In the 12th century it was a free city, governed by a podesta and consuls after the model of the Italian republics, which it also emulated in commerce and navigation.
The Palazzo del Podesta, now a private house, is a brick building of the 15th century.
Petronio, the massive Palazzo Comunale, dating from 1245, the Palazzo del Podesta, completed in the same year, and the fine bronze statue of Neptune by Giovanni da Bologna (Jean Bologne of Douai).
Side of the piazza is the Palazzo Pretorio, or della Podesta, begun in 1349 and now the municipal palace.
In 1203 it had its first podesta, and from this period dates the rise of its importance.
This army, led by the podesta of Florence and twelve burgher captains, set forth gaily on its march towards the enemy's territories in the middle of April 1260, and during its first campaign, ending on the 18th of May, won an insignificant victory at Santa Petronilla, outside the walls of Siena.
There is a splendid museum of medieval and Renaissance antiquities in the Bargello, the ancient palace of the Podesta, itself one of the finest buildings in the city; among its many treasures are works of Donatello, Ghiberti, Verrochio and other sculptors, and large collections of ivory, enamel and bronze ware.
Help came to the Florentines from neighbouring cities, the podesta was expelled, and a balia or provisional government of 14 was elected.
The weakness of the government becoming every day more apparent, several constitutional changes were made, and many old institutions, such as that of the podesta and capitano del popolo, were abolished; finally in 1502, in order Piero Capponi.
Instead of the consuls there were now twelve elders (anziani); besides the podesta, there was a captain of the people; and there was a general council as well as a senate of forty members.
The archbishop Ruggieri, having put himself at the head of the nobles, was elected podesta by the Lanfranchi, Sismondi and Gualandi, and a section of the popular party.
He was interred at Pisa, and Uguccione della Faggiuola remained as imperial lieutenant, was elected podesta and captain of the people, and thus became virtual lord of the city.
The citizens, in order to protect their liberties, were obliged to elect a podesta, and their choice fell first on one of the D'Este family (c. 1175).
Though the city was united with the Catalans and with Venice in hostility to Genoa, and though it had chosen a Venetian, Alberto Morosini, as its Podesta, it received no help from either.
The Pisans, commanded by the Podesta Morosini and his lieutenants Ugolino della Gherardescha and Andreotto Saraceno, came out in a single body.
Their fleet was nearly annihilated, the Podesta was taken, and Ugolino fled with a few vessels.
The Palazzo del Commune and the Palazzo Pretorio, once the residence of the podesta, are both fine specimens of 14th-century domestic architecture, in good preservation.
The Palazzo della Ragione, erected in the Piazza dei Mercanti, just west of the Piazza del Duomo, the central point of the medieval city, in1223-1238by the podesta, Oldrado da Tresseno, whose equestrian portrait in high relief adorns it, still exists in fine preservation.
His nephew Martino followed as podesta in 1256, and in 1259 as signore of Milan - the first time such a title was heard in Italy.
The street is itself spanned by an elegant bridge carrying the Corso Andrea Podesta, a modern avenue on the heights above.
There was considerable hostility between the newly entered family and the Salinguerra, but after considerable struggles Azzo Novello was nominated perpetual podesta in 12 4 2; in 1259 he took Ezzelino of Verona prisoner in battle.
Podesta s or rectors were first appointed by the emperor Frederick I.
Concerning Rome, Gregorovius says that in 1205 "the pope changed the form of the civic government; the executive power lying henceforward in the hand of a single senator or podesta, who, directly or indirectly, was appointed by the pope."
In Florence soon after 1180 the chief authority was transferred from the consuls to the podesta, and Milan and other cities were also ruled by these officials.
At the present day the cities of Trent and Trieste give the name of podesta to their chief magistrate.
The officers thus elected sometimes bore the title of podesta or podestat.
Among the secular buildings are the old ducal palace, begun in 1578 by Ammanati, and now the residence of the prefect and seat of the provincial officers and the public picture gallery; the early Renaissance Palazzo Pretorio, or former residence of the podesta, now the seat of the civil and correctional courts; the palace, erected in the 15th century by a member of the Guinigi family, of brick, in the Italian Gothic style, and now serving as a poor-house; the 16th-century palace of the marquis Guidiccioni, now used as a depository for the archives, the earliest documents going back to A.D.
From that date it was governed by a Venetian nobleman with the title of podesta whose office lasted sixteen months.
When the Carrara family succumbed in 1405, Este voluntarily surrendered to Venice and was allowed its independence, under a podesta; and thenceforth it followed the fortunes of Venetia.