Palazzo d’Arnolfo, in San Giovanni Valdarno, is located exactly in the centre of the city, between the two main piazzas. The building was constructed for political purposes in the 13th and 14th centuries: this is where the headquarters for the representative of the Florence commune was located, as well as the civic council, and some of its rooms were used for storing wheat that could be used in cases of war or shortages.
In the early 1400s, renovations to the palace, like the vicar’s apartments, indicates that Florence intended to make San Giovanni a centre of power in the Valdarno area. Over the centuries, the building’s layout transformed, adapting to political changes in Florence and its territory. On the façade, the coats of arms of all the vicars is striking: there are 250 and they range from the early 1400s to the 1700s, with the most recent dating to 1772.
Inside, the atrium conserves beautiful frescoes and coats of arms painted in the 15th century. There is also a statue of the Marzocco, the lion holding a shield adorned with a lily, the emblem of Florence’s authority. In 1909, the building was declared a national monument, while the term Palazzo “di Arnolfo” dates to just after World War II and a 1934 restoration. Today, the edifice houses the Museum of the “New Towns,” which illustrates the changes to the urban geography that took place in the late Middle Ages.