century maps charting everywhere in the known world at the time, from the
polar regions to the Caribbean.