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Loggia dei Lanzi
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Loggia dei Lanzi

Piazza della Signoria
Florence
Italy

Sr. Contributor

Michelangelo had plans to make Loggia dei Lanzi bigger, but Duke Cosimo de' Medici was a tightwad.

Full disclosure, it's not like Cosimo had nothing bigger on his mind. His family had just recently returned to power from exile and were in the sole business of establishing one of the most important political dynasties in Renaissance Europe. One method toward this end was by flipping the Loggia della Signoria into the Loggia dei Lanzi, like we know it today.

This building was constructed in the late 14th century as a forum of sorts for the Florentine public and the republican government to mingle. A place to get together and just talk, about anything and everything. Not only that, but in an open air court that could protect at least the representatives from inclement weather. The century following construction of the Loggia della Signoria saw a swift shift in political power. The Medici banking clan easily assailed the financial world of the Tuscan Republic and were making a lot of friends with powerbrokers in Rome. Then, a botched execution attempt that only killed one of two Medici targets culminated in the murder of the assassins (the Pazzi family) and the Medicis' exile. When a Medici return established Cosimo as grand duke, one of the first things on his agenda was to flip the bird at anything republic. So, the Loggia della Signoria was used to house the Medici mercenaries: Swiss pikemen called Lanzi in Italian.

Now, the Lanzi is an open-air museum featuring kick-ass statues from Florence's extended Renaissance. Admission is free, like always, but the hours have changed. For hundreds of years, you could waltz in whenever, enjoying all the violent statuary from sunset to sunrise. But, because people are terrible, the city of Florence has reassessed the hours so the gallery's open from 8 AM - 7 PM. Pro-tip: Get there early or plan to stay late. Only 50 people are allowed in at a time between 11 AM and 5 PM, and each group only gets about 15 minutes with all the gory goodness.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Loggia dei Lanzi

The Loggia dei Lanzi, also called the Loggia della Signoria, is a building on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, adjoining the Uffizi Gallery. It consists of wide arches open to the street. The arches rest on clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals. The wide arches appealed so much to the Florentines that Michelangelo proposed that they should be continued all around the Piazza della Signoria.

Sometimes erroneously referred to as Loggia dell' Orcagna because it was once thought to be designed by that artist, it was built between 1376 and 1382 by Benci di Cione and Simone di Francesco Talenti, possibly following a design by Jacopo di Sione, to house the assemblies of the people and hold public ceremonies, such as the swearing into office of the Gonfaloniers and the Priors. Simone Talenti is also well-known from his contributions to the churches Orsanmichele and San Carlo.

The vivacious construction of the Loggia is in stark contrast with the severe architecture of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is effectively an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art.

The name Loggia dei Lanzi dates back to the reign of Grand Duke Cosimo I, when it was used to house his formidable landsknechts (In Italian: "Lanzichenecchi", corrupted to Lanzi), or German mercenary pikemen. After the construction of the Uffizi at the rear of the Loggia, the Loggia's roof was modified by Bernardo Buontalenti and became a terrace from which the Medici princes could watch ceremonies in the piazza.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Loggia dei Lanzi.