traces of florence

From an ancient Roman development to one of Fodor’s top European destinations, the city of Florence has donned many hats throughout the centuries. In a city teeming with so many titles how can you possibly keep it all straight? Lucky for you the Palazzo Vecchio’s temporary exhibition, Traces of Florence, is here to help you do just that. As the pivot point and iconic symbol of the city, the Palazzo is a perfect setting to tell the story of Florence. And as always, the best part, visiting this exhibition won’t cost you a single centesimo.

Rosselli, Map of Florence, 15th-century

Directions to the Palazzo Vecchio hardly seem necessary. But just in case you are brand spanking new to the city this map will quickly help you locate Piazza della Signoria, the civic center of Florence and front yard of the Palazzo.

Once inside, head to the ticket office to request your free ticket and then to the exhibit entrance.

The doors are open everyday from 9 am to 7 pm, except for Thursdays when it closes at 2 pm. Wait, no siesta? No random 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of the month closings? Open on Mondays? That’s right! But don’t let these remarkable (well for Italy) opening hours be your excuse to procrastinate. This exhibit will only be on display until March of 2013.

Traces of Florence illustrates not only the social and political changes that the city has undergone, but the consequences that these changes had on the fabric of the city as well.  Sketches, prints, photographs and engravings map the city throughout its history allowing the visitor to understand the transformation of the streets and palazzi over the centuries. See how the dark labyrinth of strade in medieval Florence was unwound at the dawn of the Renaissance, where the ancient Roman theater was situated (spoiler alert: right beneath your feet!), or how the devastating flood of 1966 widened the banks of the Arno. These maps, photographs and diagrams allow you to be transported back to Firenze com’era. Speaking of, now would be a good time to give a shout out to the former Museo di Firenze Com’era (Florence as it was), which provided the majority of the works for Traces of Florence.

Diagram of Ancient Florentia

Other paintings and engravings capture details of the city and moments from everyday life, documenting the lives of the Florentines within each era. These images also illustrate how our favorite piazze and palazzi looked hundres of years ago. Hopefully you make this visit with a friend as, if you’re anything like me, you’re sure to have lots of loud “no way!” and “aha!” moments, that might be a bit uncomfortable if you’re by yourself. For example, check out the paintings below. Can you tell which present-day piazzas these depict?

Borbottoni, Piazza della Signoria, 19th-century

Borbottoni, Central Market (now Piazza della Repubblic), 19th-century

As you reemerge into the streets of Florence after your educational afternoon, hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised to realize that somehow everything and nothing has changed about this city.


  1. You can’t walk straight in to this exhibition. You have to go to the Palazzo Vecchio ticket office, ask for your free ticket to ‘Traces of Florence’, then go in. If you don’t do this, they won’t let you in – another classic example of Italian bureaucracy! I worked there last summer.

  2. thank you for the correction Kieron! that’s very helpful to know. cracking the code to free fun in florence definitely isn’t always easy, but definitely worth it!

  3. […] There are still a few days left to visit Palazzo Vecchio and learn about the history of Florentine streets. Hannah has laid out all the reasons why you should go here. […]

  4. […] way back when, Hannah explained to us how awesome the Traces of Florence exhibit was at the Palazzo Vecchio? Well, the space lives on to showcase the lesser-known side of […]

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