The Bargello was the first City of Florence Institutional Palace. It was built between 1255 and 1260, by Lapo Tedesco, during a short period of truce between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the two factions that took turns in governing the city. The Palace was the seat of the Captain of the People and later of the podestà (chief magistrate). When the power was seized by the Medici family, in the second half of the fifteenth century it first became the headquarters of the Council of Justice and the Judges of Ruota and then, in 1574, under the hegemony of Cosimo I, the location of the Captain of the Guards or of the Square. The Palace thus became the city prison, where interrogations, investigations and executions of death sentences were carried out.
On the Canto (Canto in Florence indicates the corner between two streets) of the Bargello with Via Ghibellina, incorporated in the side of the building, there is the Volognana tower. The tower is over fifty metres high and the narrowest cells were located in its basements. The bell in the tower was called "la montanina" (the little mountain) by the Florentines, and when it rang it announced executions. It was a symbol of dismal moments, so much so that when they wanted to describe a negative person, citizens would say: "He's got a big mouth, like the bell of the Bargello; when it rings, it always rings in vituperation."
In 1865, the Bargello became a national museum, dedicated in particular to sculpture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Over the years, some of the most important works of that period have come to be kept here, including masterpieces by Luca della Robbia, Donatello, Michelangelo, Benvenuto Cellini and Verrocchio. Many of the majolica tiles, enamels, ivories, tapestries and statues come from the gathering together of the Medici and Grand-Ducal collections. During the renovation works, a fresco that depicted the face of Dante was discovered and was attributed to Giotto. During the Second World War, a great many works disappeared from the Palace. Perhaps the best known one, which was never found, was the Head of a Faun, the first work that Michelangelo Buonarroti sculpted at the age of sixteen, with which he attracted Lorenzo the Magnificent's attention and protection.