Piazza dei Signori, places and monuments
According to most, the origin of the name 'Piazza dei Signori' is to be found in the presence of the residence of the Scaligers, the Lords of Verona. A second hypothesis, on the other hand, concerns the City Council that was held here 'since the days of the Republic': in this square, therefore, the Lords met.
Piazza dei Signori, called 'the living room of Verona', has no traces of the Roman times, although it is very close to Piazza delle Erbe, which once was the City Forum.
The history of this place revolves around the Della Scala Seigniory although, before the arrival of the Scaligers, there were already the Domus Nova and the Town Hall Palace; at the time, the square was called 'Platea Domini Vicari' and did not have its current rectangular shape.
Along the perimeter of the square are some of the city's most beautiful buildings. If you enter it from Arco della Costa, you can see on the right Palazzo della Ragione, Palazzo del Tribunale, Palazzo del Consiglio or Loggia del Consiglio, Casa di Pietà, and the Domus Nova.
Monumento di Dante (Dante's Monument)
Dante found refuge here, in a place 'that wanted to assert itself as Italian in the eyes of Austria first '. 1865 was the sixth centenary of Dante's birth and Italy was preparing to solemnise the occasion.
On the initiative of the Accademia di Agricoltura Società e Belle Arti (Academy of Agriculture, Society, and Fine Arts), to which the city council adhered, it was planned to erect a statue to Dante in Piazza dei Signori, where the Scaliger palace that hosted the 'Ghibellin fuggiasco' was located.
On 6 October 1863, the call for application for the sketch was issued. The statue had to be made of second quality Carrara marble, had to be three metres high, and had to be supported by a pedestal.
The figure also had to have his back to Via delle Fogge; his head had to be turned slightly to the left, in the direction of the Scaliger Palace of the Courts. Later, the Poet had to face towards free Italy. The call was won by a young artist unknown at the time, Ugo Zannoni.
Palazzo del Capitanio/del Tribunale/di Cansignorio
Palazzo Del Capitanio (Palace of the Captain) has – towards the square - a classical and elegant façade dating back to the first half of the 16th century; there is also a beautiful Corinthian door attributed to Sanmicheli, which was built between 1530-31 at the behest of Captain Giustiniani and the Camerlenghi Zantani and Minio (whose coats of arms remain).
Passing through this door you enter the large inner courtyard, known as Cortile del Tribunale: on the right is the elegant Loggia Barbaro, consisting of three orders and built in 1476; in the courtyard is Porta dei Bombardieri (Door of the Bombers).
This door is an example of the Baroque style and was made in 1687 by Bernardino Miglioranzi. The jambs are covered with military emblems and the balcony is supported by two column-cannons that rest on two tambours that form the base, and as capitals they have two charged mortars.
Palazzo del Podestà o del Governo (Podestà or Government Palace)
Palazzo del Podestà (Podestà Palace) or Palazzo del Governo (Government Palace) was also the home of the Scaligers. It was erected towards the end of the 13th century, but later changed its façade: originally its façade faced S. Maria Antica. The door with simple jambs and the tuff arch can still be seen today.
On the façade facing the Scaliger Tombs, the old Scaliger windows mingle with those from the Venetian era.
It is said that in this palace Cangrande I della Scala (son of Alberto I della Scala) hosted Dante Alighieri. He also hosted Giotto, who had come from Padua, where he had painted the Scrovegni Chapel.
The palace hosted numerous illustrious characters, embassies, religious men and sharecroppers of the area, armourers, German and Italian knights, maidservants, pages, magistrates, musicians, etc.
Palazzo del Consiglio o Loggia del Consiglio (erroneously called “Loggia di Fra Giocondo”)
The major ornament of this square is Loggia del Consiglio, built between 1476-93 by the City to house the Council of Citizens. It is unusual for a 15th century town loggia to have such an extensive iconographic programme; the humanistic-oriented character is clearly revealed in it.
The loggia and its decoration aim at a glorification of 'Roman Verona' and at the same time demonstrate the renewal in the present of past greatness. In the loggia, the white, blue, and red marble of the columns are mixed with the gold of the capitals.
On the upper floor, divided into five fields by pillars carved in the form of flower vases, are four large mullioned windows crowned by a round gable, in which griffins and sirens support the city's coat of arms. On the cornice are statues, commissioned by Alberto da Milano, of the great Veronese of the Roman era: Catullus, Pliny, Macro, Vitruvius, and Cornelius Nepot.
Casa di Pietà (House of Mercy)
The house, which stands immediately after Loggia del Consiglio, is in simple Renaissance style and belonged to Casa di Pietà. It was erected modestly because the town hall wanted no private building to match the Council building. It was decorated by Domenico Morone: today the only thing that remains of it is a relief from the 16th century showing Verona exclaiming: 'Fide et Charitate in aeternum non deficiam'.
An arch, in the same style as the loggia, stands on Vicolo delle Fogge: on it is the statue of Girolamo Fracastoro with the Panvinio epigraph; this statue was built by Cattaneo in 1559. The illustrious physician and poet is dressed in the Roman style and holds the world in his hand in memory of his astronomical studies, which gave rise to the popular legend according to which he would drop it on the head of the first gentleman who passes under it.
Before Palazzo del Consiglio was completed, on the arch that stands on Via delle Fogge there was a statue of St. Zeno, protector of the city: this assignment was given to 'magistro Angelo lapicida'. The statue was replaced in 1559 with that of Girolamo Fracastoro. In 1756, the statue of Scipione Maffei was placed on the arch opposite Volto Barbaro.
On the next arch, which also belongs to the Domus Nova, is the statue of Enrico Noris. The arch on Via Dante dates back to 1525 and was built by the rectors Nicolò Barbarigo and Luigi Contarini to allow a direct walkway between the Palace of Reason and the Captain Palace: on this arch is a statue of Onofrio Panvinio. Finally, the arch in Santa Maria Antica connected the Captain Palace with the Podestà Palace.
The Arche Scaligere, or Scaliger Tombs, are a Gothic-style funerary complex belonging to the Scaliger family. The complex consists of three main sacrophagi and the tombs of six other members of the family.
The sacrophagi are those of Cangrande, Mastino II, and Cansignorio, while the tombs belong to Mastino I, Alberto I, Bartolomeo, Alboino, Giovanni, and Cangrande II. The perimeter where the tombs are located is delimited by a wrought-iron fence in which the motif of the staircase, symbol of the lineage, recurs, while the sarcophagi are located on the ground or on raised floors.