A Walk through Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy
Found in Piazza della Signoria lies Loggia dei Lanzi, the first open air exhibitions in the world. It is the norm to come across numerous individuals strewn around with a novel or sketchbook in hand. Not only is it one of the best spots in Florence to people watch, but it has some of the best statues to view in the city. Better yet? This open air museum is free to enjoy.
When I was in college I took an art class and fell in love with Florence and the pieces of artwork found throughout the city, specifically in this open air sculpture gallery that dates back to the 14th century. The plaza itself is vaulted with big arches. The statues that reside within are huge, and the high ceilings make them look tiny. It isn’t until you are right up next to them that you realize the nature of how tall the statues really are.
Among the most popular pieces of work located on the far right of Loggia dei Lanzi is “Rape of the Sabine Women” by Giambologna. This piece of artwork represents the theft of the women of the Sabine tribe. The sculpture is truly magnificent, and one of the most technically challenging sculptures of its time. It was the first statue constructed specifically with the purpose of a 360 view in mind and not a dominant viewpoint. My favorite part of this sculpture is the imperfections in the marble.
On the far left of the plaza sits a well-known bronze statue of Perseus, constructed by Benvenuto Cellini. It was commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici and showcases Perseus holding the head of the slain Medusa.
Make sure to walk around the base of the statue. You'll find four statuettes, which are representations of Mercury, Minerve, Jupiter and Danae. Although copies (the originals are preserved in Museum of Bargello), they are remarkable.
“Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus” by Giambologna is also found here toward the back. The impressiveness of this statue comes from how detailed the ribcage and muscle structures are of the centaur and Hercules himself. They are perfectly sculpted to each of their bodies.
Other highlights in the plaza are two massive lions that line the way up the middle of the steps. The lions were placed because they were symbolic of the city of Florence. In the back row of the Loggia, you will find numerous female statues that are lesser known but just as impressive (even with some modern restorations).
The area gets packed with tourists (and for good reason). To beat the crowd go early morning, or better yet, view them at night. The plaza never closes.