- Culture vultures
- Mature travellers
Some of Florence’s most important sculptures are housed in this ex-prison.
The massive, forbidding Palazzo del Bargello was built in 1255 as the seat of the city’s government and hasn’t really changed much since then. In the 16th century, it housed the police headquarters along with a prison and torture chamber, which was in use until 1858.
You enter the museum through an impressive colonnaded Gothic courtyard where, until 1786, executions were carried out; condemned prisoners would spend their last night in the chapel on the first floor and their severed heads would be displayed on the building’s façade to discourage would-be criminals. The ground floor hall contains the most celebrated sculptures in the museum by Michelangelo, Giambologna and Benvenuto Cellini while upstairs, the Salone del Consiglio Generale houses works by Donatello and his contemporaries. Donatello’s beautiful, androgynous bronze David was one of the first free-standing male statues since antiquity. The St. George at the end of the room is also by him while on the walls hang some other fine works including two of the trial panels in bronze made by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi for the Baptistery doors.
Other rooms on the first and second floors house gorgeous displays of the decorative arts (carpets, ceramics, ivories, jewellery, clocks and watches from Europe and the east), an exquisite display of ivories, colourful enamelled terracottas by the della Robbia family, Lorenzo Il Magnifico’s medal collection and a superb collection of small Renaissance bronzes.