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A secret Florence

By Mariana Calleja from TravelThirst | Illustration & Photography by Federico Rojas

Of course there is a lot about Florence. Such a rich city with tons of art, scenery, history and more to be seen and learned. But this time, we decided to go into a secret Florence within the same streets we all have visited some time.

Maybe you have done this before but there is always some more to discover. So take your map down and take this secret guide in hand, as you know you are already curious and going into this secret Florence we were able to find and sense for you.

1. Traces of a Roman Amphitheater

There a particular little street where you can sense a prominent curve, where buildings and homes are sitting today. But what it’s not known and told, even within its walls, is how this curve represents the place where an amphitheater was located back in Roman times!

Walking straight from Piazza Santa Croce, taking the narrow street called Via Torta. Keep walking until you surround it all! You will be able to notice and even imagine where this roman structure used to be located. No walls remain today.

2. Florence’s Floods

Arno River is a big part of Florence’s soul. Even though it seems steady nowadays, it wasn’t always like that. Did you know this river flooded up the city 3 different times in the past? Once even taking down the well known Ponte Vecchio back in 1333. Fortunately it was rebuilt and still standing.

But what travelers, locals or any curious person don’t get to know is that there are a few traces of these floods around town. And as an important part of history as it is, we want to share this tip with you.

The largest flood came in 1966, not long ago, when it reached 5 meters height. You can see commemorative plaques on this corner, recalling and remembering lost souls to the flood.

3. Thunderstorm Hits to the Duomo

In June 17th, 1600, Florence suffered a terrible thunderstorm, which had one lightning striking directly the copper-gold ball on the Brunelleschi’s cupola. It made the ball fall down hardly to the ground and fortunately not harming anyone. There was just a big hole in the ground which is featured today over a white circle on the same spot where the ball landed.

4. Bees of Ferdinand

At the Piazza Annunziata, there is a magnificent statue of Ferdinand di Medici, which if you get closer, you will see a large swarm of bees gathering around the queen bee,symbolizing Ferdinando’s coat of arms and the peaceful living they had at the time. It is said that bees are uncountable…but I believe that is untrue! We dare you to go count them. We got 91 bees!

5. San Zanobi’s Tree

Right on one side of the Baptistery in Florence, you can see a column standing all alone. Well, attached to this column there is a nice story of a very beloved bishop and the first one of the city of Florence.

One day San Zanobi passed away so the entire city threw a parade in his honor and buried him at San Lorenzo’s church. After a few years, they decided to move him to the ancient cathedral of Santa Reparata.

It was January on a dark winter day when the parade was held again. They took his body into the new location and it is said that when they passed by the Baptistery, the bishop’s bier brushed against the leafless branches of an elm tree, making it bloom right away. It was miraculous and beautiful as it is told.

In order to celebrate this, Florentines built up a column right on this spot, with a small iron detail of a tree full of leaves representing San Zanobi’s miracle. And it is celebrated every January on the 27th.

6. The Mysterious Portrait of Michelangelo

On a corner right next to Palazzo Vecchio’s main entrance, you can get to see a very small face carved into the same wall stone.

Exactly on the corner between Via della Nina and Piazzale degli Ufizzi, you will notice if you get close enough, a small carving the resembles a human face.

It is said it was sculpted by Michelangelo, maybe on a boring moment or on a rivalry moment. Legend says how Michelangelo might have been challenged by a sculptor friend mentioning how he was slow with his own works. Michelangelo, while listening and heading his back towards the wall, sculpted this face to prove his colleague wrong.

But another legend says instead, how Michelangelo was on the street when we has caught on a boring conversation with someone who approached him. In his boredom and once again, heading his back to the wall, he carved this figure on the corner stone.

Which one do you believe it was?

7. Former Jail and Today’s Apartment Building

At the Via Gibhellina, there is the Monastery delle Murate, best known for holding an important jail during 500 years. After it was closed and transferred to a new location, the infrastructure was used as a restaurant and recreational park for long time, until the 20th century. In this moment, a social project rescuing old structures for a better living, took this area in order to build a whole apartment and lifestyle project. Nowadays, you can still see and even visit the place, grab a coffee or just sit down on a bench and admire the incredible passing of time while whispering a story to your ear.

Inspiring and exemplar is what this is. One more great achievement of the city of Florence, moving towards better times and a better quality of life.

By Mariana Calleja from TravelThirst | Illustration & Photography by Federico Rojas

A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.








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