All hail Francesco de’Medici, the richest, most powerful man in Renaissance Italy. He lived in a stonking great palace and put the fear of God into everyone. You’d think he’d have been able to lay his hands on a bit of peace and quiet, wouldn’t you?
Well, you’d be wrong.
Apart from being the Grand Duke’s princely pad, the Palazzo Vecchio doubled up as the headquarters of the Florentine government. In the Salone dei Cinquecento – at 1,145 square feet, probably the largest room in Europe – the 500-strong membership of the People’s Assembly would gather. What a noisy, raucous place it must have been. Crowds of colourfully-dressed politicians doing deals. Their dogs running around marking their territory. Servants milling around moaning about their paltry pay. Everyone overlooked by the military heroes depicted in Giorgio Vasari’s murals plastered over the 59-foot-high walls. Commissioned to commemorate the city’s martial prowess,