For the history of this place, you have to start from the Scala family seigniory, bearing in mind, however, that in the square there were already the Municipal Palace and the Domus Nova. At the end of the XIII century, the square (which was then called Platea Domini vicarii), did not have today’s rectangular form; neither the palace that is now called the Palace of the Courts, nor the Palace of Government.
Monuments. Piazza dei Signori is surrounded by buildings and monuments of great historical and architectural importance. For the most important monuments (the City Hall, the Loggia of the Council, the Palace of the government, please read the special cards on the following pages.
The house of piety On the same side of the Loggia del Consiglio, beyond the arch of via delle Fogge, there is a house without pretence.
In 1407 it was the property of a notary public.
The entire building would have been sold to the nobleman Galasso Pio da Carpi in 1408, but in 1490 it turned out to be the property of the House of Charity.
Perhaps it was during these years that the building was remodelled and the façade was transformed into the simple Renaissance style. On the face of the building there is a curious base relief with a seated woman who holds a flag in her hand, upon which it is written Fide et Charitate in aeternum non deficiam. The woman represents Verona resting safe in the shadow of the Serenissima Republic, who is protecting her.
Verona’s oldest Caffè is important, which hung out the sign “Dante” in 1863, following erection of the monument to the poet in the square. The place was frequented by professionals, men of letters, artists and politicians, especially the elderly, who formed various “small parliaments”, discussing politics, art and above all criticizing everything.
The arches. The Palace of the Council was not entirely completed when it was decided to place a few statues on the arch at the top of via delle Fogge. The administration decided upon St. Zenone, protector of the city, and the task was given to this “magistro Angelo lapicida”. But things got complicated. Instead of St. Zenone, a statue of Girolamo Fracastoro was placed on the arch in 1559.
The great doctor, poet and astronomer is dressed in the Roman style and holds a sphere of he world in his hand. The sphere immediately struck the shrewd popular fantasy: Fracastoro would have dropped the sphere on the head of the first honourable man that walked under the arch. But the sphere is still there… In 1756, the statue of Scipione Maffei was placed on the arch facing via Barbaro.
The two statues were substituted only in 1925, respectively, by the historian and theologist Enrico Noris (1613-1704) and the historian and archaeologist Onofrio Panvinio (1529-1568).
The arch on via Dante dates back to 1575 and was built by the rectors Nicolò Barbarigo and Luigi Contarini, in order to created a direct passage between the City Hall and Captain’s Palace.
The last arch, which faces via S. Maria Antica, joined the Captains Palace with the Podestà.
On this arch the Venetians (perhaps around the XVII century) raised a one-storey building, creating an internal passage between the two palaces, while outside of that structure there was a balcony that joined the Palace of the Podestà with the extremely long archway that crossed the entire length of the square, from the Captain’s Palace to the Costa.
The monument to Dante – 1865 was the sixth centennial of the birth of Dante and Italy was about to solemnly commemorate the recurrence. As an initiative of the Academy of Agriculture and the Society of Fine Arts, to which the City Council adhered, it was decided to erect a statue of Dante in Piazza dei Signori, where the Scala Palace that had hosted the “Ghibellin fuggiasco”.
On 6th October 1863 a call for tender was emanated for the design of the statue. The only conditions were that the second quality Carrara marble be suitable for a height of three meters, supported by a pedestal and that the figure, which would turn its back to via delle Fogge, have its head turned slightly towards the left, or namely towards Scala Palace of the Courts.
It was then stated that the Poet must have been turned towards free Italy. The winner of the tender was a young, entirely unknown artist, Ugo Zannoni.
The statue was uncovered on 14 May 1865, in the early morning.It was not desired that the Austrian authorities intervene in the inaugural ceremony.