The Project Gutenberg eBook of Florentine palaces & their stories

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Florentine palaces & their stories

Author: Janet Ross

Illustrator: Adelaide Marchi

Release date: August 21, 2023 [eBook #71464]

Language: English

Original publication: London: J. M. Dent & Co, 1905

Credits: The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note

Larger versions of most illustrations may be seen by right-clicking them and selecting an option to view them separately, or by double-tapping and/or stretching them.

Additional notes will be found near the end of this ebook.





[All Rights Reserved]





J. M. DENT & CO.

Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,


To Cavaliere Angelo Bruschi, Librarian of the Biblioteca Marucelliana, this book of the Palaces of his native city is dedicated in memory of much kindness and ever-ready help by


Janet Ross.


PITTI 182xi
VAI 351







In 1109 Guigliarello Acciaiuoli came from Brescia, where his family had made a fortune by working in steel (acciaio)—hence their name. He bought many houses in Borgo S.S. Apostoli and a domain in the Val di Pesa, where he built a tower which was still standing in 1588 when Giovambattista Ubaldini wrote the Origine della Famiglia Acciaiuoli. True to the Guelph traditions the family brought with them from Brescia, Leone Acciaiuoli was forced to fly from Florence after the Ghibelline victory at Montaperti in 1260 and his palace was destroyed. On the return to power of the White, or Guelph, party, Dardano Acciaiuoli became Gonfalonier of Justice, and was afterwards sent with full powers from the Signoria of Florence, “considering his great prudence and legal knowledge,” as Captain of the People to rule Pistoja. When in 1282 the government of Florence was changed and the Priors were instituted, Riccomanni degl’Acciaiuoli, doctor of law, was elected Prior of his Sesto of the city. He founded a great bank, or commercial company, with branches in many parts of Italy, in France, England, Greece, Africa and Asia, and sent Acciaiuolo Acciaiuoli to manage the branch at Naples. There he became the trusted friend and counsellor of King Robert, who made2 him a Baron, gave him great estates in Apulia and the lordship of Prato in Tuscany with the title of royal Vicario. His far more famous son Niccola, was born in 1310 at Monte Guffoni in the Val di Pesa, and married before he was eighteen. Three years later he took his father’s place at Naples, and being remarkable for personal beauty, dignified in manner and gifted with a brilliant intelligence, he soon attained such favour at court that when the Prince of Taranto died in 1332, his widow appointed him, by the advice of her brother-in-law King Robert, guardian of her three young sons and of the principality. Evil tongues whispered that his good looks had much to do with this nomination. Six years later Niccola went to Greece, taking Louis, the eldest of Catherine’s sons, with him and succeeded in making him the real, instead of only the titular, Prince of Acchaia. On the death of King Robert, leaving the Kingdom to his niece Joan, married to the coarse and illiterate Andrew of Hungary, Niccola and Prince Louis returned to Naples. Joan fell in love with her young cousin, and one morning Andrew was found strangled in his bed. Acciaiuoli, who was supposed to have aided in the murder, became all-powerful when the Queen married Louis of Taranto, and was created Grand Seneschal of the Kingdom, Count of Melfi, etc. He acquired very large possessions in Apulia, Sicily and Greece, and was made Count of Malta and Gozzo, a title he ceded to his son Angiolo during his lifetime. On the occasion of his going to Avignon as ambassador, Pope Innocent VI. gave him the Golden Rose (the first time a private person had been thus honoured), created him a Senator of Rome, Count of the Campagna and Rector of the ecclesiastical patrimony. He next sent him as envoy to Bernabo Visconti at Milan to claim the restitution of Bologna. Finding Bernabo obdurate, Acciaiuoli led the Papal troops against Bologna and installed the Legate there in triumph. He did not3 forget his own country, for it is to him that we owe the magnificent convent of the Certosa near Florence, where his eldest son, Lorenzo, as handsome and as gifted as his father, was buried in great state in 1354. He also built the villa of Monte Guffone, of which only the shell remains showing how beautiful it once was,1 and the great Acciaiuoli palace on the Lung’Arno of the same name, adjoining those of other members of the family. As Orcagna was the architect employed at the Certosa he may also have designed Niccola’s fine town house. A cousin of his, Messer Dardano Acciaiuoli, built the church of S. Niccolò in Via della Scala and commissioned Spinello, who, as Vasari tells us, was then (1334) beginning to be known as a good painter, to fresco the whole church with stories from the life of S. Niccolò of Bari. The church was demolished but some of the frescoes are still to be seen in the pharmacy of Sta. Maria Novella.

The Grand Seneschal Niccola Acciaiuoli is described by Matteo Palmieri as being “of more than the ordinary height, lithe, strong, of noble and pleasing presence, with a certain vivacity and gaiety which rendered him a most agreeable companion. His hair was auburn, his eyes large and brilliant, his aspect kindly and smiling; broad in the chest and well made, he used his left hand as dexterously as his right. He dressed well, and when attending any solemn function always wore silk or brocade and had a large following, not, as he was wont to say, for himself, but for the honour of his King. A great lover of arms and of horses, of which he sought to have the best that could be procured, he would, after breaking them in, give them as presents, with magnificent saddles and bridles, to the great personages of the Kingdom. Naturally inclined towards good and noble deeds he was liberal even to prodigality. Many times he risked, not only his patrimony, but his own and his son’s lives in the4 service of the King. He pardoned far oftener than he avenged evil done to himself. He was sober in eating and drinking, but his table was magnificently furnished for his friends and when he gave public entertainments, as often happened when he returned to visit his own country, where he was received with the highest honours and would give balls, games and other festivals. He led a pure and religious life, observing the fasts ordained by the Church so strictly that on fast days he only ate one piece of dry bread and drank pure water.... His life was a prosperous one, and though he worked hard and suffered infinite privations both by day and by night, he was seldom ill. He died at Naples on November 8, 1365, being fifty-six years of age.”

Of his fine palace there is a delightful description in, I should think, one of the first guide-books written about Florence:—

“In Borgo S.S. Apostoli in the houses of the Acciaiuoli are many statues and many pictures of the greatest beauty by famous artists; more especially in the house of Alessandro are there many things of rare worth. For there is a writing-room adorned with pictures and fine statues, and among them are the twelve Emperors by Giambologna, of such beauty that they are admired beyond measure by artificers who can appreciate them. Besides this there is a garden on strong arches about fifteen braccia high, in a street close to the Arno and looking due south, where the air is soft and pleasant. There in pots and on espaliers are such delightful greenery and fruits, such as lemons and pomegranates, that although the space is not really large, yet the delight it gives is so great that it appears so. Above this, and behind, rising yet higher, is another terrace filled with similar trees; it is marvellous to see the quantity of fruit produced and what good condition it is in. Above, and still farther back is yet another terrace, more than thirty5 braccia from the ground and the view thence is so beautiful that the soul is rejoiced; wherever a man turns he enjoys the sweet air, full of the perfume of fruit and of flowers which are ever abundant according to their season. Water is lifted by ingenious devices from below up to the third floor garden, so that the moisture when dried up by the heat can be quickly restored. In the lower garden is a beautiful fountain of Carrara marble ornamented with lovely statues. A room, of large dimensions, opens on to this garden, with a fine ceiling and more than thirty portraits of the principal ladies of our city who are famed for their beauty. The pictures, by well-known artists, are highly praised for their execution and their admirable likenesses.”2

Niccola Acciaiuoli bequeathed his castles and lands in Greece to Neri, his nephew and adopted son, who after conquering Thebes and the whole of Boeota drove the Spaniards out of Athens, Thebes, Corinth and Megara. The Acciaiuoli ruled Greece for nearly a hundred years, until Mahomet II. took the country and strangled Duke Lionardo. Vespasiano da Bisticci, in his Life of Neri, declares that “others may go about begging nobility for their family, the Acciaiuoli have enough and to spare. They are allied to all the principal houses of the kingdom [Naples]; to the Prince of Taranto and to other lords through the marriages of their women; among them Madonna Andrea degl’ Acciaiuoli, Countess of Altavilla, a woman of singular renown to whom Messer Giovanni Boccaccio sent the book of Illustrious Women, she being possessed of such high authority.”

Many were the Gonfaloniers, Priors and ambassadors, the Acciaiuoli gave to Florence. Donato, whose mother was a daughter of Palla Strozzi, inherited his grandfather’s love of letters, and when ambassador to France6 presented King Louis XI. with the lives of Charlemagne, Scipio and Hannibal, written by himself. He also wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s Ethics, Politics and Physics. He died at Milan whilst on an embassy to the Duke and his body was brought to Florence where Cristofano Landini read the funeral oration in the Duomo. The Republic dowered his two daughters and named Lorenzo de’ Medici and three other citizens guardians of the young sons. One of them, “the prudent and well-endowed” Ruberto, was sent on an embassy to Louis XII., who bestowed on him and his descendants the privilege of adding a Lily of France, surmounted by a royal crown, to his arms. A descendant and a namesake of his is the hero of one of the saddest and most romantic stories of the seventeenth century. Handsome and brave like all his race, the son of Donato Acciaiuoli had long admired Elisabetta Mormorai, wife of Giulio Berardi, and on her husband’s death they agreed to marry. But his uncle the Cardinal had decided that his good-looking nephew was to make an alliance which might be of use to him in his designs upon the Papal chair. So he induced the Grand Duke Cosimo III. to forbid the marriage and to order Elisabetta to enter a convent. Ruberto immediately contracted a canonical marriage with her by letter, and fled to Milan where he published it. At the same time he demanded justice from the Grand Duke, the Archbishop, the Cardinal and his own father. The validity of the marriage was upheld in Lombardy, in Florence it was declared to be a mere engagement and not binding, and the lady was removed from her convent and shut up in a fortress. On the death of the Pope in 1691 Ruberto wrote to the assembled cardinals imploring them, and the future Pope, to do him justice. All Italy was interested in the fate of the lovers and the Cardinal Acciaiuoli tried to throw all the blame on his relations. The Grand Duke9 set Elisabetta free and she joined her husband at Venice, where Cosimo was openly accused of arbitrary and unjust conduct, and of truckling to the private spite of the Cardinal. He thereupon made formal application to the Republic to deliver up Acciaiuoli and his wife on the plea of lèse majesté. They fled, but were followed by his emissaries and taken into custody at Trent disguised as friars. Ruberto Acciaiuoli was condemned to imprisonment for life in the fortress of Volterra and to the loss of his patrimony, whilst to Elisabetta was offered the choice of repudiating her marriage or of being confined in the women’s part of the same prison. In the hopes of mitigating the severity of her husband’s sentence she chose the former, and died of grief a few months later.


The family were supposed to be extinct in 1760, but at this date Senhor De Vasconcellos came from Madeira and proved his descent from an Acciaiuoli who had settled in the island at the end of the XVth century. He married the orphan daughter of the last of the Florentine Acciaiuoli and took her name, but the family came to an end when Monsignore Filippo, a learned prelate, died at Venice in 1834.

Varchi tells us that the palaces of the Alberti were built on the site of those of the ancient family of Quona, near the town gate called after Messer Ruggieri da Quona. The picturesque little Café delle Colonnine, which in the XVth century was the workshop of Niccolò Grossi, marks where their loggia once stood, and the palaces of various members of the family extended from Piazza Sta. Croce to the river, in what was then the Via degl’Alberti. On10 the façade of the palace where Leon Battista Alberti lived, which was entirely modernized in 1838 by the architect V. Bellini, who then built the colonnade which divides the garden from the Lung’Arno, are two engraved marble slabs with plans of what it once was and what it is now.

The great family of the Alberti originally came from Catenaia in the Casentino, where they owned castles and lands. It is probable that their arms, four silver chains (catene), joined in the middle by a silver ring, are derived from the name of their castle. Five different families of Alberti, with different arms, are mentioned in the annals of Florence; but the Alberti whose palaces stood near the Ponte alle Grazie, from whom sprang that many-sided genius Leon Battista, bore the surname of Giudici from an Alberto who held the office of judge in Florence in the early days of the XIIIth century, and came, as has already been said, from Catenaia. The Alberti were always Guelphs, they went into exile after the battle of Montaperti and their houses were destroyed. Alberto, son of Messer Jacopo, was a Prior when the first stone of the Palazzo de’ Signori was laid in 1294 (the first of forty-nine of his house), while the number of Alberti who were prelates, ambassadors, gallant captains and knights of the Golden Spur, is innumerable. The death of Messer Niccolò degl’ Alberti in 1377, then one of the most illustrious and one of the richest citizens of Florence, was a public disaster. He had acquired the name of Father of the Poor and his funeral was attended by hundreds of families dressed in black, who mourned their benefactor. Near to his house in Via degl’Alfani (where a corner is still called Canto alla Catena from his coat of arms) he built, after the design of Agnolo Gaddi, a hospital called Orbetello for poor old women and fallen girls.

When in 1380 Giorgio Scali and Tommaso Strozzi attacked the Palazzo del Podestà and set Giovanni di Cambio free, the Signori thought it was time, as Machiavelli11 writes, “to liberate the city from the insolence of Messer Giorgio and of the mob. But they deemed it necessary to get the consent of Messer Benedetto Alberti (son of Niccolò). He was an exceeding rich man, humane, stern, a lover of the liberty of his country and averse to all tyrannical proceedings; it was therefore not difficult to obtain his consent to the ruin of Messer Giorgio.... Having ascertained that Messer Benedetto and the heads of the Guilds would side with them the Signori armed, and Messer Giorgio was taken while Messer Tommaso fled. The following day Messer Giorgio, to the terror of his party was beheaded.... Seeing Messer Benedetto Alberti among the armed men, he said: ‘And thou, Messer Benedetto, allowest that such an injury be done to me, which I, were I in thy place, would never have permitted to be done to thee? But I tell thee that to-day is the end of my woes and the beginning of thine own.’”

The Guelphs now ruled supreme. Executions and sentences of exile against the nobili popolani and the leaders of the people were of daily occurrence, to the great chagrin of Benedetto who made no secret of his displeasure. “Therefore the heads of the State,” continues Machiavelli, “feared him, esteeming him one of the friends of the people, and thinking he had acquiesced in the death of Messer Giorgio Scali, not because he disapproved of his conduct, but in order to be the sole leader.” The pomp and magnificence displayed by the Alberti a few years later, when crowned with gold, clad in white brocade and mounted on magnificent horses caparisoned with the same stuff, they rode through the streets of Florence and held jousts in honour of the acquisition of Arezzo, caused intense envy. When the name of Magalotti Benedetto’s son-in-law, was drawn from the borse as Gonfalonier of Justice he was set aside, and Bardo Mancini, an avowed enemy of the Alberti, was named in his stead. Not many days afterwards Benedetto was12 exiled, and with him Cipriano, “a most prudent citizen.” The former died at Rhodes in 1388, “and his bones,” says Machiavelli, “were brought to Florence and buried with the greatest honour by those who had pursued him with calumny and evil during his life.” When the Albizzi became all-powerful the popolani were persecuted. Benedetto’s sons were despoiled of their possessions and two were sentenced to be beheaded if they fell into the hands of the Podestà. Antonio Alberti was tortured, but escaped with his life and, “in order that the Alberti should not create disorders every day in the city,” he, his brothers and his sons were made grandi, which excluded them from holding any office. Lorenzo, another son of Benedetto, and seven of the family were exiled to 180 miles from Florence and all males above sixteen to 100 miles, under threat of severe punishment if they approached nearer to the city, or pledged or sold any of their property. Of course they conspired, and in 1412 every male, down to the smallest child, was exiled. Any Florentine who dared to harbour an Alberti was fined, while any who killed one of the hated family above eighteen years of age within the Florentine territory, received a recompense and the permission to carry arms. Any citizen marrying an Alberti or allowing his daughter to do so, was to be fined 1,000 florins; none were to trade with them, their loggia was destroyed and an inventory made of their property, which was seized as a guarantee that the exiles would behave properly. After the taxes had been paid and the dowers of the girls deducted, the income that remained was doled out to the respective owners.

Leon Battista tells us that his ancestors met their evil fate courageously; “meeting often and consulting together with fraternal affection, full of charity and good offices.... Their number, their intelligence, their assiduity in making friends by kindliness and giving help to many men, caused them to be much liked. They despised,” he13 continues, “the habit common to so many of saying that it is enough to know how to sign one’s name and to sum up what is owing.... It became a proverbial saying in Italy when a man was courteous and well-bred, such a one is as though born and brought up among the Alberti.... They were merchants, trafficking in noble and honest merchandize, and no pedlars; dealing in France and England in cloth and wool, as do the highest and the worthiest men of the city, an occupation that is good and honourable and he that engages in it is well-considered and respected in the land.”3 The Alberti had houses of business at Bruges, Ghent, Brussels and in various French and English towns, as well as in Greece, Syria, Spain and all the Mediterranean ports. By their rigid integrity and their refusal to enter into speculative loans as the Bardi, Peruzzi and others, had done, they augmented their riches even whilst in exile. When Pope John XXII. called upon them to pay within eight days 80,000 golden florins deposited in their London bank, Ricciardo Alberti handed the sum to him in Bologna on the fifth day, it having been sent from Venice by his brother Lorenzo. Their condition however was a sad one. Fugitives, scattered over the face of the earth and far from home and friends, their joy must have been great, when Cosimo de’ Medici on his return to power in 1434 recalled them to Florence. By his influence Alberto Alberti was created a cardinal, and their name appears constantly in the magistrature under the Medici.

Lorenzo Alberti, son of Benedetto, seems to have established himself for a time at Genoa where Leon Battista was born, probably in 1404 (some give 1398 as the date of his birth and others 1414). He was educated at Bologna and had a hard struggle after his father’s death in 1421, as the relations in whose charge he and his brother14 were left cheated them out of their patrimony. Brought up for the church, he was ordained a priest and at twenty became a Canon of the cathedral of Florence. But intense study brought on a disorder of the nerves which caused loss of memory, and he applied himself to mathematics and the physical sciences, and adopted architecture as his profession. He invented several mechanical instruments, the Reticola de’ dipintori, the Bolide Albertiana and the Camera optica, a precursor of the Camera obscura.4 His principal prose work is the Trattato della Famiglia, three books of which are said by the anonymous writer of his life to have been composed in Rome in ninety days. “Taken in its whole extent,” remarks J. A. Symonds, “this treatise is the most valuable document which remains to us from the times of the oligarchy.... From its pages a tolerably complete history of a great commercial family might be extracted; and this study would form a valuable commentary on the public annals of the commonwealth during the earlier portion of the XVth century.”

Much discussion was aroused, and still continues, about the fourth book of the Trattato, published by D. M. Manni in 1734 as the work of Agnolo Pandolfini under the title of Trattato del Governo della Famiglia. Pandolfini has champions like Signor Virginio Cortesi, who in his Studio Critico ably pleads his cause. But the Governo della Famiglia is now generally acknowledged to be by Alberti, in whose Trattato it figures as the third book, under the name of the Economico, or the Padre della Famiglia. Professors Alessandro d’Ancona and Orazio Bacci, in their admirable manual of Italian literature5 write: “It may be considered as definitely proved that the Governo della Famiglia” (as it is usually called) “is15 nothing more than a travestied and altered copy, often not to its advantage, of the third book of the Famiglia written about 1460.”6 Alberti was a strenuous advocate for writing in Italian; “I admit willingly,” he says, “that the ancient Latin tongue is very copious and of a beauty polished to perfection. Yet I do not see what our Tuscan contains so hateful, that worthy matter, when conveyed therein, should be displeasing to us.” In the dedication of his essay on painting to Filippo Brunelleschi the same note is struck with regard to the arts. After sorrowing over the loss of many arts and sciences and fearing that Nature is weary and worn out, he exclaims: “But when I returned from the long exile, in which we of the Alberti have grown old, to this our mother city which exceeds all others in the beauty of her monuments, I perceived that many living men, but first of all you, Filippo, and our dearest friend Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Luca della Robbia and Masaccio, were not of less account for genius and noble work than any ancient artist of great fame.” Leon Battista Alberti died in Rome in 1472, and no stone marks the spot where one of the greatest Florentines lies, though one of his descendants put up a monument to him in Florence.

“He indeed might serve,” writes Symonds, “as the very type of those many-sided, precocious and comprehensive men of genius who only existed in the Renaissance. Physical strength and dexterity were given to him at birth in measure equal to his mental faculties. It is recorded that he could jump standing over an upright man, pierce the strongest armour with his arrows, and so deftly fling a coin that it touched the highest point of a church or16 palace roof. The wildest horses are said to have trembled under him, as though brutes felt, like men, the magnetism of his personality. His insight into every branch of art was innate. At the age of twenty he composed the comedy of “Philodoxius” which passed for an antique, and was published by the Aldi in 1588 as the work of Lepidus Comicus. Of music, though he had not made it a special study he was a thorough master, composing melodies that gave delight to scientific judges. He painted pictures, and wrote three books on painting; practised architecture and compiled ten books on building. Of his books nothing remains; but the church of S. Andrea at Mantua, the Palazzo Rucellai at Florence, and the remodelled Church of S. Francesco at Rimini attest his greatness as an architect.”7

The palaces of the Alberti were numerous, and they built or decorated chapels in the churches of Sta. Croce, the Carmine, S. Miniato al Monte, degl’Angeli and others. Their villas were superb, especially the Paradiso degl’Alberti, described in one of Giovanni da Prato’s tales.8 Under the dynasty of Lorraine eight of the family attained the dignity of Senator, and in 1758 Giovan-Vincenzio Alberti was created a Count Palatine by the Emperor Francis. His son, named Leon Battista after his illustrious ancestor, died in 1836 the last of his race, leaving his name and his property to Cav. Mario Moriubaldini.


The name of Albizzi appears for the first time in the annals of Florence in 1251, when Benincasa di Albizzo was an Elder. In 1282 Ser Compagno was the first of the long list of ninety-eight Priors of the house of Albizzi who sat in the Palazzo de’ Signori. Piero, the son of Filippo, the first Gonfalonier of Justice of thirteen the family gave to Florence, became immensely rich and by his prudence and sagacity obtained such preponderance in the affairs of the city that he was the recognized head of the nobili popolani. Acute rivalry between the Ghibelline Albizzi and the Ricci, who were Guelphs, had always existed; and Uguccione de’ Ricci, thinking to crush his rivals, advocated the revival of the magistrature of the Captains of the Guelph party, proposing at the same time that all who professed themselves Ghibellines should be admonished, i. e. excluded from all offices of state. Piero di Albizzo, to hide his Ghibelline tendencies, not only made no opposition, but took a foremost part in the doings of the tribunal, which became odious to the Florentines under his presidency. The Ciompi revolt was the direct consequence of the tyranny of the Captains of the Guelph party, Piero was beheaded and the other members of the Albizzi family were banished, only to return more powerful when the old system of government was revived in 1381. According to Passerini it was to the wise administration of Maso, Piero’s nephew, that the prosperity and the greatness of Florence, feared and respected by the other Italian Republics, were due. “He formed political relations apt to preserve the prosperity of the Republic, built great public edifices, protected nascent studies and arts and promoted the foundation of the18 Florentine University, the basis of the literary glory afterwards culled by the Medici family. The wars against the Visconti were prosecuted with constancy and without losses; indeed the state was enlarged, a thing which could not have happened amid such conflicting opinions as then reigned in Florence, if the man at the head of affairs had not been a politician of the first order.”9 Maso degl’Albizzi died in 1417 and his son Rinaldo inherited part of his father’s vast wealth and his ambition, but not his caution. The oligarchy of the nobili popolani became odious under his leadership, and the strong party led, but not ostensibly, by Cosmo de’ Medici, divided the city into two hostile factions. The death of that wise old citizen Niccolò da Uzzano, who had kept Rinaldo in check was, writes Machiavelli, “a misfortune for Florence, as Messer Rinaldo, thinking now to be head of the party, never ceased entreating and worrying all the citizens he thought might become Gonfaloniers, to rise and liberate the country from the man destined, through the malignity of some and the ignorance of the many, to enslave it.” Albizzi’s friend, Bernardo Guadagni, whose debts he paid in order to enable him to become Gonfalonier of Justice in September, 1433, confined Cosimo de’ Medici in the Palazzo de’ Signori and then exiled him for ten years. “Meanwhile,” writes Machiavelli, “in Florence, widowed of a citizen so great and so universally beloved, everyone was confounded. Conquerors as well as conquered were afeard;” and Rinaldo and his friends were beginning to realize “that great men should not be assailed, but so be they are assailed they should be done away with.” They attempted to retrieve their mistake by proscribing many of Cosimo’s party, and the government, occupied with private quarrels and enmities, became futile and uncertain. In September the following year,19 a Signoria devoted to the Medici was elected, and Rinaldo degl’Albizzi urged his party to take up arms. Whereupon the Gonfalonier summoned him and others of the Grandi to appear before him. Instead of obeying the order they collected their followers and with a strong armed force invaded the Piazza. The old palace of the Signori was at once closed and barricaded, and civil war seemed imminent.

It was averted only by the intervention of Eugenius IV. then living as a refugee in Florence. He sent Giovanni Vitelleschi, Bishop of Recanati, to beg Rinaldo degl’Albizzi to come to him and assured him there was no question of recalling Cosimo de’ Medici, and that if he went quietly home all would be well. Rinaldo was kept so long that his followers got tired and dispersed, leaving the Signoria masters of the situation. Sentences of banishment against Albizzi, his son Ormanno, Ridolfo Peruzzi, Palla Strozzi and many others of the Grandi were passed, and before they left the city Eugenius sent once more for Rinaldo and “told him,” writes Machiavelli, “that he blamed himself for the evil that had befallen him through trusting his word; exhorting him to have patience and to hope for a change of fortune. To which Messer Rinaldo replied, the small confidence shewn by those who ought to have trusted me, and the too great faith I put in you, have been the ruin of myself, of my party. But above all do I blame myself for believing that you, who were driven out of your own country, could keep me in mine. I have had ample experience of the tricks of Fortune; prosperity I never trusted much, so adversity does not affect me. I know that when Fortune pleases she will be kinder, but should she continue unkind, I care not to live in a city where men are above the law. For a country in which riches and friends can be enjoyed in security, is preferable to one in which you can easily be deprived of the former, and where your friends, for fear of losing their all, abandon20 you in your direst need. It was ever less hard for discreet and good men to hear tell of their countries’ woes, than to see them, and an honourable rebel is more esteemed than an enslaved citizen. So, full of ire, he left the Pope, thinking how fruitless his counsels had been and how cold his friends, and went into exile.” He died at Ancona in 1452.

His brother Luca, on the contrary, was an ardent adherent of the Medici and his descendants filled important posts under the Republic. The stern, grey palace, now divided into many houses, at the eastern end of Borgo degl’Albizzi, under which passes a small street was, I believe, built by him for one of his sons. The Albizzi arms, two golden rings one inside the other under a cross of the Teutonic order, are still to be seen on the façade. The Marquess Vittorio degl’Albizzi, to whose memory there is an inscription on the great family palace, was the last of his race.

In 1372 Alessandro and Bartolomeo degl’Albizzi quarrelled with their brothers, and obtained the consent of the Signori to take the name of Alessandri and to adopt another coat of arms. They chose the emblem of the Guild of Wool to which they belonged, adding a second head to the well-known lamb. Later the house of Aragon bestowed upon them the privilege of adding a golden crown and palm leaves to their shield. Twenty-three Priors and nine Gonfaloniers of Justice of the family sat in the Palazzo de’ Signori and many of them were sent on important embassies. Alessandro degl’Alessandri was knighted by the Emperor Frederick IV., while his brother Bartolomeo gained such favour with the King of Naples that he made21 him Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1439 the Emperor Paleologus bestowed the title of Count on one of the Alessandri and some eighty years later Leo X. created them Counts of the Holy Roman Empire, a title confirmed by Gregory XVI. in 1845.

On either side of the windows on the upper floor of this palace are still to be seen the iron cramps which supported the frames on the roofs for drying cloth, source of the family riches. Part of the palace was burned during the Ciompi riots while it still belonged to the Albizzi; the side which was saved is distinguished by the pointed arches of the windows. The Alessandri were great patrons of horse racing—as racing was understood in those days—and owned a famous barb “Il Gran Diavolo,” who won for them many of the magnificent palii of cloth of gold and velvet with which some of the rooms are hung. The ladies of the family must often have stood at the windows clapping their hands with delight at the victory of the fiery black horses which carried their colours, for the winning-post was just beyond the old palace. The race in Borgo degl’Albizzi on the 24th June, the day of St. John, patron saint of Florence, is thus described by Goro Dati. “After dinner when midday had passed and everyone had slept, enjoying themselves, the women and children go to where the racers, who are to contend for the Palio, pass through a straight street in the centre of the city where are the finest houses of the chief citizens; and from one end to the other the said street is full of flowers, and all the women and the jewels and the richest ornaments of the city, and great is the rejoicing. Many lords, cavaliers and foreign gentlemen come every year to see the fine festival, and the number of people, foreigners and citizens, is incredible, and not to be believed save by one who has seen them. At the sound of three strokes of the bell of the Palazzo de’ Signori the horses start, and on the tower are stationed boys, who by22 certain signals show to whom belong the horses, which have come from all parts of Italy and are the most famous Barbary racers in the world. The winner is he who first reaches the Palio, which is borne on a four-wheeled triumphal car, with a lion at each corner. So well are they sculptured that they seem alive. It is drawn by two richly-caparisoned horses, with the emblems of their Commune. The rich and large Palio, of two lengths of the finest crimson velvet joined together by gold insertion a handsbreadth wide, lined with miniver, bordered with ermine and a gold and silken fringe, altogether cost 300 and more golden florins. But of late it has been made of brocade woven with gold, most beautiful, and of the value of 600 florins or even more.”10

The old palace is still inhabited by the Counts Alessandri.

In 1180 Schiatta degl’Uberti, whose family had houses and towers near the present Piazza de’ Giudicci, sold one fourth part, pro indiviso, of the castle to one of the Altafronte family. The sons of Lottieri d’Altafronte, who seemed to have been in perpetual need of money, borrowed from various people, and were at last obliged to sell it, as appears by an act of 1304, when Cecchino Bardi became “master of a habitation in the parish of S. Piero Scheraggio, called the castle of Altafronte, surrounded on all sides by streets.”

In 1333, according to Gaddi, the castle was devastated and ruined, together with many other houses, by the terrible23 flood which carried away the old statue of Mars near the Ponte Vecchio. It must have been at once restored, as fifteen years later a certain Bencivieni Buonsostegni, to whom it then belonged, made a will forbidding his descendants to alienate it; in case they did so it was to go to the Commune. His sons having to pay their sister’s dower petitioned for leave to sell, which was granted. The Commune itself may have been the purchaser, as there is a petition from the Operai, or clerks of the works, of the Duomo, who were obliged to buy houses and lands in order to continue the building of Sta. Maria del Fiore, complaining that the 4,500 florins promised to them, had been spent in rebuilding the walls of the castle of Altafronte, three towers and the Porta d’Arno.11 It then passed into the possession of the Castellani family, one of whom left the castle, together with a farm at Rome, to the hospital of Sta. Maria at Ripoli. But either the family bought it back or the testator could only leave a part of the great building, as when Matteo Castellani died, and was buried with the greatest pomp in Sta. Croce in 1429, “his son Francesco was publicly knighted by the side of his father’s bier; his mourning habiliments were torn off in the church and, habited as a cavalier, the other knights of the order accompanied him most honourably to his palace.” Ten years later Demetrio Paleologo, Despot of the Morea, took up his abode there when he accompanied his brother the Emperor to the Council of Florence.

In 1558 the Grand Duke Cosimo I. bought the castle of Altafronte from the Castellani, and fourteen years later, under the reign of Francesco I., it became the residence of the Judges of the Ruota, and the shops near by were turned into offices for the notaries. In 1858 many wretched houses, with the arms of the judges and the notaries on24 their façades, which had sprung up in the Piazza de’ Castellani, were swept away, and two years later the wall of the Lung’Arno della Borsa was built.

Opposite to the Castello d’Altafronte, which is now part of the National Library, is a marble slab in the parapet wall of the Arno with an inscription which often arouses the curiosity of the passers-by.


It marks the grave of the favourite horse of Carlo Cappello, who was the Venetian ambassador during the siege of Florence in 1529. Varchi says, “he was most popular in the city and much loved, not only for his many good qualities, being a man of letters, but also because when Luigi Alamanni and Zanobi Buondelmonti were declared rebels, on account of the conspiracy against the Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, he gave them hospitality in his house at Venice; and afterwards, when they had been imprisoned at Brescia at the request of Pope Clemente, he so managed that they were set free and sent on their way, the Venetians either not knowing, or pretending not to know, who they were.”

The horse was buried with his fine velvet housings in the Piazza d’Arno, close to the old city gate.


This palace was built by Rinaldo degl’Albizzi, Cosimo de’ Medici’s great rival, next to that of his father, and after his exile it was bought by the Valori. Taldo de Valore, four times a Prior, and Gonfalonier of Justice in 1340, was the grandfather of the influential citizen Bartolomeo, one of the Dieci di Guerra, and thrice Gonfalonier. One of his sons, Niccolò, devoted to the Medici, was elected to the most important offices under the Republic. Francesco, his grandson, four times Gonfalonier of Justice and ambassador to various foreign powers, was killed in 1498 when Savonarola, of whom he was a staunch partisan, was arrested. To Filippo Valori, a friend of Lorenzo the Magnificent and of all the circle of brilliant men who surrounded him, we owe the publication of Marsilio Ficino’s translation of Plato; whilst his son Baccio was “that worst of bad citizens” who conspired against the liberties of Florence in favour of the Medici, and was then set aside by the Duke Alesandro. Being, as Varchi writes, “of an unquiet, prodigal, and rapacious nature and not well off, he could not live as a gentleman and satisfy his wants, which were infinite, without holding some high office in the city; so his discontent was extreme.” He joined the party of the exiles and was taken prisoner together with Filippo Strozzi at Montemurlo. Bernardo Segni describes how “all the people ran down the Via Larga to the house of the Medici to see the miserable and affecting sight of Baccio on a sorry nag, in a rusty coat of mail and without a cap; he who but a short time before had been so fortunate a Commissary-General at the camp, and for so many months master in Florence, and afterwards Governor of various provinces; and Filippo Strozzi, who had been accounted26 the first man in Italy and honoured for every great quality, on a similar beast, in a leathern jerkin and coarse cloth overcoat. It seemed a spiteful, dishonest trick of fortune. Antonfrancesco degl’Albizzi excited no less compassion. Of a most noble family and proud by nature, he had ruled Florence like a Prince, had changed her government, and now was led on foot meanly and had shameful words cast at him by the onlookers. All dismounted at the fortunate house of the Medici and were led before the Lord Cosimo, being vilified and insulted by the sycophants and abettors of the Pallesca grandeur. Kneeling humbly before the Lord Cosimo and before his mother, they begged heartily for pardon; he replied in a few quiet words, with an aspect rather kindly and benign than angry and cruel.... Five were beheaded on that day [20 August, 1535], to wit Baccio, Filippo his son, Filippo his nephew, Antonfrancesco degl’Albizzi and Alessandro Rondinelli. Messer Alessandro Malgonelle, who, being one of the Eight, was present when they were examined and tortured, with great joyfulness said aloud in public: ‘To-day we have wrung the necks of four thrushes and of one blackbird; the blackbird being Rondinelli, who was inferior to the others in birth and riches.’”12 Niccolò Valori, member of the Platonic Academy, was Commissary at Pistoja in 1501, and soon afterwards ambassador to Louis XII. of France, who named him a chamberlain and a councillor. In 1507 he was sent on an embassy to Ferdinand the Catholic at Naples, and in the same year became Commissary of the Tuscan Romagna. Five years later he was accused of conspiring against the Medici together with Boscoli and Capponi, and sentenced to life-long imprisonment in the tower of Volterra. His grandson obtained his release by presenting Leo X. with the life of his father, Lorenzo de’ Medici, written by him.

Baccio Valori, son of Filippo, who perished by the27 headman’s axe, was a man of vast culture and a distinguished lawyer. He enlarged the old palace and collected a magnificent library. In a vellum bound booklet, beautifully printed in 1604, his son Filippo describes how Baccio, “after enlarging his house (without departing from the ancient lines), thought well to decorate it outside with other antiquities befitting both the land of his birth and himself as a man of letters.” These antiquities are fifteen busts of illustrious Florentines sculptured in marble in alto-rilievo, and set upon termini. In the lower row are Accursio, Torrigiano Rustichelli, surnamed de’ Valori, Marsilio Ficino, Donato Acciaiuoli, and Pier Vettori. In the alcoves between the first floor windows are Amerigo Vespucci, Leon Battista Alberti, Francesco Guicciardini, Marcello Adriano, and Vincenzio Borghini. Above are Dante, Petraca, Boccaccio, Giovanni della Casa, and Luigi Alamanni. In the corridor, “as being a more honourable place,” observes Filippo, were the Archbishop S. Antonino, S. Filippo Neri, Maestro Luigi Marsili, Lorenzo il Magnifico and Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, and a bust of Baccio Valori himself—the only one left. From the busts on the façade the palace is generally known in Florence as the Palazzo de’ Visacci, or of the Ugly Faces.

Alessandro, the last of the Valori, died in 1687, and his nephew, Senator Luigi Guicciardini, inherited the palace. In 1703 he bought two small houses with stables behind, between it and the great Pazzi palace (pulled down to build the Banca d’Italia), and in 1723 a large house on the other side. His only daughter, Virginia, married Giovan Gaetano Altoviti, who incorporated the houses on either side and renovated the interior of the palace, which then took his name. The ceilings of two of the rooms were frescoed by pupils of Luca Giordano, and round the walls of one room are terra-cotta medallions, portraits of the Altoviti and the Guicciardini. One of them, wearing the well-known28 Florentine lucco, represents the great historian, Francesco Guicciardini.

Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pius II.), on the strength of an inscription said to have been found at Fiesole which begins: FURIUS CAMILLUS ALTIVITA—MAGNI FURII CAMILLI NEPOS—assigned a Roman origin to the Altoviti; but Passerini believes the inscription is a medieval forgery. The first mention of the family in the Florentine archives is in 1154, when Corbizzo, son of Gollo, bought a house and a tower in the suburb of S. Niccolò. His grandson Davanzato purchased an estate at Antella and a tower in the suburb of S.S. Apostoli, he and his brothers having certain rights of patronage over the church and the cemetery of S.S. Apostoli. These rights were contested by the Prior of the church, who challenged Davanzato to decide the question by a duel; however Honorius III. interposed and by a decree addressed to the Podestà and the people of Florence threatened to excommunicate anyone who took up arms. From Davanzato’s son Altovito, a judge of considerable repute, the family take their name. The Emperor Frederick II., to whom he was sent on an embassy, held him in high esteem and knighted him with his own hand in 1227. The eldest of Altovito’s sons, Guinizzingo, commonly called Tingo, was the first of a long series of Gonfaloniers of Justice the family gave to Florence, and during his rule the first stone of Sta. Maria Novella was laid on May 3, 1294. Oddo, another of Altovito’s sons, was a judge like his father and his name figures often as either ambassador or Elder until after the battle of Montaperti, at which he was present, his palace and tower were destroyed by the Ghibellines.13 But when the Guelphs returned to power in 1278, we find him once more among the Elders, and two years later he was sent to Pope Nicholas III. to beg him to put an end to29 the internecine war between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. Oddo degl’Altoviti took an active part in the transactions and signed the treaty for the Guelph party in the Mozzi palace in 1281. He warmly supported the new law that all who aspired to office under the Republic should belong to a Guild, so the nobles, who were chiefly Ghibellines, inscribed themselves in the books of the Guilds without personally exercising any trade, and thus eluded the law. The popolani then rose, with Giano della Bella at their head, and demanded reform. Oddo degl’Altoviti and his cousin Palmiere assisted in drawing up the famous Ordinamenti della Giustizia, the object of which was to exclude the nobles from power and to ensure the summary and severe punishment of any noble who injured a plebeian.14 Palmiere was one of the companions of Dante on an embassy to Boniface VIII. to beg him to try and pacify the citizens of Florence, and like him died in exile. Oddo’s son Bindo, took an active part in the government of the city. He was many times a Prior and twice Captain of War, fighting against Henry VII., and afterwards against Castruccio. At Altopascio he was made prisoner and only regained his liberty after the death of the great Lucchese. He was often sent as ambassador to various Italian cities, but disgraced his name by the ferocity he showed in torturing the followers of the Duke of Athens in 1343. One of the leaders of the revolt against the tyrant he was foremost in inciting the people to brutal and loathsome acts of cruelty. His niece Giovanna, married to Benci Aldobrandini, deserves mention as a remarkable woman, of such wisdom and intelligence that the magistrates always consulted her when in any difficulty. She was simply called “Madonna,” as we might say, “the Lady,” and the square where her husband’s house stood still bears the name of Piazza Madonna.


Antonio degl’Altoviti passed nearly all his life at Rome and married a niece of Innocent VIII., whose banker he was. To him the Pope gave, to the exclusion of the other branches of the family, the absolute patronage of the church of S.S. Apostoli, where he was buried in 1508 in the fine tomb sculptured by Benedetto da Rovezzano for his brother Oddo. Bindo, his son, who succeeded him in business, made an enormous fortune, and was the friend of all the great artists of that time. Michelangelo gave him the cartoon for one of the frescoes of the Sistine chapel, and is said to have modelled the rare medal showing Bindo Altoviti’s head on one side and one of his emblems, a woman clinging to a column surrounded by waves, on the reverse. Raphael painted his portrait as a young man, and executed for him the Madonna dell’Impanata now in the gallery of the Pitti palace. Bevenuto Cellini modelled and cast his bust in bronze,15 while Jacopo Sansovino designed a magnificent fireplace for his palace in Florence, which Benedetto da Rovezzano decorated with delicate bas-reliefs. Vasari also worked for him, painting the altar picture in the Altoviti chapel in S. S. Apostoli and two loggie in his palace at Rome. A violent antagonist of the Medici he not only expended large sums in aid of the exiles, but sent one of his sons to fight under Piero Strozzi against Cosimo I. at Siena. Another son, Antonio, entered the church and was made Archbishop of Florence by Paul III., very much as an act of hostility towards Cosimo, who retaliated by sequestering the revenues of the archbishopric and forbidding Altoviti to enter Tuscany. It was only in 1568, owing to the intervention of Pius V., that he was at length enabled to take possession of his see. His entrance into the city and his spiritual marriage with the Abbess of S. Pier Maggiore were conducted with such solemnity and pomp that Cosimo was profoundly irritated, and decreed that the ancient31 ceremony of the mystic nuptials of the Archbishop and the Abbess should be for ever abolished. Canon Moreni has published an account by an eyewitness of how the guardians, or patrons, of the archbishopric, with all the clergy, met Altoviti at the gate of the city bearing long staves, with green garlands on their heads and gloves on their hands. One of the Strozzi family led his palfrey and, passing through the principal streets, the procession went to the church of S. Pier Maggiore (now destroyed). Dismounting, the Archbishop was conducted to the high altar, when his palfrey was taken possession of by the Abbess’s factor while its rich housings fell to the Strozzi. After saying mass the Archbishop retired to a room prepared for him “where was spread a sumptuous refection suited to so noble a lord.” He then returned to the church, and after a brief oration to the assembled nuns wedded the Abbess with a golden ring. That night he slept in the convent in a magnificent bed, specially prepared by the Abbess, which he took away to his own palace next day.16

Giovan Battista degl’Altoviti lived chiefly in Rome and was the intimate friend of the last scion of the Spanish family of Avila who made him his heir, with the obligation of adding the name of Avila to his own. With the death of the Marquess Corbizzo Altoviti-Avila, who left no son, the ancient family is extinct.

Under a window on the ground floor of the palace is an inscription recording a miracle performed by S. Zenobius. Here the saint met the funeral of a young child whose mother, a lady from Gaul, was walking beside the bier and weeping so bitterly that his heart was touched. Bidding the men stop and put down the bier, S. Zenobius laid his hands on the dead child and prayed,32 and the boy awoke and stretching forth his hand clasped his mother round the neck. The shrine of the saint at the corner of the Lambertesca palace is said to have been erected by her.

This picturesque palace was built by Giulio Parigi for the Senator Niccolò dell’Antella, who commissioned thirteen artists to fresco the façade.17 The upper part was painted in 1619 in fifteen days, as is recorded on a scroll held by one of the figures, while the lower part was finished the following year in eight. The frescoes by Giovanni da San Giovanni were considered the best, i. e. the arms of the Antella family surrounded by three amorini; the various deities and virtues, amongst which is the figure of an old man with an owl by his side, the reputed portrait of Donato dell’Antella, father of the Senator Niccolò; and a Cupid asleep with a swan. The whole façade is sadly dilapidated, and the frescoes are fast disappearing. Below the third window on the ground floor is a marble disk, said by some to mark where the dividing line was drawn across the Piazza when the game of calcio was played. But, as far as I can understand the extremely technical account of the game by Count Giovanni de’Bardi, surnamed il Puro in the Academia degl’Alterati,18 it marks33 the spot against which the ball was thrown at the beginning of each game. He describes the Piazza, as fenced in by posts and rails 2 braccia high; the length of the campo, or field of play, being 172 braccia, and the width 86. One side of the enclosure was called the muro, or wall, the other the fossa, or ditch, and in the centre of one side the six umpires were “on an honourable and elevated seat,” while at either end stood a pavilion draped with the colours of the players. Of these there were fifty-four, twenty-seven on either side, dressed in their distinctive colours, under the command of alfieri, or captains, and divided as follows: fifteen innanzi, or “forwards,” also called corridori, in three companies of five each, who followed the ball; five sconciatori, or “half-backs,” whose duty it was to prevent the innanzi from getting the ball (they often gave heavy blows, whence their name, from the word sconciare, to injure or hurt); four datori innanzi, or “three-quarters,” and three datori addietro, or “full-backs,” a kind of rear-guard to the former. I must refer my readers to Mr. Heywood’s delightful book Palio and Ponte for a full and vivid account of the game of calcio, from which I extract the following lines. “The object of the players was to drive the ball, with feet or fists, over what, for convenience sake, we may term the enemy’s ‘goal-line,’ although, as a matter of fact, in the Florentine game there were no goals, the whole line of posts and rails, at either end of the field of play, being open to attack. In order to score, it was necessary that the ball should be driven over this line by a direct punt or a fist blow. This was called a caccia, and the game was won by the side which gained the greatest number of caccie. The players were allowed to run with the ball, to kick, strike or throw it; but if, when thrown or struck with the open hand, it rose above34 the height of an ordinary man, this constituted a fallo, or fault; and two falli were equal to a caccia. There was also a fallo when the ball was driven out of the field of play, on the side of the Ditch, by a direct punt or fist blow; if, however, it bounced out off the ground, there was no penalty. After a caccia or two falli had been scored, ends were changed.” The victors then marched with their banner proudly displayed, while that of their adversaries was furled and slanted earthwards. This was a dangerous moment, as the conquered party sometimes refused to lower their banner, whereupon the others would fall upon them and tear it to pieces, and men were often severely wounded. The players were picked men, as “scoundrels are not to be tolerated,” writes the Count Giovanni, “neither artificers, servants, low-born nor infamous fellows, but honourable soldiers, gentlemen, lords and princes. Therefore to play Calcio, gentlemen from eighteen to forty-five years of age shall be chosen, well-matched, handsome, vigorous, of gallant bearing and of good repute.... It is not convenient for the player to wear aught save hose and doublet, a cap and light shoes, because the less he is hampered the more agile will he be, and the better able to use his limbs and to run swiftly. Above all should every one be careful to have handsome, elegant and well-fitting attire.”

Mr. Heywood, in the book I have quoted, scouts the notion that our national game of football came originally from Italy, where he says it was unknown before the XVth century. On the contrary, he suggests that the great English Condottiere, Sir John Hawkwood, may have introduced it into Florence. But several Italian writers declare that Julius Pollux exactly describes it in a book he dedicated to the Emperor Commodus,35 and that it has existed in Italy from time immemorial.

The game of calcio played in 1529 in order to flout the enemy, and show how little the Florentines cared for the Prince of Orange, is celebrated. Trumpeters were stationed on the top of the church of Sta. Croce, so that their triumphant blasts might be heard by the besiegers, whose gunners, fortunately for them, were not skilful enough to hit them from Poggio Imperiale.

Tournaments, jousts, ballets on horseback, masquerades and sham battles, often took place on the Piazza Sta. Croce. Here the Duke of Athens was hailed as Lord of Florence by the assembled people, but in the following year for several days he held grand jousts, and the citizens stood sullenly aloof. In 1468, when Lorenzo the Magnificent held the lists against all comers, “great was the concourse of jousters,” writes Niccolò Valori, “the magnificence of the arms and the wealth of jewels were only surpassed by the resplendent surcoats and habits of cloth of gold.” Mounted successively on chargers presented to him by the Duke of Ferrara and the King of Naples, and wearing armour sent to him by the Duke of Milan, Lorenzo de’ Medici won the prize of valour. Luca Pulci thus describes the entry of his friend and patron, and his beautiful banner:—

“E mi parea sentir sonar Miseno
Quando sul campo Lorenzo guignea
Sopra un caval che tremar fe il terreno:
E nel suo bel vesillo si vedea
Di sopra un sole e poi l’arcobalena
Dove a lettere d’oro si leggea
‘LE TEMS REVIENT’ che puo interpretarsi
Tornare il tempo e’ l secol rinnovarsi.”

A little later Poliziano celebrated in glowing lines the36 tournament held by Giuliano de’ Medici, but La Giostra was never finished, for when Giuliano was assassinated Poliziano laid down his pen.

After the death of the last of the family of dell’Antella the old palace passed to the Biagi, and then to the Della Stufa. It now belongs to Signor Mariani.


In 1490 Niccolò degl’Antinori bought this palace from the Boni della Catena. It is supposed by some to have been built by Baccio d’Agnolo, whilst others think that Giuliano da San Gallo was the architect on account of some resemblance with Palazzo Gondi.

The origin of the Antinori is as uncertain as that of their palace, but they are probably an offshoot of the powerful family of Buondelmonti. Francesco degl’Antinori was the first of twenty-three Priors of his house in 1351. His eldest great-nephew, Niccolò, bought the Boni palace, while the second, Bernardo, was the founder of another branch of the family whose palace is in Via de’ Serragli. Niccolò was four times elected a Prior, in 1498 he was Captain of Arezzo, three years later he was sent to quell a revolt at Pistoja, and then he was named ambassador at Milan. His sons took opposite sides in politics; the two eldest, ardent republicans, were banished when the Medici returned to Florence in 1513, whilst the third, Alessandro, was created a Senator by the Duke Alessandro. A like honour fell to his son Sebastiano who was selected by Cosimo I. to revise Boccaccio’s writings. Alessandro’s other son Lorenzo was a great traveller, a good musician and an excellent man of business who38 augmented the family wealth, and his descendants filled many important posts under the Grand Dukes of Tuscany.19 This fine palace still belongs to the Antinori family.


The principal palace of the Bardi family in Via de’ Bardi, where the beautiful Dianora is supposed to have lived (see p. 57), was bought by the family of the Tempi, whose name it still bears and for whom it was entirely altered and modernized by the architect Matteo Nigetti about 1610. Ser Benedetto di Tempo, notary to the Signoria in 1357, was their ancestor, several of the family were created Senators, while two became Cardinals. The Marquess Benedetto Tempi, who died in 1770, was the last of his race, and the palace now belongs to the Marquess Bargagli; so there is no representative of the ancient and powerful family of the Bardi in the Oltrarno. They were lords of the castle of Ruballa near Antella, and took their name from Pagano di Bardo, who made a donation of land to the church of Sta. Reparata of Florence in 1112. About that time the family settled in Florence in the Borgo Pidiglioso and built so many palaces and strong towers that the street was called Via de’ Bardi. Gualterotto de’ Bardi, a canon, joined in the crusade of 1215 and, after fighting at Damietta, became Bishop of Acre. Geri, who bore the standard of the Guelphs at the battle of Montaperti, was exiled with the rest of his party by the victorious Ghibellines, and his nephew Roberto, who wrote the life of Filippo Villani, was Chancellor of the University of Paris for forty years. Another nephew, Cino, fought by Dante’s side in the battle of Campaldino in 1289, but there cannot have been much friendship between them, as Cino’s brother was the husband of Beatrice Portinari. The fortune of their handsome nephew Piero, Lord of Vernio and of Mangona, was so large that even after the failure of the great Bardi-Peruzzi bank he was one of the foremost citizens40 of Florence, and aroused such jealousy by his riches, valour and remarkable personal beauty, that he was excluded from all offices. Publicly insulted by Jacopo Gabrielli, Captain of the Guard instituted by the oligarchy of the Nobili Popolani to hold the Grandi in check, he plotted with Bardo de’ Frescobaldi, who had also been insulted, to murder the Captain and to “reform” the city. One of his cousins, terrified at the possible consequences, secretly revealed the plot to the Signori, who caused the great bell of the palace to be rung and summoned the people to arms. The Bardi and other nobles fortified their towers, and civil war would have ensued but for the intervention of the Podestà, who promised a full pardon for all offences if the Grandi would lay down their arms. He broke his word, and all the nobles who had taken part in the conspiracy were banished. They only re-entered the city after the Duke of Athens became ruler, and a few years later made themselves so hated that, as Giovanni Villani writes:—

“On the 24th September, 1343, the people rose against the Bardi, Rossi, Frescobaldi, Mannelli and Nerli, Grandi of the Oltrarno, who at once seized and held the bridges. The palace of the sons of Messer Vieri de’ Bardi was strong and the tower well fortified, as was the house of the Mannelli at the head of the Ponte Vecchio, then built of wood. The people could not pass over it, nor could they cross the Ponte Rubaconte (now Ponte alle Grazie), on account of the strength of the palaces of the Bardi of S. Gregorio; so they left a guard under the houses of the Alberti and also at the Ponte Vecchio, and then, with many soldiers on horseback, they went to the Ponte alia Carraja which was guarded by the Nerli. The people of S. Frediano, Cuculia and the Fondaccio, were however so numerous that before the others arrived they had stormed the bridge-head and the houses of the Nerli, who were put to flight. And thus the victorious people passed41 over the bridge, and joined those of the Oltrarno and furiously attacked the Frescobaldi.... The Bardi seeing themselves bereft of any aid from the Rossi and the Frescobaldi were much alarmed, they nevertheless armed their barricades and fought in such manner that some were killed and many were wounded on either side; for the Bardi were well furnished with both horse and foot and had many mercenaries, so the people tried in vain to force their stockades. Four companies of those of the Oltrarno were then ordered to attack them from behind by the hill of S. Giorgio. The Bardi seeing themselves hotly besieged and assailed on all sides were much afeard, and began to abandon their barricades on the Piazza or Ponte, which were guarded by the tower of the Guelph party and by the palace of the sons of Messer Vieri de’ Bardi, in order to defend themselves against those who were coming from the cane-brakes of S. Giorgio. Then a certain Strozza, a German captain, got inside the barricades of the Piazza a Ponte with his brigade, with great peril to himself on account of the many stones and bricks which were hurled at him. He rushed to Sta. Maria Sopr’Arno, followed by the people, and was there joined by those of this side of the Arno who had crossed the bridge and, surmounting every obstacle on the other side, had joined with the people of the Oltrarno. They broke down the resistance and the power of the Bardi who fled to the Borgo S. Niccolò, imploring their neighbours and the company of the Gonfalone of the Scala, who had already taken possession of the palaces of the Bardi of S. Gregorio, to save their palaces from being sacked and burnt, and their lives from being taken. So the people who were on guard at the head of the bridge near the houses of the Alberti, saved the Bardi from death, but all their houses, from Sta. Lucia as far as the Ponte Vecchio, were robbed of everything by the popolo minuto ... who in their fury, after sacking the houses42 set them on fire. Twenty-two rich and splendid palaces and houses were burnt and it is estimated that the loss was more than 60,000 golden florins. Thus ended the resistance of the Bardi, in their great pride and power, against the people.”

Piero scornfully rejected the conditions imposed on the Grandi by the People and retired to his estate of Vernio where he died in 1345. His sons Sozzo and Notto were created Imperial Vicarii of the county of Vernio by the Emperor Charles IV., and the diploma was ratified by the Emperor Leopoldo in 1697 in favour of their descendants. It was abrogated by the treaty of Vienna in 1814, when Vernio became an integral portion of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. As long as Florence had been republican none of Piero de’ Bardi’s family entered the city, but under Cosimo I. his grandson Alberto settled there, whose son Pandolfo played the ugly part of confidant between Francesco de’ Medici and Bianci Cappello, whilst another son was the Franciscan friar who performed the first (secret) marriage of the Grand Duke and his mistress only a few days after the death of the Grand Duchess Joan of Austria. Alberto’s brother Camillo took up his residence in a palace in Via de’ Benci, bought by his ancestors from the old family of the Busini in 1482, and here his descendants still live. It is said to have been built by Brunelleschi and has a pretty courtyard surrounded by an arcade. The windows of the second floor are untouched, but the mural paintings (graffite) on the façade, believed to have been the first done in Florence, have been restored. A grandiloquent inscription records that Giovanni Bardi, Count of Vernio, founded in the XVIth century the society whose object was to reform recitative and melody; the first fruits of which were Dafne, with Peri’s music, and Euridice with music by Caccini.


In 1516 Messer Lorenzo Bartolini, Apostolic Pro-notary, and his brother Giovanni, bought five-eighths of a shop from Girolamo Deti, and a year later several more shops from heirs of other members of the same family. Two years afterwards garrulous old Giovanni Cambi notes in his Diary, “at this time Giovanni Bartolini began a small palace at the corner of Porta Rossa and the Terma, on the Piazza di Sta. Trinita, where was the tavern of the Camel, and painters, shoemakers and a baker. It will be a great ornament to the city, as it is in a good position. Some of the shops belonged to the Soldanieri, who have been for long away from the Florentine dominion, and now will have more reason than ever to remain abroad, as the sale was made without their consent.”

The Bartolini took possession of the property, and their pulchrum edifitium as the notary termed it, was already far advanced when the Venerable Maestro Berdardino d’Oderigo Soldanieri, a Dominican, arrived in Florence after a long absence. He lost no time in attacking Bartolini for having taken unlawful possession of three-eighths of the shop which belonged to his family, and was appeased with difficulty. However finally all was arranged and Lorenzo Bartolini took up his abode in the palace in 1521. Baccio d’Agnolo (Baglioni) was the architect, and Vasari tells us, “this was the first edifice built with square windows having frontispieces, and of which the columns of the door support the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice; therefore the Florentines derided these novelties with jibes and with sonnets, and they hung it about with garlands of boughs as is done in churches44 for the festivals, saying that it was more like the façade of a church than of a palace; so that Baccio was nigh losing his reason: however knowing that he had followed good examples and that the building was beautiful, he took heart.” I may add that he revenged himself by inscribing over the door, CARPERE PROMPTUS QUAM IMITARI, as a lesson to the people of Florence.

Vasari again mentions this palace in his life of Cronaca, blaming Baccio for having, “in order to imitate Cronaca, placed a huge antique cornice, in fact the frontispiece of Montecavallo, on the top of a small and elegant façade, so that nothing could be worse, and all for lack of knowledge; it looks like a large hat on a small head.” However he admits that “nevertheless the building has always been much praised.” It has also been imitated, for the palace of the Duc de Retz, in the Rue Montmartre in Paris, is copied from it. The origin of the remarkably pretty friezes which surround the house under the first and the second floor windows, of three poppies tied together, and the motto per non dormire, which forms an architectural ornament, is said to have been a trick attempted on Messer Bernuccio di Giovanni Salimbeni of Siena, whose descendants came to Florence and took the name of Bartolini. He was a great silk merchant, and with other friends passed through Florence every year to go to the fair of Sinalunga with his Florentine acquaintances. They determined to steal a march on Messer Bernuccio, and one year mixed poppy juice with the wine served at the banquet, intending to start at daylight and thus obtain the pick of the market. But old Salimbeni was warned, and managed to change the flasks, thus turning the tables on the Florentines to the great advantage of the Sienese. He then invented the device and the motto, with which his descendants ornamented their palace.


In 1868 the palace was sold to Prince Ercole Pio di Savoia; whose daughters still own it, and many readers47 will doubtless remember it as the old Hôtel du Nord. Inside is a very pretty loggia and the rooms are well-proportioned. It is sad to see one of the most exquisite buildings in Florence falling to ruin.

Opposite the palace, on the Piazza di Sta. Trinita, stands the column described by Evelyn in his Diary as being “of ophite, upon which is a statue of Justice, with her balance and sword, out of porphyry, and the more remarkable for being the first which had been carved out of that hard material, and brought to perfection, after the art had been utterly lost; they say this was done by hardening the tools in the juice of certain herbs. This statue was erected on that spot, because there Cosimo was first saluted with the news of Siena being taken.... Looking at the Justice, in copper, we are told that the Duke, asking a gentleman how he liked the piece, he answered, that he liked it very well, but that it stood too high for poor men to come at.”

The old palace of the Lamberteschi, with which the tower of the ancient family of the Gherardini had been incorporated, was bought in 1640 by Anton Maria Bartolommei, and to it was added, according to an entry in the catasto, “in 1824 a building, called the tower of the Girolami, at the corner of Via Lambertesca and Via Por Santa Maria, bought by the Marquess Girolamo Bartolommei from the heirs of Count Covoni, whose wife was the last of the Girolami. According to tradition the progenitor of the Bartolommei was Marcovaldo, who came into Italy with the Emperor Frederick I., and was created Marquess of Ancona and Count of Romagna. His descendant Sigismondo48 was Captain of War in Perugia in 1358; beaten by the Pontifical troops, he fled to Florence, where his son Bartolommeo obtained the citizenship and gave his name to the family. His son Girolamo was implicated in the conspiracy against the Medici with Orazio Pucci and Zanobi Girolami, and sentenced to death in contumaciam; another son fled to Lyons, where he made a large fortune in trade, which eventually came back to the family. Thus Anton Maria was enabled to buy the palace and restore the adjoining church of S. Stefano. Girolamo de’ Bartolommei, a poet of the XVIIth century, was Consul of the Florentine Academy in 1648, and published two volumes of tragedies, but his best known work is America, a poem written in honour of Amerigo Vespucci. Mattia, created Marquess of Montegiove by Fernando II., was ambassador at Paris under Cosimo III., and from his son descended the late Marquess Ferdinando Bartolommei, last of the family, who was one of the factors of United Italy.20

The Gherardini, whose old tower was incorporated in the Lamberteschi palace, were Guelphs; many of them fought at Montaperti, while eight signed the peace of the Cardinal Latino in 1280. Andrea Gherardini, one of the leaders of the White Party, was exiled together with Dante, and his brother Lotteringo was killed in a street skirmish by adherents of Corso Donato. They were a fighting race; five of them fell at the battle of Montecatini in 1315, and the two last scions of the family died in battle, one in the Seven Years War in Germany, the other in Flanders. Passerini affirms that a Gherardini went to Ireland in the XIIIth century, and was the progenitor of the great family of the Fitzgeralds.21


The Girolami whose tower adjoins that of the Gherardini51 claimed S. Zenobius, Bishop of Florence in the VIth century, as belonging to their family, and on the 25th May his statue in a niche in the tower used to be decorated with garlands of flowers, with great ceremony and much blowing of trumpets. The family possessed the ring of the saint, held in such estimation as a wonder-working relic that Lorenzo the Magnificent sent it in 1482 to Paris to Louis XI. The king was cured of a severe illness after touching it, and sent it back in a jewelled box of great value which the Gherardini sold, and founded a rich canonry in Sta. Maria del Fiore with the proceeds. In 1523 Raffaello de’ Girolami was Gonfalonier of Justice, and five years later Commissary of War. Condemned to death after the capitulation of Florence, the sentence was commuted at the request of Don Ferrante Gonzaga to imprisonment for life in the fortress of Pisa, where he was poisoned by order of Pope Clement VII., as soon as the Imperialists left Tuscany. One of his sons fought as a lad against Cosimo I. at Siena under Strozzi, and was sentenced to lose his head, but escaped to France. Another obtained permission to return to Florence after long years of exile, and as all his estates had been confiscated, left nothing to his son save the family hatred of the Medici. He joined Orazio Pucci and Girolamo Bartolommei in conspiring against the Grand Duke, and was condemned to death in contumaciam. Raffaello de’ Girolami founded the Academy of the Sapienza in Rome, and became a Cardinal in 1743, and the last of the family died about forty years later, appointing the sons of his sister, married to Count Covoni, his heirs.


This palace is chiefly interesting because part of it (corner of Via de’ Giraldi and Via de’ Pandolfini) was built where once stood the house of Giovanni and Matteo Villani. The Salviati bought it with some others, and Silvani erected for them a large palace, which afterwards became the property of Prince Camillo Borghese. He purchased many adjoining houses, and enlarged it in 1823, when he must have spent a fortune on the magnificent internal decorations. It now belongs to the Borghese Club.

The family of the Villani came from Borgo S. Lorenzo in the XIIIth century, and took their name from Villano, son of Stoldo. Giovanni, the famous chronicler, was the eldest son of Villano, and superintended the building of the campanile of the Badia of Florence and of the doors of S. Giovanni. He was also Master of the Mint, and sat several times as Prior in the Palazzo de’ Signori. In 1325 he fought at Altopascio, and soon afterwards was imprisoned for debt as a partner of the Buonaccorsi, whose bank was ruined by the failure of the Bardi. His delightful Cronica, picturesque, pure and elegant in style, and wonderfully impartial, has been a mine of wealth to all students of the history of old Florence. It was continued, after he died of the plague in 1348, by his brother Matteo, until he fell a victim to the same malady in 1363. Matteo’s eldest son Filippo added forty-two chapters to the chronicle, but of very inferior interest, bringing it down to 1365. He was also the author of a commentary on Dante, and of Philippi solitarii de origine civitatis Florentiæ, et ejusdem famosis civibus, which remained in manuscript until 1747, when the second part, containing the lives of various famous persons, was published. He died in 1404, and the last descendant of his brother Giovanni in 1617.


Bastiano, son of Zanobi Ciaini, also called Montaguto or Montauto, from his castle at Santa Maria a Montauto, made a large fortune in trade. In 1540 he bought several houses in the Via de’ Servi, and summoned Domenico, son of Baccio d’Agnolo (Baglioni), who Vasari declares to have been an architect of no common merit, “besides carving most excellently in wood,” to build him a palace. A brother inherited it, who must have had losses as in 1572 the house was let to Messer Raffaello de’ Medici, a knight of San Stefano, and four years later was sold to Messer Giovanni Niccolini, who after his wife’s death was created a Cardinal through the influence of the Medici.

Giovanni added to the palace, filled it with costly works of art, and fitted up one room for his fine collection of coins. Beneath the architraves of two doors on the ground floor, under the loggia, is still to be seen his name, IOANNES NICOLINUS AUG. CARD. F. As Giovanni Dosio was the architect employed by him to build the fine Niccolini chapel in Santa Croce, it is probable that he also made the additions to the palace. Filippo, his son, again enlarged it, and inscribed the date, A.D. MDCLV. on the central arch of the gallery above the loggia. About the same time the Grand Duke created him Marquess of Ponsacco and Camugliano, with remainder to collateral relations in case he had no children. In 1666 Lorenzo, a descendant of his great-uncle, inherited the palace, and added to it, as is shown by the inscription above a door in the courtyard, LAUREN. NICOLINI. PONTIS. SACCI. MARCHIO. He bought some small houses and adjoining land to make a garden, and tied up the palace and its contents upon his heirs male. But his son Filippo left it54 to his sons in common, and they sold the old family palace in 1824 to Count Demetrio Bouturlin, Privy Councillor and Chamberlain to the Emperor of Russia, whose descendants still own it. In 1854 the façade was plastered from the first floor upwards, and decorated in graffite, and with paintings. During the few years that Florence was the capital of Italy, Palazzo Bouturlin was the residence of the British ambassador, Sir Henry Elliot.

Ancestor of the great and powerful family of the Buondelmonti was Sichelmo, who lived about 905, and whose son Azzo, Lord of Petrojo, was the grandfather of Giovanni, founder of the Vallombrosan Order. His other son, Rinieri Pagano, ruled the whole Val di Pesa and from him descended Uguccione and Rosso, whose feudal castle of Montebuoni was taken and razed to the ground by order of the Commune of Florence in 1135 at the instigation, it is said, of the Uberti who were jealous of their power. Half in derision, half in fear, they were called the Buoni del Monte (Good men of the Mountain) by travellers who dreaded being waylaid. Uguccione and Rosso were forced to come and live in Florence, and from Buondelmonte, son of Uguccione, the family took their name, while Rosso’s son Scolajo, founded the family of the Scolari.

Buondelmonte’s three sons, all hard fighters, were made knights of the Golden Spur, and it was the murder of his grandson and namesake by the Amidei, that plunged Florence into civil war in 1215.

Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti was among the young men invited by Messer Mazzingo Mazzinghi to a banquet55 at his castle near Campi, to celebrate his receiving the honour of knighthood. During dinner the buffoon of the house snatched a plate from before Uberto Infangati, a friend of Buondelmonte, who curtly reproved the jester’s insolence. Oddo Fifanti defended the man, and losing his temper, took the plate from him and hurled it at Infangati. Young Buondelmonte then rose from the table and attacked Fifanti with his dagger. Friends made peace between them and a marriage was arranged between Buondelmonte and a daughter of Lambertuccio Amidei and of Fifanti’s sister. A few days before the wedding the bridegroom rode under the windows of the Donati palace and Forese Donati’s wife, Madonna Gualdrada, called to him and bade him come up. She laughed him to scorn for a coward, who out of fear of the Uberti and the Fifanti was going to marry an ugly girl. “All the more do I grieve,” she added, “because I had intended your old playmate, my daughter, to be your bride.” Saying this she led him into the next room where her daughter “the most beautiful maiden in Florence,” writes Villani, sat singing. Buondelmonte, as the old saying is, “lost his intellect through his eyes,” and forgetting his plighted word asked for her hand. The wedding was fixed for the 10th February, the very day he was to have married the daughter of Lambertuccio Amidei. Furious at the insult offered to their house, the Amidei summoned their relations to meet in the church of S. Stefano, and Schiatta degl’Uberti proposed to slice the fair face of young Buondelmonte and spoil his beauty. But Mosca Lamberti replied in the well-known words: “Before thou beatest or woundest, dig thine own grave. Give him what he deserves. A thing finished is done with.” And so his death was determined.

On Easter morn 1315 the handsome young bridegroom, clothed in white with a garland of flowers on his head, was riding over the Ponte Vecchio on his favourite white56 palfrey. As he debouched into Por Sta. Maria the great doors of the Amidei palace flew open, and the murderers, led by Schiatta degl’Uberti who gave the first blow and knocked Buondelmonte off his horse, killed him near the old statue of Mars at the corner of the bridge. Well may Dante exclaim:

“O Buondelmonti! what ill counselling
Prevail’d on thee to break the plighted bond?
Many, who now are weeping, would rejoice,
Had God to Ema given thee, the first time
Thou near our city camest. But so was doom’d:
Florence! on that maimed stone which guards the bridge,
The victim, when thy peace departed, fell.”
Par. Canto xvi., Cary’s trans.

“This day witnessed the beginning of the destruction of Florence,” writes an old chronicler. The beautiful young bride, seated on the funeral car with her dead husband’s head in her lap, went through the streets calling for vengeance on his murderers. The city was divided into two factions and Guelphs and Ghibellines flew at each other’s throats. After some years of incessant strife another marriage was arranged. This time it was the daughter of a Buondelmonti who wedded an Uberti. But at a banquet in the same old castle of the Mazzinghi at Campi, a quarrel arose in which Schiatta degl’Uberti was killed, while Oddo Fifanti had his nose cut off and his mouth slit from ear to ear. Neri degl’Uberti thereupon sent back his wife to her father saying he would not beget children from the daughter of a race of traitors.

The Buondelmonti were all handsome, which probably accounts for the love stories connected with their name. Not many years passed ere all Florence was keenly interested in the fate of Ippolito Buondelmonti, the hero of a manuscript Latin tale and of a ballad printed in the XVIth century. In the Osservatore Fiorentino the story is told as follows. “Ippolito Buondelmonti, one of the57 handsomest and most polite youths of Florence, saw the young daughter of Amerigo de’ Bardi at the feast of S. Giovanni, and was seized with such love for the maiden that her grace and beauty were ever present to him. When he heard who she was, in despite of the bitter hatred between the two houses, he studied in what way he could please her, passing often under her windows and following her when she went out. Then reflecting on the great difficulties arising from the enmity of their parents, he was the most sorrowful man in the world. At length consumed by continual grief he became so ill that he lay in bed and no doctor could discover his malady. His mother, who loved him tenderly, implored him to say what was the cause of his thus wasting away, and after long resistance he confessed his love for Dianora de’ Bardi. She, who cared for nought save to restore her son to life, went to an old friend, Madonna Contessina, a cousin of the Bardi, who lived in a villa at Montecelli half a mile from the city, and entreated her so earnestly that at last Contessina promised to help her.

“It being September a solemn feast was to be celebrated in that district, and Dianora was invited with many other girls, her friends and relations. After a joyous midday meal the girls went to repose in various rooms, and Dianora was led into one where Ippolito had been hid since the day before. The maiden was much alarmed but he, with submissive and gentle manner, said he would rather die than cause her any fear, and offered her his dagger to pierce his heart. The end was that she promised to accept him as her lord on the condition that everything was to be kept secret from her parents. It was arranged between them that the next night she would let down a cord from her window to which he was to attach a silken ladder, and so they parted. At midnight Ippolito stole cautiously across the Ponte Vecchio with the ladder hid in his cap, but as he reached Amerigo’s palace in Via de’ Bardi, the58 Bargello, or head of the police, with his guard, came down the street from S. Niccolò. Ippolito fled up the Costa, losing his cap as he ran. As ill-luck would have it another patrol was coming down from the Porta S. Giorgio and he was seized and taken to the Palazzo del Podestà. To shield Dianora he declared that he had intended first to rob and then set fire to the palace of the enemy of his house. The Podestà refused to believe him and sent for his father, before whom he repeated his words, and the next morning the banner of Justice on the old palace and the tolling of the great bell, announced that a culprit had been condemned to death. Ippolito obtained as a last favour to be led to execution past the palace of the Bardi, whose pardon he declared he wished to ask, but really in hopes of gazing once more on the face of his love. Dianora saw him from her window, and casting aside all maidenly modesty rushed down into the street exclaiming: “He is my affianced husband and only risked his life out of his great love for me.” The procession was stopped and word was sent to the Podestà, who stayed the execution and summoned the lovers and their families before him. There Dianora pleaded for the life of her lover and for her own love so successfully, that not only was the marriage allowed, but the Bardi and the Buondelmonti swore friendship. The whole city rejoiced and Ippolito and Dianora lived most happily for many years and were the parents of many children.”

In June 1378, when the Arti, or Guilds, rose against the nobles, and to the cry of Viva il Popolo sacked and burnt many of the old towers and palaces, those of the Buondelmonti, which extended from the Piazza Sta. Trinita some way down the Borgo S.S. Apostoli, were destroyed. The façade of the present palace, which must have been far more imposing before the great loggia at the top was bricked up and divided into many rooms, was frescoed by Jacone early in the XVIth century, with subjects59 from the life of Pippo Spano,22 but all traces of his work have perished. The name of Buondelmonti occurs frequently in the annals of Florence among her soldiers and her ambassadors, while Esau, son of Manente who married a sister of the Grand Seneschal Acciaiuoli (see p. 2) and followed his brother-in-law to Naples where he was made Lord High Chamberlain, attained the dignity of King of Rumenia and Despot of Arta, but died childless.

Zanobi Buondelmonti was implicated in the plot to assassinate the Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, and on hearing of the arrest of Alamanni, one of the conspirators, he hurried home to conceal himself in one of those secret hiding places which existed in all large houses. But his wife, with courage “more worthy of a man than of a woman,” writes Nardi, drove him almost by force out of the house, gave him all the money she could gather together, and told him to make haste and cross the frontier. As he left the city he met the Cardinal returning from his afternoon drive, and barely escaped being seen by dashing into the shop of a sculptor. He reached the frontier in safety and went to his friend Ludovico Ariosto, then Podestà of Castelnuovo in the Ferrara territory, who had always been Buondelmonti’s guest when he came to Florence. Varchi says that he was also an intimate friend of Machiavelli “whose virtues he acquired without being tainted by any of his vices.” He was eventually pardoned, and died with his whole family of the plague at Barga, where he was Commissary. Andrea, one of the few of the family who entered the60 Church, was Archbishop of Florence. The family came to an end in 1774 when the Senator Francesco Giovacchino de’ Buondelmonti died, and the palace is now the property of Signor Adami.

Ottaviano de’ Medici, whose house adjoined the Orti Medicei, bought, in order to obtain an exit into Via San Gallo, a house, courtyard and loggia, from the Compagnia dei Tessitori di Drappi, an offset of the Guild of Silk. The beautiful loggia in Via San Gallo, which Signor Iodico del Badia attributes to Giuliano da San Gallo, was walled up, but has recently been opened and well restored.23 Ottaviano was held in such high esteem by the Medici family that Clement VII. made him administrator of all their property in Tuscany, and guardian of the young Duchess Caterina, the orphan daughter of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, who afterwards became Queen of France. When Ippolito and Alessandro de’ Medici were forced to fly the city in 1527, Ottaviano took up his abode in the great Medici palace, in order to protect it from being looted. With the accession of Alessandro his duties ceased as far as the palace and the villas were concerned, but it was only when Cosimo I. ascended the throne that he was called upon to hand over the vast territorial possessions. He was found to be a debtor of 5,106 ducats, and in payment of this sum he ceded to the Duke his house adjoining the Orti Medicei.


When Francesco I. succeeded his father he commissioned Bernardo Buontalenti to build him a palace in the Orti, where he had a chemical laboratory and a furnace for smelting different metals in the hopes of discovering how to make gold, and part of Ottaviano’s house was incorporated with it. The Grand Duke left the palace to Don Antonio, his supposed son by Bianca Cappello, and Ferdinando I. confirmed the donation on the condition that he never married. Don Antonio embellished the interior, and made a beautiful garden, which he decorated with marble and bronze statues. He took a great interest in printing and had a private press, and continued the chemical experiments of the Grand Duke Francesco. Galileo was a friend of his, and Count Pier Filippo Covoni, to whose pamphlets we are indebted for the account of this palace, cites several of the Prince’s letters to him.24 After his death the Casino passed to the Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici, who employed Matteo Rosselli and other artists to fresco some of the rooms which he filled with pictures. These were distributed among the various galleries of Florence by his heir, Cosimo III.; the statues and busts were sent to the gardens of Boboli, Petraja and Castello, and the fine cabinets and tapestries were removed to the Pitti palace. For many years the house remained empty; then it was used as barracks for the bodyguard of the Grand Duke, and in 1846 it became the custom house. During the few years that Florence was the capital of United Italy, the Foreign Office was installed in the Casino, which then assumed the more serious name of Palazzo del Buontalenti. It now is the seat of the Court of Appeal, and of the Assize Court.


The Canacci came originally from S. Stefano ad Ugnano, and took their name from a certain Lapo surnamed Canaccio. That they were rich is proved by their fine old palace, which has just been restored. Ser Giovanni was notary to the Republic in 1422, but the name of Canacci would have remained comparatively unknown if the Duke Jacopo Salviati had not fallen in love with the beautiful wife of Giustino. I cannot do better than tell the sad tale in the words of an anonymous writer of the time, whose manuscript is in the Marucelliana library in Florence.

“There was in Florence a gentleman of the old and honourable family of the Canacci, named Giustino, well known to me and to others still alive. He was considered a man of but little sense, because having several grown-up children by a former wife, and being near seventy years of age, he took to himself a second wife, Caterina, inferior to himself in rank, but endowed with marvellous beauty. Now Giustino was the ugliest, most tiresome, and the dirtiest man in Florence, which encouraged many to solicit the good graces of Caterina, who apparently led a modest life until they say she listened to Lorenzo Serzelli and Vincenzio Carlini. There were also two youths, friends of Jacopo Salviati, Duke of Giuliano, the greatest personage for birth, enormous wealth and other admirable qualities, in the city of Florence (always excepting the princes of the ruling house), who a few years before had taken to wife Donna Veronica, daughter to Don Carlo Cybo, Prince of Massa and Carrara. This lady had not much beauty, but such pride and conceit that the Duke was driven to seek for comfort elsewhere.... It was rumoured63 that the Duchess entered S. Pier Maggiore one morning, and as though by chance placed herself by the side of Caterina. In a few words she bade her never again speak to her husband, and Caterina replied, perchance with more arrogance and spirit than became her condition, thus increasing the ire of the Duchess and ensuring her own ruin. The Duke’s love grew every day, and the Duchess determined to cut the thread. Rumour has it that she tried to poison Caterina, but failed, and determined to take vengeance in another way. She sent for the brothers Bartolomeo and Francesco Canacci, youths of about twenty-four or so, who, though they did not inhabit, yet frequented their father’s house. After representing to them that Caterina’s licentious life brought ignominy on themselves and their posterity, and that as persons of birth and consideration it behoved them to free themselves of her presence, she promised to give them every help if they would do this, and to protect them from any future peril.... The Duchess hired four assassins from Massa, who entered the city one by one to avoid suspicion, and were kept by her until the time was ripe for effecting her abominable project. On the night of 31st December, 1638, Bartolomeo Canacci, accompanied by the aforesaid bandits, who stood at the opposite side of the street in the shade, knocked at his step-mother’s door. Her maid looked out of the window and asked who was there, and on his answering friends, recognized his voice, and drew the cord of the latch. Bartolomeo and the assassins rushed upstairs with such fury that Serzelli and Carlini, who were sitting with Caterina, suspected some evil thing and, springing to their feet, fled by another staircase on to the roof, whence they got into a neighbouring house. Caterina was then murdered by these infamous executors of the barbarous cruelty of the Duchess, together with her maid, probably to prevent her giving evidence. After this the bodies of these two most unfortunate women were cut to pieces, and64 carried into a carriage. Parts of the bodies were thrown into a well, others into the Arno, where they were found the next day, but the head of Caterina was taken to the Duchess.... On Sundays and holidays she used to send to the Duke’s room a silver basin covered by a fair cloth, containing collars, cuffs and such like things. But on this first of January the present was of a different kind. Taking the head of poor Caterina, which still preserved the beauty which had been the cause of her death, Donna Veronica placed it in the basin, covered it with the usual cloth, and sent it by her waiting-woman, who knew naught of the business, into the Duke’s room. When he rose and lifted the cloth to take his clean linen, let his horror be imagined at seeing so pitiful a sight. Knowing full well that his wife had done this deed, he would have no more of her, and they say he never was seen to smile again.” The account then describes how Bartolomeo Canacci was beheaded, while the real assassin, the Duchess, went unpunished, and ends with the reflection, “Whoso foregathers with great people is the last at the table and the first at the gallows.”

The last of the Canacci family died in 1777, and the palace now belongs to the Commune of Florence.

This palace consists of two separate houses; the one adjoining the church of Sta. Lucia was a hospice for pilgrims in 1283, and tradition says that S. Francis of Assisi and S. Dominick met here; history, however, affirms that the saints were never together in Florence. More interesting is the connection of both church and67 palace with Dante, who is said to have often dined with the brethren of the Ospizio de’ Pelegrini after hearing mass in Sta. Lucia on Sundays and holidays. The other palace, with a most picturesque staircase and a fine well-head, belonged to a branch of the Bardi family who assumed the name of Ilarione, or Larione. They became bankrupt, and it was sold to Giovanni Canigiani in 1465; and here the mother of Petrarch, Eletta Canigiani, is said to have been born. The hospice had degenerated into two small houses, which also belonged to the Larione, and were sold at the same time to another of the Canigiani. They were afterwards rebuilt and made into one house.


The tradition is that the Canigiani left Fiesole when the town was destroyed, and settled in Florence, where they became one of the great Guelph families; their ancient houses, towers and loggia, were in the Via de’ Bardi, near the Ponte Vecchio. After the defeat of their party at Montaperti in 1260, they took refuge in Lucca, until the Guelphs regained their supremacy in Florence, when twelve of the family became Gonfaloniers of Justice, and fifty-five were Priors. Messer Piero Canigiani is mentioned in the Decameron as being Chancellor to the Empress of Constantinople, and on his return to Italy he filled many important posts. With the exception of Bernardo, who joined Filippo Strozzi and was hanged, the Canigiani were devoted adherents of the Medici. Cosimo I. created a cousin and namesake of Bernardo’s, one of the founders of the Academia della Crusca, a Senator, and Alessandro Canigiani was made Archbishop of Aix through the influence of Queen Catherine de’ Medici. The family became extinct in 1813, when the Giugni succeeded to the name and estates, and to the fine palaces.

On the wall opposite to the Canigiani palace is an inscription recording the landslip in Via de’ Bardi, in which Bernardo Buontalenti nearly lost his life. Twice before the hill had slipped, in 1284 and in 1490, overwhelming the68 houses built on the slope of the hill of S. Giorgio. In a manuscript in the Magliabecchiana library is an account of what happened on the 12th November, 1547, written probably by one of the Nasi family; perhaps by Lorenzo Nasi, for whom Raphael painted the Madonna del Cardellino, now in the Uffizi. The picture is said to have been dug out from under the ruins of his house.

“I will tell how my house fell, and how we were saved. I rose early as is my wont, and went into my study. Many years before I had noticed that the house had somewhat suffered on the side against the hill, but never did I imagine that there was any danger of its falling. A man from Campiglio was staying with me, and being ill with fever he could not sleep. All night long he heard ceilings cracking and bits of mortar falling, so he rose at daybreak, and seeing certain fissures in the walls, dressed as well as he could and came to warn me. I, believing that these were old cracks, paid small attention to him, and continued my writing. But he being alarmed, left the house. Soon afterwards I heard a great noise, and felt the house tremble, and I left my room to find out the cause of the noise, when my people told me that a large stone pilaster at the foot of the stairs was broken, which alarmed me. Whilst I was thinking what was to be done, and whether we ought to leave the house, I felt a very great shaking, and saw cracks opening in the window-sills, doorways and walls. So with great fear I thought only of saving our lives, and began to shout aloud that every one was to fly with me. Seizing one child in my arms, taking another by the hand, and giving others to my people, shouting and calling I ran to the stairs. Some had already given way, and mortar was falling on all sides. In yet greater terror I rushed down the stairs and out of the house, and took refuge in Sta. Lucia. By my side and behind me ran others, and the last one to come was my wife. I being on the steps of Sta. Lucia, and she still in69 the street, I caught her by the arm and helped her to mount the steps of the church. Hardly was she safe inside when our house fell all at once with such impetus against the façade of the Canigiani palace and of Sta. Lucia, that I thought the church and all the houses by the river would have been knocked down. No bit of wall higher than one foot remained standing; the vaults gave way, and the houses were ruined to their foundations. Two horses were buried under our house, and all our clothes, linen, and furniture, of every description. It was only by the especial grace of God that of the seventeen persons in our house none were lost. Had we lingered long enough to say a credo, or had Sta. Lucia been shut, we should all have been killed.”

Only three persons lost their lives in this catastrophe, a fourth, a boy of eleven, was saved by a beam falling against the wall, under which he remained unhurt. Baldinucci tells us that “while the child was crying for help under the ruins, and people were throwing bread and other food down an aperture, in order to keep him alive while they tried to remove a huge mass of stones, bricks and wood, a servant of the Duke Cosimo passed by. Horrified at what he saw, he went to the palace immediately and told his master. The Duke ordered that every effort should be made to liberate the wretched boy, and when he was free he took him into his palace, and ever after protected and aided him.” The boy grew up, and became that excellent and universal genius Bernardo Buontalenti.


Many were the palaces owned by the Capponi family in Florence, now only two bear their name. One in the Via de’ Bardi belonging to the Counts Capponi (see p. 71), and this, built by Fontana in 1705 for the Marquess Alessandro Capponi, the largest private palace in the city, with a handsome staircase and a fine garden. Here in 1876 died the Marquess Gino Capponi, one of the makers of United Italy, last of his branch of the family, regretted by his fellow-citizens, who had a great admiration for his noble character. His Storia della Republica di Firenze has a world-wide reputation. The palace now belongs to his daughter, Marchioness Farinola.

The Capponi family is said to have come from Lucca about 1216, and gave no less than ten Gonfaloniers and fifty-six Priors to the city of their adoption, in whose history they played an important part. With Gino Capponi, born in 1364, began a series of remarkable men. Sent by the Republic of Florence in 1405 to take possession of the citadel of Pisa, and of her two outlying fortresses, he accomplished his task, and left a garrison of hired troops in the citadel. Soon after his departure the Pisans rose and retook the citadel, to the great dismay of the Florentines, who had paid a goodly sum to Visconti and his French ally for the possession of the prize they had long coveted. When Pisa appealed to Florence, as a sister Republic, to return the two fortresses, promising to make good all expenses, Gino remarks in his Commentary, “With these and like phrases they talked in such a disgusting manner that every man in Florence determined he would go naked rather than not conquer Pisa.”25 In March the following year he and71 Maso degl’Albizzi were appointed Commissaries of the army before Pisa, and the famine-stricken city surrendered in October, when Gino Capponi was named governor. He died in 1451, leaving three sons; Agostino, from whom descend the branch of the Counts Capponi in Via de’ Bardi; Lorenzo, whose son of the same name established himself in trade at Lyons, and for his charity and munificence during the famine of 1573 was called the father of the poor; and the more famous Neri. He and Cosimo de’ Medici were the two most powerful men in Florence. “Neri was the wisest; the other, Cosimo, was the richest,” writes Cavalcanti. Riches proved to be of more avail, as Neri’s friend and fellow-soldier, Baldaccio d’Anghiari, was murdered, probably with the connivance of Cosimo; and his opposition some years later to the Florentine, or rather Medicean, policy in Lombardy was useless. His son Piero made a large fortune as a merchant when quite a young man, and though his family had always belonged to the popular party as opposed to the Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificent entrusted him with many political missions. In 1494 he sent him as Commissary of the Republic to the camp of Alfonso of Aragon, who was fighting against the Pope and the Venetians; the Neapolitan army was in full retreat when the civilian Capponi placed himself at the head of the troops, rallied them, and led them to victory. The merchant and the diplomatist showed that he was a born leader, and when Piero de’ Medici was driven out of Florence, he was the man to whom her citizens turned. His proud answer to Charles VII. of France is a matter of history. The King, holding his ultimatum in his hand, declared that if it was not accepted he would order his trumpets to sound; whereupon Piero Capponi started forward, and seizing the paper tore it from top to bottom, exclaiming, “If you sound your trumpets we will ring our bells.” Those present were aghast, but Capponi knew Charles wanted money; moreover, Nardi tells us the French72 were alarmed, as some days before they had seen what a crowd of resolute, well-armed men, the ringing of a bell had brought forth. So the King turned off his threat with a bad joke on Capponi’s name. When Piero Capponi was killed at the head of his men during the siege of the little village of Sojana, Guicciardini says that many of the Florentines, whom he had served so well, openly rejoiced because he was regarded as the head of the party opposed to Savonarola.

His son Niccolò was chief of the Ottimati party, and Baccio Valori advised the Cardinal Passerini, who governed the city for Clement VII., to arrest him, but he was afraid. After the flight of the Cardinal with his two wards, Ippolito and Alessandro de’ Medici, Niccolò Capponi made a long speech in the Great Council, but his prudent advice, a reconciliation with Clement VII. through the intervention of the Emperor Charles V., which implied the restoration of the Medici as citizens of paramount authority, but not as absolute rulers, was not taken. In 1527 he was elected Gonfalonier of Justice, and according to Varchi, the citizens were soon divided into several parties. The Ottomati, or richer nobility who followed Capponi, the Popolani, or popular party, some of whom were called Adirati, being decidedly adverse to Capponi, and the more violent section of the latter, the Arrabiati, who advocated the destruction, root and branch, of the Medici and of their adherents. Niccolò had a difficult part to play and his extraordinary proposal, after reciting nearly word for word a sermon of Savonarola’s in the Great Council, to proclaim Jesus Christ King of Florence was probably, as Varchi suggests, a move to gain the support of the Frateschi, a party of considerable consequence. In spite of many intrigues he was re-elected Gonfalonier of Justice the following year, “when it appearing to many, and with reason,” writes Varchi, “that the authority of the Ten was too great, and therefore dangerous,73 fifteen citizens of the greater and five of the lesser Guilds were added to the Great Council.” They were called the Arroti alla Pratica de’ Dieci, and sat for six months. Hearing that the Gonfalonier, through Jacopo Salviati, corresponded with the Pope, a law was enacted, in spite of his protestations that what he did was for the good of the Republic, that no one, for good or for evil, should communicate with the Pope. Capponi tendered his resignation, which was not accepted, and he secretly continued his correspondence with Rome, which nearly cost him his life. One day in the Council Chamber he dropped a letter from a friend of Salviati, which was found by a Popolano, a violent antagonist of his, and in a few hours the city was in an uproar. He was deposed and imprisoned, and Carducci, an Arrabiato and his personal enemy, named in his stead. At the end of three days’ imprisonment Niccolò Capponi was brought before the magistrates, and Varchi describes how he entered the Council Chamber, “with a black cloak, and his hood thrown back on his shoulders for greater deference, showing on his usually placid countenance signs rather of anger than of fear.” His long speech to “the Magnificent Gonfalonier, the noble Signori, the most honoured magistrates and citizens, my judges,” is an able piece of special pleading, neither admitting nor denying his guilt. Varchi declares that the letter, which contained nothing of very great importance, was not lost by Capponi at all, but that Francesco Valori dropped it by order of the Pope, who was tired of Niccolò’s beating about the bush, and wanted to sow discord in the city, hoping once more to obtain the sovereignty for his family. Anyhow Capponi was acquitted and must have recovered some of his old popularity, as in the late autumn he formed part of a deputation to the Emperor at Genoa to try and soften his heart towards Florence. Charles was civil, but obdurate; Florence must be reconciled to the Pope, and open her gates to the Medici. On his way home74 Capponi met Michelangelo, who was going to study the fortifications of Ferrara, who told him what a desperate state Florence was in. Already ill and over-strained, Niccolò Capponi lay down and died, as the old chroniclers tell us, of grief and despair, in the small village of Castelnuovo, in the Garfagnana. His nephew Luigi was the husband of the beautiful Luisa Strozzi who was poisoned probably by the orders of the Duke Alessandro de’ Medici.

Piero Capponi’s palace in Florence was on the Lung’Arno Guicciardini.

In former times the Arno flowed at the foot of this palace, but a large part of it was cut off to make the Lung’Arno Torrigiani in 1866. It was built for that wise and honest citizen Niccolò Da Uzzano by Lorenzo de’ Bicci, and some traces of the ancient architecture can be traced here and there in the interior. The Da Uzzano were men of note in the time of the Emperor Henry VII., and for the part they took in the defence of Florence were placed under the ban of the Empire. Niccolò Da Uzzano, born about 1359, was thrice Gonfalonier of Justice; as an ardent lover of liberty he opposed, but without success, the election of Giovanni de’ Medici to this office and while he lived held the balance of power between Rinaldo degl’Albizzi and Giovanni’s son, Cosimo the Elder. His famous speech to Niccolò Barbadori, given by Machiavelli in his Storia di Firenze, is that of a far-seeing statesman, and shows that the Florentines were right in saying that his death was a public calamity. His only daughter married a Capponi and the palace belongs to their descendant Count Luigi Capponi. The surname of “delle75 Rovinate,” or the ruined, by which this branch of the family is known, arose from the landslip nearly opposite the palace (see p. 68). The church of Sta. Lucia close by bears the same appellation.

Before the building of the Palazzo de’ Signori in 1292 the Priors met in the Cerchi palace in Via del Garbo, now divided into many houses. Only vestiges of their towers, and of their once famous loggia, can still be traced at the corner of Via de’ Cerchi and Via de’ Cimatori. Piero Monaldi writes in his manuscript history of the ancient family of the Cerchi that they came from Acone, “of which place they were lords and also of Ripozzano. In Florence they owned towers, a loggia and sumptuous palaces, which were destroyed during the civil strife and discord. A noble race they were, rich and powerful in the city, with many retainers, munificent and lordly in the country side. But fate, enemy of their felicity, divided their house in the time of Pope Boniface VIII. Some became heads of the White party whilst others remained of the Black, so that they were undone and many of their records were lost wherein were mentioned numerous honourable lords. But the fame of Vieri de’ Cerchi remains, one of the greatest knights of his day and Prince of the White party. When called to Rome by Pope Boniface to try and pacify the said parties he went thither with many men at arms, all his own followers, which rather alarmed the Pope. There were also Niccolò Gentile and Borrigiano and all were knights of the Golden Spur.”26 Vieri de’ Cerchi was the great antagonist of76 Corso Donati, head of the Black party, and “Florence,” writes Giovanni Villani, “was kept in such turmoil and danger by their enmity, that the city was often in an uproar, and every one was under arms.”

The palace came into the possession of the Bandini family, and it is said that the details of the Pazzi conspiracy were arranged here in the time of Bernardo Bandini [1478], and that his descendant Giovanni betrayed Florence to the Imperialists by signals from the top of the tower in 1530.

The name of Cocco di Donato occurs among the inhabitants of the quarter of Sta. Croce in 1328, and his descendants, Borghini and Francesco Cocchi, having made a large fortune in trade decided to build themselves a fine house. From the friars of the abbey of Fiesole they bought a house on the Piazza Sta. Croce and erected the palace we now see, which came into the possession of Borghini’s nephews after his death in 1474. It has often been attributed to Baccio d’Agnolo, and Vasari names it amongst the fine palaces built in Florence after 1470, but does not mention the architect. Signor Iodico Del Badia believes that part of the original house bought from the friars was incorporated with the more modern building; particularly the pilasters up to the spring of the arches, and the jambs in Via de’ Cocchi.27 These jambs are supposed by some to be77 portions of the ancient walls of Florence destroyed in 1078, placed by the Peruzzi at one end of the street which traversed the old Roman amphitheatre. Cinelli however declares that the Cocchi bought the palace from the Dei family, for whom it was built by Raffaello del Bianco on the site of other houses and of the ancient loggia de’ Risaliti.

In the XVIIth century it was enlarged by the addition of some small houses in the rear, and remained in the possession of the Cocchi until the last of the family, Maddalena, married Marchese Pucci. It now belongs to her grandson Count Agostino Della Seta of Pisa.

The powerful and rich “consorteria,” or clan, of the Tornaquinci had their palaces, towers, loggie and shops, where now stands this palace. Their origin is lost in obscurity, but we know that the Emperor Otho I. allowed them to erect dams in the bed of the Arno near their houses. When the second circle of walls was built round Florence the gate, afterwards called S. Pancrazio, and a square, where now stands the Palazzo Strozzi, bore their name. Figliocaro Tornaquinci was Consul of the army in 1166 and in 1215, and his descendants fought at Montaperti on the side of the Guelphs in 1260. They divided into five different families in the XIVth century, of whom only the head of one branch, Simone, who took the name of Tornabuoni in 1393, interests us. His son Francesco was Commissary with the army of Carlo Malatesta and later was sent to Venice, to try and induce the Venetians to enter Lombardy against the Duke of Milan. A keen78 man of business, he stood high in favour with Cosimo de’ Medici and zealously worked to promote his return from exile in 1434. His daughter Lucrezia married Piero de’ Medici and their son, Lorenzo the Magnificent, owed much to her prudence and sagacity and inherited her poetic talent. Giovanni Tornabuoni, her brother, was treasurer to Sixtus IV. and head of the Medici bank at Rome, where his wife Francesca died in childbirth in September, 1477, and his letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici shows how deeply he mourned her. Vasari tells us that having caused a sepulchre to be made to her in the Minerva “he willed also that Domenico Ghirlandaio should paint the walls of the chapel wherein she was buried.”28 Giovanni afterwards gave him the commission to paint the wonderful frescoes in the choir of Sta. Maria Novella, which we know from the diary of Luca Landucci were begun in 1486 and finished in 1490; not as Vasari states between 1481 and 1485.

Luca Landucci’s son Benedetto, who knew many of the people figured in the frescoes pointed them out in 1561, when he was eighty-nine years old, to Vincenzio Tornaquinci, who fortunately noted down his words.29 Giovanni Tornabuoni is to the right of the great central window, kneeling bareheaded with his hands crossed over his breast, and opposite to him kneels his wife Francesca, her hands folded in prayer, with a white kerchief on her head. Signor E. Ridolfi exposes another of Vasari’s mistakes, which has often been blindly copied without verifying the dates.30 Vasari states that “Ginevra de’ Benci, then a beautiful maiden” is one of the women in the fresco of the Visitation of Our Lady to S. Elizabeth.79 Ginevra was born in 1557, married to Luigi Niccolini in 1573 and died on the 17th August in the same year, so she could not have been painted by Ghirlandaio between 1486–1490. The beautiful maiden is Giovanni Tornabuoni’s daughter-in-law, the lovely and accomplished Giovanna degl’Albizzi, whose marriage to Lorenzo Tornabuoni was celebrated with such pomp in Florence in 1486. Two years later Niccolò Fiorentino made six medals of the Tornabuoni family. Two of Giovanni, one of his son Lorenzo, one of his daughter Lodovica, and two of his daughter-in-law Giovanna, and the latter indubitably represent the same person as the slender, swan-necked girl, in a splendid dress of gold brocade in Ghirlandaio’s fresco. She died, fortunately for her, before the plot to reinstate Piero de’ Medici was discovered. “On the 17th August, 1497,” writes Luca Landucci, “the Pratica met, and were in the palace from morning until midnight; they were more than one hundred and eighty. And by vote it was determined that they [the accused] should die, and all they had be confiscated. Five were executed; first Bernardo del Nero, and then Niccolò Ridolfi, Giovanni Cambi, Gianozzo Pucci and Lorenzo Tornabuoni, and all the people grieved for them. Every one wondered that such a thing should be done and could scarcely believe it. They were executed that very night, and I shed many tears when I saw the youth Lorenzo on a bier passing Tornaquinci just before daybreak.”

From Niccolò Fiorentino’s medals Signor Ridolfi has been able to identify the young girl visiting S. Anne as Ludovica, Giovanni Tornabuoni’s daughter, who was then about thirteen. Like her sister-in-law she is clothed in gold brocade and has her hair dressed in the same fashion. It seems impossible that Ghirlandaio did not paint Lucrezia de’ Medici among the other members of the Tornabuoni family, the more so that he chose for the subject of his fresco the life of S. John the Baptist, which she had80 translated into ottava rima. She died, it is true, three years before he began the work, but there must have been portraits of her in existence, although none have come down to us. Even after the death of her husband Piero, Lucrezia exercised more authority than usually fell to the share of Tuscan women; both Poliziano and Pulci praise her poetic gifts and Niccolò Valori writes: “she was very eloquent, as can be seen in her translations into our tongue of parts of Holy Writ.” He adds: “Lorenzo was most deferential to her, and after his father’s death loved and honoured her; showing in all his actions not only the affection borne to a mother, but such respect as is given to a father; it was hard for any to discern whether he most loved or honoured her.” Her nephew Lorenzo Tornabuoni was decapitated, and his family exiled, in 1497, for plotting against the liberty of the Republic in favour of the Medici. A descendant of his, Niccolò, Bishop of Borgo S. Sepolcro and ambassador to France towards the end of the XVIth century, introduced the tobacco plant into Tuscany, which for some time was called “l’erba Tornabuoni” after him.

Lorenzo Ridolfi bought the Tornabuoni houses and incorporated them into one large palace in the beginning of the XVIth century, but when he rebelled and his son was decapitated in 1575, all his estates were confiscated and the palace became the property of the Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici. He sold it to the rich citizen Jacopo Corsi, a friend and protector of Peri, and here, in a theatre built on purpose, his opera Dafne, with words by Rinuccini was given for the first time.

The Corsi are said to have come from Dicomano and one of the family fought under the Ghibelline standard at Montaperti and was exiled in 1268. Their name first appears in the magistrature of Florence in 1354, when Bardo Corsi was the first of nine Gonfaloniers of Justice and two years later the first of twenty-eight Priors of the81 family. Giovanni, his descendant, was entrusted by Clement VII. with the care of Alessandro de’ Medici, and with him, Ippolito and the Cardinal Passerini, he left Florence in 1527. After the capitulation of the city he was elected Gonfalonier of Justice and showed great cruelty in sentencing his fellow-citizens who were anti-Medicean. His brother Bardo made an enormous fortune in trade at Naples, and in 1617 bought the feudal estate of Cajazzo, when Philip of Spain created him a Marquess with remainder to his nephews, the sons of Jacopo, who purchased the old Tornabuoni palace. His granddaughter Laura married the Marquess Salviati and the palace then took the name of Corsi Salviati. When in 1864 it was decided to widen Via Tornabuoni the façade was thrown back many feet and the pretty little loggia, built by Cigoli, was moved from the southern corner of the palace opposite Palazzo Strozzi to the northern. It now belongs to the Marchioness Visconti Arconati.

The great palace of the Corsini family was built in the XVIIth century by Ciro Ferri and Pierfrancesco Silvani for the Marquess Filippo Corsini, where once stood the houses of the Compagni, the Segni and the Ardinghelli; the last had become the property of the Cardinal Giovan Carlo de’ Medici, and was sold after his death to pay his debts. The façade and chief entrance of the palace is in the Via Parione, but in the last century the terrace joining the two wings was erected in the Lung’Arno Corsini, with a large gateway into the courtyard, thus the palace now has two façades.


Neri, father of Bonacolto, from whose son Corsini the family took their name, came from Poggibonsi in the XIIIth century, writes the family historian Matteo. The ancient house in the Via Maggio, in which S. Andrea Corsini was born, is now a police station. Corsini’s son Neri was Consul of the Arte della Lana, or Guild of Wool, in 1270, twenty years later he was the first of fifty-six Priors of his family, and in 1295 Gonfalonier of Justice, an honour enjoyed by seven of his descendants. His nephew Tommaso, one of the greatest jurists of his day, expounded civil law as a young man at the University of Siena. He served the Florentine Republic in many embassies, and was successful in promoting treaties of peace with Siena, Perugia and Arezzo. Appointed to all the highest offices of his native city, he is mentioned by Villani as a most eloquent orator, whilst his reputation for honesty stood so high that Queen Joan of Naples named him her proxy for the sale of Prato to Florence. His last public act was in 1352, when Gonfalonier of Justice he made peace with the Visconti, and then retired to the monastery of S. Gaggio, of which he had been the principal founder. He died in 1366, leaving a large fortune to his sons. They erected in the adjoining church the fine monument by Orcagna to his memory, now in the Corsini chapel in S. Spirito.

His eldest son Giovanni, knight of the Order of S. John, sent by the Grand Master on an embassy to the Greek Emperor at Constantinople, by his beauty and his engaging manners won the heart of the Empress, and she persuaded her husband to make him Grand Seneschal of Armenia, in order to keep him at her court. His cousin and contemporary Matteo records that he was sent by the Pope and the Emperor jointly as ambassador to the King of Cyprus, and in 1380 was Governor of the Island of Rhodes. Pietro, the second son, was Bishop of Florence, but resigned his see on being made a Cardinal, and used all his influence to make peace between Florence and83 Gregory XI., which was at last concluded, chiefly through him, by Urban VI. Tommaso’s third son Filippo was a great jurist, like his father, and began his public career at twenty-six as ambassador to Siena, and then to Antwerp. The Emperor Charles IV. bestowed on him and his heirs after him the title and the prerogatives of a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. When the Ciompi riots broke out in 1378, Filippo Corsini was nigh losing his life, his house was sacked and burnt by the mob, and he fled the city until order was once more re-established. Though five times elected Gonfalonier of Justice, he was not often in Florence, as the Republic always turned to him when an ambassador was needed in those troubled times. He died in 1321, leaving to his children an honoured name and immense riches. The gentle Andrea, who at fifteen entered a Carmelite monastery, was his cousin. After taking the vows he was sent for a time to Paris to study theology at the Sorbonne. When the terrible plague of 1348 devastated Florence, his charity and devotion to the sick made him so popular that the people of Fiesole elected him their bishop, a choice ratified by the Pope. He lived for the poor and for his beloved cathedral, which he restored, and of which he built the façade, and was beatified soon after his death, and canonized in 1629 by Urban VIII. His younger brother Matteo went as a lad to London in 1342, where his uncle was Master of the Mint, and made a considerable fortune in trade. On returning to Florence twenty years later he began the family history already mentioned, and wrote the Rosaio della Vita, often quoted in the Della Crusca dictionary for purity of style.

Amerigo Corsini was the first Archbishop of Florence, as Martin V. raised the See to an archbishopric during his tenure, and the great dome of the cathedral was begun [1423] in his lifetime. His brother Bertoldo filled various high offices under the Republic, and was a devoted adherent of the Medici; while Luca, Bertoldo’s eldest son,84 was the Prior whose name is famous as shutting the door of the Palazzo della Signoria in the face of Piero de’ Medici after he had ceded Pisa and other towns to Charles VIII. of France in 1494. Another son, Piero, a gallant soldier and a good engineer, was Commissary of several of the small wars of the Republic and built the first fortifications of Leghorn, which withstood all the efforts of the Emperor Maximilian. Gherardo, another son, was a wealthy wool merchant, and four times one of the Dieci di Guerra. He became an adherent of the Medici, and his son Bertoldo was so trusted by the Duke Alessandro that he made him Governor of the newly-erected fortress of S. Giovanni. After the murder of the Duke he offered to give up the arms and ammunition to the people in order to fight for the liberty of the city. Such an offer from a well-known Pallesco, as the friends of the Medici were called, was regarded with suspicion, and Bertoldo fell between two stools. Banished as a rebel by the young Duke Cosimo I. and ruined by the confiscation of all he possessed, he joined the exiles, fought at Montemurlo, Siena and Orbetello, where he was taken prisoner and sold to the Duke for 600 scudi. He was decapitated in March 1555.

With the rich merchant Bartolommeo, elected a Senator in 1601, the Corsini entered into the ranks of the great landed proprietors. He bought the large feudal estates of Sismano, Cavigliano and Civitella, in the Roman States, and many of the fine villas still belonging to the family in Tuscany were either built or enlarged by him. His nephew Filippo, created Marquess of Sismano, etc., by Urban VIII. in 1629, was a partner in the Medici bank at Rome, besides having a rich silk and wool business of his own. He married Maria Maddalena Machiavelli, a rich heiress, who bought the house in Via Parione, afterwards incorporated in the large Corsini palace, where the Cardinal Giovan Carlo de’ Medici had a private theatre, and used to85 hold most unclerical orgies. The Grand Duke Ferdinando II. created him a Senator, and in 1644 made his son Bartolommeo Marquess of Laiatico, a title still used by the family, as is that of Marquess of Giovagallo, an estate in the Lunigiana bought by Bartolommeo from the Spanish crown. His son Filippo was a friend of the young Prince Cosimo de’ Medici, and accompanied him on a tour through Europe. The description he wrote, illustrated with water-colour drawings of the principal places they visited, is in the Laurentian library, and has been translated into English. The large palace was built by him after the design of Silvani, and the gallery augmented by the purchase of many fine pictures.

His brother Lorenzo was destined to raise the fortunes of his house still higher. Elected Pope in 1730, under the name of Clement XII., it is said that he implored the cardinals to let an old, half-blind man die in peace, and to choose another pope. Clement XII. began his pontificate by dismissing Cardinal Coscia, the venal favourite of his predecessor, by reforming the administration of justice, and by replacing the debased currency by an emission of new coin. He founded the gallery of the Campidoglio, restored the Vatican, and built the fountain of Trevi, the façades of S. Giovanni de’ Fiorentini, S. Giovanni in Laterano, and several other churches. But much of this was done with money derived from the abominable giuoco del lotto, called by Mocenigo, the Venetian ambassador, “the curse and the ruin of the people.” It had been abolished by Benedict XIII., when Clement, under the specious pretext that his subjects would gamble and therefore had better spend their money at home, restored it. He would have left a greater name had he shown less partiality to his own family. His two nephews were summoned to Rome. Bartolommeo was created Prince of Sismano, Duke of Casigliano, and Captain-General of the Papal Guards; he identified himself entirely with the86 Spanish party, seduced by Charles III., who hinted that Spain would renounce in his favour her claims on Tuscany and Parma if he aided her in securing the Kingdom of Naples. The Congress of Vienna put an end to these ambitious projects, and as some consolation he was made Viceroy of Sicily and a Grandee of Spain. Neri, brought up as a page of Cosimo III., showed considerable ability in pleading his master’s cause at various foreign courts, and when the future of Tuscany was discussed at Cambray in 1723. On his return he was named Captain of the Guards and when his uncle became Pope, the diplomatist and soldier was suddenly transformed into a Cardinal. He practically ruled the Papal States, not only under Clement XII., but under three of his successors. The great Corsini palace at Rome was built by him, and filled with a fine collection of works of art. Intensely hostile to the Jesuits, he used all his influence to obtain the suppression of the Order, but died before the decree against them was promulgated. An infant of the family was made a Knight of Malta while still in swaddling clothes and Prior of Pisa at four years old, to the indignation of the Grand Master of the Order; another was Apostolic pro-notary while a lad, and a Cardinal at twenty-four.

Prince Tommaso Corsini began life as Chamberlain to the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, but when Florence was occupied by the French and “Death to the aristocrats” was the popular cry, he fled to Sicily. When Tuscany had been transformed into the Kingdom of Etruria he returned, and became Master of the Household to the Queen Maria Louisa, who sent him to receive Napoleon I. at Bologna. He impressed the Emperor so favourably that he made him a Senator and a Count of the Empire, and entrusted him with the difficult mission of introducing the French code of laws into Rome. During the exciting days of 1848 he was Senator of Rome, but when Pius IX. abandoned87 the popular party, Prince Corsini had to fly for his life, and only re-entered Rome with the French troops. A man of considerable culture, he enriched the celebrated library in the palace on the Lungara, and added many fine pictures to the Corsini galleries in Rome and in Florence. His brother Don Neri was one of the most popular men in Tuscany. He advocated her independence at the Congress of Vienna, and obtained the restitution of most of the art treasures which had been carried away to Paris. As Minister of the Interior under Ferdinando III., he devoted himself to ameliorating the condition of the people, made new roads, and gave a great impulse to the great work of draining the Val di Chiana. A strong free-trader, he successfully withstood his colleagues who wished to impose a heavy tax on corn; and imbued with a distrust and dislike of the Jesuits, he resolutely set his face against their re-admittance into Tuscany. His nephew and namesake Don Neri, Marquess of Laiatico, was sent as Governor to Leghorn in 1847, when the city was on the brink of a revolution. By his tact he succeeded in restoring peace, but the Grand Duke and his counsellors did not approve of his liberal ideas, and he was recalled. His son Don Tommaso, the present Prince Corsini, is immensely popular, and by his learning and kindly hospitality has endeared himself to all his fellow-citizens.

The stern old Davanzati palace is more like a huge tower intended for defence than a house to live in. The fine doorway, with Donatello’s magnificent coat-of-arms high above it, leads into a curiously-shaped courtyard,88 from which a covered staircase zigzags from one balcony to another up to the loggia at the summit. The palazzo is a splendid example of the architecture of the XIVth century, but who designed it is not known. Sadly defaced by shops which crowd the ground floor it has an air of squalor, which, however, does not detract from its massive grandeur. The Davanzati built their palace on the site of houses and towers which belonged to the ancient and powerful family of the Bostichi, who had already fallen from their high estate before Dante wrote. Later, Bernardo Davanzati, the translator of Tacitus, added their name to his own, and attempted to claim an illusory descent from them. He might have been satisfied with going back to his gallant ancestor Davanzato, who fought in the ranks of the Guelphs at Monteperti in 1260. His son Lottieri was five times a Prior, thrice one of the Buonomini, and thrice Gonfalonier of his quarter; while forty-four of the family sat at various times as Priors in the Palazzo de’ Signori. Niccolò Davanzati founded the beautiful convent of Doccia on the slopes of Fiesole in 1413,31 and he probably also built this fine palace.


The Davanzati must have been a clear-headed, well-spoken race, as their name often appears among the ambassadors sent by Florence to other states. In 1434 Giuliano, the son of Niccolò, “a strong man with a fluent tongue,” Ammirato calls him, came to great honour. He was Gonfalonier of Justice when Eugenius III. consecrated the cathedral of Sta. Maria del Fiore, and during the service the Pope dubbed him a Knight of the Golden Spur with his own hands. In memory of this a shield with the arms of the Pope was placed, and still exists, on the central pillar in the courtyard, with Ex privilegio Eugenii III. D. Julianus Davanzati eques inscribed below the coat-of-arms. Three of the family—Giovanni, who fought at Poppi against the Prince of91 Orange in 1529, his brother Piero, who was one of the Two Hundred in 1532, and Antonfrancesco, son of Giuliano, who was charged to provide funds for provisioning the besieged city—were zealous patriots. The latter was banished and died no one knows where, leaving his wife, Lucrezia Ginori, with a little son, to whom, perceiving his uncommon intelligence, “as fertile land left uncultivated produces more weeds than sterile soil,” she gave an excellent education. Bernardo was put into the bank when a lad, but devoted all the time he could spare from business to classical and economic studies, and at eighteen was already a member of the Academy of Florence.

Grazzini, better known as Lasca, one of the founders of the Academy, quarrelled with his fellow-academicians and wrote a sarcastic poem, in which young Bernardo Davanzati is the only member he does not abuse.

“Quel garzonetto non ha’n corpo fiele;
Poi fa si belle e si dotte orazioni,
Che chi non l’ama e ben goffo e crudele.
Calate omai le vele,
O tutti voi dal maggiore al minore,
Che siete dolci e di mezzo sapore.
E se bramate onore,
Fate nell’academia sopratutto
Favellar sempre e legger quel bel putto.”32

Bernardo Davanzati’s translation of Tacitus is remarkable for conciseness and force of language, though occasionally lacking in dignity. He also wrote one of the first treatises on coinage, Della Moneta, another on Tuscan agriculture, and a history of the separation of England from the Church of Rome, Storia della Scisma. “He was,” writes Francesco Rondinelli, “of small stature and dark complexion. His eyes were bright, his hair black, and he had but little beard. The forehead was furrowed and lined, as were his cheeks, and his aspect was somewhat stern. In dress he favoured the parsimony and decorum of ancient times;92 sober in eating and drinking, curt and straightforward in speech, for words, like coins, are more esteemed when they contain large value in a small compass. By some he was called Peppercorn, it may be from his brown and wrinkled face, but more likely from the knowledge, sharp wit and learning contained in so small a body. He was impatient of praise, never esteeming his work perfect. The errors of others he blamed by silence rather than by correction, and often lamented that fortune did not favour those honest, good and modest men, who doing much and asking little, are not appreciated; but rather certain presumptuous people, who have an excellent opinion of and praise themselves, though they are of small account. Besides Latin, he knew Greek, and was a good arithmetician; his judgment was so excellent in all things that he enjoyed the singular happiness of hearing his works praised during his lifetime. It was said by a man of great learning that he collected the jewels of Florentine speech from the pebbles of the Arno, to set in the gold of Tacitus.”

Bernardo’s grandson and namesake came to an untimely death by throwing himself off the top of the tower of the old palace into the courtyard below. The family, by a curious fatality, came to an end by the death of Carlo Davanzati in 1838, in the same way and at the same spot. The palace now belongs to Signor Volpi.

But little remains of the many palaces and towers of this once powerful family. Several stood in the Corso, nearly opposite to those of the Portinari, where two of their grey towers still frown defiance at passers-by and a95 small square bears their name. Here lived Manetto Donati, whose daughter Gemma became the wife of Dante. Forese Donati was one of the poet’s dearest friends, whilst his brother Corso, of whom more anon, became his deadliest enemy. Their sister, the beautiful Piccarda, who took the habit of S. Clare as a young girl, but was torn from her quiet convent and forced by Corso Donati to break her vows and marry, is one of the most touching figures in the Paradiso. Other Donati palaces, amongst them that of the famous Corso, stood round the church of S. Piero Maggiore founded by the family in the IXth century. Several of them joined the Crusades and died in the Holy Land, and many were made Knights of the Golden Spur by the Emperors Henry II. and Conrad of Swabia. Rivalry had always existed between the Donati and the Cerchi; it became acute when the Neri, or Black Party, came from Pistoja to seek aid from Corso Donati, and the Bianchi, or White Party, turned for help to Vieri de’ Cerchi. “The Priors and other good citizens,” writes Machiavelli, “feared every hour that they would come to blows, and the city be divided into two camps. They therefore appealed to the Pope, praying him to use his authority and put an end to these quarrels with which they were unable to cope. The Holy Father sent for Messer Vieri, and commanded him to make peace with the Donati. At this he expressed astonishment, saying he bore them no malice, and as making peace implied the existence of war, he could not see why, there being no war, it should be necessary to make peace. So Messer Vieri returned from Rome without concluding anything, and the ill-feeling grew apace.... Men being in this excited state, it happened that the Cerchi and the Donati met at a funeral service, and from words came to blows; but for the moment the tumult was appeased. Then the Cerchi decided to attack the Donati, but were repulsed by the bravery of Messer Corso, and many of their followers were wounded. The96 whole city was in a tumult, the Signori and the laws were trodden under foot by the fury of the more powerful. The Donati and their party were afraid because they were the weaker, so Messer Corso summoned the heads of the Blacks and the Captains of the Party, and it was decided to ask the Pope to send one of royal blood to reform the city, thinking thereby to break the power of the Whites. The meeting and its deliberation was notified to the Priors, and magnified by the adverse party into a plot against liberty. As both sides had armed the Signori, of whom Dante was one [1301], animated by his advice and tranquil courage, called the people to arms, and then forced the leaders of the opposite factions to disarm, and banished Messer Corso Donati with many of the Black Party.”


Messer Corso went to Rome and persuaded the Pope to send Charles of Valois, brother of the King of France, who was on his way to Sicily, to pacify Florence. After swearing solemnly to preserve peace Charles armed his followers, and the alarm in the city was not lessened by the arrival of Corso with all the exiles. The prisons were burst open, the Priors relegated to private life, and for five days the houses of the White Party were given up to plunder and arson. A new Signoria was elected, entirely formed of the Blacks, and Charles named Cante di Gabbrielli, one of his adherents, Podestà. Proscriptions commenced, and one of the first names on the list was that of Dante.

Machiavelli describes Corso Donati as “a promoter of every disagreement and every tumult; all who desired to attain anything extraordinary turned to him, so that he was hated by many citizens of repute.... But the authority wielded by him was such that he was feared by all. To deprive him of the popular favour it was spread about that he sought to seize the State, to which his magnificent way of living, far beyond the ordinary, lent colour. After he had taken to wife the daughter of Uguccione della Faggiuola,97 head of the Ghibelline and the White Party, and most powerful in Tuscany, this report gained more credit. The marriage encouraged his enemies and induced the people to abandon him, and many joined his adversaries. Their leaders were Rosso della Tosa, Pazzino de’ Pazzi, Geri Spini and Berto Brunelleschi who, with their followers, and a great concourse of people, went armed to the palace of the Signori. The Signori ordered Piero Branca, Captain of the People, to accuse Messer Corso of desiring to make himself tyrant of Florence by the aid of Uguccione. He was cited to appear, and then condemned as a rebel in contumaciam, and only two hours elapsed between the accusation and the condemnation. After the delivery of the sentence the Signori and the Compagnie of the People, with their banners, went to take him. Messer Corso, whose courage failed not when he saw himself abandoned by many and heard of his condemnation, was not abashed by the authority of the Signori or the number of his assailants, but fortified his houses, hoping to be able to defend himself until the arrival of Uguccione, to whom he had sent for help. His houses and the streets near by had been closed by him and fortified by his adherents, and their defence was so valiant that the people, although numerous, could not advance. The struggle was great, with dead and wounded on both sides. Seeing that nothing was to be done in the open the people took possession of the houses adjoining his and, breaking through the walls, burst into his house. Finding himself surrounded by enemies and despairing of victory, or of aid from Uguccione, Messer Corso decided to try and save his life. Placing himself and Gherardo Bordoni at the head of some of his strongest and most trusted friends, he charged the enemy with such impetuosity that they fell back, and fighting he was able to pass through their ranks and leave the city by the Porta Sta. Croce. Many, however, pursued him, Gherardo was killed on the banks of the Affrico by Boccaccio Cavicciulli,98 whilst some Catalan horsemen, soldiers of the Signoria, came up with Messer Corso at Rovezzano and took him prisoner. On the way back to Florence, to avoid meeting his victorious enemies face to face and being tortured by them, he threw himself off his horse, and thus, lying on the ground, was killed by one of his captors. The monks of S. Salvi found his body and buried it without any honours. Such was the end of Messer Corso, to whom both his country and the Black Party owed much good and much ill. Had his disposition been of a gentler kind, his memory would be more honoured.” Dino Compagni says that Corso Donati was ill and suffering from gout at the time of his flight. “Much talk there was of the evil manner of his death, according as to whether they were friends or enemies,” continues the old chronicler, “but to speak truthfully his life was perilous [for the quiet of Florence] and his death was blameworthy. He was a knight of great courage and of old name, of gentle blood and well-mannered, very handsome, even in his old age, finely built, with delicate features and a pale complexion; a pleasant, wise and ornate speaker, and always occupied with important affairs, a consort and a friend of great lords and noble persons, counting many adherents and renowned throughout Italy. He was an enemy to the people and to popular government, well-loved by his partisans, but full of evil designs, wicked and astute.”

A peasant named Balducci, from Vinci, was the ancestor of the Feroni family. One of his descendants, of the name of Ferone, established himself at Empoli as a dyer,99 and had dealings with Holland, where his grandson Francesco Feroni made a large fortune. Prince Cosimo de’ Medici made his acquaintance during his travels, and when he became Grand Duke summoned him to Florence, made him a citizen and a Senator, and in 1681 Marquess of Bellavista. He left an enormous fortune to his descendants, one of whom bought several houses in Via de’ Serragli, and built this large palace, which the Marquess Ubaldo Feroni enlarged in 1778. It was afterwards again considerably augmented by the addition of the suppressed church and monastery of S. Giuseppe, when another entrance into the spacious courtyard was made from Via S. Frediano. In the same year his brother the Marquess Alessandro bought the larger half of the ancient Palazzo Spini, which is sometimes called Feroni. In another palace in the Via Faenza they had a gallery of pictures, which the last of the family bequeathed to the city of Florence in 1850.

The fine palace now inhabited by the Baroness Ricasoli Firidolfi and her children was built by the Ridolfi family on the site of houses belonging to various families, in the XVth century, and bought in 1736 by Maria Lucrezia Firidolfi for her sons. The architect is unknown, but the palace, with its fine courtyard, evidently dates from the XVth century. On the first floor is a tiny chapel, entirely painted in oils by Giorgio Vasari in a manner very different from his usual style. Above the altar is a marble bas-relief of the Madonna and Child with S. John, by Rossellini.

The history of this family is a complicated and a curious100 one. Divided in the XIIth century into three branches, of which one retained the old name of Firidolfi, whilst the other two took that of Ricasoli, they were again reunited after eight hundred years in the person of the late Baron Giovanni Ricasoli Firidolfi. His mother was the only daughter of the great statesman Baron Bettino Ricasoli, his father the sole surviving son of Giovanni Francesco Ricasoli di Meleto, who married the only daughter of the last of the Firidolfi, whose name he added to his own.

One of those long-bearded northmen (Longobardi), who came into Italy in the VIth century, is said to have settled in the Mugello. But the first of the family of whom we have documentary evidence is Geremia, son of Ildebrando, lord of great estates in the Mugello and of nearly the whole province of the Chianti, who being old, and without children, made large donations to the Church. On the death of his first wife he married a young girl, by whom he had one son, Ridolfo, inscribed among the great Barons of Tuscany in a deed of 1029. From him the family took the name of Firidolfi (de filiis Rudolphi). Ranieri Firidolfi fought under Frederick Barbarossa, and obtained in fief the castles of Campi and of Tornano, and, according to a tradition in the family, the strong castle of Brolio. This originally belonged to Bonifazio, Marquess of Tuscany, who in 1009 gave it to the monks of the Badia of Florence, a donation confirmed by the Emperor Henry II. in 1012, and by Henry IV. in 1074. Henry VI. not only confirmed his father’s gifts to Ranieri, but added to them the castles of Moriano and of Ricasoli, not far from Fiesole, from which the most powerful branch of the family took its name.

Alberto Ricasoli, Ranieri’s son, served under the Emperor Otho IV., who increased the privileges bestowed by former emperors, and in 1230 he was elected Podestà of Siena. From his sons Ranieri and Ugo descended the Ricasoli di Meleto of Ponte alla Carraja, and the great101 baronial family. Ugo fought in the Guelph ranks at Montaperti, and in revenge the Ghibellines destroyed his castle of Ricasoli, for which he obtained compensation when his party returned to power. Bindaccio, his grandson, showed such valour at the battles of Montecatini and Altopascio that the Bolognese chose him as their Podestà, and Cardinal Albornoz made him Captain-General of the Papal forces. One of his sons was a Bishop of Florence, whilst another, Albertaccio, was so gallant a soldier that at his death in 1335 the Republic gave him a public funeral, and decreed that his arms, with the banner of the people and of the Guelph party, should be placed above his tomb in Sta. Croce.

Ranieri Ricasoli di Meleto, a strong partisan of the Medici, was sent to Flanders after the Pazzi conspiracy to sequester the monies in their banks in Bruges, Ghent, etc. He was a very rich merchant, and built the stately old Ricasoli palace on the Lung’Arno Corsini in 1480, said to have been designed by Michelozzi (now the Hotel New York). Cinelli describes the fine collection of pictures, and the beautiful garden and loggia opposite (where now is the Hotel Bristol), then connected with the palace by a passage under the street.33 One of Ranieri’s descendants was an intimate friend of Alfieri, whose tragedy Saul was first acted in the private theatre of the Ricasoli palace.

Simone Ricasoli, son of Ranieri, was brought up with Lorenzo the Magnificent, and when the young Cardinal Giovanni, his son, went to Rome, Lorenzo confided him to the care of his devoted friend. On Giovanni becoming Pope as Leo X., he summoned another Ricasoli, Antonio, to direct the iniquitous war which despoiled the Della Rovere of the Duchy of Urbino in favour of his own nephew Lorenzo de’ Medici. The assault and capture of the strong fortress of S. Leo was famous in the annals of that time. In 1526 he was Commissary of the war with Siena,102 and the defeat of the Florentine troops was attributed to him; so on the exile of the Medici the following year he was condemned to death and his estates were forfeited. He escaped to Rome, and found an asylum with Clement VII. until Florence was once more ruled by the Medici, when he was created a Senator. After the battle of Montemurlo he sat as one of the judges, and was distinguished for the harsh brutality of his sentences on the wretched prisoners. His sons served Cosimo I. well by sowing discord in Siena, and when the city fell into the hands of the Duke he rewarded Giulio Ricasoli by restoring to him the old feudal castles of Trappola, Rocca Guicciarda and Sagona, which the Florentine Republic had confiscated in 1395. Giulio then reassumed the old title of Baron, which his ancestors had refused to exchange for the higher one of Count. The name of Ricasoli is connected with the island of Malta, as Giovanfrancesco, a knight of the Order, gave such large sums towards building the fortifications that one of the forts was named after him.34

The life of Bettino Ricasoli, one of the makers of United Italy, is too well known to need repetition here, and would take up too much space. “Il fiero Barone” (the proud, or great, Baron), as the Florentines called him (he was, I believe, the only Baron of Tuscany), died in an old family palace in the Via del Cocomero, now, according to the baneful habit they have in Florence of altering the names of ancient streets, and thus sweeping away the historical landmarks of the city, the Via Ricasoli.



Nearly all the palaces on the eastern side of Via de’ Benci once belonged to the Alberti and the street was called after them, until the Benci crossed the Arno and established themselves here, when it became Via de’ Benci. This palace was bought from Francesco degl’Alberti in 1456 by Duccio Mellini, whose family were rich bankers and great patrons of the arts. The fine pulpit in Sta. Croce by Benedetto da Majano was erected by them. Michelangelo has been named as the architect of the characteristic and elegant palace, but it bears no resemblance to his handiwork, and evidently dates from the middle of the XVIth century. It is one of the few which still preserves, though in a sad state of ruin, a frescoed façade, painted by Stalf, a Flemish artist, after the designs of Francesco Salviati. The Mellini sold it in 1634, since when it has changed hands often, and now belongs to Signor Fossi.


Many were the houses belonging to the great family of Frescobaldi in the Borgo S. Jacopo and in the Via S. Spirito, besides the great palace in the Piazza de’ Frescobaldi. Opposite to the latter stood one of their towers and their loggia, of which a capital remains built into the wall of a small house. Another tower was near the church of106 S. Jacopo. The old palace in the Piazza in which Pope Gregory lodged in 1272 was burnt during the popular rising in 1343, but was rebuilt with greater magnificence. Afterwards it became a monastery, but when Florence became the capital the monks gave place to the Admiralty. It is now a communal school, and the fine façade is fast falling to pieces.

According to Verino, the Frescobaldi came originally from Germany. They were lords of several castles in the Val di Pesa in very early times, and their name appears among the first Consuls and Elders of Florence. One of them, Messer Lamberto di Fresco di Baldo, built the first bridge (of wood) of Sta. Trinita across the Arno in 1252. His sons Lapo and Neri fought at the battle of Montaperti on the side of the Guelphs, and their cousin Berto rode by the side of King Charles of Anjou and bore his banner at the famous battle of Campaldino in 1282. Three years later Ghino de’ Frescobaldi was created a Prior, but the power, military fame and riches, of the family aroused the jealousy of the popular party. As Grandi they were declared incapable of holding any office, which they bitterly resented; and were driven to fury by the exile of Teglia de’ Frescobaldi, who had led the Florentine army to victory in 1303, and was too popular with his soldiers to please a republican government. Swearing to be revenged, he took service with Castruccio Castrocane, Lord of Lucca, and attempted to seize Montelupo and Capraja, while some of his relatives conspired to open the gates of Florence to her enemy. All those who were implicated in the plot were banished, and the cruelty and injustice of the newly created magistrate, “the Preserver of Peace,” drove the Grandi to desperation, and ended in the revolt of the great Oltrarno families, so graphically described by Villani (see p. 40). For some hours the Frescobaldi defended their Piazza and palaces, but were at last forced to capitulate. Their houses and towers were destroyed, and those members of the107 family who were not beheaded or imprisoned, were banished.

There must also be mentioned the poet Dino de’ Frescobaldi, called by Boccaccio “famosissimo dicitore in rima in Firenze.” The world owes him a vast debt of gratitude, for he contrived to save the first seven cantos of the Inferno, when all that belonged to his friend Dante was confiscated, and sent them after him to the Marchese Malaspina’s castle in the Lunigiana. Matteo, Dino’s son, was also a poet, and Lionardo, whose interesting account of his travels in Egypt and the Holy Land in 1383 has been published, was, it is believed, a descendant of his.

Battista de’ Frescobaldi conspired against Lorenzo the Magnificent and was beheaded, and his brother Giuliano died by the side of Ferruccio Ferrucci in the battle of Gavinana. Bartolomeo was so ardent a republican that he withdrew from the world when the Medici attained to power, but his descendant Matteo was made a Senator in 1645. The present representative of the Frescobaldi lives in one of the old family palaces in Via S. Spirito.


The historian Bartolommeo Scala, son of a miller of Colle in the Val d’Elsa, built this palace. Cosimo de’ Medici, and his son Piero after him, paid for his education, and he became Chancellor of the Republic of Florence and was Gonfalonier of Justice in 1486. His learning was undeniable, but Lorenzo the Magnificent evidently was not satisfied with his Latin style, as he privately made Poliziano correct the despatches and letters written by Scala in the name of the Republic. At length the Chancellor suspected who was the real author of the corrections and a deadly hatred ensued between the two men. The hatred was embittered by the refusal of Scala’s beautiful and clever daughter Alessandra to listen to Poliziano, and by her marriage with Michael Tarcagnota, an inferior poet, but a better-tempered and a better-looking man than the famous Agnolo Poliziano.

Guido Scala, Bartolommeo’s grandson, died childless in 1581 and left the palace to Alessandro de’ Medici, Archbishop of Florence, afterwards Pope Leo XI. It then became the property of the Counts Gheradesca who laid out a beautiful garden and now it belongs to the Meridionale Railway Company.

The palace, or rather the palaces, of the great family of the Gianfigliazzi faced the Ponte a Sta. Trinita at the corner of the Lung’Arno Corsini and the Via Tornabuoni.109 As Guelphs they were expelled the city after the battle of Montaperti in 1260, but returned, and three of them signed the famous peace of 1280. Eight years later their palaces were nearly destroyed by the terrible flood which did so much damage in Florence. The palaces Nos. 2 and 4 on the Lung’Arno Corsini also belonged to them; in the former, with the lion of the Gianfigliazzi carved by Desiderio da Settignano in the coat of arms on the façade, the great poet Alfieri lived for some time, and there he died.

At the beginning of the XVth century they bought from the Fastelli the palace adjoining the church of Sta. Trinita, with a tower which had been built by the Ruggerini, a Guelph family who were ruined in 1260. The arms of the three different owners are still on the façade. The loggia of the Gianfigliazzi, on the opposite side of the church at the corner of the Via di Parione, was only closed and turned into a shop in 1732.

The Gianfigliazzi descend from a Giovanni son of Azzo (Gianni figlio d’Azzo), who signed a convention with Siena in 1201. Two of the family sat in the Council of Elders in 1278 and 1279; a few years later they were excluded from office as nobles and their name only appears again among the magistrates of the city after the departure of the tyrant Duke of Athens. Geri de’ Gianfigliazzi was a poet and a friend of Petrarch; Rinaldo, sent as Commissary of War against Visconti, was created a Count of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Robert in 1402; and Bongianni, another gallant soldier, was publicly knighted by the Signoria in 1467 and died at the head of his troops under the walls of Pietrasanta. His son Jacopo was one of the twelve citizens named by Clement VII. to “reform” the State and elect Alessandro de’ Medici absolute ruler of Florence. Several of the family were Senators under the Medici, until the family became extinct in 1764.


The Ginori palace once belonged to Bacio Bandinelli who died there in 1559. There is a fine courtyard and the large saloon on the first floor is handsome; the building has been restored but not much spoiled. The Ginori descend from a notary who came to Florence from Calenzano, in the Val di Marino, in 1304, and lived close to the present palace of his descendants. His son Gino was the first of twenty-six Priors of the family and from him they took their name. Piero his grandson, the first Gonfalonier of five of his house in 1423, was an important person in the city and a friend of Giovanni de’ Medici, with whom he contributed towards the building of S. Lorenzo.

Benvenuto Cellini tells us that for Federigo Ginori, “a young man of a very lofty spirit,” he made a medal “with Atlas bearing the world upon his shoulders, and applied to Michelangelo for a design. Michelangelo made this answer: ‘Go and find out a young goldsmith named Benvenuto; he will serve you admirably, and certainly he does not stand in need of sketches by me. However to prevent your thinking that I want to save myself the trouble of so slight a matter, I will gladly sketch you something; but meanwhile speak to Benvenuto, and let him make a model, he can then execute the better of the two designs.’ Federigo Ginori came to me, and told me what he wanted, adding thereto how Michelangelo had praised me, and how he had suggested I should make a waxen model while he undertook to supply a sketch. The words of that great man so heartened me, that I set to work at once with eagerness ... and when Michelangelo saw it, he praised it to the skies. This was a figure, as111 I have said, chiselled on a plate of gold; Atlas had the heaven upon his back, made out of a crystal ball, engraved with the zodiac upon a field of lapis-lazuli. The whole composition produced an indescribably fine effect; and under it ran the legend Summa tulisse juvat.”35 Federigo was killed during the siege of Florence and his brother Leonardo, a spendthrift and a gambler, was the husband of the beautiful Caterina Soderini, whose story is a sad one. Forced by her father to forget her early love the poet Luigi Alamanni, and married to Leonardo Ginori, who had to fly to Naples to escape from his creditors, she was exposed to the persecutions of the Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, and was the innocent cause of his murder (see p. 263). Her son Bartolommeo, famed for his strength and great stature, was chosen by Giovan Bologna for the model of the young man in his group of the rape of the Sabines. From him descended the Senator Carlo Ginori who founded the well-known china manufactory at Doccia near Florence in 1740. He chartered a ship for China and she brought back, not only models and specimens of the various earths used in making china, but many rare plants and the first gold fish that were seen in Europe.36 The present Marquess Ginori lives in the old palace, and the Doccia factory, which has become a Company under the name of Richard Ginori, still keeps up its reputation.


From the Riccardi palace to Via Guelfa nearly all the houses once belonged to various members of the Medici family, who migrated from their original dwellings in the centre of Florence to settle near S. Lorenzo, and in this palace, often mentioned as “la casa vecchia” (the old house), Cosimo the Elder was born. In those days the upper storeys of most of the buildings projected over the street, supported on brackets of stone or of wood, until in 1536 peremptory orders were given to demolish all the over-hanging façades in Via Larga and to rebuild them straight up from the ground floor, for the entrance into the city of Margarita of Austria, the bride of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici. The house was sold by Ferdinando II. to the Ughi, and after changing hands several times was bought by Giovacchino Rossini, to whose memory an inscription was placed on the front of the house. It now belongs to Prince Ginori Conti.

The often repeated story that Lorenzino de’ Medici’s house was destroyed and a street, called the Chiasso del Traditore, made where it stood, is entirely opposed to all documentary evidence. In 1537 Lorenzino was condemned as a traitor and according to old custom the front of his house, or rather of the room in which he murdered his cousin Alessandro, was torn down. In 1568, 1604 and 1611, when the “old house” and that of Lorenzino passed from one member of the Medici family to another, the latter is always mentioned as “partly destroyed.” When the two houses were sold to Alamanno Ughi in 1646 the description runs: “a large house in Via Larga, with the destroyed part adjoining the said house and the rooms which are in113 the said destroyed part.” The new proprietor let the ground floor “under the ruined part of the small house” as a shop in 1648, but fifty years later the shop was turned into stables. It was only in 1736, as we learn from the Diario of Settimanni, that “Ughi finished restoring his house in Via Larga adjoining the palace of the Marchese Cosimo Riccardi. This was the house which belonged to Lorenzo di Pier Francesco di Lorenzo de’ Medici, who exactly two hundred years ago murdered the Duke Alessandro.... Until this restoration the hole, over sixteen braccie wide, which had been made in the front of the house was to be seen.” There is no mention of any street, nor of any prohibition as to building on the site of the house in which the murder had been committed. Signor Corrazzini however states that Ughi, having heard a rumour that some such prohibition existed, petitioned the Grand Duke to affirm that he and his heirs were at liberty to build on the site as they pleased, and this Ferdinando did.37 The house is No. 5. Via Cavour, with three windows, wedged in between the Palazzo Riccardi and the palace of Prince Ginori Conti.

This palace was built by Bernardo Rucellai on the site of an old leper hospital, and annexed to it were the celebrated Oricellari gardens, meeting place of the Platonic Academy founded by Cosimo the Elder. Vasari states that Leon Battista Alberti “designed the house and the garden of the Rucellai in Via della Scala, the house is built with great knowledge and is most convenient, having among114 other things two loggie, one to the south, the other to the west, both are beautiful.” But Vasari is wrong, as the gardens were bought and the house was built in 1482, two years after the death of Alberti. In these gardens Machiavelli read aloud his Discourses on the First Decade of Livy to the assembled academicians, and Giovanni Rucellai’s Rosmunda was acted before Leo X. on his first visit to Florence after his election as pope. When the conspiracy against the Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici was discovered, in which Machiavelli was implicated, and which cost two of the members their lives, the Academy was suppressed. The palace and the gardens were confiscated by the Medici in 1527, but given back to the Rucellai four years later by the Duke Alessandro. In 1537 Palla Rucellai was despoiled of all his possessions for opposing the election of Cosimo, son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, to the throne. Palace and gardens then became the abode, first of Eleonora degl’Albizzi, mistress of Cosimo I., and afterwards of Bianca Cappello, the account of whose wonderful entertainment to the Grand Duke Francesco I., her lover, is curious reading.38 It then passed to the Orsini, and in 1640 became the property of the Cardinal Giovan Carlo de’ Medici, whose wild orgies and bacchanalian feasts made a strange contrast to the philosophical discussions of the academicians of former days. On the death of the Cardinal, leaving immense debts, gardens and palace were bought by Ferdinando Ridolfi, Marquis of Montescudaro. The Strozzi inherited the property, and sold it to Prince Orloff. It now belongs to the Marquis Ippolito Ginori, whose wife is a descendant of the original owner, Rucellai; but the Oricellari gardens have been barbarously cut in two, and their glory has departed.



Bartolomeo Ammannati built this palace for the rich merchant Simone da Firenzuola in 1577. He died soon afterwards, leaving a will forbidding his sons, or their heirs, “to dare, or to presume, either inter vivos, or by last will or testament for any reason whatever, to sell, give away or alienate, the said house.” In case his sons had no children the property was to go to the descendants of his brother Carlo, and failing them, to those of his daughter Virginia, married to Vincenzio Giugni. None of his sons had any children, so in 1640 the palace came into the possession of his Giugni grandchildren. The Giugni claimed descent from Junius Brutus, and were always Guelphs. The first Prior of fifty they gave to Florence was Ugolino, in 1291, and his descendant Bernardo, a man of great ability and consummate prudence,116 was the chosen spokesman when there was a popular tumult. Messer Galeotto Giugni, a staunch republican, was exiled, and together with his son, murdered at Rome by emissaries of Cosimo I. Vincenzio Giugni, husband of Virginia Firenzuola, became a Senator in 1600, a dignity also conferred on his son Niccolò, who married Cassandra, the last of the noble house of Bandini of Rome. The fine collection of ancient statues belonging to her uncle, Cardinal Ottavio Bandini, was brought to Florence and placed in the garden of the palace. Cinelli gives an account of them, as well as of the pictures in the gallery, in his Bellezze della Città di Firenze.

In 1830 the palace was sold to the Della Porta family, who still own it, and in 1871 it was admirably restored by the architect De Fabris, who scrupulously avoided adding to, or altering, the work of Ammannati. The coat-of-arms of the Firenzuola, a tiger girt with a golden girdle and holding a sickle in his right paw, is on the façade. In the latter half of the last century Palazzo Giugni was much frequented by English visitors to Florence, as Mr. Spence, a popular and well-known personage, inhabited the second floor during the winter.

The progenitor of the great family of the Gondi, whose descendants played an important part in French history, was a certain Bellincozzo, who owned a house and a tower in the XIIth century near Sta. Maria degl’Ughi, in Florence. One of his descendants, Forte, signed the peace with Genoa in 1201, and from his grandson Gondo the family took their name. Geri de’ Gondi lent money to the Republic of Florence, his name appearing as a large119 creditor in 1324, and a few years later that of his son Simone, who solemnly swore allegiance to the Guelph party in 1351. But seven years afterwards he was accused of intriguing in favour of the Ghibellines, and he and his descendants were declared incapable of holding office. This sentence was annulled in 1438 in favour of his grandson, Simone, who was elected Gonfalonier of Justice, and lent 8,000 golden florins to the State. His brother Leonardo sold the old family house and tower near Sta. Maria degl’Ughi to Palla Novello Strozzi in the XVth century, and in 1488 his son Giuliano began to build the fine palace in Piazza San Firenze; Giuliano da San Gallo, with whom he had made a close friendship at Naples, being his architect. He rendered such services to King Ferdinando of Naples that he offered him a large pension, but Gondi, being, as the Florentines say, “all of one piece,” refused, on the plea that no citizen of a free republic should accept money from a foreign potentate. So Ferdinando’s son, King Alfonso, bestowed on him the privilege of placing a ducal crown in his coat-of-arms. Giuliano was twice Gonfalonier of Justice, and died in 1501, before his magnificent palace was finished.


A cousin of his, Giovanbattista Gondi, went to Paris, became a naturalized French citizen and married a lady-in-waiting of Queen Catherine. Having no children he adopted his nephew Girolamo, a clever politician employed by the Queen and her sons after her in various delicate missions. He received Henri IV. and his bride on their entry into Paris in the fine Hôtel de Gondi built by him, but which his son Jean Baptiste was forced to sell. It was bought by the King, who gave it to the Prince de Condé. He also built a palace in Florence near Sta. Maria Maggiore, which was sold to the Orlandini. Another Gondi, Alberto, married the gouvernante of the royal children, widow of the Baron de Retz. A distinguished soldier he was in such favour at Court that he was sent by Charles IX.120 as his proxy to marry Elisabeth of Austria. In 1573 he became a Marshal of France, and some years later was one of the hundred noblemen of high birth who first received the Order of St. Esprit. In 1584 he was created Duc de Retz, and was in command of the troops when Henri IV. entered Paris. His eldest son Charles, Marquis de Belle-Isle, married the Princesse Antoinette d’Orleans, daughter of the Duc de Longueville and of the Princesse de Bourbon, and was killed before Mont St. Michel when only twenty-seven. Another son, Henri, in whose favour his uncle the Cardinal de Gondi retired, became Bishop of Paris. The youngest was the first Archbishop of Paris, and his nephew Jean François Paul, the famous Cardinal de Retz who joined the ranks of the Fronde after incurring the enmity of Mazarin, succeeded him. Imprisoned by order of the King in the castle of Nantes, he contrived to escape to Spain, and embarked on a galley lent to him by the King for Piombino. After passing some years in Rome he resigned his archbishopric, and was allowed to return to France in 1662, when the King made him Abbot of St. Denis, where he wrote his well-known memoirs.39

But to return to the stately palace in Florence which Giuliano de’ Gondi began in 1488, and by will charged his sons to finish. The courtyard and the balustrade of the staircase, decorated with delicate carvings of animals and foliage, are among the finest things San Gallo ever did. In the large room upstairs is a handsome wooden ceiling, and a beautiful fireplace with a frontone, or mantel-front, also by San Gallo, representing the triumph of Neptune, and two statues of Hercules and of Samson. “It is so richly carved and so varied in style, and so beautiful,” writes Vasari, “that naught like it had been seen before, nor one with so many figures.” The old Roman statue in121 the palace is mentioned in a letter from Giuliano da San Gallo’s son, Francesco, to the head of the hospital of the Innocenti. “My father told Michelangelo that the statue in the house of the Gondi represents a Consul, and was found when the foundations for the palace of the Guelph party were being dug, where once existed the baths. He carried it to the Gondi palace, which he was then building, with the intention of placing it at the corner in the Piazza. But this was not done, as the palace was not finished.”

The fountain in the courtyard was erected by the descendant and namesake of Giuliano de’ Gondi, and by special grace he was allowed by the Grand Duke Ferdinando I. to take water from the fountain in the Piazza della Signoria. When Florence became the capital of Italy the Via de’ Gondi was too narrow for the increased traffic, and a large portion of the old palace was taken off, but the southern façade was admirably rebuilt. The palace still belongs to the Gondi family.


About 1250 the Servites bought so much more land than was necessary for their church, convent and orchard, that a large space was left in front of the church. In winter the mud was knee deep, and in summer the faithful were enveloped in clouds of dust when they went to mass. So the friars petitioned the Captains of the Guelph party to make a paved road from the Via de’ Servi to the S.S. Annunziata. In 1464 the Prior of the Order decided to sell some of the waste land near the Via de’ Servi, and the first buyer was Puccio Pucci. He did not carry out the covenants of the122 sale, and the land was sold to Roberto de’ Ricci in 1515; some thirty years later his sons ceded their rights to the brothers Griffoni. Ugolino Griffoni, secretary to Ramazzotto, the confidential adviser of Cosimo I., held, among other rich benefices, that of Maestro dell’ Altopascio and had the title of Monsignore as an Apostolic Pronotary. He, like many of the Duke’s courtiers, called in Bartolomeo Ammannati as his architect, and the contract between them of 4th September 1563 still exists in the State archives.40 Ten years later the marble coat-of-arms, which is now on the façade in the Piazza, was placed above the central window in Via de’ Servi. The balcony was one of the first works by Gian Bologna, but the palace was only entirely finished in 1772 by Pietro Griffoni.

Cinelli writes in the Bellezze della Città di Firenze, “This beautifully proportioned and ornate palace, with a fine frieze under windows of the Doric order, was built by Bernardo Buontalenti;” but he cannot have seen the above-mentioned contract, nor can Vasari have known of it, as123 he states that the architect was Giuliano di Baccio d’Agnolo. This is impossible, as Giuliano died two years before Ugolino Griffoni demolished the shops belonging to the first owner of the land. Additional proof that Ammannati was the architect of the fine palace, one of the few instances in Florence of an unplastered red brick building, exists in the Riccardiana library, in a book treating of arithmetic, geometry, etc., in which Ammannati made architectural sketches. Among them are a sketch of chimney-piece, the plan of a loggia, and some drawings of doors, all marked “for I’Altopasso.”

In 1800 Gaetano Griffoni sold his family palace to the Marquess Ferdinando Riccardi at whose death it went to his heir the Marquess Mannelli (who took the name of Riccardi). He sold it to the Antinori family in 1847. When, about forty years later, the palace was bought by Cav. Gattai and his son-in-law Signor Budini, but little remained of the beautiful friezes; the stone-work of the windows was crumbling away, and the cornice had not been completed. The palace has been admirably restored by the architect Boccini, who among other things did away with the shutters, which disfigured the façade and were destroying the fine ornamentation of the windows.

This noble palace, with its arched windows and its beautiful loggia supported by fine columns, was built for Rinieri Dei towards the end of the XVth century by Cronaca, on the site of houses belonging to the ancient family of Bischieri. The lantern at the corner resembles those of the Strozzi palace, and is probably by the famous Niccolò Grosso, surnamed il Caparra.


The first of the Dei family to attain eminence in Florence were Giovanni di Deo, one of the twelve Buonomini in 1445, and his brother Domenico, ambassador to the Court of Naples. Miliano was a Prior in 1743, and his brother Benedetto went, amongst other places, as ambassador to Constantinople, where he stayed seven years and was so trusted by the Sultan that he despatched him on a mission to Damascus. He has left an interesting chronicle of contemporary events in Florence. The magnificent palace at the corner of the Piazza S. Spirito was let in 1568 by Rinieri’s son for two years to Don Garcia di Toledo, brother of Eleonora, wife of Cosimo I. Giovanni, last of the Dei family, died in 1683, and left his patrimony to the Buonomini di S. Martino, a confraternity which still exists and does much good among the poor who are ashamed to beg. They sold the palace the following year to Donato Guadagni.


Progenitor of the Guadagni, according to Passerini,41 was Guittone, son of Migliore of S. Martino di Lubaco, a village on the slopes of Monte Croce in the diocese of Fiesole. The Guadagni arms, a cross edged with thorns, confirms this, that particular spot being called Croce alla Spina. Ser Guadagno di Guitto, his descendant, must have attained a foremost position in Florence, as he was one of the three Priors of Guilds who, together with the Consuls, ruled the city in 1204, and his son Gianni was an Elder fifty years later. The Guadagni were Guelphs; and Gianni and his young son Pierotto fought at Montaperti in 1260, and were exiled with so many of the other great Florentine families. On the return of his party to power, Pierotto, who was one of the richest bankers in Florence, was twice elected Gonfalonier of Justice; but before his death in 1298 the bank failed, and his palace close to the Duomo, near127 the old Porta a Balla, was let to Antonio Orsi, the warlike Bishop of Florence.

The Guadagni seem to have been a hot-headed, quarrelsome race. Migliorozzo fought with distinction against Henry VII, and again at Montecatini and at Altopascio. In 1327 he attacked and wounded his cousin Gherardo, and then attempted to poison him and his wife. The latter died from the effects of the poisoned cakes, and Migliorozzo was fined and condemned to lose his right hand and his left foot, but was pardoned at the intercession of Gherardo. Lapo Guadagni was beheaded in 1344 for attempting to assassinate his cousin Filippo and killing a priest who defended him. In 1410 Antonio Guadagni also lost his head for trying to defraud the Commune of Florence by swearing that a certain Gaspero was the son of Francesco da Carrara, Lord of Padua, who had been strangled by the Venetians, to enable him to draw out money deposited by his supposed father in the Monte.

Bernardo Guadagni is well known as the man whose debts were paid by Rinaldo degl’Albizzi, in order that he might be elected Gonfalonier of Justice and sentence Cosimo de’ Medici to exile, who only escaped a worse fate by bribing the Gonfalonier. Antonio, his son, fought with distinction against both Visconti and Paolo Guinigi, Lord of Lucca, but the return of Cosimo in 1434 was fatal to all the adherents of the Albizzi. Declared a rebel for not taking up his residence in Barcelona, to which place he was exiled for ten years, Antonio was taken prisoner at Fermo in 1436 and beheaded. The curious thing is that twenty-two years later he was again condemned to death as a rebel, and the sentence had to be revoked as impossible of execution against a dead man. A cousin of his, Tommaso, born in Savoy and married to a Frenchwoman, made so large a fortune by trade that “riche comme Gadagne” became a proverbial saying in Lyons, where he built a magnificent128 hospital and a fine house in the street named after him. He left his money and many domains to his nephew and namesake, whose descendants became French citizens with French titles, Conte de Verdun, Baron de Beauregard, de Champeroux, etc.

Jacopo, a nephew of Tommaso, remained in Italy, and bowed his neck to the yoke of the Medici. He was made a Senator in 1561 by Cosimo I. and occupied himself, as did also his two sons, in adorning the Guadagni palace near the Duomo. His grandson, Pierantonio, began the splendid gallery, the library and the museum of antiquities, which became famous in the XVIIIth century and in the beginning of the XIXth, after his father had bought the splendid old palace of the Dei. Ortensia Guadagni married a nephew of Pope Leo XI. and after his death became lady-in-waiting to Vittoria della Rovere, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, whose education she had superintended. Created a Marchioness in her own right, an unheard-of thing in the Grand Duchy, she was invested with the feudal estate and castle of S. Leolino del Conte, with the obligation of furnishing sixty-nine soldiers to the State, and was allowed to leave her title to her brother Tommaso’s eldest heirs male. He it was who employed Gherardo Silvani to build the palace which afterwards passed into the possession of the Dukes of San Clemente (see p. 303), and his son Francesco was a patron of the arts and an intimate friend of Salvator Rosa. Alessandro, great-nephew of the Tommaso Guadagno who settled in France, assassinated Andrea Davanzati in 1566, and was condemned to death in contumaciam. After some years Catherine de’ Medici obtained his pardon from her uncle the Grand Duke Francesco I., and he returned to Florence, where he built, after the design of Gherardo Silvani, says Passerini, a fine palace on the site of the old houses of his family on the Piazza del Duomo, which now belongs to the Marchese Strozzi of Mantua. Baldinucci, however,129 only mentions the coat-of-arms on the palace as being the handiwork of Silvani. Marquess Neri Guadagni, who died in 1862, left an only daughter, married to Marchese Dufour Berte, whose son now owns the great palace in Piazza S. Spirito.

This gloomy large palace was entirely rebuilt by Gherardo Silvani for the Guicciardini, “changing it from the old to the modern form and creating a fine staircase,” writes Baldinucci. It stands on the site of several houses belonging to the Benizzi, where S. Filippo Benizzi, General of the Servite Order, who out of humility declined the Papal tiara, was born in 1233.

The Guicciardini came from Poppiana in the Val di Pesa in the XIIth century, and at once took their place among the rich bankers of Florence. Forty-four of the family were Priors and sixteen became Gonfaloniers of Justice, among them Luigi, who was accused of lack of energy at the time of the Ciompi riots. By a whimsical coincidence the mob insisted on knighting him in the Piazza della Signoria, whilst his house was being plundered and burnt. His son Giovanni was Commissary of War with the army of the League in Lombardy and again at Lucca in 1430, when the defeat of the Florentine troops was attributed, not only to his want of prudence, but to his love of gold. He was tried and acquitted; and there is little doubt the accusation was false, promoted by Cosimo de’ Medici whom Luigi had always opposed. Piero Guicciardini on the contrary favoured the ambitious designs of Cosimo, and his son Luigi, when Podestà of Fermo in 1435, captured Antonio Guadagni, the great enemy of the130 Medici, and sent him to Florence, where he was beheaded. Some years later Francesco Sforza made Luigi Podestà of Milan. With the exception of the few months, during which he was at different epochs Gonfalonier of Justice, most of his life was spent out of Florence as ambassador to various Italian princes and towns. His brother Niccolò married the daughter of the famous condottiere Braccio di Fortebraccio, Lord of Perugia. He was one of the fifteen citizens elected to govern Florence after the death of Leo X. who were dismissed as too republican when Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici arrived in the city. Niccolò was in danger of losing his head after the capitulation of Florence, as he had been one of the most active of the Dieci di Guerra who conducted the defence. His son Braccio, taken prisoner at Montemurlo, was condemned to imprisonment for life in the fortress of Volterra.

The celebrated historian Francesco Guicciardini, nephew to Niccolò, was born in 1482. At twenty-three he was already so able a lawyer that the Signoria appointed him to read the Institutes in public; he then began to practise at the bar and his reputation for eloquence, acumen and gravity, obtained him the post of ambassador to Ferdinand the Catholic of Aragon, from whom his enemies say he accepted a bribe. “Certain it is,” writes Symonds, “that avarice was one of his besetting sins, and that from this time forward he preferred expediency to justice, and believed in the policy of supporting force by clever dissimulation.” In 1513 Leo X. came to Florence, and discerning the ability of Francesco Guicciardini appointed him Governor of Reggio and Modena, to which Parma was added in 1521. Two years later Clement VII. made him Viceroy of the Romagna, and in 1527 Lieutenant-General of the Papal army with supreme authority. This, Passerini declares, was the chief cause of the sack of Rome and the imprisonment of the Pope, the Duke of Urbino disdaining to take orders from a mere lawyer. In the131 same year he fruitlessly strove to uphold the Medicean cause in Florence, only incurring the hatred of his fellow-citizens and the bitter reproaches of the Pope, who accused him of want of energy. Retiring to his villa near Arcetri he began his famous History, but alarmed at the aspect of things in Florence, he fled to Rome in 1529 and was declared a rebel. Three years later he returned as one of the twelve magistrates who “reformed” the city according to the commands of Clement VII. and the Emperor, “when,” as Varchi tells us, “Messer Francesco Guicciardini was more cruel and more ferocious than the others” [in punishing and proscribing the anti-Palleschi citizens]. He was elected to the Senate of the Eighty, and undertook to defend the cause of the Duke Alessandro de’ Medici before Charles V. at Naples, “which he did with such ardour,” writes Bernardo Segni, “confuting the accusations one by one with such contempt ... that the exiles styled him Messer Cerrettieri.”42 He won the cause and Alessandro returned to Florence as absolute ruler. After the murder of the Duke, Guicciardini thought that the young Cosimo would be easily led, and supported his candidature to the throne with all his might. But for once the astute lawyer had misjudged his man. Cosimo I. made him understand that his advice was not wanted and that he intended to be sole master in Florence, and Pitti writes: “when the Duke Cosimo dismissed him together with certain of his colleagues his rage was great.... Astonished and deeply hurt he retired to his villa of Sta. Margarita at Arcetri where, carried away by anger, he re-wrote much of his History to prove that he did not belong to the sect of the Palleschi; and where he could, he attempted to show that he was but an instrument of the Republic.”43 He spent the last year of his life in writing132 his famous histories and died, aged 58, on 22nd May, 1540. Varchi says of him: “Messer Francesco, besides his noble birth, his riches and his academical degree, and besides having been Governor and Viceroy for the Pope, was highly esteemed and enjoyed a great reputation; not only for his knowledge, but for his great practical acquaintance with the affairs of the world and the actions of men. Of such he would discourse admirably, and his judgment was sound. But his conduct did not tally with his speech; being by nature proud and curt, he was swayed sometimes by ambition, but oftener by avarice, in a manner unbecoming to a well-bred and modest man.” For an analysis of Guicciardini’s masterly Istoria d’Italia and Opere Inedite, I cannot do better than refer my readers to J. A. Symonds’ brilliant pages in the first volume of his Renaissance in Italy. The actual representative of the family, Count Guicciardini, descends from a brother of the great historian and lives in the old palace in which he was born and brought up.



The Giacomini were among the illustrious families in olden days in Florence, and their coat of arms is still to be seen on an angle of this beautiful little palace. Messer Gherardo Tebalducci, a prominent citizen in 1280, had several sons, one of whom, for some unknown reason, dropped the family name and adopted his own Christian name Giacomino as a surname, which often occurs in the lists of the Priors. Antonio Giacomini was a brave soldier who in 1498 saved Poppi from falling into the hands of Alviano, four years later he acted as Commissary-General of the forces in the war with Pisa and the following year he was sent with 500 men into the Romagna against the Venetians. In 1504 he again fought the Pisans, seized Ripafratta and other strong castles, and then marched against his old antagonist Alviano, who was advancing to the help of Pisa, and routed him at Campiglia. Jacopo Nardi tells us that notwithstanding such great services the Republic of Florence let her old servant die in extreme poverty.

The Giacomini were zealous upholders of freedom. Francesco, one of the Dieci di Guerra in 1529, was so violent in his hatred of the Medici, that he denounced Carlo Cocchi for saying that it would be better not to expose the city to the horrors of a siege and to capitulate at once, because after all she belonged to the Medici. This ill-considered speech cost Cocchi his life. Another of the Giacomini, taken prisoner at Montemurlo with Filippo Strozzi, was beheaded in the Bargello.

A branch of the family must however have been fortunate in trade, as Settimanni notes in his Diary, “on134 the 10th October, 1580, the beautiful house of the Giacomini at S. Michele degl’Antinori was begun.” It is curious that neither he nor any other contemporary writer gives the name of the architect of the “Palagetto degl’ Giacomini,” as the Florentines lovingly called the building they admired so much, but it is most probably the work of Giovanni Battista Dosio of San Gemignano. It remained in the possession of the family until the death of Lorenzo, last of the Giacomini, in 1764, who left it to his widow for life and then to the Michelozzi Boni. After passing through various hands the palace was bought in 1839 by Count F. de Larderel, a Frenchman who made a large fortune in borax at Volterra, and whose daughter Countess Mirafiore now owns it.


A love-story, ending in a happy marriage, is symbolized in the quaint ornamentation of the palace. Bernardo Vettori, surnamed “il Biondo” (the fair-haired) died, leaving his widow Ginevra with one daughter, heiress to a large fortune. Piero Salviati married the young widow and induced her to affiance little Maddalena to his own son by a former marriage, but before Maddalena was of marriageable age her intended husband was killed in battle. In summer, like most Florentines, the Salviati went to their villa which was near to one owned by young Lodovico Capponi. He fell passionately in love with the golden-haired Maddalena, and she with him. Her step-father opposed the marriage as he wanted to keep her fortune in his own family, and he had influence enough at court to induce Duke Cosimo I. to forbid it. In spite of her mother’s entreaties Maddalena was put into a convent and every effort was made to provoke her lover, whose fiery temper was well known, into committing some act of violence. Ginevra at last succeeded in interesting the Duchess Eleonora in her behalf, who asked Maddalena to stay at the Pitti palace for a few days. Instead of days she remained months and, by order of the Duke, Lodovico Capponi’s name was always mentioned with contempt and contumely, while Sigismondo de’ Rossi, a favourite of Cosimo, was lauded to the skies. Lodovico, thus separated from Maddalena, determined that at any rate he would see her from afar and took a house belonging to the Gianfigliazzi at Santa Trinita, from the windows of which he could see the court pass over the bridge. The Florentines took such interest in the lovers that a crowd always assembled to watch the stolen glances they exchanged.


The Duchess was touched by the unhappiness and constancy of Maddalena, and it is supposed that it was by her suggestion that one morning at daylight an old woman appeared at Capponi’s bedside and bade him go at once to the palace and fetch Maddalena, and to prepare everything for the marriage. “In twenty-four hours,” writes an old chronicler, “Lodovico, among other magnificent things, caused an artist to paint a splendid and large shield with his arms and those of Maddalena, surrounded with olive branches and the word OPTATA, a motto of his own invention much praised for its brevity and its meaning; she being a Vettori, and peace, symbolized by the olive, following on the victory gained by her after war.” The wedding was a gay one and the house not being large enough Piazza Santa Trinita was used as a ball-room. “Comfits fell thick as hail in spring, and wine flowed like water.” The triumph of true love was very popular among the nobles, who feared the Duke would interfere in other marriages had he succeeded in preventing this one.

The lovers went to live in the old Vettori palace and amused themselves by decorating it in charming and symbolical fashion. Above the two large windows was inscribed LODOVICUS CAPPONIUS, to show that he was now the master of the palace and of its mistress, while the olive with the word OPTATA served as a decoration to the capitals of the pilasters, which bore at their base the Capponi arms on one side, the Vettori on the other. The motto OPTATA and the olive branches appeared also on the ornamented frieze under the first-floor windows, while on the smaller windows, in lieu of the ornaments generally used, were the arms of the two families.44

The name of the architect is unknown, but Bernardo Buontalenti, a friend of Capponi’s, did other work for him, so he may have aided in carrying out this memorial137 of faithful love; although as Signor Iodico Del Badia remarks, nothing in the façade recalls his style.45 In the large saloon there is a stone fire-place, decorated with the arms, the motto and the olive branches, and the whole room is finely frescoed by Bernardo Poccetti with episodes from the lives of the Capponi family. Lodovico died in 1614, and by the marriage of his grandson’s daughter, Cassandro Capponi, the palace went to the Riccardi who sold it in 1803. Since then it has changed hands several times, and the last owner, Count Leonetti, sold it to M. de Witte.

The Mannelli lay claim to be descendants of the great Roman family of the Manlii. They certainly are among the most ancient families of Florence, and in old times were known as the Pontigiani, probably because having built the first wooden Ponte Vecchio they had the right to demand toll, and were the custodians of the bridge. They also bore the names of Piazzegiani and of Capo di Ponte, from living close to the Piazza of Sta. Felicita and on account of the position of their palace, and of their tower which abuts on the bridge and was built about the XIIth century.

Already a powerful family in 1173 when Mannello di Bellondino was created a knight of the Golden Spur for services rendered to his native city, they became yet stronger when his two sons Abate and Rinuccio attained the position of Elders of the Republic. They were Ghibellines, and intermarried with the great family of the Uberti. But several of Abate’s sons went over to the138 opposite faction, and to the valour of Messer Coppo was attributed the victory of the Guelphs at the battle of S. Jacopo in the Val di Serchio in 1256. He and his brother Mannelino fought against their cousins, sons of Rinuccio, at Montaperti, and had to fly from Florence with the other Guelph nobles. Six years later the Ghibellines were beaten, and when the “Peace of the Cardinal Latino” was proclaimed in 1280, members of the Mannelli family were found in both camps. Among the signatories of the peace was Lapo, son of Messer Coppo, who had fought gallantly at Campaldino and was knighted in 1292. He had many sons, all distinguished soldiers whose names figure in the long list of battles fought during the first half of the XIVth century. His grandson, Amaretto, was deputed to guard the Val d’Elsa against the Pisans. Amaretto declared himself a popolano in 1361, and assumed the name of Pontegiani; sixteen years later he was one of the Buonomini, but being “admonished” by the Captains of the Guelph party he joined in the Ciompi riots and was knighted by the mob in 1380. When the nobles returned to power he was exiled, and to while away time wrote a history of the world. By his wife, Maria Strozzi, he left two sons, Francesco and Raimondo; the elder, to whom the world owes a large debt of gratitude, was probably an ecclesiastic. An intimate friend of Boccaccio, he made a copy of the Decameron which would otherwise have been lost. Boccaccio left his own manuscript by will to Fra Martino of Signa for his life, and then to the monastery of S. Spirito in Florence. It is supposed to have perished either in the fire which destroyed the church in 1471, or more probably in Savonarola’s bonfire of “obscenities and vanities” in which so much that was beautiful and precious went into smoke and ashes. Boccaccio must often have been a guest in the Mannelli palace, and one regrets that his friend Francesco was not endowed with the pen of a Boswell, to have preserved for us the personality of Giovanni141140 Boccaccio. Francesco Mannelli only finished his copy nine years after the death of his friend; it came into the possession of the Medici, but disappeared, and was fortunately discovered and bought by Messer Baccio Baldini, doctor to the Grand Duke Cosimo I. and librarian of the Laurentian library, where it now is. At the end of the manuscript is written: Qui finisce la decima e ultima Giornata del libro chiamato Decameron cognominato Principe Galeotto, Scripto per me Francesco d’Amaretto Mannelli di 13 d’Agosto 1384. Deo sit laus et gloria, in ecternum ad honorem egregi Simacu Spinis et beneplacitum, et mandatum.


Raimondo, his brother, was a sailor, and distinguished himself in an engagement against Spinola, admiral of the fleet of Filippo Visconti, who then held Genoa. The allied fleets of Venice and Florence met the enemy off Rapallo on the 27th August, 1431, but the wind was unfavourable and many of their ships found great difficulty in getting out of Porto Fino. Raimondo, seeing his friends hard pressed, urged on his crew with threats, ran down Spinola’s galley and took him and sixty of his men prisoners. He was shabbily treated by the Venetian admiral in command, who took, not only the honour and glory, but the prisoners and consequently their ransom, from him. Mannelli’s portrait is painted among other seafaring worthies on one of the ceilings in the Pitti palace. Messer Coppo’s posterity died out in the XVIIth century, and the present branch of the family descend from his brother Nerlo, whose son Chele was surnamed Gorget, from his uncomfortable habit of wearing that part of his armour by day and by night. He was a good soldier, and at San Casciano killed with his own hand the leader of a strong body of French troops sent by Henry VII. to raid the Florentine territory. Jacopo Mannelli took a prominent part in the revolt against the Duke of Athens, and was named custodian of the bridge of Sta. Trinita, but one of142 his descendants, Filippo, a canon of the cathedral, disgraced the name of Mannelli by revealing the deliberations of the Council of the Republic to the enemy. He died by the hand of another priest in 1536.

The old palace and the tower ran great risk of destruction, or at the least of alteration when Vasari made the corridor between the Pitti palace and the Uffizi. “In order to make the corridor straight,” writes Mellini, “it was necessary to pass through the house of the Mannelli by the Ponte Vecchio, at the end of the Via de’ Bardi; so he [Cosimo I.] sent for the owners of the said house and asked if they were courteously inclined to permit him to make the passage. On the plea that it would spoil their house they refused, and he then placed it as we now see on stone brackets, passing by a sharp turn round the outside of the house. But he bore them no rancour, saying that every one was master of his own.”46 Two of the family, Jacopo and his son Ottavio, were made Senators in the XVIIIth century, and the family still own and inhabit the palace and the stern old tower which guards the Ponte Vecchio.

The Martelli descend from an ancient family who owned the castle of Stabbiello in the Val di Sieve, one of whom, Martello, came to Florence early in the XIVth century, and from him they took their name. From what Migliore writes, their houses were in Via degl’ Spadai (of the armourers), but as they became more numerous and powerful the name of the street was changed to Via de’ Martelli.47143 When the present palace was built, or by whom, is not known.

Ruberto de’ Martelli, a rich Florentine banker, was created a Count Palatine by the Emperor Paleologus in 1439; some years later Nicholas V. made him Depositary of the Apostolic Chamber, and in 1455 the Republic of Florence sent him to Rome to assist at the Conclave which elected Pope Calistus III. But his name is better known as the patron and friend of Donatello, whom he took into his house as a lad and brought up. “The Martelli have,” writes Vasari, in his life of Donatello, “many objects in marble and in bronze, amongst others a David three braccie high, and many other things, most liberally given by Donatello in attestation of the service and love he bore them; more especially a S. Giovanni, a statue in marble of three braccie high, all finished by him, a most rare piece, now in the house of the heirs of Ruberto Martelli, who made it an heirloom, ordering that it should never be pawned, sold, or given away.” Domenico, brother to Ruberto, was a friend of Cosimo the Elder, who employed him in many embassies, and in 1476 he was Gonfalonier of Justice, one of the nine the family gave to Florence, besides thirty Priors. His son Braccio was among the first of the adherents of the Medici to turn against them when Piero fled the city. He then became one of the Dieci di Guerra, in 1495 he was Commissary of the war against Siena, and later of the siege of Pisa. Pietro, his son, a munificent patron of men of letters, had a considerable reputation as a mathematician. His cousin Lodovico was a poet, whose tragedy Tullia is said to have been admired. If true, it only shows that people had more patience in those days, and were content to listen to speeches of intolerable length and tedium. He led the band of Florentine scholars who impugned the genuineness of Dante’s De Eloquio, found and published by Trissino. Another Lodovico was the hero of the duel with Giovanni Bandini, fought at144 Poggio Imperiale in the presence of the Prince of Orange in 1530, so minutely described by Varchi.48 Lodovico died of his wounds, and his portrait was placed in the Uffizi gallery amongst other patriots, though patriotism had little to do with the duel, which was fought for love of Marietta de’ Ricci.

Camilla Martelli had the misfortune to attract the notice of the Grand Duke Cosimo I., who was induced by Pius V. to marry her in 1560, thus legitimating their daughter Virginia. He soon afterwards retired to the Villa di Castello, virtually abdicating in favour of his son Francesco, who inherited the cruelty and the vices of his father without his ability. The years Camilla spent at Castello with Cosimo can hardly have been happy, but after his death her life was a miserable one; shut up as a prisoner in a convent, out of which she only emerged for a few hours to assist at her daughter’s wedding with the Duke of Modena in 1586, she died, worn out with grief, four years later. Several of the Martelli entered the Church. Francesco became Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1698 and died a Cardinal, and Giuseppe was Archbishop of Florence in 1732. He belonged to the Academy of the Crusca, and was a great collector of books. The Martelli still live in the old family palace, and possess Donatello’s works.

The majestic tower of the Monaldi (which has been restored), with part of the old house attached, stands nearly opposite Palazzo Davanzati. I cannot do better than tell the history of the family, mentioned by Dante as among145 the oldest in Italy, in the words of Piero Monaldi, whose manuscript history has been kindly lent to me by one of his descendants. “Our family comes from the Monaldeschi of Orvieto, and took its origin from the Duke and Baron Monaldo, connected with the famous house of Anjou, who governed Tuscany for the Emperor Charlemagne. His descendants were lords of Orvieto and of many other places in the Tuscan land.... Civil discord between them and the Filippeschi drove Monaldo and his family to Florence; he settled in the parish of Porta Rossa, and built a tower of square hewn stone 430 braccie in height. In this spot they had so many houses that the street was called de’ Monaldi [now Via Monalda]. The houses extended from the Piazza di Sta. Trinita and Porta Rossa as far as the church of Sta. Maria Ughi, until in 1346, on the day of S. John the Baptist, they were nearly destroyed by a very great fire, with the loss of much property, and of the lives of some of the family, as is related by Giovanni Villani. They were at once rebuilt, for the said houses are mentioned in the first catasto of the citizens of Florence as belonging to the sons of Antonio di Guido, who was an ancestor of mine. I note that as Grandi of the city we had not much to do with the government, being in opposition to the people; so that when in 1378 the mob became masters, our family was admonished and condemned; Lipozzo di Mangieri, who was then Podestà of Terra Nuova, being exiled together with his sons. When the recall of the exiles was talked of in 1395, we were again admonished and banished, and some went to Pisa and became citizens of that city, where to this day their ancient monuments can be seen. Buonfiglio Monaldi, a saintly man, one of the seven founders of the Servite Order, was of our family; his brother Buonconte, a knight, captain of Arezzo in 1260, was chosen by Cardinal Latino as one of the guarantors of the universal peace between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines in 1280. Ugo, knight of the Golden Spur, was captain146 of the cavalry of the King of Hungary, and is mentioned by Verino in his second book, De Illustratione Urbis Florentie.

Gloria Folcorum Federicus et Impiger Ugo
Pannoni Regis Turmas ductavit equestres
Pluraque Turcarum caepit Castella Monaldus, etc.

His magnificent tomb in Sta. Maria Novella was destroyed when the church was enlarged, but the old stone of our vault can still be seen in the pavement, on which is inscribed: Hic jacet [sic] Ossa Nobilis Militis Ugonis de Monaldis equitis Florentini et eorum Descendentium.

“Piero, my grandfather, was captain under the lord Tommaso de’ Medici. Alessandro was captain in 1530, and took the city of Volterra. Another was Archbishop of Rieti, but at present there only remain Fra Francesco, a Cappucin, and Piero di Giovanni, writer of this notice, and of this family history. Our arms have a white peacock on a red field, emblem of the city of Orvieto, from whence we came. Some add a silver rose, given by the King of England to Giovanni Monaldi.”49 The tower of the Monaldi now belongs to Signor Majolfi.

In 1540 a page named Antonio Ramirez di Montalvo came from Spain in the train of the Cardinal Don Giovanni di Toledo, Bishop of Burgos and uncle to the Duchess Eleonora, wife of Cosimo I. de’ Medici. The Cardinal passed some weeks in Florence, and when obliged to proceed149148 to Rome left the lad Antonio, who was ill, in the charge of the Duchess. She took him into her service, and the clever young Spaniard gained the good graces of the Duke, became tutor to the young Prince Francesco de’ Medici, and married Donna Giovanna di Ghevara, one of the ladies-in-waiting of the Duchess. In 1568 he bought a house with a tower and a garden, in Borgo degl’Albizzi, from Giovanni Bonafedi, and afterwards two or three smaller ones adjoining, and then built the palace we now see. By the Duke’s order the overseer of the works at the Duomo supplied him with the wood necessary for the roof, doors, windows, etc., and it appears that Cosimo also gave considerable sums towards the cost of building. With good reason, therefore, the grateful Spaniard placed his master’s arms, instead of his own, on the façade with the inscription: COSMOS;MAGN;FLOR;ET;SEN;D;II.


The palace is decorated in grafite, and on a line with the arms are the favourite emblems of the Duke, a capricorn, a tortoise with a sail and two crossed anchors. It has always been attributed to Bartolomeo Ammanati, though neither Baldinucci nor any other contemporary writers give the name of the architect. But as Ammanati was at that time (1566–1569) engaged in rebuilding the bridge of Sta. Trinita, and was Cosimo’s favourite architect (he built the courtyard of Palazzo Pitti), it is more than probable that he was also employed by his courtiers. When Cosimo I. instituted the order of S. Stefano Don Antonio Ramirez di Montalvo was one of the first knights created, and was given a rich Commenda in perpetuity. The name of his grand-daughter, Donna Leonora, is well-known in Florence as the foundress of the convent of Le Quiete, the great school where the daughters of the nobility are educated by nuns called the Signore della Quiete, all ladies of good birth who do not take solemn vows. The life of Donna Leonora, written in 1740, is curious reading. As a baby she reproved her nurse if she was idle, and as a girl150 she must have been a trial to her father confessor from her scruples and incessant fears that everything was a deadly sin. She had visions, during which Our Lord and the Virgin Mary talked with her; she predicted the restoration to health, or the death, of many people and performed many miraculous cures. A singular mixture of Spanish bigotry and Tuscan common-sense was Donna Leonora. Many of the rules she laid down for the teaching of the young ladies at Le Quiete would be considered admirable at the present day. “Let them be trained to order,” she writes, “and to cleanliness. Teach them to put away their clothes properly.... Let them not be lazy or negligent, but sprightly and diligent. They should know how to sweep and clean a room, how to make a bed, to take charge of the linen and woollen things, and of what pertains to the furniture of the house. They should learn how to nurse a sick person with care, according to the doctor’s orders, and how to prepare all kinds of milk dishes, cordials, candied fruit and sweet pastry. It would be well, too, that they should know how to sew and wash fine linen, such as is used in a sacristy. Not that they are to perform such fatiguing duties, save for exercise and their own pleasure; on the contrary, I desire that they should be served in seemly fashion, but so that in case of necessity they may be able to direct how things ought to be done, for that is most necessary for the good ruling of a household.”50 After all these excellent, but rather commonplace, precepts, the bewildered reader is suddenly plunged into chapter after chapter of prophecies made, and miracles worked, by Donna Leonora; the miracles continued even after her death in 1659. She did, however, good work in founding the convent of the Signore della Quiete. Her brother, Don Antonio, died in 1581, and was succeeded by the eldest of his five sons. According to his friend Vasari, he drew well, and was a munificent151 patron of art. The last of the family, another Antonio, inherited the tastes of his ancestor. He was President of the Academy of Drawing in Florence, and Director of the Palatine gallery in Palazzo Pitti; it was under him that the gallery was first thrown open to the public on Sundays and half-holidays in 1833.

In 1739 the palace was let to Baron von Stosch, an antiquary, and a spy in the service of the English government to watch the doings of the Pretender. That delightful old gossip, Sir Horace Mann, notes in 1757, “Baron Stosch is dead at last.... His effects consist only in his Collection, which is very great, and worth a large sum. It is to be offered to the Emperor. He has appointed me and Abbé Buonacorsi his executors, and has left him a picture, and me a cameo, which I might have bought some years ago for six zecchins.” The palace still belongs to a collateral descendant of the old Spanish family, the Count Matteucci Montalvo.

When the second line of walls was built round Florence in 1173, the Oltrarno consisted of suburbs, and was chiefly inhabited by the poor. But early in the following century rich and powerful families began to build their houses and towers there, and among them were the Mozzi.

“Mozorum prisca paucide stirpe superunt
Area sola tenet nomen vicina fluente,”

writes Verino. In 1260 Jacopo di Cambio Mozzi was one of the leaders of the Florentine army, and after the defeat of the Guelphs the houses and towers of the Mozzi were sacked and destroyed, for which the city paid them an indemnity.152 They then built a palace on the same spot, where they received Pope Gregory X. and his whole court in magnificent fashion, when going to the Council of Lyons. All the prelates of distinction who passed through Florence were guests of the Mozzi, as they, together with the Spini, were bankers of the Pope, and farmers of the revenues of the Holy See. For that reason they had houses or correspondents all over the world.

The Pope arrived on the 18th June, 1273, with Charles of Anjou, King of Naples, and Baldwin of Flanders, who styled himself Emperor of Constantinople, “and, as the sojourn of Florence pleased them,” writes Villani, “because of the goodness of the water, the salubrity of the air and the comfort to be found in the city, they determined to spend the summer there. The Pope observing that so fine a city suffered by reason of the parties (for the Ghibellines were in exile), willed that they should return and make peace with the Guelphs, and it was done. On the 2nd July the said Pope, with his cardinals, King Charles, the Emperor Baldwin, all the barons and courtiers, and the Florentine people, collected in the dry bed of the Arno at the foot of the bridge of Rubaconte [now alle Grazie]; and the illustrious and great people took their places on huge scaffoldings of wood which had been erected. And there the Pope judged between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, under pain of excommunication to whomsoever did not obey. He caused the leaders of each party to kiss each other on the mouth and make peace, and give bail and hostages; and all the castles held by the Ghibellines were to be given into the hands of King Charles.” The peace was but short-lived, as the Ghibellines, warned of the evil intentions of the King towards them, left the city four days later.

Things in Florence went from bad to worse, so that Pope Nicholas III. was begged to send a legate to promote peace. Once more Palazzo Mozzi “became a second153 Rome,” for the Cardinal Fra Latino Frangipani was an honoured guest there in October 1278. His first task was to reconcile the Guelphs, who had fallen out among themselves, and then he made peace between them and the Ghibellines. The “Peace of Cardinal Latino” was signed, amid general rejoicing, in the Piazza Vecchia of Sta. Maria Novella in 1280.

In 1314 King Robert of Naples sent his brother Piero, Count of Gravina, with three hundred horsemen, at the urgent request of the Florentines, to help them against Uguccione della Fagiuola, whom the Pisans had taken into their pay. The young Count dismounted at Palazzo Mozzi in August, and Ammirato describes him as “prudent and discreet. He showed no sign of the pride and haughtiness of royalty in his dealing with the citizens, behaving courteously to all.... To these qualities were added the natural advantages of remarkable beauty both of face and person.” The Florentines were delighted with him, and his death at the battle of Montecatini the following year was sincerely mourned. Seven years later the old palace opened its doors to a very different guest. Walter de Brienne, Duke of Athens and Count of Lecce, who was to become the hated tyrant of Florence, stayed there for some time when he first arrived as Vicario of the Duke of Calabria.

Several of the Mozzi were gallant soldiers, and became knights of the Golden Spur. Vanni fought against the Pisans in 1292, and three years later was sent as ambassador to the Pope, to beg him once more to intervene in the internal dissensions of the city. Luigi Mozzi was amongst those sent to Venice to negociate a treaty in 1337, and four years later he was one of the twenty citizens of Florence who treated for the purchase of Lucca. Afterwards he arranged a league with Siena and Perugia. Marcantonio, canon of the cathedral of Sta. Maria del Fiore in 1707, a man of considerable learning, was an “Arcadian,”154 under the name of Dariseo Gortinano, and Archconsul of the Academia della Crusca. His brother, Pier-Giannozzo Mozzi, was created a Count of the Empire by Napoleon I.

It must have been a grandson of Pier-Giannozzo whom Sir Horace Mann mentions as the friend of the eccentric Lady Orford. She died at Pisa in 1781, and Mann writes: “Mozzi brought me her writing-box, which I opened in his presence, and of a lawyer’s, in which I saw a paper sealed with her seal, and, wrote on the cover by her, ‘A copy of my last will.’... She has left everything she was possessed of to Mozzi.... He is one of the most antient families among the nobilità here, and not poor for this country. She, to be sure, chose him for his beauty, which was then great and in its prime, but she wished it to be thought that his learning (for which he is distinguished, and he has just published some approved works on Mathematicks) biassed her choice.... Mozzi’s attention has been greatly rewarded.” In 1784 Sir Horace notes that “Florence is much amused by the marriage of Lady Orford’s old Cicisbeo, Cavaliere Mozzi.”

The old palace and its large garden was sold by the last of the family a few years ago to the Dowager Princess Carolath Beuthen.



This quaintly shaped palace with a fine courtyard, and ending in a sharp angle at Via de’ Castellaccio, belonged to the ancient family of the Nerli, praised by Dante as still living soberly according to the good old fashion.

“... The sons I saw
Of Nerli, and of Vecchio, well content
With unrobed jerkins; and their good dames handling
The spindle and the flax. Oh happy they.”

In the XIth century they had houses and a tower in the centre of old Florence and took their name from one Nerlo, son of Signorello di Ridolfo d’Ildebrando di Leone, who lived in 1079. Another Messer Nerlo was Consul of the city of Florence in 1196 and again in 1202. The Nerli joined the sect of the156 Paterines, and when Fra Piero da Verona preached a crusade against the heretics they fled and took refuge in France. Not being able to burn the living, the Friar desecrated the family tombs and burnt the corpses and the bones of their ancestors. The Nerli remained in France for a hundred and fifty years and must have abjured their heretic faith, as Cosimo the Elder recalled Francesco de Nerlo to Florence, and caused him to be made a Popolano and a Prior, the first of his house. His son Tanay became a man of great consequence in the city, and was one of the chief adversaries of Savonarola. It was at his instigation that the bell of S. Marco, with which the friars had summoned the people to their aid when Fra Girolamo was arrested, was taken to S. Miniato. Tradition says it was never tolled there but once, and that was for the funeral of Tanay Nerli. One of his sons was a good Greek scholar to whom we owe the first edition of Homer. Another son was father to the historian Filippo Nerli (1485–1536), whose Commentary is a model of pure and elegant Italian, but marred by too great a partiality to the Medici, to whom he was related through his wife Caterina Salviati, aunt of Duke Cosimo I. The descendant of another son was Archbishop of Florence and a Cardinal in 1669. About the same time his brother, Senator Nerli, bought the estate of Rassina from the Altieri with the title of Marquess, and one of his sons succeeded his uncle as Archbishop and as Cardinal. The palace now belongs to Signor Fiaschi Cuccoli.




“In 1592,” writes Baldinucci in his life of Matteo Nigetti, “Alessandro Strozzi bought a house from Camillo de’ Pazzi, that same Camillo who was father to S. Maria Maddalena, and a small one adjoining with a shop, at Canto del Papa, so-called in olden times from a family who lived there, but afterwards called the Canto de’ Pazzi; near to where the first wall of Florence ended towards the east with the Porta S. Pietro.” They were bought with the intention of building the fine, but unfinished, palace we now see, and Alessandro charged Bernardo Buontalenti not only to make the design but to superintend the work. Nigetti worked under him for seven years, until the façade as far as the sills of the first floor windows on the side towards the Duomo was finished. “The kneeling windows and the door in Borgo degl’Albizzi show how great was the talent of Buontalenti,” says Vasari; “he only built the first floor of the palace, as a difference arose with the owner about a certain staircase proposed by Santi di Tito, who did what little he knew and no more, and the building was then entrusted to other hands.” Scamozzi the Roman architect was at that time in Florence and continued the work for Ruberto Strozzi. When he left, Caccini became the architect and sculptured the fine coat of arms at the corner, shown in the drawing. After his death Nigetti was once more called in to superintend, and Cigoli designed the courtyard. The Guasti family bought the palace in the XVIIth century, and the entrance court, which till then had been open, was roofed over. With so many architects it seems strange that the palace should have remained in such a condition160 as to have merited the special name of Nonfinito (the Unfinished) in a city where but few of the great buildings are completed. It is possible that some dispute arose between the Strozzi and the Salviati, whose palace was opposite, about the height; in which the latter, connected with the Medici by the marriage of Maria Salviati with Giovanni delle Bande Nere, would have gained the day.

In 1814 the palace was bought by the Grand Ducal government, and Fossombroni, the enlightened minister of Fernando III., inhabited it for some time. It then became the office of the head of the police, and now is the central telegraph office of Florence.

This palace was built by Carlo Fontana for the Cardinal Bandino Panciatichi and is celebrated for its fine staircase, the incline of which is so gradual that one of the Panciatichi, an officer on the staff of the Arch Duke of Austria, used to ride upstairs. It was erected on the site of the houses of the Della Casa family, who would not merit special mention if Monsignore Giovanni Della Casa, born in 1503, had not belonged to the chief academies of the day and written Galateo, that elaborate essay on good manners whose title has passed into a proverb. He was Archbishop of Benevento in 1544 and soon afterwards Nuncio at Venice. The scandal caused by his burlesque poem Capitolo del Forno probably prevented his being made a Cardinal.51

The story of the Panciatichi family would be almost a history of Pistoja, as for more than three centuries the161 little town was torn to pieces by the bloody feuds between them and the Cancellieri. According to tradition they descend from a Roman Consul:

“Et genus et nomen gens haec Panseatica sumpsit
E Pansa eximio Consule magnanimo;
Belligeri Tuscam Pistori venit ad urbem
Cum cecidit fato consul uterque pari,”

wrote Giovanni Navarra in the XVth century; and in public acts and ancient inscriptions the Panciatichi called themselves Pansea progenies. They were lords of many strong castles and townlets in the Apennines; amongst others of San Marcello, which from time immemorial paid them a yearly tribute of 100 lbs. of cheese, 50 loads of beech wood and 3 bushels of chestnuts. The oldest existing document about the family is dated 1057, and relates to Pansa, or Pancio, son of Bellino a knight of the Golden Spur who conceded to the Bishop of Pistoja the right of allowing the friars of S. Salvatore to collect certain tithes. Infrangilasta Panciatichi went to the crusades in 1190 and was taken prisoner by Saladin, but after some months he escaped and returned to Pistoja, where in fulfilment of a vow he gave lands to the church of S. Angelo in Gora.52 The documents relating to his sons Inghiramo and Lanfranco are curious as showing the feudal rights enjoyed by a great Ghibelline family. Ridolfo Panciaticho, his sons and his brother Angelo, were created knights of the Golden Spur in 1329 by the Commune of Florence, and a few years afterwards the latter was made a citizen. His son Diliano was ambassador to the Emperor Charles IV., and a descendant of his, Bartolomeo, was a most successful merchant at162 Lyons. His son and namesake, a friend of the artists and men of letters of his day, was himself a poet. In France, where he was ambassador for some years, he became a Protestant, and on his return to Florence was imprisoned by the tribunal of the Inquisition. After suffering torture he publicly abjured in 1552 and was received again into the Roman Catholic Church after long and wonderful ceremonies. The portraits of himself and his wife Lucrezia by Bronzino, are in the Uffizi. His son Carlo, a man of violent temper, was condemned to death for murdering his servant, but was pardoned by Cosimo I. on the condition that he married his mistress Eleonora degl’Albizzi, of whom the Grand Duke was tired after she had borne him a son.

Niccolò Panciatichi, a member of the Academia della Crusca who won some fame as a writer, inherited the palace from his uncle the Cardinal, and married the rich heiress Caterina Guicciardini. He increased the fine library, collected many valuable pictures, and probably placed the Madonna and Child, of the school of Mino da Fiesole, on the corner of the palace. His grandson Niccolò was a great botanist (a taste inherited by the Marchioness Paulucci, his great-granddaughter) and his garden at the Villa La Loggia, where exotic and rare plants were cultivated with wonderful success, was celebrated. In 1762 he married Vittoria, the last of the great Portuguese family of Ximenes d’Aragona, who brought him a large fortune, besides the Marquisates of Esche in Bavaria, of Saturnia in Southern Italy, a palace in Florence, etc. The Panciatichi then added her name and her arms to their own (see p. 398).


This beautiful, but unfinished, palace was begun by a son of Pandolfo Pandolfini, who went to Naples in 1465 as ambassador of the Florentine Republic. He was so popular there, and became such a favourite with the King, that his son Gianozzo, described as a “jocund and liberal man, honoured by all who knew him,” was made Bishop of Troia. When the Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici became Pope he summoned Gianozzo Pandolfini to Rome, and created him Governor of Castel Sant’Angelo. But Florence was the place he loved, and he often came to stay in a house he had hired in the Via S. Gallo from the monks of Monte Senario. After improving the house, and turning part of the orchard into a garden, he wanted to buy it, but the monks refused to sell, alleging that in the orchard stood an oratory, or small church, which had once formed part of a convent of Benedictine nuns. Leo X. came to the aid of his friend the Bishop, and by a Papal Bull, dated 28th May, 1517, followed by a Brieve in Feb. 1520, conceded to him, and approved of the sale to him, of the house, land and church, allowing him to suppress and transfer the latter elsewhere if it so pleased him. The Pope at the same time sent some fine marbles from Rome to be used in the decoration of the house. Thereupon Bishop Pandolfini addressed himself to his “most dear friend Raffaello da Urbino,” who, as Vasari tells us, “made for him a design for the palace he wished to build in Via S. Gallo, and Giovanfrancesco da San Gallo was sent from Rome to begin the work, which he did with all possible diligence.”

Bishop Gianozzo died in 1525, so Vasari is in error164 when he states that the building, which had been interrupted by the death of the architect and the siege of Florence in 1530, was continued by him, with Bastiano da San Gallo, surnamed Aristotle, as his architect. It was most probably Ferrando Pandolfini, a man of considerable learning, to whom his uncle ceded his bishopric of Troia, and to whom he also left the palace, who went on with it, and who caused the inscription to be placed under the cornice, JANNOCTIUS. PANDOLFINIUS. EPS. TROIANUS. LEONIS. X. ET. CLEMENTIS. VII. PONT. MAX. BENEFICIIS. AUCTUS. A. FUNDAMENTIS. EREXIT. AN. SAL. M. D. XX. The original design by Raphael is said to have been curtailed, so that the part which now consists of ground-floor rooms, covered by a large terrace, ought to have formed an integral portion of the edifice. But the building is so beautiful as it stands that one can hardly regret what was left undone.

The entrance door, the windows, especially those of the first floor, which are Ionic, while the lower ones are Doric, and the capitals of the columns surrounding the loggia, are very fine. In 1616 the palace passed to a descendant of Bishop Gianozzo’s third brother, who finished it and laid out the garden, which had been neglected. He also dowered the oratory of S. Silvestro which had been incorporated with the house and not transferred. Roberto Pandolfini, his nephew, inherited the palace in 1655, and it is still in the possession of descendants of the family. Count Alessio Pandolfini restored it in excellent taste in 1875, when the outer door of the small church, or oratory, was made into a window. Florence owes to Battista, another brother of Bishop Gianozzo Pandolfini, the fine doorway of the Badia, which he commissioned Benedetto da Rovezzano to build, and he also erected the tomb to his grandfather, another Gianozzo Pandolfini, in the same church.




The Pazzi, who claim a Roman descent, came originally from Fiesole, and were always Guelphs. Excluded by Giano della Bella, in 1292, from all participation in the government of the city, it was only after Cosimo de’ Medici’s return from exile that Andrea de’ Pazzi became a Prior in 1439; when Cosimo gave his granddaughter Bianca in marriage to Gugliemo, Andrea’s grandson. The houses of the various members of the Pazzi family, who all made large fortunes in trade, once extended for some distance along both sides of Borgo degl’Albizzi. But when, towards the middle of the XVth century, the Florentine nobles began to erect palaces in lieu of their old fortified houses, Messer Andrea de’ Pazzi commissioned Filippo Brunelleschi, who designed the beautiful chapel for him in the cloister of Sta. Croce, to build a palace. Poliziano’s statement that Jacopo, Andrea de’ Pazzi’s son, destroyed his father’s house to build this palace, is controverted by documents found by Signor Iodico Del Badia in the archives of the old catasti, which show that Jacopo only incorporated an adjoining house he had bought with the one inherited from his father. The splendid palace cannot, however, have been completed when Andrea died in 1445, as his son employed Giuliano da Majano and his brothers to finish it. Another reason for attributing the building to Messer Andrea de’ Pazzi, and not to his son Jacopo, is that the sail, an emblem always used for indicating that the proprietor had made his fortune in trade, is among the ornaments in the centre of the arches of the windows. On the capitals in the courtyard are the dolphins, the arms of the Pazzi, and the vase containing the Holy Fire. This, according to ancient custom, was lit by means of certain168 stones, brought from the Holy Sepulchre by Pazzino de’ Pazzi, said to have been the first to scale the walls of Jerusalem in one of the crusades.

Under Lorenzo il Magnifico the Pazzi found themselves excluded from office, and their animosity was further aroused by the loss of a lawsuit involving the large fortune of Giovanni Borromeo, whose only daughter had married Giovanni de’ Pazzi, Andrea’s nephew. By Florentine law the daughter should have inherited from her father who died intestate, but it was assigned to her cousin, Carlo Borromeo. Guicciardini makes Pier Capponi say, “Tyrants are forced to watch the action of every one, and to cast down those who seem to them too powerful or too intelligent. Hence arose the wronging of the Pazzi, by an iniquitous law which deprived them of the inheritance of the Borromei, and the varied persecutions of the family, so that desperation drove them into that conspiracy whence came such infinite evils.” Francesco de’ Pazzi, Giovanni’s brother, described by Poliziano as “a man of blood who, when he meditated any design, went straight to his goal, being hindered by no regard for morality, religion, reputation, or fair fame,” quitted Florence and went to Rome, where the Pazzi had a banking house. He knew Sixtus IV. and was aware of his hatred of the Medici, a hatred he gratified by appointing Cardinal Francesco Salviati, a man of evil reputation and bitterly hostile to Lorenzo, to the See of Pisa. At Rome Francesco de’ Pazzi became intimate with the Pope’s so-called nephew, Count Girolamo Riario, Lord of Imola; and Stefano Infessura, the well-informed Roman diarist, affirms that “these things [i. e. the murder of the Medici] were ordered by Pope Sixtus, together with the Count Girolamo and others, in order to take away the dominion from Lorenzo and to confer it on the Count Girolamo.” The dying confession of one of their instruments, Giovanbattista di Montesecco, captain in the papal service, fully confirms this.




Advantage was taken of the presence at Pisa of Riario’s nephew, Raffaello, who had just been created a Cardinal. He was summoned to Florence, and Lorenzo, as was his wont, invited him to an entertainment at the Medici villa at Fiesole. The conspirators then determined to murder the two brothers, but Giuliano, being ill, did not go, so the attempt was postponed. Cardinal Raffaello expressing a desire to hear mass in the cathedral of Florence, Lorenzo invited him to go on Sunday, 26th April, and to dine at his palace in Via Larga afterwards. The conspirators then settled, that at the elevation of the Host, when it is customary for all to kneel, the deed should be done. Their design was nearly frustrated by the refusal of Captain Montesecco to commit a murder “where Christ would surely see him.” His place was hastily filled by Stefano da Bagnoni, parish priest of Montemurlo, and secretary to Jacopo de’ Pazzi, and by Antonio Maffei of Volterra, an Apostolic notary, who were to kill Lorenzo; while Francesco de’ Pazzi and one of his braves, Bernardo Bandini, were to fall on Giuliano. Montesecco’s scruples proved fatal to the success of the plot, as the two ecclesiastics blundered and only wounded Lorenzo slightly in the neck. Francesco de’ Pazzi did his work with such fury that he inflicted nineteen stabs on Giuliano, and wounded himself on the thigh. While this was going on in the cathedral, the Archbishop Salviati went to the Palazzo della Signoria, which he intended to seize, while Jacopo de’ Pazzi was to incite the people to revolt. Cesare Petrucci, the Gonfalonier, a shrewd man devoted to the Medici, was struck by the Archbishop’s embarrassed manner and confused speech; so he suddenly left the room, locked the door behind him and went to look out on the Piazza. There he saw Jacopo de’ Pazzi and his followers shouting “Liberty! liberty!” and at once ordered the gates of the palace to be closed. Citizens came running with the news of the assassination of Giuliano,172 and without a moment’s hesitation Petrucci seized the Archbishop and hung him from the column of a window overlooking the Piazza. Some of his followers, including Jacopo Poggio, son of the historian, were hung beside their leader, the rest were cut down on the staircase or in the courtyard. Francesco de’ Pazzi was seized in bed at his own house, and naked and bleeding from the wound in his thigh was hung by the side of the Archbishop, in whose shoulder he is said to have fixed his teeth in his death agony.

Gugliemo Pazzi, who knew of, but did not participate in, the plot, took refuge from the popular fury in the palace of his brother-in-law Lorenzo de’ Medici. He was banished. Giovanni de’ Pazzi, the husband of the Borromei heiress, eventually died in prison at Volterra, and the seven sons of Francesco de’ Pazzi’s brother Piero were either hung, condemned to perpetual exile, or to imprisonment for life. Jacopo was caught while crossing the frontier into the Romagna, brought back to Florence, and executed. His body was laid in the family vault in Sta. Croce, but the mob disinterred it, dragged it through the streets to his palace and battered the head against the door, amidst ironical shouts that the master wanted to come in. At length the body was thrown into the Arno, followed, as it floated down stream, by a jeering crowd.

In 1498 the fine palace was bought by Francesco Cibo, son of Pope Innocent VIII. and at his death went to his son Lorenzo, whose wife Ricciarda Malaspina was one of the many ladies admired by the base-born Duke Alessandro de’ Medici. Her brother-in-law, the Archbishop of Marseilles, then determined to murder the Duke. Varchi relates that “when Alessandro went to the palace he used to sit on a certain chest which was in the room of the Marchesana, very close to the bed in which she slept. So the Archbishop planned to fill a similar chest with173 gunpowder, and to set it in the place of the one the Duke was wont to use, and it was to be so made that he might easily set fire to the powder inside when the Duke sat on it. This he did because it seemed to him that the close friendship and great familiarity between the Duke and the Marchesana was a matter of reproach and most shameful. But while all things necessary for carrying out his evil intent were being prepared, the plot was discovered. He was imprisoned until the Emperor came to Florence, when he was released and allowed to go where it best pleased him.”

Some ladies of the Cibo family were the first to introduce carriages into Florence in 1536, but Tommaso Rinnuccini writes: “They were not common even in the beginning of the present [XVIIth] century, and many of the nobility did not use them. Little by little, with the excuse of a marriage, or other such pretext, many adopted them; some with four, the richest even with six horses. At first they were small, made of leather both inside and out, and placed immediately over the axle, so that the movement was most uncomfortable; then they were hung on straps, to be less rough, and finally the straps were attached to carved bands of well-tempered steel which, yielding to any shock, made them still more easy. The handsomest are of black, or of coloured velvet, with fringes inside and out and the tops gilt inside. Till the middle of the century some of the richer inhabitants of the city used a cocchio, which was generally lined with rose-coloured velvet and covered with purple cloth; on the top were eight gilt-knobs (pomi), but these have gone entirely out of fashion. In 1672 a style of carriage, hung on long straps, was introduced from Paris, which swung and swayed to and fro; they are called poltroncine (small arm-chairs), because they are so comfortable.... At the time I write a sort of covered chair, placed on two long poles, has been imported from Paris; in front the poles rest on the back of a horse, and174 behind on two wheels, and they swing much. To this chair has been given the name of calesso, and in 1667 there were already near a thousand in the city.”

Alberigo Cibo sold the fine old palace in 1593 to Lorenzo Strozzi, in whose family it remained until bought by the Marquess Niccolò Quaratesi in 1760. The family came originally from Castello di Quarata, and Vanni Quaratesi took the side of the people, and was created a knight during the Ciompi riots. Castello, who held high office at various times in the first half of the XVth century, is said to have founded the monastery of S. Salvadore at Monte San Miniato. But dates do not agree, and Signor Passerini is probably right in suggesting that Castello Quaratesi built a small convent for the Franciscans at S. Miniato after the “Operai” of S. Croce refused to allow him to affix his arms on the façade he had intended to build for the church. He left his large fortune to the College of the Guild of Merchants, with a special clause recommending the convent to their care, and they probably carried out his wishes and erected the present church and conventual buildings, designed by Cronaca towards the end of the XVth century. The first Quaratesi houses were on the other side of the Arno, near the church of S. Niccolò, where they lived until the Marquess Niccolò bought the magnificent Pazzi palace built by Brunelleschi. In 1843 it again changed hands, and passed into the possession of the Baron de Rast, who left it by will to a charitable institution in Gotha.

It is curious that the well-known Pazzi arms, the three dolphins, said to have been carved by Donatello, are still in situ at the corner of Borgo degl’Albizzi, for a decree of 1478 ordered them to be destroyed all over the city. It is hardly likely that this shield was replaced after the banishment of Piero de’ Medici, when the decree permitting the descendants of Andrea de’ Pazzi to again put up their arms was passed, because the palace no longer belonged to175 them. It is, however, still called by their name, and the street corner to this day is known as the “Canto de’ Pazzi.” It is here that the famous colombina, or dove, beloved by all Florentines, flies on Holy Saturday along a cord stretched from the door of the Bank of Italy, built on the site of the greatest of the Pazzi palaces, to the wondrous old painted car, and sets fire to the squibs and crackers piled high upon it.

The first mention of the Peruzzi family occurs in 1150, when Ubaldino, son of Peruzzo of the Porta della Pera, appeared as a witness about a contract with the convent of S. Salvi. At Montaperti the Peruzzi fought on the side of the Guelphs, when Arnoldo was knighted on the field of battle, and with the rest of their party were exiled until peace was made between Ghibellines and Guelphs in 1280. Nine years later the name of Arnoldo’s son Pacino is mentioned in the archives of the Commune, as receiving rent for certain prisons in his palace on the site of the old Roman amphitheatre, where 800 Aretines and Ghibellines taken in the battle of Campaldino were immured. The name of the street behind S. Firenze, Via di Burella (prison or den), still records their existence. No doubt these were the dens of the wild beasts under the ancient amphitheatre in which S. Miniatus was twice exposed to lions under the Emperor Decius. The circular form can still be traced in the thick walls of the old Peruzzi houses in the Piazza. In 1293 Pacino appears as a purchaser from the Commune of that part of the old walls of the second circuit of Florence which stood where now is Via de’ Benci176 and the Arco de’ Peruzzi.53 Four years later he was one of the nine Gonfaloniers of Justice of the family, who also had fifty-four Priors. They were among the richest and most powerful citizens of the XIIIth century, and when King Robert of Naples came to Florence in 1310 he was lodged and magnificently entertained for twenty-four days in their palaces in Piazza de’ Peruzzi. Here was their loggia, used as a kind of private exchange, to which the Arco de’ Peruzzi may have belonged. It stands either on the very spot, or at all events close to where once was—

“The gateway, named from those of Pera.”54

Vasari tells us that Paolo Uccello frescoed the arch “with triangles in perspective, and on the corners in the square spaces he painted the four elements, each represented by an appropriate animal. For the earth a mole, for water a fish, for fire a salamander, and for air a chameleon, which lives thereon and assumes every colour. As he had never seen a chameleon he painted a camel with its mouth wide open inhaling the air to fill its lungs. Showing certes great simplicity.”


Many of the houses on the western side of the Via de’ Benci belonged to the Peruzzi, others were in Borgo de’ Greci, where the present palace stands, and in the Via dell’Anguillara, the Via de’ Rustici, etc., the well-known coat-of-arms with six pears is still to be seen here and there on the façades. In 1339 the Peruzzi were ruined and forced to sell their lands and many of their houses. They and their partners the Bardi had lent money to Edward III. of England, who, owing to his wars with France, was unable to pay his debts. A decree dated 6th May, 1339, orders the suspension of all payments to the King’s creditors, “not excepting his well-beloved Bardi and Peruzzi,” to177179 whom he owed 1,355,000 golden florins. The failure of the great banking house of Bardi Peruzzi was a calamity from which Florence did not recover for some time, and Dino Compagni, who suffered severely himself, exclaims: “O cursed and insatiable avidity, born of the vice of avarice which reigns amongst our blind and mad citizens who, for the sake of gaining from those above them, place their own and other people’s money in their power. For this was lost the strength of our Republic, as but little wealth remained to our citizens, save to some artificers and money-lenders who by usury consumed and gathered to themselves the scattered remnants of the poverty of our citizens.”

The Peruzzi houses must have been used by the Signoria for lodging distinguished guests, as Villani writes: “On the 10th March [1345] the wife of the Prince of Taranto, daughter to the Duke of Bourbon, who called herself Empress of Constantinople without possessing an Empire, passed through Florence on her way to France. Great honour was paid to her, she being met and accompanied by many knights and ladies. She dismounted at the house of the Peruzzi, the Commune paying all the expenses of her coming and her going and of the two days she stayed in the city;” and nearly a century later, when the Greek Emperor Paleologus and the Patriarch came to attend the council of Florence “the whole circuit of the houses of the Peruzzi were assigned to them as their residence.” It is said that the street was called Borgo de’ Greci in memory of the Emperor’s visit; Passerini, however, thinks the name was older, and derived from a family called Greci, who lived there.

Ridolfo Peruzzi joined Rinaldo degl’Albizzi in opposing the return of Cosimo the Elder, and, like him, was banished, and all he had confiscated. He died in exile at Aquila in 1440, and as long as the rule of the Medici lasted the name of Peruzzi no longer appears among the magistrates180 of Florence. Among those of the family who found it impossible to live under them was Antonio, “a noble citizen of Florence,” writes Vasari, “who went to Volterra to live more quietly, and there after a time married in 1482, and in a few years had two children, a son named Baldassare, and a daughter, Virginia. But it happened that war, persecuting him who sought only peace and quiet, broke out, and Volterra was sacked; so Antonio was forced to fly to Siena, where, having lost nearly all he possessed, he lived in poverty.” Baldassare Peruzzi’s whole life was a perpetual struggle, he was miserably paid, and his name as painter, architect and decorator, stood higher after his death than during his life. He died at the age of fifty-eight, probably of poison.

In the latter half of the last century the name of Ubaldino Peruzzi was a household word in Florence. An honest politician and a kind man, he had a great deal of the peculiar Florentine humour and his favourite saying, “Gente allegra, Iddio l’aiuta,” was typical of the man. His wife was as popular as himself, and in their old palace in Borgo de’ Greci one was sure to meet every distinguished Italian and any foreigner of mark who chanced to be in Florence.

Towards the end of the XVIIth century Paolo Falconieri built this palace for the Marquess Lodovico Incontri on the site of houses belonging to a branch of the Vespucci family. The Incontri were Lords of Acquaviva near Volterra. Antonio fought at Montaperti, was taken prisoner by the Ghibellines, but escaped and joined Charles181 of Anjou at Naples, who knighted him and gave him the command of 200 horse, when he fought against Manfred and Corradino. On his return to Volterra he volunteered to lead his fellow-citizens against the Pisans and was killed in a skirmish near Pontedera in 1291. Attilio Incontri married the daughter of a courtier of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I. and settled in Florence, and his son Ferdinando was made a Senator and Marquess of Monteverdi and Canneto in 1665; his other son was Lodovico who built the palace which now belongs to the Marquess Piccolelis.

The Vespucci to whom the original houses belonged came from Peretola and took their name from Vespuccio, a wine merchant, who was the first of twenty-five Priors of his house in 1350. Giuliano Vespucci was Gonfalonier of Justice in 1462, and his son Piero commanded the Florentine galleys on the coast of Barbary and of Syria. From him no doubt his young cousin Amerigo, who gave his name to America, heard many seafaring tales. Born in 1451 and brought up by his uncle, a learned Dominican in S. Marco to whom Marsilio Ficino entrusted the revision of his Platonic Theology, Amerigo studied languages, physics and geometry. Admitted to the Platonic Academy he became intimate with Toscanelli, who expounded to him his ideas as to the existence of another hemisphere. Amerigo was manager of the Medici bank at Seville when Columbus made his first discoveries, and entreated King Ferdinand of Spain to take him into his service as chief pilot of another expedition. When the news of his triumphant return after an eighteen month’s voyage reached Florence, the Signoria ordered his house, now incorporated in the hospital of S. Giovanni di Dio, in Borgognissanti, to be illuminated for three nights, an honour rarely accorded by the Commune.


Buonaccorso Pitti, in his delightful chronicle,55 tells us that the Pitti, being Guelphs, were expelled from the castle of Semifonte by the Ghibellines in 1202, when they divided into three branches. “We of the third branch,” he writes, “settled at Castelvecchio in the Val di Pesa, where we bought large and rich estates.... A few years later our ancestors came to live in Florence, and their first houses were those which now belong to the Machiavelli in the parish of Sta. Felicita. I have heard tell by Neri, my father, that one of our ancestors, named Bonsignore, went to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and to Sta. Caterina on Mount Sinai; he never came back, nor is it known where he died. When he left Florence his wife was with child, and she bore a son who was called Bonsignore after his father. From him sprang Maffeo, who was a rich, powerful and honourable citizen, and from the book in which the names of all who have been Priors are written, it appears he was a Prior in 1283. Maffeo had, amongst others, two sons; the eldest was Ciore, the second Buonaccorso ... according to reliable accounts was a good and trustworthy man.... By his wife Monna Giovanna degl’Infangati he had six sons and three daughters.... Neri his son, our father, made a very large fortune in the wool trade. I find that every year he made eleven hundredweight of cloth, most of which was sent to Apulia. He was most industrious and active in his business, and the French wool that came into our workshops was turned into perfect cloth. His last building was185 the Tiratoio,56 which cost about 3,500 florins. It seems he did not care about taking office under the Commune, but he was twice Prior. He was a handsome man, three braccie in height, not fat, but with good bone and muscle; his hair was reddish, and he was healthy and vigorous and lived sixty-eight years, may God give him eternal rest. His wife, my mother, Monna Curradina degl’ Strozzi, was a handsome, clever woman, of dark complexion; she lived sixty-six years. I, Buonaccorso, married Francesca degl’Albizzi ... and till now Francesca and I have had eleven children, of whom seven are alive, Luca, Ruberto, &c., &c.”


Numerous were the adventures of Buonaccorso Pitti. Rich, able and of fine presence, he was constantly employed on embassies to divers sovereigns and sister Republics. An inveterate gambler, but with a keen eye to business, generous to his family and friends, but keeping a minute account of his daily expenses, well educated, a good Latin scholar, a bad poet and an amusing boon-companion, Buonaccorso was a typical Florentine of the XVth century. His son, Luca, born in 1398, founder of the splendid palace which still bears his name, began his political career when most lads are still at college, and his enormous wealth gave him considerable power in his native city.

About 1440 Luca Pitti commissioned the great architect Brunelleschi to build for him a palace more magnificent than that of the Medici in Via Larga (now Palazzo Riccardi). “Not only,” writes Machiavelli, “did citizens and private persons contribute, and aid him with things necessary to the building, but communes and corporations lent him help.” As Gonfalonier of Justice he was able to do signal service to Cosimo de’ Medici by causing Girolamo Machiavelli, Carlo Benizzi and Niccolò Barbadori, who had lifted up their voices to warn the Florentine citizens against186 the ambition of the Medici, to be murdered in prison. Cosimo in return used his influence to obtain a public decree, ordaining that Luca Pitti should be created a Knight of the People in S. Giovanni with great pomp; in memory thereof Luca added the red cross, emblem of the People, to his arms. On the death of Cosimo, who was succeeded by his infirm and gouty son Piero, Luca thought his opportunity had come. Together with a far abler man, Diotisalvi Neroni, he put himself at the head of the anti-Medicean party and Florence was divided into two camps, the party of the Hill, so-called because Luca’s palace stood on the highest point of the city; and of the Plain, because the palace of the Medici was on the flat. But discord soon broke out among the Hill party, as Luca perceived that if the Medici were beaten Neroni, and not himself, would be the head of the Republic; so in 1466 he made peace with Piero de’ Medici after which, as Machiavelli tells us, “friends and relations avoided saluting him in the streets. The superb edifices begun by him were abandoned by the builders, the benefits bestowed on him in the past were changed to injuries, the honours to insults. And many of those who had freely given something of great value now demanded it back, as having been merely lent; others who had been wont to praise him to the skies, blamed him as an ungrateful and violent man. Wherefore too late did he repent that he had not believed Niccolò Soderini, and sought rather to die honoured with arms in hand, than live dishonoured amongst his victorious enemies.”

Brunelleschi’s original design for Palazzo Pitti had only seven windows to the front, and Herr von Fabriczy in Filippo Brunelleschi Sein Leben und Seine Werke writes: “The choice of such dimensions (59 metres wide and 38 metres high) shows that he immediately grasped the advantages of a position on sharply rising ground and knew how to use it as a mighty factor for the desired187 effect.... In order to gauge the talent with which Brunelleschi turned to signal advantage what in other hands would have been a cause of failure, one need only imagine any one of the Florentine palaces, with the exception of the Palazzo Vecchio, in the place of the Pitti palace, to realize what a miserably meagre impression they would make as the crowning edifice on the summit of the steep hill.”

Vasari tells us “that Brunelleschi began and directed the building up to the second-floor windows,” so it cannot have been roofed in when Luca’s descendant Buonaccorso sold the huge unfinished pile to Eleonora of Toledo, wife of Cosimo I., for 9,000 golden florins (about £5,400) in 1549. In the following spring Niccolò Braccini, better known by his surname of Tribolo, began to lay out the adjacent garden, the Grand Duchess having bought much land to enlarge it. The origin of the name—Boboli—is unknown. Some say it is an Etruscan word, others that a family called Borgoli owned the land, which then became commonly known as Bogoli and, as often happens in Italy, the “g” was changed into a “b.” Or it may be derived from the Tuscan name of the hoopoe—bubula—which frequents the garden in spring uttering its weird note hoop, hoop, hoop, among the ilex groves. However that may be, Tribolo made a wonderful garden that has been the delight of many generations.

The original plan by Brunelleschi having been lost, the famous architect Ammannati was called in. He made considerable changes in the interior, in the windows of the first floor, and, according to an old manuscript, “finished the façade up to the roof.” He also built the magnificent courtyard, but did not change the length or the height of the palace, as is proved by a ground plan drawn twenty-four years after his death, which shows the front with Brunelleschi’s original seven windows. “In June, 1566,” writes Agostino Lapi in his Diary, “was begun188 the splendid and imperial building of the magnificent Palazzo Pitti of the city of Florence; that is to say, the new part in the courtyard which is opposite the convent and the monastery of Sta. Felicita—the façade and all the part facing the street and S. Spirito being ancient, while the right and left sides of the courtyard are modern and were begun in this century. Nearly all the stone, at least all that is of good quality, used for the ‘bozzi’ and the pilasters and suchlike, was quarried in the courtyard of the palace, the rest came from the Belvedere and other parts of the garden; so that the stone which adorns and beautifies the palace was quarried in the courtyard or in various places in the garden, a thing most convenient for the building. In the courtyard the old building on the side towards the Porta a S. Pier Gattolini was demolished. There were many fine rooms in the said courtyard, and a deep drain more than two feet wide which received all the rain water and that which came from the kitchens and other places, and passing under the said palace it carried off all filth.... Maestro Bartolommeo Ammannati, the principal architect of the new palace, told me that he had found the date of the commencement of the old building, 1466, carved on a stone.”

In July, 1558, the marriage of Lucrezia de’ Medici, Cosimo’s daughter, was solemnized in the chapel of the palace. One hundred and ten ladies, resplendent in brocade dresses and many jewels, were assembled to see the masquerade in five parts acted by young Florentine nobles. First came twelve Indians, alarming, but very gorgeous; then twelve Florentines habited as in ancient times; twelve Greeks in fine armour followed; then twelve emperors blazing with jewels; finally came twelve pilgrims with long mantles of cloth of gold, on which were emblazoned cockle shells of silver, and music proper to the different character of each masquerade was played by hidden musicians.


Later in the same year, Isabella, the most beautiful of Cosimo’s daughters, was married to Paolo Giordano Orsini, Duke of Bracciano. Her beauty was enhanced by her many talents. She was a good musician; spoke and wrote elegant Italian, Latin, French and Spanish; was a poetess and an improvisatrice, and accompanied herself on the lute. Her father doted on her, and opposed her departure for Rome with her husband. The name of the beautiful young Duchess was soon coupled with that of Troilo Orsini, her husband’s cousin, who had been left by him as her guardian. Troilo became jealous of a handsome page, Lelio Torello, whom he stabbed one night in the garden. After the death of Cosimo the scandal reached the ears of Isabella’s husband, who came from Rome, and with the connivance of her brother, the Grand Duke, strangled her at his villa of Cerreto but a few days after her brother, Don Pietro, had killed his lovely young Spanish wife at Cafaggiuolo.

The birth of the only son of Francesco I. and of Joan of Austria, supposed to have been poisoned a few years later by Bianca Cappello, was celebrated with great rejoicings; money was showered down among the crowd from the windows of the Palazzo Pitti, and great butts of wine were broached on the balustrade of the Palazzo Vecchio. Not only did every man drink at will, but Settimanni declares that the Via Vachereccia and the Mercato Nuovo ran with wine as far as the Ponte Vecchio. Poor ugly, misshapen Joan had no happy life with her Medici husband, who was completely under the dominion of the handsome and dissolute Bianca Cappello, to whom he was secretly married in his private chapel very soon after his wife’s death. A few months later the Venetian Republic proclaimed Bianca a daughter of Venice, and the marriage was then solemnized with great pomp in the cathedral, while a tournament was held in the courtyard of the palace in her honour.

Montaigne, who was in Florence in 1580, notes in his190 delightful Journal: “On Sunday I saw the Pitti Palace, and among other things a mule in marble, which is the effigy of one that is still alive; this honour has been paid on account of its long services in carrying materials for the building, at least so says a Latin inscription. We saw in the palace the Chimæra (antique), which has a head with horns and ears coming out of its shoulders, and a body like a small lion. On the preceding Saturday the Grand Duke’s palace was thrown open and filled with peasants, to whom nothing was closed; they danced in every corner of the large saloon. The concourse of this class of people is, it seems to me, emblematic of their lost liberty, which is thus evoked every year during the principal festival of the town” [24th June, St. John’s Day]. The Grand Duke invited Montaigne to dine at the palace, and he was evidently astonished at seeing Bianca take the place of honour above her husband. “This Duchess is handsome,” he writes, “according to the Italian idea, with an agreeable but imperious countenance, a coarse figure and breasts to match. She seems to have entirely subjugated the Prince, and to have had him under her dominion for a long time.”

Torquato Tasso evidently admired the Grand Duchess, to whom he addressed many madrigals and sonnets, often playing fancifully with her “bel nome” Bianca, and praising her golden hair.

“Voi rosati e bei labri
E rosate le guancie avete ancora,
Come vermiglio Aurora,
E dorate le chiome
E bianca sete come il vostro nome.”

She must have been kind to the unhappy poet, who wrote, when sending to her fifty madrigals in manuscript: “Had your Highness not experienced both good and evil fortune, you would not so well understand the misfortunes of others.” Her husband, Francesco de’ Medici, however, declared he did not want a madman at his court; and when191 Tasso returned to Florence in 1590 his patroness was dead, and he is described as wandering about the Palazzo Pitti like a spectre, and the Florentines wrote, actumi est de eo.

Francesco I. had a particular liking for fountains and grottoes. He ordered four unfinished colossal statues, rough-hewn out of marble by Michelangelo, to be used as supports for a mass of rockwork in a grotto near one of the entrances to the Boboli gardens. These are generally supposed to be four of the prisoners destined for the tomb of Pope Giulio II., but according to J. A. Symonds, “this attribution involves considerable difficulties. In the first place the scale is different, and the stride of one of them, at any rate, is too wide for the pedestals of that monument. Then their violent contortions and ponderous adult forms seem to be at variance with the spirit of the captives.... Their incompleteness baffles criticism; yet we feel instinctively that they were meant for the open air and for effect at a considerable distance.”

After the deaths of Francesco I. and of Bianca Cappello within a few hours of each other at Poggio a Cajano, Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici succeeded to the throne. Quitting the ecclesiastical state, he married Christine of Lorraine in 1589, and to amuse his young, good-looking French wife, gave entertainments which put to shame anything attempted in our days. Buontalenti, that most ingenious of men, painter, sculptor and architect, transformed the great courtyard of the Pitti palace into an amphitheatre covered in with scarlet cloth, and erected a castle on the side next the garden, while in the middle stood a stockade containing fireworks. On the firing of a cannon a triumphal car appeared, in which sat a magician who performed tricks of sleight of hand, and told fortunes to those who desired. Then followed a huge dragon drawing a chariot in which were the Duke of Mantua and Don Pietro de’ Medici attended by musicians, who sang sweet songs in praise of the bride. After them a mountain advanced192 without any visible motor power; it opened in front of the Grand Duchess, and two knights sprang out and challenged the others to mortal combat. “They fought,” writes Baldinucci, “with lances and then with swords, and meanwhile appeared the other masquerades, each one more beautiful and singular than the last. To make our story short, there were fountains, clouds, forests, shells, images of animals on chariots, ships, rocks, sirens, birds and elephants of extraordinary size; then came a great mountain, a crocodile and a conjurer, followed by a triumphal car, in which sat Don Virginio Orsini with eight nymphs, who offered beautiful vases filled with flowers and a programme of the festival, to the princes and princesses, the ladies and the cavaliers. A garden then glided into the amphitheatre, expanding and advancing without any visible agency, and in a short time admirable designs, formed out of clumps of myrtle and of box, such as ships, towers and castles, men, horses, pyramids and the like, were seen, such as we make of plants in our gardens, while the theatre was filled with sweet melody from the birds among the trees. Don Virginio descended from his car and attacked an adversary with his lance, whereupon all the other knights joined in the fray until separated by the explosion of the fireworks, and this finished the tournament. It was already four o’clock in the night when the princes, the noble ladies and the cavaliers, were conducted into the palace to a sumptuous banquet, and meanwhile the courtyard was filled with most limpid water to the depth of four feet.... No less than eighteen ships, large and small, among them a galleon of three decks, arranged themselves in line of battle. To the sound of drums, pipes, cymbals and other instruments used in naval warfare, and the firing of cannon, the spectators again took their seats, wondering exceedingly at the change that had taken place in so short a time. Thereupon a frigate advanced towards the castle and was saluted by two cannon shot,193 when with proper demonstrations of alarm she fled and returned to the fleet. The Turks sent out four galleys, and then began a fierce battle, during which fine set pieces of fireworks went off, burning even in the water. Horrible cries of wounded Turks and imprecations in the Turkish language were heard, as some fell into the artificial sea, and fought, whilst swimming, with Christians who had also lost their footing. Soon the water was covered with disabled ships and men who, acting their parts well, attempted to save themselves by swimming.... In a short time the Christians were victorious. They set fire to a Turkish galley, of which the captain, soldiers and crew, with loud cries swam to the castle, whilst the other ships surrendered. It was pretty to see how the Christians, withdrawing somewhat after their victory, occupied themselves in clearing the decks of their ships of broken tackle, and in giving meat and drink to their crews before advancing in two lines against the castle, firing so many broadsides that the air was filled with smoke. Casting lines with hooks at one end, they scaled the walls, and a hand-to-hand struggle took place ere the Christian soldiers reached the top of the castle, where they hoisted their flag. Then with joyous music, singing and dancing, the festival ended only just before the break of day.”

Rejoicings in honour of the marriage continued for a month, during which time more than two thousand strangers lived at the expense of the court; nine thousand barrels of wine were emptied, and 6,056 scudi were spent on sweetmeats. On the 12th June the Grand Duchess Christine received the homage of the Florentine Senate in the beautiful saloon of the Nicchie in the Palazzo Pitti, and thus ended the series of her marriage festivities.

Ferdinando I. found full scope for exercising his love of splendour and pomp when MM. de Sillery and d’Agincourt came to Florence to ask the hand of his niece, Maria de’ Medici, for Henry IV. The contract was signed on the194 25th April, 1600, and on the 30th was solemnly announced to the senate, nobles and principal citizens, in the throne room. The bride, dressed with extraordinary magnificence, sat on the throne, while the Grand Duke and Duchess sat below her. After the contract had been read aloud the Grand Duke rose and, as is quaintly described, “laying aside all air of majesty and sobbing for joy, was the first to bend the knee and kiss the hem of his niece’s dress, as Queen of France. After him followed the Grand Duchess and the dignitaries of the court in their proper order, and then the whole court, the senate and the nobility, accompanied the Queen in triumph, amid the acclamations of the people, to the church of the S.S. Annunziata to give thanks to God.”

Never did the Florentines pass such a summer. Every day brought some entertainment more magnificent than that of the day before, and the Palazzo Pitti resounded with music and gaiety. In October arrived the Cardinal Aldobrandini, sent by the Pope to perform the marriage ceremony. Don Antonio de’ Medici met him some miles outside the city at the head of five hundred cavalry, and at the town gate he was received by the Grand Duke under a velvet baldaquin, who escorted him, walking on his left, to the palace. Cannon fired, trumpets sounded and people cheered, as the Cardinal, followed by high dignitaries of the Church and an enormous train of barons and cavaliers, passed through Florence. On the 5th October Ferdinando I., as proxy for the King of France, espoused his niece, Maria de’ Medici, and the inventive talents of Buontalenti and of Giovanni da Bologna were taxed to the utmost to provide extraordinary and unheard-of feasts and entertainments. The former painted and arranged the wonderful scenery for Rinuccini’s Eurydice, which was performed in the big saloon, with music by Jacopo Peri, the inventor of recitative and the forerunner of Pergolesi, Jomelli and Cimarosa.


Eight years later the palace witnessed yet more splendid entertainments in honour of the marriage of Ferdinando’s eldest son Cosimo with Maria Maddalena of Austria, and but a few months afterwards Ferdinando died, and his body lay in state in the large hall of the palace.

During the brief reign of Cosimo II., Giulio Parigi, according to Baldinucci, added to Palazzo Pitti on either side “by a design of regal magnificence.” He increased Brunelleschi’s façade from seven windows to thirteen; and his son, Alfonso, who succeeded him as chief architect under Ferdinando II., again lengthened the palace by two large windows on the ground floor on either side and five on the first, in which state it remained for more than a hundred years, as can be seen in the engraving by Zocchi, done in 1746. It was fortunate that so clever and resourceful a man as Alfonso Parigi was court architect, for Baldinucci tells us that “about 1640 the façade of the oldest part of the Palazzo Pitti, from the second floor upwards, was seen to be out of the perpendicular, inclining towards the Piazza more than 8 inches. This might have been very serious had not Alfonso with talent, knowledge and prompt courage, suggested a radical and efficacious remedy, and effected it by drawing back the colossal wall, faced with huge rustic stones, to its original place; securing it in such manner that it might never again present so alarming a spectacle, and he did it in this way. First he bored the wall of the façade in as many places as were needful for placing certain large iron ties made on purpose by Pietro Zaballi, a famous worker in iron of that time; these were secured with the usual bars, only very big and strong, which afterwards were hidden under the stone facing. He passed the ties under the floors and walls of the passages and rooms of the said second floor, and at the extremities of these same ties, at the back of the building, he placed the wonderful instruments furnished with screws invented by himself. With these, by means of certain196 levers, first one and then another was tightened and pulled, so that this great force was exercised little by little, and always equally. Thus almost insensibly, with the labour of but few men, the great wall returned to its place, and to insure it for ever from any new danger the ties were clenched also in the courtyard.”

About the same time Ferdinando II. ordered Pietro da Cortona and his scholar Ciro Ferri to fresco the five large rooms on the first floor of the Palace (now part of the picture gallery). “Each room,” Inghirami tells us, “was distinguished by the name of a planet, and alluded to the five principal virtues of his father, the Grand Duke Cosimo II. The first, called Venus, signified benignity; the second, Apollo, stood for splendour; the third, Mars, for strong government; the fourth, Jupiter, for regal majesty and the recompense of merit; the fifth, Saturn, signified prudence and profound knowledge. In such guise the painter united mythology with history. The merit of these inventions is due to Michelangelo Buonarroti, a writer of much merit, surnamed the ‘Younger,’ to distinguish him from the famous artist of this name, who was his uncle.” In these rooms the Grand Duke hung his favourite pictures, and ordered the director Puccini to bring several back from the Uffizi, which had at various times been removed from the Pitti. Among these were the Madonna della Seggiola, and the portrait of Leo X. by Raphael. The beautiful Madonna del Granduca, also by Raphael, was bought by the Grand Duke for 300 zecchins, and the fine pictures inherited by his wife Vittoria della Rovere from her father, the Duke of Urbino, increased the treasures of the gallery, which may be said to have been begun by Ferdinando II.

John Evelyn, who was in Florence in 1644, evidently thought the lengthening of the Palazzo Pitti an improvement, as he writes in his diary that it had been “of late greatly beautified by Cosimo with huge stones of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, with a terrace at each side197 having rustic uncut balustrades, with a fountain that ends in a cascade seen from the great gate, and so forming a vista to the gardens. Nothing is more admirable than the vacant staircase, marbles, statues, urns, pictures, court, grotto, and waterworks. In the quadrangle is a huge jetto of water in a volto of four faces, with noble statues at each square, especially the Diana of porphyry above the grotto. We were here showed a prodigious great loadstone. The garden has every variety, hills, dales, rocks, groves, aviaries, vivaries, fountains, especially one of five jettos, the middle basin being one of the longest stones I ever saw. Here is everything to make such a paradise delightful. In the garden I saw a rose grafted on an orange-tree. There was much topiary-work, and columns in architecture about the hedges. The Duke has added an ample laboratory, over against which stands a fort on a hill, where they told us his treasure is kept. In this palace the Duke ordinarily resides, living with his Swiss guards, after the frugal Italian way, and even selling what he can spare of his wines, at the cellar under his very house, wicker bottles dangling over even the chief entrance into the Palace, serving for a vintner’s bush.”

In honour of the visit of the Princess Anna de’ Medici with her husband, the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his two brothers, and of the Duke of Mantua and his wife, who was a Medici, splendid festivals were given in the Palazzo Pitti, while a ballet on horseback, led by Cosimo, the youthful heir to the throne, was performed in the amphitheatre in the Boboli gardens by fifty-two cavaliers magnificently dressed and mounted on well-broken horses. Little did the spectators think that the young prince, who made his barb curvet so proudly, would become an odious bigot and the laughing-stock of Europe, on account of his dissensions with his wife, Marguerite Louise of Orleans. The old palace has witnessed many strange scenes, but few stranger than that of a French princess amusing herself198 by tickling her cook. Vincenzio Martinelli, in letters written in Italian chiefly to English friends, and published in London in 1758, gives a curious description of the tom-boy games of Marguerite Louise. “Cosimo had obliged the Grand Duchess to send back to France all the gentlemen and ladies of her court, and only one Frenchman, a cook, remained. The Grand Duke gave himself up to devotion and solitude and governed his family, as he did his state, like Tiberius, and allowed his wife no amusement save a small concert for two or three hours every evening. The Grand Duchess, who was very young, found these concerts monotonous, or perhaps, being born in France, did not care for Italian music, so as a diversion she used to send for her French cook, who came with his long apron and white cap, just as he was dressed for cooking the dinner. Now this cook either dreaded, or pretended to dread, being tickled, and the princess, aware of his weakness, took great pleasure in tickling him, while he made all those contortions, screams and cries proper to people who cannot bear to be tickled. Thus the princess tickled the cook, and he defended himself, shouting and running from one side of the room to the other, which made her laugh immoderately. When tired of such romps she would take a pillow from her bed and belabour the cook on the face and on the body, whilst he, shouting aloud, hid himself now under, now on, the very bed of the princess, where she continued to beat him, until tired out with laughing and beating she sank exhausted into a chair. While these games were going on the musicians stopped their music, and as soon as the princess sat down they recommenced. This noble amusement continued for some time before the Grand Duke knew of it; but one evening it happened that the cook was very drunk, and therefore shouted louder than usual, and the Grand Duke, whose apartments were five or six rooms distant from those of the Grand Duchess, heard the noise and went to discover the cause. As he199 entered the room the Grand Duchess was just beating her cook with a pillow on the grand-ducal bed, and the Prince, horrified at so novel a sight, instantly condemned the cook to the galleys (but I believe he was eventually pardoned), and scolding the lady with the utmost severity, with a bearing more princely than marital, he forbad her ever again to indulge in such conduct. The princess resented being thus taken to task in the presence of the musicians, perchance with less consideration than she thought due to her high rank, and was exceedingly angry. After passing the whole night in fury and in tears she determined to return to France, and sent one of her gentlemen to the Grand Duke to inform him of her resolution. He, who desired nothing better, as he feared his family might multiply like that of Priam, coldly replied that the Grand Duchess had better reflect on the consequences of such a step, which he would in no way oppose.” It ended by the Grand Duchess returning to France, leaving two sons and a daughter, who were the last of the great house of Medici.

After the death of Giovan Gastone in 1738, last surviving son of Cosimo III., Tuscany was given by the treaty of Vienna to Francesco, Duke of Lorraine, husband of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, in exchange for his hereditary estates which were ceded to France. Tuscany was then governed by regents, and of one of these, Marshal Botta, Sir Horace Mann writes to his friend Walpole: “He has made sad work in the Palazzo, and in the garden. His arrangement of the pictures is to make it depend, first upon the freshness of the gilding upon the frames, and then upon the position of the figures in each picture, which figures must not turn their back to the throne. Luther and Calvin, by Giordano, were turned out with a most pious contempt, as not worthy to stand in the presence of so orthodox a prince as is coming here. His mother (Maria Theresa) will not permit any picture to hang in her apartment that shows either a naked leg200 or arm. This ill agrees with the Medici taste, or the collection they have left. Imagine that grave matron (Maria Theresa) running the gauntlet through the gallery. Ah! quelle horreur!... A famous picture, by Titian, was turned out of the room where the canopy is, because the figure almost turned its back to it, and none are to be admitted there but such as respectfully present their faces to it. The picture of Luther and Calvin was dismissed with a Catholick fury, and, I fear, will find no better place than in that horrid ill-painted room of Hell, at the end of the apartment, that the young prince may see how the enemies of the Church ought to be treated. You will think I exaggerate, but what I have said is literally and ludicrously true. Botta tells the Florentines who criticise his operations, that he knows more of architecture and painting than Andrea del Sarto, or their ancestors who invented their Tuscan Order. Such are his occupations, for as to government, célà va son train. Nobody interferes, and nothing can be taxed higher than it is.... The farmers of the revenue, though Tuscans, are more rigorous than the receivers or collectors used to be under the Medici, who were indulgent to their subjects, and spent their revenues amongst them. This will not be the case for some time, though a young prince is coming, for the emperor will still have the principal share.”57

Botta had been busy for some time arranging the Palazzo Pitti, which had been untenanted since the death, in January, 1743, of the Princess Palatine, last of the Medici. Like all her family she had artistic tastes, and the Dutch pictures now in the Uffizi were collected by her and left to Tuscany. Huge pier glasses and Rococo furniture were bought to furnish the empty rooms on the first floor (where now the picture gallery is), “but,” writes Mann, “everything is calculated for the Meridian of Germany—nay, of201 Muscovy. Stoves and chimneys in every room. For the furniture the gout is not less Gothick.”

A few days after the marriage of Leopoldo of Austria with Maria Louisa of Spain, his father died suddenly at Innsbruck, and the fate of Tuscany was changed. The Emperor Joseph II. ordered his brother Leopoldo to be proclaimed Grand Duke, instead of Regent, and Mann writes, “The Florentines seem very sensible of their good fortune in having a prince again to live among them, after thirty years’ bondage under unexperienced Lorrain ministers and others, so little fit and desirous to contribute to their welfare.”...

Though Marshal Botta made “sad work” inside the palace, he employed a good architect, G. Ruggeri, for the outside, who in 1764 began the great loggiata, or projecting colonnade, at the north end of the façade, where now is the entrance to the picture gallery. To him is also due the credit of taking advantage of the steep slope to create the bastion or terrace, but of a different shape from what we now see. The corresponding bastion on the opposite side was added by the Grand Duke Leopoldo I. in 1783 under G. Paoletti, who also designed and half finished the Palazzina della Meridiana, an adjunct to the Palazzo Pitti on the garden side, where he cleverly took advantage of the lie of the land to make the entrance on a level with the second floor of the great palace.

The Palazzo Pitti had already been despoiled of many of its valuable contents accumulated by the Medici, and Leopoldo I. though an able administrator and lawgiver, must have been sadly lacking in taste, as during his reign many of the fine old ceilings were abolished in favour of sham vaults made of lath and plaster. On succeeding his brother as Emperor of Austria in 1790, his second son, Ferdinando, was made Grand Duke of Tuscany, and when General Napoleon Bonaparte came to Florence in 1796, Ferdinando III. asked him to dine, and received him with almost royal202 honours. Not long afterwards General Sérurier occupied Lucca, where he levied a tax of seven millions, and a few days later he requested the Grand Duke of Tuscany to supply him with the same amount—but as a loan. Convinced that it would never be repaid and unwilling to burthen his people with heavy taxes, Ferdinando III. emptied the coffers of the state, took the reserve of silver bars from the mint and, to make up the sum, melted down a quantity of gold vases and plate which he collected from the various grand ducal villas, and from the Palazzo Pitti.

Three years later the French troops entered Florence with General Gaulthier at their head. He dismounted at the Palazzo Riccardi, and immediately sent a company of soldiers with colours flying and band playing to mount guard at the royal palace. At eight o’clock next morning the Commissary-General for Tuscany, M. Reinhard, drove to the Palazzo Pitti and presented his credentials from the Directoire to the Grand Duke Ferdinando, with an order that he was to leave Tuscany at once. The Grand Duke met him on the threshold, received the letter, turned on his heel and re-entered the palace without saying a word. The night was spent in hurried preparations for departure, and before sunrise next morning a sad little procession of court coaches left the Palazzo Pitti. That afternoon a tree of liberty was set up in the Piazza Sta. Croce, and another in the Piazza Sta. Maria Novella, amid the shouts of half drunken French soldiers.58

A new kingdom—Etruria—was then created by Napoleon and bestowed on Don Lodovico of Bourbon, son of the Duke of Parma, married to a daughter of Charles IV. of Spain. The bridegroom and bride went to Paris, and were received by the First Consul and his wife Josephine with great honour. They became so intimate that the203 young King of Etruria lost his shyness, and amused the court after dinner by turning somersaults and playing leap-frog with the officers. Murat, the brilliant husband of Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s favourite sister, went to Florence in January, 1801, to prepare for the sovereigns of the new Kingdom of Etruria, which the Tuscans declined to believe in. Every Friday, when the fattori, country priests and peasants, came in to the market at Florence (as they do to this day), they looked to see if the arms of Ferdinando III. were still above the portal of the Palazzo Vecchio, and returned home declaring that the King of Etruria was an invention of the French, in order to remain a little longer in “la bella Firenze.”

The manner of proclaiming the King was original and worthy of his reputation for turning somersaults. On the evening of the 28th July came news that the sovereigns were at Parma on their way to Florence. A serenade was immediately improvised, and Murat was greeted with shouts of “Viva la Francia, Viva Giovacchino,” to which he answered, “Viva l’Etruria, Viva il Re d’Etruria.” He then went to the Pergola, where the favourite Nunziatina Pastori was dancing in a ballet called the “Kingdom of Terpsichore.” As he entered the royal box she improvised a new pas (no doubt already carefully rehearsed beforehand), and bounded on to the stage holding three cards, on which something was written which she carefully concealed from the public and from her companion, a well-known dancer named Berti, who represented Mercury. Mercury chased Terpsichore and when at last he caught her, she drew a dart from his belt and threw it at the cards she had let fall in her flight. Escaping from Mercury, she seized the card pierced with his dart and showed it to the house. On it was written Viva Lodovico I. Re d’Etruria in large letters. She was greeted with tremendous applause and Murat exclaimed, “Qu’elle est charmante, la petite Nunziatine, qu’elle est jolie; c’est touchant,204 n’est ce pas, cette façon d’annoncer l’arrivée du Roi d’Etrurie.”

At last, on the 10th August, the King and Queen entered Florence in great state, and greeted their new subjects from the balcony of the Palazzo Pitti. Soon afterwards Murat and his beautiful wife left with an immense suite for Bologna, to the delight of the Florentines who hoped to be delivered from the French occupation which was eating up the country.

The young sovereigns found an exhausted treasury and an impoverished peasantry, and were forced to make a loan of 800,000 francs at the enormous interest of 37 per cent., to pay which they pledged the revenues of the post-office and the custom house. Lodovico had never been strong. He died in May, 1802, leaving Maria Louisa Regent, who presented the little King to his subjects from a window of the Palazzo Pitti. In the autumn Pauline Bonaparte and her husband, Prince Borghese, came to Florence, and nothing was spoken of but the beauty and grace of the woman of whom Canova declared “that her figure, the shape of her skull, and the way her head was set on her shoulders, had never been equalled since the days of Diana and Calypso.” The Queen of Etruria received her with royal honours, and memoirs of that time describe her entrance into the throne room as a wonderful sight. Dressed in flowing white robes and covered from head to foot with jewels, Pauline slowly walked, or rather glided, towards fat little Maria Louisa who, weighed down by a heavy black velvet dress, looked anything but royal. In 1807 the Emperor Napoleon curtly signified to the Queen that Etruria had ceased to exist, and now formed part of the French Empire. Her prayers and entreaties were in vain, and on the 10th December again a sad little procession left the palace, escorted by French cavalry.

General Menou, who now governed Tuscany, made himself205 ridiculous by his passion for an awkward and vulgar dancer, to whom, when at last convinced that dancing was not her strong point, he had singing lessons given in his apartments in the Pitti palace, at which he assisted. He ostentatiously attended mass and affected great deference to the clergy, but his conversion to Islam in Egypt, where he had changed his name to Abdallah and married a Turkish lady, Zebedeeh el-Bahouad, had made too great a sensation for his new-born piety to have much effect.

The Emperor’s sister Elisa, married to Felix Baciocchi, who was already Princess of Piombino, was created Grand Duchess of Tuscany in March, 1809. She despatched her favourite equerry, Cenami, to Florence with orders to turn General Menou and his mistress out of the Palazzo Pitti, and prepare for her arrival. But with Napoleonic impulsiveness she left Lucca the following evening with her husband, escorted by a few French soldiers, and at daybreak entered the Palazzo Pitti. The shutters were thrown open and Elisa walked proudly through the magnificent rooms which were now to be her home. An officer was sent to order a salvo of twenty-one cannon to be fired as an intimation to her astonished subjects of her arrival. That evening she went in state to the Pergola and was vociferously cheered. Her likeness to the Emperor was remarkable, and she held herself majestically. “Of all our three sisters,” said Joseph Bonaparte, “Elisa was the one who, morally and physically, most resembled Napoleon.”

Elisa soon won the hearts of the people, but many of the aristocracy and the higher bourgeosie, encouraged by the clergy, held aloof. She was much annoyed at the position held by the Countess of Albany, who was treated as the widow of a royal personage, and openly professed Alfieri’s sentiments about France and encouraged seditious language at her house. So Elisa privately obtained from Fouché, then head of the police, an order of banishment against the Countess, and charged General Menou to tell206 her of the decree, and to express the sorrow and astonishment of the Grand Duchess at so stringent a measure. Menou suggested to the Countess to ask for an audience, which was arranged with some difficulty as she insisted on being received as the widow of the King of England. She drove up to the Palazzo Pitti in her state coach, and was conducted through a suite of rooms into a small boudoir where Elisa, under pretence of sudden indisposition, lay in bed. She only saluted the Countess, in return for her formal curtseys, by an inclination of the head, and after listening to her with assumed interest and sympathy brusquely exclaimed, “Why, dear Countess, was Alfieri so declared an enemy of France?” “You show me that he was perfectly right,” answered the Countess of Albany, rising, and turning her back on the Grand Duchess, she walked out of the room without another word. Two days later she was exiled, and all Florence took her part. A magnificent fête was given at the Pitti palace to celebrate the victory of Wagram. The gardens were illuminated and a balloon, in the shape of the imperial eagle holding a thunderbolt, was sent up; but the court of the Grand Duchess was forsaken, and the common people amused themselves by making a cock drunk and hunting it through the streets.

The disastrous retreat of the Grande Armée from Moscow was followed by General Nugent’s proclamation to the Italian people, promulgated at Ravenna on the 10th December, 1813, and the advance of the Neapolitan troops under Murat, who appeared at the gates of Florence on the 13th January, 1814. He was received with shouts of joy by the populace, who rushed to the Palazzo Pitti, and would have forced an entrance but for the intervention of the Syndic. Like the Queen of Etruria, the Grand Duchess had to fly, but her escort were forced to draw their swords to protect her from the mob. In September Ferdinando III. re-entered Florence, to the joy of the Tuscans, sick to death of foreign rulers, who hoped for a period of peace207 and quiet under a prince born in the Pitti palace, whom they regarded as a Florentine. In 1818 he bought so many pictures at the Gerini sale that another room, the Hall of the Iliad, frescoed by Sabatelli, was added to the great Pitti gallery. In 1824 he was succeeded by his son, Leopoldo II., under whose reign the architect P. Poccianti made great changes in the palace. Various small rooms were conveted into the fine atrium, or entrance hall, leading into Ammannati’s superb courtyard, and at an enormous expense the great staircase was built, in lieu of the old, narrow, steep one.59 The superb gallery was thrown open to the public on Sundays and holidays in 1833.

Leopoldo was incapable of grasping the new ideas then surging throughout Italy. Too late he was induced to grant a free constitution, revolution burst out in Florence, the Republic was proclaimed, and in 1839 the Grand Duke fled, only to be reinstated a few months later. Nine miserable years of foreign occupation followed, until in 1848 Leopoldo quitted the Pitti palace by the side gate of the Boboli gardens. Driving out of the Porta Romana, and round the city walls to the Porta San Gallo, he went on his way to Vienna. Not a hat was raised as the hated Austrian passed; in dead silence carriages and escort went by at full gallop, as though afraid of hostile demonstrations.

Very different was the scene on the 16th April, 1860, when King Victor Emanuel entered Florence amid such enthusiasm as has seldom been seen. The closing words of his speech to the parliament a fortnight before had struck a chord which vibrated in every heart. “La patria, la quale non è piu l’Italia dei Romani, nè quella del Medio Evo; non deve essere piu il campo aperto delle ambizione straniere, ma deve esere bensì l’Italia degl’Italiani.”


After the battle of Figline in 1250, when the Guelphs obtained so decided a victory over the Ghibellines, it was decided to create a Captain of the People and a Council of Elders; and soon afterwards the erection of a palace worthy of the new government was decreed. Many houses (built both of stone and wood), towers, and plots of land were bought, the last chiefly from the monks of the Badia. The contracts for these still exist, stating that they were bought a edificatum est pro particula palatium populi fiorentini, one of the houses belonged to the brothers Riccomanni, and its tower is the one we still see crowning the fine old building. Another house belonged to the Boscoli, in which the Captain of the People temporarily took up his abode. In 1255, as is recorded by an inscription, building was commenced. According to Vasari the first architect was Arnolfo di Lapo, but some ten years later the Dominican friars, Fra Sisto da Firenze and Fra Ristoro da Campo, who together built the church of Sta. Maria Novella, were called in. Whether the palace was ever inhabited by the Captain of the People, or when it was finished, is not known, but in 1261 Guido Novello, the Podestà who ruled the city in the name of King Manfred, was living in it, and named the street Ghibellina, after his party. By law the Podestà had to be a “foreigner,” i. e. not a citizen of Florence, or of any town within fifty miles of Florence, as he might be supposed to be influenced by friendship or by fear. He remained in office for one year and took precedence of every one in the city, administering civil and criminal justice, but not interfering in political 209matters. In 1282, when the city of Florence was “reformed,”210211 the Podestà and his councillors met in the loggia which led into the great hall, so that the heads of the Guilds and the principal citizens could assist at their deliberations. The first notice we find of any internal decoration being attempted in the palace of the Commune, as it was then called, where the Podestà lived, to distinguish it from the palace of the People, the residence of the Priors, is in 1292, when the painter, Fino di Tedaldo, painted certain images above the door of the hall and above the judge’s seat. These frescoes probably perished three years later when, as old Villani tells us, the Podestà absolved Corso Donati who had been accused of treacherously murdering a Florentine burgher, an adherent of Simone Galastrone. “No sooner was the sentence read condemning Messer Simone Galastrone as the perpetrator of the deed, than the popolo minuto shouted ‘death to the Podestà,’ and rushed out of the palace crying, ‘To arms, to arms, long live the People.’ Many seized their weapons, and went to the house of their head man, Giano della Bella who, they say, sent them with his brother to the palace of the Priors to follow the Gonfalonier of Justice. But they went not thither, but to the palace of the Podestà, which the said people furiously assaulted with arms and arquebuses; they stormed the palace and set fire to the doors thereof, and entering, they took the Podestà and his followers prisoners and robbed them without shame.”60 Dino Compagni, who was an eyewitness of the storming of the palace, however says that the Podestà with his wife, “who was greatly esteemed in Lombardy, and of wonderful beauty, hearing the shouts of the mob calling for their death, fled to an adjacent house and were taken in and hid. The next day the Council met and decided, for the honour of the city, that what had been stolen from the Podestà should be given back to him and his salary be paid. This was done, and he departed.”212 The damage done was great, and the loss of prestige suffered by the Podestà almost greater, so the Commune decided to fortify the building. Three rooms for the use of the judges of the Sestieri of S. Pier Scheraggio, Borgo and the Oltrarno were added, and a new entrance was constructed on the south side (Via della Vigna Vecchia) with the Keys, the arms of the Holy See, sculptured above, those of the house of Anjou immediately beneath them, the Cross, emblem of the People, to the right, and to the left, the Lily of Florence. The two empty shields may, Passerini thinks, have borne the arms of Messer Antonio Galluzzi, who held the office of Podestà while the repairs were being done. These were probably effaced in obedience to a law of 1329, forbidding any Podestà, or any Captain, to have his portrait painted or his arms inscribed in the palace, and ordering any then existing to be effaced. Paintings of Our Saviour and of the Madonna, the arms of the Church, of King Charles of Anjou, of the Commune and of the People, were alone allowed. But a Podestà was allowed to place his arms within the palace, if they commemorated any notable event, or in the courtyard of the palace, or in the apartments of the tribunals of the Sestieri.61 Canti de’ Gabrielli of Gubbio was installed as Podestà in 1298 by Charles of Anjou, and four years later the crier of the Republic called Dante degl’Alighieri to appear before the Podestà’s court to hear the sentence of banishment with the loss of all his worldly goods and possessions pronounced against him.


The new fortifications did not prove strong enough to withstand the furious onslaught of a mob led by the Adimari, which broke into the palace in 1304, liberated Messer Talamo from prison and forced the Podestà, Messer Gigliolo de’ Puntagli, of Parma, to fly for his life. The Commune was then engaged in war, and did not begin to213 repair the palace until peace was made with Pisa, thirteen years later. The work must have continued for two years, as in August, 1319, eighteen golden florins were expended in order to render the house of the Cerchi a fit habitation for the Count of Battifolle, Vicario of King Robert of Naples. He only took up his abode in the Palazzo del Podestà the following year. Even then the masons were still busy, as in the State archives a deed exists showing that the loggia on the first floor was then altered to its present form by an architect called Toni di Giovanni; at all events as far as regards the columns and the pilasters. The vaulted roof, as Passerini points out, was finished later, during the tyrannical rule of Walter de Brienne, Duke of Athens, as his arms are on the keystones. In 1326 the Duke of Calabria, who had been elected ruler of Florence after the disastrous defeat of the Florentine arms at Altopascio, held his court in the renovated palace, until his death, two years later, freed Florence from his hated rule. The Commune then voted thirty golden florins to restore the palace to its pristine condition, an additional sum was spent for desks in the audience chamber, for a rostrum in the great hall and for a fire-place. But in the terrible conflagration of 28th February, 1332, as Villani tells us, “the palace of the Podestà caught fire, the entire roof of the old palace was burnt and two-thirds of the new, from the first vault upwards. So the Commune ordered that it should be rebuilt and every room be vaulted up to the very roof.” After fire came water, for in the same year the Arno rose to an unprecedented height, and devastated the city and the surrounding country. “The water stood 6 braccie deep in the courtyard,” reports Villani. Neri di Fioravanti, a skilful architect, whose name often occurs in the books of the Commune as superintendent of the principal works of the city, was called in to restore, or rather, to rebuild the palace. Vasari attributes this work to214 Agnolo Gaddi, and writes that, “according to his orders all the rooms in the palace of the Podestà were built with vaults instead of flat ceilings, so that, besides being more beautiful, they should not again be exposed to damage from fire as had happened not long before. And afterwards, by the advice of Agnolo, the battlements we still see were built round the said palace, of which there had formerly been no trace.” The name of Gaddi, who was then a mere youth, does not however exist in the account books of the work done in the palace, only Nerio Fioravantis magister lapidum et lignaminum, is mentioned.

The reader may have wondered why the frescoes in the chapel of the palace have not yet been mentioned; “where,” writes Vasari, “Giotto depicted amongst others, as can be seen to-day, Dante Alighieri, his contemporary and very great friend, no less famous as a poet than was Giotto as a painter.” The theory is that Giotto painted the chapel in 1295, or between 1300 and 1304 when Florence was at peace, thanks to the mediation of the Pope’s Legate, Cardinal Aquasparta. Now every one acquainted with Florentine history knows that the city was then in a state of internecine warfare and that the well-intentioned efforts of the Cardinal were abortive. The Bianchi were driven out in 1302 when furious faction fights ensued between the “Grandi” and the “Neri,” or popular party, ending in the murder of Corso Donati. The Italian translation of the old chronicler Filippo Villani’s booklet, De origine civitatis Florentiae et eiusdem famosis civibus, is often quoted to prove that the portrait of Dante is by Giotto; it says: “He, [Giotto] painted himself, by the aid of a looking-glass, and his contemporary the poet Dante Alighieri in the chapel of the palace of the Podestà, on the wall.” Now the original Latin text runs: pinxit insuper speculorum suffragio semetipsum sibique contemporaneum Dantem IN TABULA alteris cappelle palatii215 potestatis, that is to say, he painted his own and Dante’s portrait in the altar picture on panel. This picture was still extant in 1382, as it is mentioned in an inventory then made of the contents of the palace. Many other cogent reasons, too long to quote here, against the possibility of the fresco being by Giotto are given by Milanesi, in his notes to Vasari’s life of Giotto, and both he and Passerini agree that no mural paintings could have survived the terrible fire which devastated the building in 1332. The altar picture, on the other hand, must have been saved, or it would not have been mentioned by Filippo Villani, or be in the inventory. Signor Milanesi suggests that it was painted about 1326, when large sums were being spent on the decoration of the palace to fit it for the reception of the Duke of Calabria, and Florence was beginning to recognize the genius of the man she had exiled and vilified. Certainly it is unlikely that Giotto, however great his friendship for Dante may have been, would have painted the portrait of a condemned exile, as Dante was in 1302, in a picture destined for an altar in the palace of the chief magistrate of the city. The frescoes on the east wall of the chapel, divided by a window, represent Paradise in three divisions. The King standing in front of the almost entirely repainted effigy of Dante probably represents Robert of Anjou, King of Naples, and the cardinal on the opposite side of the window, Messer Bertrando del Poggetto; at his feet a kneeling figure, part of whose face and head is effaced, may be the Bishop of Florence. The figure beside Dante is supposed to be his master, Brunetto Latini. Above the entrance door the wall still bears faint traces of Hell. Episodes from the life of S. Mary Magdalene are painted on the right hand wall and continued on the opposite one, where the two windows are divided by a pilaster on which is painted S. Venantius, whose name is almost illegible. Below is another inscription (with many abbreviations) which indicates the216 date of the frescoes,62 as Messer Fidesmini da Varano was Podestà of Florence in 1337, the year of Giotto’s death.63

Work was still going on in the palace in 1342 when Baglione Baglioni was installed as Podestà by Walter de Brienne, Duke of Athens and Count of Lecce, whose arms, a lion with two tails, are still to be traced on the large windows of the courtyard. When the Florentines rose against the tyrant, Baglioni fled and took refuge with the Albizzi while the people sacked the palace, burst open the prisons, made a bonfire of all the archives and carried off everything that was portable, even the windows. Six citizens were elected to govern the city in the place of the Podestà, and took up their abode in the palace. They effaced the Duke’s arms and summoned, writes Vasari, Tommaso di Stefano,64 commonly called Giottino, to paint him and his followers “in infamous fashion, hanging by the neck,” on one side of the tower, with verses descriptive of their evil deeds attached to each figure.65


This was not the first time that malefactors were thus held up to public execration. In 1288 Ciampollo di Cantino and Andrea di Guido Cavalcanti, whose lives were spared at the intercession of the ambassadors of Siena, were condemned to lose all their possessions and to be painted on the walls of the Podestà’s palace. In 1308 Carlo Ternibili of Amelia, who stole the seal of the Commune, was not only painted on the tower with the seal in his hand, but on the gates of the town.

In 1345 Neri Fioravanti, with seven maestri under him, one of whom was Benci di Cione, finished the great Hall of Council, restored various rooms and the vaultings of others, which were painted by Bartolo di Corso and Jacopo di Baldo, artists of whom nothing, save their names, is known, and put battlements round the top of the walls;218 while the eastern door and the magnificent staircase, which was only completed in 1367, were begun. Under the lion at the foot of the staircase are the arms of Baruffaldi de Griffis, who was Podestà at that time.

Hardly had the palace risen from its ashes when the Ciompi riots broke out and once more the mob devastated the building. Uccelli gives a curious extract from an old manuscript written by an eyewitness of the doings on the 21st July, 1378. “Then the people sent for all the Minor Guilds, some came, some did not; and when there were about seven thousand men with arms collected together, they took counsel and decided to do much mischief. But it pleased God that rain should fall in such abundance that none could go about the streets. So they remained until the third hour and then deliberated amongst themselves to attack the Palazzo del Podestà, and moving all together they went to the said palace and surrounded it. The followers of the Podestà, who were on the tower, began to throw stones and hail arrows on the people and the artificers, who then said that if the palace was not given up to them they would have the blood of all within. Bowmen climbed up into the campanile of the Badia and shot with arquebuses at the followers of the Podestà, but little harm did they do; none could get near the palace by reason of the shower of stones. So the people took tables out of the taverns and, getting under them, advanced to the door of the said palace and set fire to it with many faggots. Some citizens, neighbours of the Podestà, then made signs to him with their hoods not to throw any more stones, and said that if the palace was given up all the persons therein should be saved. He answered that he was willing to surrender the palace, save only the chamber of the Commune. And they replied that they were content. He descended with his followers in great fear, begging in God’s name for mercy; the people entered and he left without any harm being done to him. They219 went up the tower and there placed the emblem of the smiths, that is, a pair of pincers; and all the other emblems of the Great Guilds and of the Minor Guilds were placed in the windows of the palace, save that of the Guild of Wool. Everything that was in the palace was thrown out, and every book or written page was burnt. All that day and night much people remained in the palace for the honour of God, and rich and poor stayed to guard each one the banner of his Guild.”66

The great bell La Montanina, which tolled when the Podestà and the judges administered justice, was injured and had to be re-cast, after which it rang every evening, to notify that no man could leave his house unarmed or without a lantern, and also whenever a prisoner was executed. Some two hundred years later a law was passed that any servant, unless he was with his master, who was found armed in the streets after the last stroke of the bell at ten at night in winter, and twelve in summer, should lose his hand. The law fell into abeyance, but the deep notes of the bell were heard every night until 1848, when the ringing was abolished. The Podestà of 1457 was a great admirer of Dante, and in the Magliabechiana library is a copy of the Divine Comedy, curious as having been written in the old Palazzo. It belonged to “the noble and illustrious lady Madonna Marina, wife of the magnificent knight and noble Count Messer Cristofano degli Amieri of Pesaro, which book the aforesaid M. Cristofano had written in the city of Fiorenza at the time when he was Podestà of the excellent and noble city of Fiorenza, where, on account of his good government, he received great honours.” The honours conferred on him are set forth and the inscription concludes: “this book the aforesaid M. Cristofano has had written in his office with great affection for his wife to whom he gave it, and whom220 he loves beyond aught else. And it was written by the hand of the worshipful man maestro Lodovico de Bella, a soldier from Savoy in the city of Fiorenza. He began to write it on the first day of September, 1457, and finished it on the sixteenth day of November of the same year.”

That traitor to his country, Ridolfo Varano, Captain-General of the Republic during the war with Gregory IX., who went over to the Pope, was also figured, hung by the feet, in 1377, not only on the tower of the palace, but on the gates of the town. But when peace was made with Urban VI., the painting was effaced. Eleven years later Bonaccorso di Lapo Giovanni, who had been three times a Prior and twice Gonfalonier of Justice, intrigued with Gian Galeazzo Visconti against the Republic, and was condemned to death in contumaciam. As a warning to all traitors his effigy was painted at the foot of the tower of the Palazzo del Podestà, hung in chains and surrounded with devils.67 The old palace must have been covered with these ghastly frescoes when, at the instigation of Cosimo de’ Medici, Albizzi, Peruzzi and Strozzi, who had taken up arms to oppose his return to Florence in 1434, were also gibbeted as traitors to their country. Nearly fifty years later, after the conspiracy of the Pazzi, Vasari tells us: “the Signori passed a resolution that the portraits of all those concerned in the conspiracy should be painted on the façade of the Palazzo del Podestà. The work was offered to Andrea del Castagno who, as a servant of the house of Medici and much indebted to them, willingly accepted the commission and performed it so well that it was a marvel. It is impossible to describe the art and the judgment displayed in these figures which were nearly the size of life, hanging by their feet in strange attitudes, all varied and of great beauty. This work was221 so pleasing to the whole city, particularly to those who were learned in the art of painting, that Andrea was ever after called Andrea degli impiccati (of the hanged), instead of by his own name Andrea del Castagno.” In 1480, when peace was made with Sixtus IV., these paintings were effaced, as amongst them were his nephew Girolamo Riario, Francesco Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa, and a priest, Stefano di Bagnone. Fourteen years later, when the Medici were driven out of Florence, the portraits of Albizzi, Peruzzi and Strozzi were also destroyed.

In 1502 the powers of the Podestà were curtailed by the institution of a Council of Justice, the Ruota, which necessitated great changes in the old palace. Room had to be found for the five judges constituting the council, and Baccio d’Agnolo and Giuliano da San Gallo were the architects selected by the Signoria to do the work. They abolished an old staircase which led up into the great hall (now filled with the works of Donatello) where the 300 citizens, forming the council of the Commune, used to meet, and built a new hall of audience looking out on the Piazza S. Apollinare (now Piazza S. Firenze). Fourteen rooms were decorated by the painters Agnolo Donnini and Domenico di Marco, while Bernardino of Settignano sculptured the windows and the doors. The judges’ rooms were on the ground floor, near the prisons and the torture chambers.68 There were also a few underground cells, and in the courtyard suspected people, whom222 the Podestà wished to have under his own eye, were kept, but he could not detain them more than three days. A chain near the doorway marked the limit beyond which they were forbidden to go, under pain of severe punishment. In a curious and rare little pamphlet a list is given of the malefactors condemned to death in Florence from 1328 to 1759, and their crimes. Three hundred and three names, many of them of the most illustrious Florentine families, are set down; some were burnt alive, others hung and others decapitated. Such names as Alberti, Strozzi, Ridolfi, Salviati, Vitelli, Soderini, etc., are nearly all followed by the short sentence, “for affairs of state,” or “for speaking ill of the Republic,” or “for unknown reasons.” There are also common robbers and thieves and some heretics, the latter were always condemned to the stake.69 Massimo d’Azeglio has taken one of the political “delinquents,” Niccolò de Lapo, as the hero of his well-known novel. But far more interesting is a description by Luca della Robbia, great-nephew of the famous Luca, of a night he passed in the Bargello with his friend Pietro Pagolo Boscoli, who was condemned to death. It is so curious a human document that I have translated the greater part.70

“I record how on the 22nd Feb. 1513, Agostino di Bernardo Capponi and Pietro Pagolo di Giachineotto Boscoli were condemned to death as conspirators against the house of Medici, for wishing to free the city and to kill Giuliano, Lorenzo and Messer Giulio. On the evening of Tuesday I, Luca di Simone di Marco della Robbia, having heard that they were to die and being impelled by a desire to console Pietro Pagolo, my great friend, went to the Bargello and remained there the whole night.... At about 2223 the said Boscoli, having supped, was brought with his legs in irons into the chapel where were the Brethren of the Black Confraternity and others. The Captain in a low voice, not like one of the vulgar, spoke but two words, so that few were aware of what he said; until Pagolo exclaimed: Oh, Pietro Pagolo! Oh, poor Pietro Pagolo, whither hast thou been led! Then I, moved to great compassion seeing my beloved friend in such agony, as affectionately as I could, with gestures of sorrow went towards him and thus saluted him: God preserve thee, dearest of friends. Noli timere eos qui occidunt corpus, animam autem non possunt occidere. And he, as though he knew me not, only said: I wish for Fra Zanobi Acciaiuoli, I asked the Signoria, in case I had to die, to let me have a confessor for four hours and they promised; see that he comes. And I, comforting him, said he should be satisfied. Then came news that Fra Zanobi was not in Florence, and he said: Get me one from there [S. Marco], as I want a learned and a good man. I answered: Do not fear, it shall be done. And he continued: I have but little time and I have supped too heartily and of salted things; so that I seem unable to lift my spirit to God. And louder; God have mercy upon me, they have given me too much food. Shame on them! Had they told me before supper, I should have taken but a few mouthfuls. Agostino Capponi, also heavily ironed, then came up, and thinking Pagolo was lamenting, said: O Pietro Pagolo, Pietro Pagolo, do you die unwillingly? What are you about? And he replied: O Agostino, I die willingly, but I grieve for two things: one is that Anton Serristori and Piero Ridolfi held out to me this morning hopes of life, and in a manner I believed and clung to this hope; the other is that they have given me over-much food. How can I turn my heart to God? And Agostino: Never fear, we will die all the more merrily. Boscoli, sitting down, then said to me: You see, dear Luca. And I answered: Yes, dear224 friend; adding, some time ago I became convinced of a thing which, if you can sincerely believe, will doubtless aid you to take this step, which is a terrible one, with less pain. It is that not a leaf falls but by the will of God. He answered: I certainly believe so. But see, Luca, that I get this confessor, for time is very short and I have a great load. It is true that I owe no man anything. Then I: That is good. And he continued: O Luca, I have ever been ungrateful to God and have offended him in every way; yet I trust in his mercy. I answered: That is the important thing. Quare igitur tristis est anima tua, et quare conturbat te? Spera in Deo quoniam adhuc confiteberis illi, salutare vultus tui, et Deus tuus. Then he said: ’Tis well. And raising himself from the chair he placed himself on the mattress with his chained legs, and continued: Since it pleases God that we are to be the first to give an example to the people, let us begin. But Luca, this confessor? And I: Yes, but you understand that I am not sure if you can have a friar of S. Marco, you know they are gravely suspected and I doubt if they will come here. Is there no one in the Badia you would like? Who is there? he asked. There is the Abbot, Don Giovanni Battista Sacchetti, I replied, and some others who are held to be good confessors. Then he said: I need a man who can touch my heart, see if I can have such a one. Stefano the miniature painter came up and offered to go to S. Marco, in order that he might be contented; then another said: Messer Jacopo Manegli is here, you can have him. But with loud and clear voice he answered: I will not have Messer Jacopo, and turning to Stefano said: Go to S. Marco and fetch him of Lucca (meaning Fra Santi). And I added: If he cannot come, bring Fra Serafino (a friar whose nature I considered was much allied to Boscoli’s). Then addressing those around he said: I pray you do not confuse my head (for one or another was ever going up to him), Luca suffices, he knows my225 character; if I want anything I can tell him. And taking from his sleeve a paper written by him in prison for his brothers, he told me to give it to them, saying: All my wishes are written here. I leave no burthen on any one, save to pray to God sometimes for me.... Then naming his mother he said: Who will console her in such affliction? Poor woman, the blow will be a hard one. So I replied: Pagolo, I have spoken with her. And he: Is it true? Yes, I answered, I have been there every day since last Sunday, and although the body is weak, nevertheless the spirit is upheld by God; for you know she is of high quality. He answered: Yes, truly she is of high quality.... Now Luca, help me to drive Brutus from my head, that I may die like a good Christian. And I: That will not be difficult as you desire to die a Christian. Besides you know these Roman stories are not written simply and nakedly, but dressed out with much art. He replied: And even if true, what matter they to me as they do not contain the true faith. And I: See, you have answered and helped yourself. Luca, he said, do not praise me. And I: I am here to aid you. Tell me all your wants, with God’s help, I will try to comfort you; and yet, ’tis you who comfort me. He replied: My intellect, but with difficulty, believes in the true faith and desires to die like a Christian. But my heart seems hard, and I cannot explain my thoughts even to myself. And I: I understand; you desire a tender love of God, with tears and sobs, and that your intellect should accept the true faith. Then he: Yes, that is so. And I: Pietro Pagolo, this last is necessary for salvation, but ’tis well also to have the former. You must force your intellect to submit to the faith; I am sure you will soon find it needs no forcing, and then tears will come, because you will be helped by confession, communion, indulgences and the prayers of those around. Fear not, let all your thoughts be concentrated on God, for does he not say: fili, præbe mihi cor tuum. Give226 him your heart and leave the rest in his hands. He replied: If that be sufficient, I do so; but is it? Adding: Lord, I am thine, do with me what thou wilt, if only I am pleasing to thee.... O Luca, you must have known I was lost when you heard I had been seized. And I: You may believe I knew the danger; I prayed to God for you and shed many tears. Then I said to myself, if Pagolo saw me he would reprove me, and say that friendship should not be weak and effeminate. He answered: You know full well that death has no sting for me, for we must all die; but my Mother stands ever before me. Am I not even to see my brothers? And I: Christ is your mother and your brothers according to Scripture.... I have scant time, Luca, he said, I should need to be for a month with the friars, then might I become full of faith; but I trust that God will help me this night. Then he asked for water to quench the thirst arising from the salt food, and drinking with a good grace, he said: Luca, they put me eight times to torture, and then I understood that I was lost: nevertheless, thanks to God, I feel no spark of hatred against any citizen.... I asked him: Shall we say a psalm? And he: Luca, I can only say paternosters and Ave Maria’s; meaning that he knew no psalms by heart—and this he said with sorrow. And I: That is the best prayer there is: say, if it pleases you, a paternoster to yourself. And with great devotion he did so.... Then to me: Read me the Creed of St. Athanasius; and when I had found it, he said: It will be better I read it myself, and holding the booklet between his handcuffs, he read about twelve verses with such expression that all around cried.... Seeing me cry, he said: Luca, do not do so, help me this little while, and when I am dead pray to God for me. And I, restraining my tears as well as I could, said: I will; and when you are among the Blessed, where I trust surely you will go, remember me. He answered: I will, adding: What death are we to die? And I: I know227 not. He said: God’s will be done, and then suddenly: Luca, I have a fantastic wish to know when I spoke to you last before I was taken? And I: It was on Friday evening about 24 o’clock, in the shop of Pier Guicciardini, and Lorenzo Segni was there. I held your hand awhile, desiring to accompany you to the Palace whither you were bound, and you refused. About 2 I think you were taken. He answered: It was then in the evening? I said: Yes. And he: ’Tis true, I now remember well. Luca, do not abandon me; you are put to great trouble. I said: Ah, Pietro Pagolo, abandon you! why am I here? You know the love I have always borne you. And he: It is reciprocal, and not without reason. ’Tis well, read me a passage, what you will. So I took S. John, but before I began to read he said: Whenever an explanation is needed, make it. And I: Pagolo, that is a heavy load for my shoulders; I have not the knowledge, neither am I well exercised in Holy Writ. This is no time for ceremony, he answered; do as I tell you, and what God inspires you say. And thus I began to read, and where I thought well, God aiding, I spoke, and it seemed to comfort him.... Then reading the passage where S. Peter denies Jesus, I stopped, and motioned the others to withdraw a little, and in an undertone said: Pagolo, a man of great worth was once in the same position as yourself—Savonarola. And he: I understand you. I continued: Whilst explaining the Misere mei Deus and meditating over the denial of S. Peter, he obtained faith that God would pardon him, therefore take you courage and have faith.... And he: Fools that we are! Lord have mercy on me, for I will follow thee this night as well as I can. O Luca, these explanations have entered into me. Fra Hieronimo was a great man; he was learned; but I am not as he. I replied: Here is no question of learning, only of faith, hope and charity. He was in the midst of religion in a convent studying the Scriptures, and so it is no great wonder that228 he died with discernment. It is enough for you that God gives you grace to take this step for his honour, that is for the love of him, repenting of your sins.... I was then called away to see the confessor, Fra Cipriano of S. Marco.... Returning to Pagolo I said: The confessor has come. His name is Fra Cipriano, son of a peasant at Pont’ a Sieve, a learned and a good man; God has sent him to you, I doubt not he will satisfy you. And he: God be praised! bring him to me. So Fra Cipriano came to Boscoli, who received him with every mark of respect; for lying on a mattress, with his legs manacled and handcuffs on his hands, he raised himself as far as he was able and uncovered himself with both hands, replying to Fra Cipriano, who had said God preserve thee beloved brother: And you also, my father, you are most welcome. Then turning to me: Arrange things a little, so that he may be as much at ease as possible. And we did so, and then retired a little so that he might confess in secret.... The Black Brethren now began, as is their custom, to sing the penitential psalms and to recite; whereupon Pagolo in a quick, loud voice exclaimed: Fathers and brethren, I dislike such noise, it much annoys me. I have but a short time: I pray you be silent so that I may make my confession, your singing disturbs me. If you will pray to God for me in your hearts, I shall be beholden to you. And Fra Cipriano added: Yes, pray each one silently, that will be as good and not disturb us.... Pagolo called me several times during his confession, recalling his life, and once said: Luca, as a youth I made a vow to go on foot to Santa Maria Impruneta, which I have not fulfilled. I pray you take my vow on yourself; I impose it on you jure amicitiæ. I answered: I accept it. Another time he said: Luca, I commend my Mother to you; be to her a third son. Console her with all your strength, she needs it; go and visit her often during her life, which will not be long, for I know she will soon follow me. Go to the229 house, talk to her, exhort her to have patience, tell her I die willingly and that she is to pray to God for me. And I, with tears, promised.... Seeing that preparations were being made to give him the communion he turned to Fra Cipriano, saying: Will not the sacrament I am about to take give me greater courage? You well know that it will, answered the friar; ambulabis in fortitudine cibi isitus usque ad montem Dei Oreb. And he: I trust so.... The Holy Sacrament was then brought, and Pagolo exclaimed: O infinite goodness! O boundless charity! O salvation of the world! Be merciful to me. And the tears streamed from his eyes with such devotion and tenderness that he seemed a young girl.... Agnolo, the bookseller, came up afterwards and he said: O my Agnolo, kiss me. And when Agnolo consoled him with loving words, he said: Agnolo, I am prepared to die, but I would give myself entirely up to God and I cannot. I cannot satisfy myself. I wish to meet death without fear and to attain God with my intellect. Then Agnolo, and Giovanni Covoni who had joined us, both said: Pagolo, have no fear; have faith and do not lose yourself in subtleties. The Lord is merciful; give yourself to him, that is sufficient. I do, he answered, adding: Deus in adjutorium meum intende, Domine ad adjuvandum me festina. In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in æternum. O Giovanni, pray God to give me strength, for the time is drawing nigh.... Turning to Fra Cipriano, he said: Do not leave me till the last; aid me to complete the sacrifice; God will repay you for me. And the friar: Have no fear, my brother. I shall be with thee, and Luca, thy beloved friend, will also aid thee. So be it, he replied, I entreat thee, Luca. And I: Eh! we will not fail thee; but put thy hope in God. Viriliter age, confortetur cor tuum, et sustine Dominum. And the time having come he rose with great courage, and when one of the police wished to put the cloak on him, he exclaimed: There is no need for the230 cloak, and turning to me with a gesture of affection said: Farewell, and nought else. And the word nigh broke my heart, I felt such grief; and could only reply: Vale, God is with thee. Thus we went down, the friar comforting him with verses from the psalms.... And as he descended the stairs he kept his eyes on the little picture and with most loving accent said: Lord, thou art my love; I give to thee my heart; I love thee only and therefore I love all things, for I love all for love of thee. Here am I, Lord; I come willingly; grant me courage and strength. And this he said with such tenderness that all who heard were in tears.... And half-way down the stairs he met the Crucifix of the Brotherhood, and said: What ought I to do? And the friar replied: This is your captain, who comes to arm you. Salute him, honour him and pray that he may give you strength. Then he: Salve Domine Jesu; adoro te in croce pendentem. Let me, I pray thee, partake of thy passion. True Lord, I beg for peace. And whilst descending the second flight of steps, he ceased not to pray, saying: In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. Redemisti me, Domine, Deus veritas.... The head executioner, advancing to blindfold him, asked his pardon and offered to pray for him, and Pagolo answered: Do what thou hast to do; but when thou hast placed me on the block let me remain for a short while, and then finish me; that thou prayest to God for me, I accept.... Before he was placed on the block he drew himself up very straight and standing firmly said: I submit myself in the faith of Jesus Christ and desire to die in it; and although my offences against the divine goodness have been infinite, nevertheless I hope to be saved through the blood of Christ and by nought else. As it is pleasing to thee, Jesus mine, that I suffer this death, I accept it willingly for love of thee, and he knelt down. The executioner, giving him but a very short reprieve, severed his head at one blow, and for a time his mouth twitched somewhat. Then231 Agostino, fervently praying, advanced with great courage, and the executioner cut off his head with two strokes. The Brethren then took the body of Boscoli, and his head was like that of an angel. He was borne to his vault in the Badia, and I begged to be allowed to carry the head, and it was granted to me. Thus I was able to fulfil the demands of friendship, and perhaps, or rather certainly, those of patriotism. He was buried amid the tears of all, many of the monks being present. I saw Agostino also after death, and his face still bore a sort of sneer. He was buried in his vault in S. Spirito. God be merciful to them. This is the truth, in memory thereof I have writ these pages, foolish perhaps, but true....”

Notwithstanding the execution of Boscoli and Capponi, another plot to assassinate the Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici was discovered a few years later. A French courier was arrested in Florence, and although nothing of a treasonable nature was found upon him he was condemned to death. A police spy, dressed as a friar, was sent to hear his last confession, and learned that the wretched man had a letter, pieces of which were sewn in his cloak. The courier disappeared, and the letter went to the Cardinal. In the evening Jacopo Diaceto, already ill looked upon because he frequented the Rucellai gardens, where the Alamanni, Buondelmonti and others hostile to the Medicean rule met, was arrested. At the first turn of the rack he confessed everything, and answered every question. When at the point of death, Nardi tells us that the poor young fellow begged his confessor, in the hearing of the Black Brethren, to inform the judges that he had been driven by fearful torture to inculpate Tommaso Soderini, who was innocent. The poet Luigi Alamanni was at his villa near Figline, and a friend took horse and rode hard to warn him of his danger. He got away to Urbino, but his cousin and namesake, who was at Arezzo, was seized, brought to Florence and beheaded, together with Jacopo Diaceto, in232 the courtyard of the Bargello on 7th June, 1522. Zanobi Buondelmonti escaped, thanks to his wife’s presence of mind (see p. 59).

During the siege of Florence in 1529, Vasari says, “On the feast of the Resurrection portraits of three citizens were uncovered on the façade of the palace of the Podestà; Alessandro di Gherardo Corsini, in mantle and hood; Taddeo di Francesco Guiducci, blind of one eye, in like dress; and Giorgio Ridolfi, hung by the leg; and the name of each was written below, with TRAITOR TO HIS COUNTRY added in capital letters.”71 After the surrender of the city these were whitewashed over; only the portraits of the Duke of Athens, of his followers, and of Giovanni Bonaccorso, were left as a warning to all tyrants and traitors.

In 1574 the Podestà and the judges of the Ruota moved into the old castle of Altafronte, which Cosimo I. some twenty years before had bought from the family of the Castellani, and the captain of the city, or head of the police, called the Bargello, took up his abode in the Palazzo del Podestà. The fine building was barbarously233 maltreated. The arcades of the courtyard and of the beautiful loggia were walled up, and turned into cells, and three floors, each containing many cells, were put into the magnificent hall. The same was done in the chapel, where the frescoes disappeared under many coats of whitewash; the lower floor, being next to the kitchen, was turned into a pantry, and above were cells. The very name of the palace was lost, for henceforth it took the name of its new inmate, and was known as the Bargello. Uccelli says the word is derived from the debased Latin Barigaldus (Barachel in Spanish), meaning head of the police, princeps apparitorum. The Roman apparitores were the administrators of justice who preceded the magistrate, called by the Longobards berrovieri. The word was shortened, the “e” became an “i,” and thence the familiar Tuscan appellation of birri, a name of opprobrium given by the criminal classes to the police.72

In 1841 an Englishman and an American, Mr. Seymour Kirkup and Mr. Wilde, applied for permission to uncover the frescoes in the chapel of the Bargello. After infinite delays the government decided to do the work itself, but unluckily employed an incompetent artist who “restored” the portrait of Dante. A nail had been driven into the eye, and when pulled out it brought away a piece of plaster; this he restored, and then heightened the colour of the face to suit his own eye, altered the shape of the headdress and changed the green of the white, red and green dress, into a dingy brown. Mr. Kirkup fortunately made a tracing and a coloured sketch of the head when it was first uncovered, which was published by the Arundel Society of London, and thus a record of the real portrait exists.

In 1847 the people rose against the birri, who had made themselves odious by their insolence and violence, and would have released the prisoners in the Bargello if the civic guard had not been called out. Ten years later234 the Grand Duke gave orders that the building should be restored, and all the prisoners removed to the Murate. In 1860 it was finally decreed that the weatherbeaten, stern old Palazzo del Podestà should be turned into a national museum.

The great Pucci palace was built by Paolo Falconieri for Orazio Roberto Pucci in the middle of the XVIIth century on the site of several old houses belonging to the family. In 1664 Orazio was created Marquess of Barsento by the King of Spain, a title still borne by the present representative of the family. Progenitor of this once powerful house was Puccio, son of Benintendi, a poet of the XIIIth century. His descendant, Antonio, inscribed in the Guild of Carpenters, was the first of twenty-nine Priors the Pucci gave to Florence, but as an ally of the Alberti he was soon afterwards banished. Puccio Pucci his son, the intimate friend and adviser of Cosimo the Elder, was Gonfalonier of Justice in 1447. He died two years later leaving an enormous fortune to his sons, of whom Antonio was several times Gonfalonier of Justice, and as Commissary-General at the siege of Pietrasanta distinguished himself by heading the troops at the final assault and by his care of the wounded soldiers. By his wife, a daughter of the celebrated Giannozzo Manetti, he left many sons. Giannozzo, the eldest, was beheaded for conspiring with Bernardo del Nero in 1497 in favour of the Medici; Puccio married Girolama Farnese, sister of Pope Paul III., and was distinguished as a jurist; Lorenzo entered the Church, was Bishop of237 eight Sees, Archbishop of Amalfi and Chief Penitentiary. Denounced by Luther for selling indulgences, only the death of Adriano VI. and the accession of his friend Giulio de’ Medici to the papal chair saved him from severe punishment. Antonio’s nephew, Pandolfo, was a worthy boon-companion to the infamous Duke Alessandro. Cosimo I. dismissed him with ignominy from his court and he then plotted against the Duke’s life, but for one reason or another did not succeed in accomplishing his purpose. When the plot was discovered Pandolfo Pucci and his companions were hung without trial from the iron bars of the windows of the Bargello, in January, 1560.


Nearly all Pandolfo’s sons died violent deaths. Orazio, the eldest, attempted the life of Francesco I. and was hung fifteen years after his father, at the same window of the Bargello. Another fled to Rome, found favour with Clement VIII., and was about to be made a Cardinal when he died of poison, administered by order of the Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici. A third was killed by a madman.

The present branch of the family descend from Saracino, a brother of Puccio, who also made a large fortune under Cosimo the Elder. One of his sons, implicated in the Pazzi conspiracy, was hung; another, named Priore, cautiously kept aloof from politics and occupied himself with commerce. His descendant, Niccolò inherited the riches of the eldest branch of the family, married an heiress and left a large fortune to his grandson, who built the palace, and owned many houses and villas, on which the moor’s head (the Pucci arms) is to be seen. The Marquess Pucci still inhabits the old palace.


The first of the great house of Medici, according to Passerini, was Giambuono, an ecclesiastic. He lived in the XIIth century, and his son Chiarissimo owned houses and a tower in Florence near S. Tommaso. Admirers of the Medici attributed to them a far more magnificent origin—Perseus; a Roman Emperor; a learned physician who saved the life of Charlemagne; or Averardo de’ Medici, a brave knight who slew Mugello, a giant who was the terror of Tuscany. Their enemies, on the other hand, assert that the son of a poor charcoal-burner in the Mugello who became a doctor (medico) was their progenitor, and point to the well-known balls, or pills, on the Medici arms as confirming their story; whilst to their admirers they represent golden apples from the gardens of the Hesperides, or dents in Averardo’s shield, made by the mace of the giant Mugello.


The name of Medici occurs occasionally in the early annals of Florence, but the real history of the family begins with Salvestro. In 1352 he led the Florentine troops against the Archbishop of Milan, and was knighted on the field of battle. In 1370 he was Gonfalonier of Justice and again in 1378, in spite of the efforts of the old nobility and of the Guelph party whose power he had sought to diminish by a new law. Their opposition to his suggestions brought about the Ciompi riots, and Salvestro de’ Medici was the first citizen knighted by the mob on the Piazza della Signoria. His grandson, Giovanni, born in 1360, became the first banker of Italy, and is described by Machiavelli as “most kind of heart, not only giving alms to all who begged of him, but aiding many poor people without being solicited. He was kindly towards all men, praising the good, and pitying the wicked. Never suing241 for honours, he obtained them all. He never went to the palace unless summoned. He loved peace, and always sought to avoid war. When men fell into trouble he gave them help, and aided those who had attained prosperity. Hostile to public peculation, he worked for the common good. As a magistrate he was gracious in manner, not eloquent, but of extraordinary prudence. Of a melancholy countenance, yet was he pleasant and witty in conversation. He died rich in the goods of this world, but richer in good repute and in the good-will of his fellow-citizens.”

Cosimo de’ Medici, for whom Michelozzo Michelozzi built the great palace in Via Larga (now Palazzo Riccardi), is described as tall, of dark complexion and of imposing presence. He applied himself so strenuously to increase the political power of his house, “that those who had rejoiced,” writes Machiavelli, “at Giovanni’s death, now regretted it, perceiving what manner of man Cosimo was. Of consummate prudence, staid, yet agreeable presence, he was liberal and humane. He never worked against his own party nor against the State, and was prompt in giving aid to all. His liberality gained him many partisans among the citizens.”

After his marriage with Contessina, daughter of Giovanni Bardi, Count of Vernio, he bought and rebuilt the villa of Careggi, and soon afterwards, as Vasari tells us, charged his intimate friend Michelozzo Michelozzi “to make the design for the house and palace which is at the corner of Via Larga, opposite to S. Giovannino; as it seemed to him that the one made, as has been said elsewhere, by Filippo di Ser Brunelleschi, was too sumptuous and magnificent, and would rather attract the envy of his fellow-citizens, than add to the beauty and ornament of the city and to his own convenience. Being therefore pleased with Michelozzo’s design, he bade him carry it out in the form we now see.... Michelozzo’s merit242 is the greater, as this is the first palace built in Florence in the modern style, containing suites of rooms both useful and beautiful. The cellars are four braccie below ground and three braccie above, so as to afford light, and near them are store rooms and pantries. The ground floor consists of two courtyards with magnificent loggie, out of which open halls, drawing-rooms, waiting-rooms, studies, bakeries, kitchens, wells, and commodious public and secret staircases. On the upper floors are apartments for a family, with every convenience that can serve, not only for a private citizen, as Cosimo then was, but for a magnificent and powerful king.” The palace was begun in 1444, according to Gianozzo di Bernardo Galviati.73

A more detailed account of the palace is given in Firenze Antica e Moderna, where it is described as having “originally been a square building of the rustic order up to the first floor, with large protruding ‘bozzi.’ The two upper floors are Doric and Corinthian, with hammered and flattened ‘bozzi.’ The windows have double arches with composite columns in the centre, and in the triangles are sculptured alternately the Medici arms with seven balls and the device of Cosimo Pater Patriae, a ring with a diamond encircling two feathers, to which was added later a third feather and the motto Semper, the device of the Magnificent Lorenzo. The palace was at first built with four doors, but only the one in Via Larga was retained, the three others being turned into kneeling windows designed by Michelangelo. They are said to be the first made after such fashion in Florence, and are highly praised for their beauty and good proportions. Before these windows were made the two doors at the angle, or at all events the one opposite the church of S. Giovannino, were always open, and led into a large internal243 loggia, called the Loggia de’ Medici. At the angle of the palace is a magnificent shield containing their well known arms, with the Lily of France, granted to the Medici by Charles VII., on the centre ball. The balls were removed when they were driven out of Florence in 1527 and the Cross, emblem of the People, put in their stead; but on the restoration of the family the balls were replaced. Entering the first courtyard, surrounded with an arcade, are to be seen columns of pietra serena with composite capitals, and in the frieze are eight medallions of marble copied from antique cameos and trophies of medals, by that famous artist, Donatello.”

It will ever remain a mystery why Michelozzi made so small and so dark a chapel for such a noble palace. It almost seems as if he had forgotten it in the original plan, and had then placed it where it would not interfere with the fine suites of rooms. Resting almost entirely on the vaulted rooms of the ground floor, it is in a corner of the building, and is built of brick. But all the defects of the architect vanish before the vivid beauty and the grace of Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes.

On either side of the window (enlarged in 1837) in front of which stood the altar with the picture of the Madonna adoring the Infant Christ, by Filippo Lippi, now in the Berlin gallery, are groups of adoring angels with peacock wings, and behind them stand others singing. The landscape is worthy of the angels. From the flower-spangled grass rise hedges of roses and pomegranates, huge stone pines and slender cypresses; in the distance are grey towns with many towers, and in the sky above angels float amongst the clouds. Brilliantly coloured birds are flying here and there, while others perch on the ground at the feet of the kneeling angels. The walls of the chapel are entirely covered with the story of the Magii; only the Kings and their attendants are portraits of the time and the landscape is purely Tuscan.


The centre figure on the north wall is a handsome, fair-haired youth, wearing a curious turban-like jewelled crown and riding a high-stepping white horse on whose gorgeous trappings are embroidered the Medici arms. He is supposed to be Lorenzo, the darling of his grandfather Cosimo. Behind him rides his father, Piero, grasping a lock of his horse’s mane with one hand and attended by a serving-man, evidently a portrait. Cosimo Pater Patriae rides beside him on a mule, a black slave running at his stirrup. Other members of the Medici family are no doubt depicted in the train of followers, amongst whom one discerns the stern, sagacious face of the painter himself, with Opus Benotii written on his cap. A long line of horse and footmen are seen in the distance winding down the hills in a rocky landscape with here and there a tall cypress tree, denuded of its lower branches in the fashion still dear to Tuscan hearts. A hind is rushing up a slope chased by greyhounds and huntsmen. On the west wall, opposite the window, is another King on a splendidly caparisoned white horse, wearing a long green tunic of Oriental cut and a jewelled crown on his head with the points curving inwards. He is the Emperor John Paleologus who came to Florence to attend the Council, and round him are graceful, lithe, young pages on foot, while others follow on horseback crowned with wreaths of pink roses. The landscape is rocky and broken, winding roads lead up to fortified hill-towns and castles, and rivers rush down to the plain. A window has been cut in this wall, but without doing the irreparable damage committed by the Marchese Francesco Riccardi who, in order to widen the staircase leading from the courtyard up to the first floor, cut a corner out of the chapel. Part of the wall was utterly destroyed and the figure of the third King, the portrait of the Greek Patriarch, is cut in two. His mule has lost one leg, and the upper part of the fresco on the wall which was moved forwards is a daub by some inferior245 artist. Fortunately the lower part suffered less. The Patriarch wears a crown with high points, and is clothed in a cassock with a mozzetta of red velvet edged with ermine over his shoulders. His mule, whose bridle has large golden bosses, holds its head proudly, as though conscious of the high dignity of its rider. Among the richly dressed cavaliers in front of him is a gallant lad, with a hunting guepard on a pad behind him; this is said to be the portrait of Lorenzo’s younger brother Giuliano, murdered some years later by Francesco de’ Pazzi in the cathedral. In the distance a long train of baggage animals, horses, mules, donkeys and camels, are wending their way round the shoulder of a mountain. On each side of the recess where the altar stood are painted, above the doors of the tiny sacristies, the ass on one side, the ox on the other, in whose manger the Holy Infant was laid.

* * * * *

The war with Lucca gave rise to accusations against all who had to do with it and Florence was divided into two factions, one led by Cosimo de’ Medici, the other by Rinaldo degl’Albizzi, who contrived to get an adherent of his own elected Gonfalonier of Justice for the months of September and October in 1433. Cosimo, who had passed the summer at his villa in the Mugello, “to escape,” as he writes in his diary, “from the contests and divisions in the city,” was advised by his friends to return. On going to the Palazzo della Signoria he was seized and imprisoned in the Barberia, a small room in the tower. Sentenced to banishment he went to Venice, where he notes: “I was received with more honour and charity than I can describe.” Just a year later he was recalled from exile. “Seldom has a citizen, returning from a great victory,” writes Machiavelli, “been greeted by such a concourse of people, and with such demonstrations of affection, as was Cosimo on his return from exile; saluted246 by all as the benefactor of the people and the Father of his country.” From this time forward, “partly,” as Symonds remarks, “by his remarkable talent for intrigue, partly by the clever use he made of his vast wealth, and partly by espousing the plebeian cause, Cosimo de’ Medici succeeded in monopolizing the government.” Yet while engaged in political matters Cosimo found time to attend to his business and to correspond with the managers of his banks, scattered throughout Europe and even in Asia. To all he gave orders to buy ancient manuscripts on any subject. “Cosimo,” writes Gibbon, “was the father of a line of princes, whose name and age are almost synonymous with the restoration of learning; his credit was ennobled into fame; his riches were dedicated to the service of mankind; he corresponded at once with Cairo and London, and a cargo of Indian spices and Greek books were often imported in the same vessel.”

A liberal and discerning patron to artists and men of letters, Cosimo founded libraries in the Badia of Fiesole and in S. Marco; in the latter he had a cell for his own use. To the Greeks who came to the Council of Florence, or soon afterwards fled thither when Constantinople was captured by the Turks, he extended a splendid hospitality in his palace in Via Larga. “To him,” remarks Burckhardt, “belongs the special glory of recognizing in the Platonic philosophy the fairest flower of the ancient world of thought, and of inspiring his friends with the same belief.” While spending his money in a princely manner on works of art, public libraries and buildings, and in donations to needy scholars, his home life was perfectly simple. He was an excellent husband and a kind father, and contemporaries tell us he rose early to prune his pear trees and plant his vines. His greatest recreation was in the society of learned men. On feast days Argyropolos, who taught Greek to his son Piero and afterwards to his grandson Lorenzo, would go with his247 scholars to the Palazzo Medici and discuss philosophy. “The great Cosimo,” writes Marsilio Ficino, “often attended to hear the Greek philosopher Gemisthus Pletho, well nigh a second Plato, discourse concerning the Platonic mysteries, and so moved was he by his stirring eloquence that he determined to establish a Greek academy at the first opportunity. When this project was about to be carried into effect he selected me, the son of his favourite doctor, to preside over the important work, though at the time I was little more than a boy.” Enormous sums were spent by him on building. The convent of S. Marco cost 70,000 golden florins, and his own palace 60,000, so that an army of workmen obtained employment, whose wages were paid regularly at his banking house every Saturday.

The death of his second son, Giovanni, was a blow from which Cosimo did not recover. He lingered for a year, during which his chief solace was in being read aloud to. “Come to us, Marsilio,” he wrote, “as soon as you can. Bring with you your translation of Plato, De summo Bono, for I desire nothing so much as to learn the road which leads to the greatest happiness. Farewell, come not without thy Orphean lyre.”

Cosimo died on the 1st August, 1464, at Careggi. His funeral was attended by a huge concourse of people. His fellow-citizens enacted that the epitaph Cosmus Medice hic situs est decreto publico Pater Patriae should be engraved on the plain porphyry slab which marks his tomb in front of the choir in S. Lorenzo.

Piero de’ Medici, a martyr to gout and in bad health, soon felt the weight of irksome business, as had been predicted by his father, and called in one of his most trusted friends. The sagacious, far-seeing Cosimo had been singularly deceived in his estimate of Messer Diotisalvi Neroni, in whom he had counselled his son to place absolute confidence. Neroni was secretly in league with Luca Pitti, Agnolo Acciaiuoli and Niccolò Soderini,248 avowed enemies of the Medici, and when Piero placed the books containing Cosimo’s business transactions in his hands, he advised him to call in the debts owing by many of the chief families of the city. The consequence was the loss of the popularity and of the affection enjoyed by Cosimo. The projected marriage of Piero’s son, Lorenzo, to a daughter of the proud Roman house of Orsini, added fuel to the flame. It was decided to assassinate him on his return from Careggi, and his life was only saved by the presence of mind of young Lorenzo. He observed armed men as he rode into town before his father, and sent a messenger back to tell the bearers of Piero’s litter to take a roundabout country lane, whilst announcing that his father was but a short way behind him. The defection of Luca Pitti was a deathblow to the conspiracy and to his own fortunes. Neroni and Soderini fled to Venice, Agnolo Acciaiuoli to Naples, whence he wrote to Piero to excuse himself:

“I laugh at the tricks of fortune, and how she turns friends into foes. Thou may’st recall that when thy father was exiled, thinking more of his disaster than of mine own peril I lost my country, and was well nigh losing my life. Never during my friendship with Cosimo did I cease to honour and favour thy house, neither have I, since his death, had any intention of offending thee. It is true that thy bad health and the tender age of thy children so alarmed me, that I thought it were better to give such form to the State that our country should not fall to ruin after thy death. Hence arose certain events, not directed against thee, but in favour of Florence, which even if erroneous merit forgetfulness, on account of my good conscience and my past actions.”

Piero’s answer to this epistle was: “Thy laughter is the reason why I do not weep; for wert thou laughing at Florence, I should be weeping at Naples. I admit thy friendship for my father and thou must admit that he249 repaid thee well. So thou art more beholden to us than we to thee, as deeds are worth more than words. Having been thus recompensed for thy good services, thou canst not wonder at being repaid for evil ones. Love of thy country is no excuse, as none will believe that the Medici love this city less, or have served her worse, than the Acciaiuoli. Live therefore in dishonour where thou art, as thou hast not known how to live with honour here.”

Piero de’ Medici was forty-eight when his father died. He inherited his love of letters and was of a kindly nature, “it was due to him,” writes Machiavelli, “that his partisans did not stain their hands with the blood of their fellow-citizens.” In June, 1469, his son Lorenzo married Clarice Orsini, and great festivities took place in the Medici palace, soon to be followed by sounds of mourning, for Piero died in December. “Two days later, the principal men of the city and of the State,” writes Lorenzo in his Ricordi, “came to us in our house to condole with us on our loss, and to encourage me to take charge of the city and of the government, as my grandfather and my father had done. This I was most unwilling to accept, on account of my youth and of the great responsibility and peril, yet for the safety of our friends and of our possessions I did so. For it is ill living for the rich in Florence unless they rule the State. Until now we have succeeded with honour and renown, which I attribute, not to prudence, but to the grace of God and the good conduct of my ancestors.”

Lorenzo was then in his twenty-second year and Giuliano was sixteen. Few princes of that time had received such an education as the sons of Piero de’ Medici. Messer Gentile Becchi of Urbino, a man of great learning, pure life and high moral character, was their tutor, Landino taught them Italian literature, Argyropolos Greek, and Marsilio Ficino the philosophy of Plato. Above all Lorenzo had been well trained by his mother, a woman250 of strong good sense, a poetess, yet withal an excellent housewife. Niccolò Valori describes Lorenzo as “above the common stature, broad-shouldered and solidly built, robust, and second to none in agility. Although nature had been a step-mother to him with regard to his personal appearance, she had acted as a loving mother in all things connected with the mind. His complexion was dark, and although his face was not handsome it was so full of dignity as to compel respect. He was short-sighted, his nose was flattened and he had no sense of smell. This did not trouble him and he was wont to say that he was grateful to nature, disagreeable things being more common than agreeable ones to so delicate a sense.”

In March, 1471, when Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, with his wife, paid a visit to Lorenzo, the Medici palace must have been filled to overflowing. “100 men at arms, 500 infantry, 50 running footmen clothed in silk and cloth of silver, 50 led ambling palfreys for the use of the Duchess and 50 led war-horses, splendidly caparisoned, for himself; dogs and falcons for the chase and 12 two-wheeled carts,74 drawn by mules and covered with embroidered cloth of gold and silver, for the use of the Duchess and her ladies whilst crossing the Alps; in all the Duke had 2,000 horses,” says an eyewitness. Magnificent festivities were given every day and to the horror of the religiously inclined, meat was eaten although it was Lent; so when the church of S. Spirito was burnt to the ground, owing to the scenery erected for a sacred play acted before the Duke catching fire, it was looked upon as a judgment of God.

But Lorenzo loved the society of scholars and artists, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Leon Battista Alberti, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Poliziano, Cristofano Landino, and Luigi Pulci, who wrote his251 Morgante for the amusement of Lorenzo’s mother Lucrezia, and recited it canto by canto after dinner, were his constant guests in the palace of Via Larga. In their society he laid aside the statesman and became the discerning critic and the graceful poet.

The conspiracy of the Pazzi is a matter of history. Attempts to murder the two Medici brothers had been frustrated by Giuliano’s failing, on account of illness, to attend banquets, and by Lorenzo giving up his journey to Rome. But on Sunday, 26th April, 1478, it was arranged that Cardinal Raffaello Riario, the Pope’s great-nephew, was to attend high mass in the cathedral with Lorenzo and Giuliano, and afterwards to dine with them. “The church,” writes Machiavelli, “was filled with people, and divine service had begun, yet Giuliano had not made his appearance. So Francesco de’ Pazzi, with Bernardo, who were to murder him, went to his house, and by entreaties and flattery induced him to go to the Duomo with them. On the way Francesco, under pretext of caressing him, embraced him with hands and arms to see whether he wore a cuirass or any other armour.” At the elevation of the Host Bernardo Bandini plunged his dagger into Giuliano’s breast, who staggered and fell, upon which Francesco de’ Pazzi stabbed him nineteen times with such blind fury, that he wounded himself in the thigh. The two priests who had undertaken to kill Lorenzo, after the refusal of the old soldier, Giovanbattista Montesecco, to commit a murder “where Christ would be sure to see him,” were not skilled in the use of the dagger, and Lorenzo was only wounded in the neck. Bandini, hastening to complete the work, was stopped by Francesco Nori, a friend of the Medici, whom he stabbed to the heart. Lorenzo took refuge in the new sacristy, where one of his adherents, fearing the dagger was poisoned, sucked the wound, and then, surrounded by his friends, Lorenzo walked to his palace. “By this time,” continues Machiavelli,252 “the whole city was under arms.... There was not a citizen who, armed or unarmed, did not go to the palace of Lorenzo in this time of trouble, to offer to him his person and his goods; such was the position and the affection that the family had acquired by their prudence and their liberality.”

In 1487 Lorenzo’s eldest son Piero de’ Medici married Alfonsina Orsini, a relation of his mother Clarice, and the following year Lorenzo attained a great object of his ambition. He had carefully educated his second son Giovanni for the Church, and Pope Innocent VIII., whose son Francesco Cibo had married Maddalena de’ Medici, made the lad of fourteen a cardinal, “on condition,” as Giovanni Cambi tells us, “that he was not to wear the hat or the habit for three years.” In August, 1488, Clarice died, and Lorenzo’s health became more and more precarious, but in March, 1491, he was well enough to witness the ceremony of bestowing the cardinal’s hat on his son in the abbey church of Fiesole. “The Signoria decided,” continues old Cambi, “that for love of Lorenzo his father, who little by little had made himself the head and the chief personage of the city, great honour should be paid to him. So it was ordered that three hundred citizens should go out to meet him, and it was not necessary to entreat them to do this as was often the case when an ambassador had to be met. They were all clothed in silk, and counting Giovanni’s own people, the bishops, clergy and notaries, there were five hundred horsemen, and on the Sunday morning a solemn mass was said in S. Maria del Fiore.” The young Cardinal soon afterwards left for Rome, and on the 8th April, 1492, Lorenzo de’ Medici died at Careggi. He was buried in S. Lorenzo, and no monument marks the last resting-place of one of the most illustrious men of Florence.

“Lorenzo,” writes Gino Capponi, “represented and united in his own person a whole century; he wrote sacred253 hymns and carnival songs, sought the society of, and listened to, religious men, whilst he led a dissolute life. An assiduous worker in state affairs, and indefatigable in all things that served his purpose and augmented his fame, yet he appeared only to care for amusement and gaiety and the company of witty and brilliant men. He was so constituted that nothing came amiss to him. The Medici palace was a museum, a school and a place of meeting for all the learned men who flocked thither, and from it proceeded grave counsel and intellectual teaching, as well as shows and festivals and a general corruption of manners. Two popes passed their childhood there, and the Platonic Academy, intended to raise the standards of life and thought, was founded within its walls. Poliziano and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, one of the greatest men of his time, were constant visitors. There the first chips flew off the marble under the chisel of Michelangelo, and there Luigi Pulci read the Morgante aloud. Such exuberance of life, such magnificence, such gaiety has probably never been witnessed in any other age, and the name of Lorenzo towers above it all.”75

Piero de’ Medici was twenty-one when his father died, and was in all respects different from him. “This is not to be wondered at,” remarks Guicciardini, “as he was born of a foreign mother, whereby the Florentine blood got mixed, and he acquired foreign manners and a style too haughty for our habits of life.” On hearing of the approach of Charles VIII., in 1494, he quitted Florence in a panic, and rode to Sarzana, where he had an audience of the King, and granted all his demands. On his return to Florence, he dismounted at the Palazzo Vecchio, and informed the Signoria that he had ceded Sarzana, Sarzanella, Pietrasanta, Pisa, Leghorn and Ripafratta to Charles. Next day he was saluted in the streets with the cry of Popolo! Libertà! and Giovanni Cambi went home and254 wrote in his diary: “I note how on the 9th November, 1494, by the grace of God and of the Virgin Mary, Piero di Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, the tyrant of his country, was expelled by the people at the hour of vespers.... The Signoria put the price of 2,000 scudi on his head and the same on the head of his brother, Messer Giovanni the Cardinal, and 5,000 if they were taken alive. They fled by the Porta S. Gallo and went to Bologna, and with them went Ser Piero da Bibbiena, his chancellor, who was the king of all evil; a vainglorious peasant, and the chief cause of the ruin of the said Piero.”

The Medici brothers having escaped, the mob wreaked their vengeance on the valuable contents of the magnificent palace, so that the Signoria were obliged to borrow or buy furniture in great haste to make it fit to receive Charles VIII. when he entered Florence on the 19th November. He was followed by his whole army, “a very grand sight,” exclaims Guicciardini, “but for which the spectators had small liking, by reason of the dread and the terror which filled their souls.” It was in the Palazzo Medici that the memorable scene took place between a plain burgher of the city and the King of France. The demands made by him were impossible for the Signoria to comply with, and Pier Capponi was sent to remonstrate. Charles angrily replied that if the huge sums of money he asked for were not forthcoming, he would command his trumpets to be sounded. Capponi snatched the paper on which the conditions were written from his hands, and tore it to pieces, crying, “If you sound your trumpets, we shall ring our bells.” It was a bold deed, and those present were astounded at his daring. But the King, who wanted money and not war, gave way, and covered his discomfiture by a sorry joke on the name of the Florentine citizen. Ah Ciappon, Ciappon, voi siete un mal ciappon. (Ah Capon, Capon, you are a bad capon.)

The agreement, signed on the 25th November, stipulated255 an offensive and defensive alliance between France and Florence, the payment by the latter of 120,000 golden ducats, the retention by Charles of the citadels, but not of the towns, of Pisa, Leghorn, Pietrasanta and Sarzana, until the end of his war with Naples, when they were to revert to Florence. Finding the King showed no disposition to leave his luxurious quarters on the next day, as the Florentines had hoped, they sent Savonarola to the Medici palace. He accosted Charles in these words: “Most Christian Prince, thy delay in going is causing serious harm to this city and to the enterprize in which thou art engaged. Thou art losing thy time, forgetful of the task imposed on thee by Providence, to the grave detriment of thy spiritual welfare and thy worldly renown. Listen, therefore, to the words of the servant of God. Go on thy way without further delay; take heed not to bring ruin on this city and on thyself the anger of God.” Two days later Charles departed, and with him went many of the most valuable works of art in the palace. De Comines mentions, among other things, beautiful agate cups, wonderful cameos, and more than 3,000 gold and silver medals, “more than I thought could have been found in all Italy.” Courtiers, officers and soldiers, robbed right and left, and quitted the city laden with spoil. Eight years later Cambi writes in his diary: “On the 8th January, 1502, came letters saying that Piero was at Gaeta which was held for the King of France; and the Spaniards beat the French, who put all their artillery on a ship in which was also Piero de’ Medici, and he was drowned, thanks be to God.”

The terrible sack of Prato by the Spaniards in 1512, at which the Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici assisted, struck terror into the hearts of the Florentines. They agreed to pay 140,000 ducats to the Spanish Viceroy on condition that he quitted Tuscany; to allow the Medici to return to Florence in the quality of private citizens, and to permit them to buy back their private possessions. Giuliano, the256 third son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, then entered the city; “having first doffed his rich Spanish habit and put on a lucco, the everyday dress of a Florentine burgher. He came in the company of Anton Francesco degl’Albizzi and dismounted at his palace, that of the Medici being empty and in a ruinous condition.” But the Medicean party soon found that Giuliano lacked energy, and Cardinal Giovanni, with Messer Giulio, the illegitimate son of the murdered Giuliano, came from Campi with four hundred lances, and took up his abode in the Palazzo Medici with all the state pertaining to a prince of the Church. His nephew Lorenzo, Piero de’ Medici’s only son, came with him, and the house of Medici, after an exile of eighteen years, once more ruled in Florence.

The old palace regained much of its pristine splendour. Festivals and gay pageants “in order,” writes old Cambi with bitter irony, “to let it be seen that the city was festively inclined and in a flourishing condition,” succeeded each other. But there was a strong under-current of hatred, and plots to assassinate Lorenzo, Giuliano and Giulio de’ Medici, were rife. Whilst the two young men, Pietro Pagolo Boscoli and Agostino Capponi were lying under sentence of death in the Bargello (see p. 222), two pageants, rivalling those of the Magnificent himself, issued on two successive days out of the great door of the Medici palace. Giuliano had instituted a company of noble youths called, after the device of Cosimo, the Diamond. Andrea Dazzi, who held the chair of Greek and Latin literature, was the inventor and poet of Giuliano’s pageant, while Pontormo painted and decorated the cars. Lorenzo, competing with his uncle, was the head of a company called Il Broncone, whose emblem was a withered laurel branch whence sprouted fresh leaves, and for him, Jacopo Nardi, the historian, invented a pageant symbolizing the Golden Age, for which Pontormo also painted the cars. “Thus,” exclaims Cambi, “the people were fed with rubbish and257 follies, and took no heed to penitence. Yet they had seen the scourge at Brescia, and again at Prato. They beheld Italy from one end to the other full of barbarian troops, they perceived that God was threatening us—ay, even now scourging us, and yet they did worse. Oh! may God in His mercy not look upon these our sins.”

The election of Giovanni de’ Medici to the papal chair in March, 1513, was hailed with exultant joy in Florence, and Leo X. did not disappoint the hopes of his fellow-citizens, or those of his own family. Three out of four new cardinals created by him were Florentines, one being his cousin Giulio de’ Medici, in despite of the canon law excluding any one of illegitimate birth. Giuliano, the Pope’s brother, became Captain-General of the Church and married Filiberta of Savoy, and Leo’s young nephew, Lorenzo, was selected to govern Florence.

When Leo X. passed through Florence on his way to meet Francis I. at Bologna, he rested for a day or two in the apartment set aside for the popes in Sta. Maria Novella, but on his return journey he spent several weeks with his nephew in the Palazzo Medici. Contemporary chroniclers devote many pages to describing the magnificence of his reception and the entertainments given in his honour, amongst them the representation of Rosmunda in the Rucellai gardens. Splendid were the gifts he bestowed on churches and on private individuals. To the cathedral he gave “a mitre of great beauty, adorned with many pearls, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds and rubies, worth more than 10,000 ducats, as a mark of the tender affection he bore the church in which he had been a canon when a little child.” The cathedral chapter was endowed with the right of legitimatizing children born out of wedlock, the revenue of the officiating clergy was increased, and indulgences of many days were granted to the principal altars.

A few days after Leo X. left Florence for Rome, his brother Giuliano died. He left no children by his wife258 Filiberta of Savoy and the title of Duc de Nemours, bestowed on him by Francis I. when he married, lapsed to the French crown. His illegitimate son, Ippolito, we shall have occasion to mention hereafter. Lorenzo persuaded his uncle, the Pope, to deprive Francesco Maria della Rovere of the Duchy of Urbino in his favour, and soon afterwards married Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, who died after giving birth to a daughter, Catherine, destined to become Queen of France. Duke Lorenzo of Urbino died, worn out by dissipation at the age of twenty-seven, six days after his young wife; and his only claim to fame is Michelangelo’s noble statue, Il Pensieroso, above his tomb in the Medici chapel in S. Lorenzo. The statue of his uncle, Giuliano, who also died before he was thirty, is opposite to him in the same chapel holding the baton of command as Gonfalonier of the Church.

With Leo X. died the last legitimate descendant of Cosimo Pater Patriae, and the Medici palace was inhabited by the Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, son of the Magnificent Lorenzo’s younger brother Giuliano, by a lady of the Gorini family. He left his mark on the Palazzo by closing the open loggia on the first floor, where Cosimo had always received the citizens who visited him, thus turning it into a long gallery. Even the thorough-going old Republican Jacopo Nardi admits that the Cardinal’s rule was better than any the city had known for many a long year, and everything went smoothly until in 1522 a plot was discovered to murder him. Most of the conspirators, belonging to well-known Florentine families, fled, but young Diaceto and his friend Alamanni were beheaded. The old Palazzo Medici was too small to contain the crowd of citizens of all classes who flocked thither to assure the Cardinal of their heart-felt joy at his escape. According to Ammirato their joy was sincere, for the city would probably have been attacked by the Imperial forces, which had just sacked Genoa and would have seized on such a good259 excuse as the murder of the Cardinal-Governor to obtain so rich a prize.

In November, 1523, the Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici became Pope under the title of Clement VII. and his election was hailed with demonstrations of joy in Florence. Ippolito, the handsome illegitimate son of Giuliano, Duc de Nemours, was sent from Rome under the charge of Silvio Passerini, Cardinal of Cortona, installed in the Palazzo Medici with great magnificence and, although he was only thirteen years of age, declared eligible to all offices of state in the Republic. Alessandro, the reputed son of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, but more probably the child of Clement himself, together with the young Duchess Catherine, was sent to Poggio a Cajano, a Medici villa about nine miles out of Florence. The two lads hated one another, so the Pope thought it best to separate them. Ippolito was handsome, his manners were engaging and he already had a right royal way of spending money. Alessandro, commonly supposed to have been the son of a Moorish slave woman, a report his crisped hair, thick lips and swarthy complexion, tended to confirm, was ugly, violent in temper and abrupt in manner. The appointment of Passerini was not a happy one. “Besides being,” writes Varchi, “like most prelates, extremely avaricious, he had neither the intellect to understand the Florentine character, nor the judgment to manage it had he understood it.” The sack of Rome, and the imprisonment of Clement in Castel S. Angelo, offered too good an opportunity for the Republican party in Florence to lose, and the dreaded cry of Popolo, Libertà, resounded in the streets. Ridolfi had come into town with his young pupil Alessandro, and the anxiety of the inmates of Palazzo Medici was not lessened by a visit from their imperious kinswoman, Clarice, daughter of Piero de’ Medici, who had just escaped from Rome with her husband Filippo Strozzi. He followed her to the Palazzo Medici to ask for information as to how things were260 in Florence pretending, that having just arrived, he was ignorant. Ippolito, with the impetuosity of youth, recounted how ill the city was behaving and then complained bitterly that Madonna Clarice sided with rebels against her own kith and kin. Strozzi professed great sorrow for the behaviour of the Florentines, and still greater for that of his wife, but the fact was, he added with a sigh, that, as a Medici, Clarice was so superior to himself that he had not such control over her as might be desired. Nevertheless, as the Cardinal and the two lads still hesitated about following his advice and quitting the city, he summoned his wife to his help. “Standing in the long gallery she poured forth,” writes old Segni, “her scorn of the base-born scions of her family. ‘You show plainly, what is already known, that you are not of the blood of the Medici. I say this, not only of you, but of Pope Clement, wrongfully a Pope, and now most righteously a prisoner in S. Angelo. As for you, leave a house and a city, neither of which are yours by the right of either birth or of merit. Go, and lose no time.’”

Quitting the Medici palace, the Cardinal and the two lads rode out of the Porta S. Gallo and for the third time the Medici were exiled, and their noble palace was attacked by the mob who were with difficulty restrained from setting it on fire. The arms of the Medici were everywhere defaced and the waxen counterfeits of the Popes Leo and Clement were torn from their places in the church of the Annunziata and destroyed (see p. 380).

After the terrible privations suffered by Florence during the siege under the Prince of Orange, her citizens were fain to bow their necks once more to the Medicean yoke. In obedience to an order motu proprio, et de plenitudine potestatis, from Clement VII., they declared that considering the excellent qualities, life and habits of the Most Illustrious Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, son of the late Magnificent Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, and in recognition261 of the many and great benefits received, both spiritual and temporal from the house of Medici, he was eligible to all offices of State. Ippolito, who had entered the Church unwillingly, had been made a Cardinal before he was twenty. “He was handsome and agreeable,” writes Varchi, “with a quick understanding and gifted with every grace and accomplishment, affable and pleasant to every man and most liberal towards all who excelled in war or letters, or in any of the liberal arts.... He knew Latin well, and wrote gracefully, both in prose and verse, in the Florentine idiom.... It is true that by nature he was superficial and fickle, and did many things solely out of vainglory and ambition.... When he understood, or heard from others, that Pope Clement had decided that the riches and the greatness of the house of Medici were to be continued by Alessandro and not by himself, a great change took place in him. He was seized with incredible anger and grief, as it seemed to him that being older, a nearer relation to the Pope and better endowed by nature, so rich an inheritance and so brilliant a marriage should rather be his: either not knowing, or not believing, the secret rumours that Alessandro was the son of Clement.” He left Rome in haste for Florence with the idea of seizing the State before Alessandro, who was in Flanders with his future father-in-law the Emperor, could arrive. The Pope despatched Bacio Valori after him laden with entreaties and promises, and after passing a few days in Florence and finding that he had no following, he returned to Rome. On the 4th July, Alessandro, who had been created Duke of Cività di Penna, entered Florence and dismounted at the Palazzo Medici, where he was received by the principal citizens.

The exiled Florentines, who were plotting against the stern and dissolute rule of Alessandro, often met in Filippo Strozzi’s house in Rome, and their deliberations were always communicated to the Cardinal Ippolito de’262 Medici. At last it was decided to send an embassy to Charles V. to complain of the tyranny of the Duke Alessandro and to expose his evil life. This sealed the fate of Ippolito. He died of poison in August, 1535, and the man he accused on his deathbed and who cynically admitted his crime, took refuge in Alessandro’s house in Via Larga.

Splendid was the reception of the Emperor Charles V. when he entered Florence on the 24th April, 1536. During the seven days he passed in the Palazzo Medici grand entertainments were given; but old Varchi complains that, unlike other Emperors, he bestowed no privileges on the city and left no memorial of his visit. The old palace witnessed yet grander festivals on the 19th June, for the marriage of the Duke Alessandro with Margaret of Austria, the illegitimate daughter of Charles V. She came from Naples, accompanied by the Vice-queen, the Grand Penitentiary Cardinal of Santi Quattro and the Cardinal Cibo. After the marriage service in S. Lorenzo there was a grand banquet, to which all the Florentine nobility were invited, and then dancing; followed by a comedy and a sham fight by torchlight on the Piazza S. Lorenzo.

The young Duchess, according to a contemporary chronicler, was very happy, “for the Duke paid her great court and she knew not that he paid even more to other women of all grades.” Banquets, masked balls and comedies, were given in the old palace, and one of the constant guests was a cousin of the Duke’s, a descendant of the younger branch of the Medici family, called Lorenzo. His father died when he was a child and his mother, Maria Soderini, devoted herself to his education. Gifted with an excellent memory and good abilities he learnt with ease; but Varchi describes him as of a restless and dissatisfied temperament, and fond of low company. Being small and slightly made he was generally known as Lorenzino, which was changed to Lorenzaccio,263 when his real character was known. Of a dark complexion and melancholy aspect, he dressed carelessly, affected contempt for all who exposed themselves to danger and openly proclaimed himself a coward. He made himself necessary to Alessandro, whose inseparable companion he became, encouraging him in all his vices, which he shared, and amusing him by his scurrilous wit.

Rastrelli tells us that “on the 5th January, 1536, in carnival time, the Duke and Lorenzino disguised themselves as mountaineers and on sorry donkeys rode about the town paying visits to their mistresses and playing practical jokes. Thus passed the day, and towards evening they returned weary to the palace and supped together. Then Lorenzino said to his cousin, What shall we do to-night? and the Duke replied, I shall go to bed for I am tired out. Whereupon the traitorous Lorenzino whispered something in the Duke’s ear, who sprang up, went to his room and took a mantle lined with rich fur. Girding on his sword and putting his dagger in his belt, he left the palace secretly by the garden wicket, followed by Giomo da Carpi, Unghero, Captain Giustiniani of Cesena and one of his own body servants. On the Piazza S. Marco he met Lorenzino who was awaiting him and dismissed his attendants, and the two cousins returned to Lorenzino’s house. The Duke began to loosen his belt, but Lorenzino undid it entirely and took from him his sword and dagger, entangling the belt so dexterously round the handles of both that they could not be easily drawn. After a while the Duke asked at what hour the expected lady would arrive, and Lorenzino answered: She waits for me to fetch her. Go then, said Alessandro, and in order that she may not be recognized give her my mantle, and as he spoke he began to take it off. But Lorenzino, who wished him to be wrapped round as far as possible and impeded in his movements, answered: No, she will know how to disguise herself properly; and without further ado264 left the room, taking care so to close the door that it could only be opened from the outside. The Duke, being very tired, threw himself on the bed in his mantle and fell asleep.

“The lady in question was Caterina Ginori, sister to Lorenzino’s mother. She lived close to the back entrance of the Palazzo Medici and was as virtuous as she was beautiful. But she lived in a poor way, as Leonardo, her husband, had dissipated his patrimony and was living as an outlaw in Naples. The Duke, falling in love with her beauty, had asked Lorenzino to help him to obtain speech of her, and Lorenzino encouraged him in his passion, hoping thereby to find means to effect his traitorous design. He went straight to the house of a certain Piero di Gioannabate, surnamed Scoronconcolo, a quarrelsome man of vile character, devoted to Lorenzino, who by his influence with the Duke had saved him from execution. Some days before Lorenzino had said to him: I have an enemy who is always jeering at me and turning me into ridicule, what can we do? Point him out to me, answered Scoronconcolo, and if he annoys you again, complain of me and not of him. Being thus sure of the villain’s courage, Lorenzino said: Pietro, the time has come for fulfilling the promise you made me; the enemy who continually derides me is now in my room, let us go and kill him. It is well, replied the fellow, it is not I that will fail you. At the threshold, fearing he might lose courage, Lorenzino turned to him and said: You will not fear even if it is a friend of the Duke’s? Strike hard. Were it the Duke himself I should not fear, answered Piero. You have guessed aright, said Lorenzino, it is the Duke; he cannot escape us, let us set to work heartily. For an instant the assassin seemed to hesitate, but plucking up courage he exclaimed: Here we are, let us proceed even though it were the devil himself. Entering the room Lorenzino advanced to the bed whereon the Duke was sleeping profoundly.265 Raising the curtain he called in an angered tone: What, Duke, are you asleep? and with a short sword pierced him in the back. The blade passed through his body, and rising in a fury the Duke staggered towards the door shouting: Traitor. Then turning his eyes, still heavy with sleep, he saw Lorenzino and exclaimed: This from thee, and attempted to defend himself. Lorenzino threw himself upon him and placed his open hand over his mouth to prevent his cries from being heard, while his abominable companion gave the Duke Alessandro a stab on the temple which crushed his left cheek. The bleeding and dying prince seized Lorenzino’s thumb between his teeth, and the pain caused him to fall on the top of the Duke; he called to Scoronconcolo for help, who could do nothing for fear of wounding him instead of the victim. Lorenzino recollecting that he had a knife in his pocket, took it out with the other hand and opening the blade with his teeth stabbed the Duke in the throat. Raising the bleeding body from the floor they placed it on the bed and Lorenzino wrote on a sheet of paper Vincit amor patriae laudumque immenso cupido, and laid it on the corpse. Then locking the door they went to the Bishop Angelo Marzi, who kept the keys of the city gates and was alone authorized to grant permits for post horses. Knowing the friendship which existed between the Duke and his cousin, the Bishop never hesitated about giving the permits and the murderers left Florence at once.”76 There was considerable alarm in the Palazzo Medici next day when the Duke did not make his appearance. All the houses he was likely to frequent were searched in vain, and at first it was thought that he had gone with Lorenzino to Cafaggiuolo.

“Strange noises had been heard,” writes Varchi, “in Lorenzino’s house. But they excited no suspicion, as for some time he had been in the habit of taking boon266 companions to his room, where they made noises as though they were fighting; rushing about the house, shouting, hit him, kill him, traitor, and the like. The first to give the alarm was Lorenzino’s servant. He went to Cardinal Cibo in the palace, who commanded the men to maintain absolute silence under pain of losing his head, and then ordered the game of Saracino to be played to amuse the people. To those who inquired for the Duke, he smilingly answered that being tired he was still in bed.” The news had however got abroad. “Groups and parties of citizens,” continues Varchi, “were on the Piazza, and every one spoke out freely as though no doubt existed that the great Council would at once be summoned. They debated as to who would be chosen Gonfalonier, and whether for life or not ... and meanwhile the Forty-eight had been summoned to the Palazzo Medici by the Cardinal, and were assembled in the large gallery upstairs.” Francesco Guicciardini and Francesco Vettori proposed Cosimo de’ Medici, son of the famous Giovanni delle Bande Nere, and of Maria Salviati, as successor to the Duke Alessandro. “But,” as Varchi observes, “the Forty-eight were of forty-eight different opinions and so nothing was settled.” Full powers were given to the Cardinal Cibo to conduct the government of the city for three days, a decision so unpopular that when the burghers passed the shops of the smaller artisans they beat their instruments on the counters, shouting: “If you do not know how to, or cannot, act, call us. We will settle the question.”

“At this moment, when it only needed some one to begin a tumult,” writes Varchi, “Signor Cosimo arrived in Florence with but a few followers. As the son of Signor Giovanni, of fair aspect, and having always displayed a kindly disposition and a good understanding, he was liked by the people and they acclaimed him as the heir to Duke Alessandro with great affection. Showing neither267 grief nor joy, he rode on with a certain air of majesty, appearing rather to merit the throne than to desire it. Dismounting at the palace he visited the Cardinal and, first expressing his regret at the death of the Duke, he then with great tact, inspired either by his own natural prudence, or having been instructed by others said, that like a good son he had come to place not only his fortune, but his life, at the service of his country and of its citizens.” The following morning Cosimo de’ Medici was proclaimed, not Duke, but Head and Governor of the Florentine Republic.

Cosimo I., though but a lad of nineteen, soon showed that he intended to be the master. Cardinal Cibo and Francesco Guicciardini, the latter of whom had been chiefly instrumental in placing him at the head of the Florentine Republic, were set aside, and in June the following year the Emperor Charles V. granted him the rank and the title of Duke of Florence. In 1539 he married Eleonora di Toledo, second daughter of Don Pedro di Toledo the Viceroy of Naples, and once more the great palace was the scene of splendid festivities. It was soon afterwards deserted, as Cosimo I., to make it quite plain to his subjects that the whole government now centered in him alone, decided to take up his abode in the ancient Palazzo de’ Signori. The Medici palace was closed and abandoned until the Grand Duke Ferdinando II. sold it to the Senator Gabriello Riccardi in 1659 for 41,000 scudi, when it became the Palazzo Riccardi.

The Riccardi added considerably to the building, but care was taken to preserve the same style of architecture and only a close observer would notice that the arms of the Riccardi, a key, are in the triangles of the windows, instead of the Medici balls. The terrace, above which is a fine shield with the arms of the Riccardi; is often pointed out as occupying the site of the room in which the murder of the Duke Alessandro took place. But it was built on the site of a small house adjoining Cosimo’s palace, belonging268 to the Da Lutiano family, and Signor Corrazzini suggests that it was made in order to be able to continue the cornice and the “bozzi” round the corner of the palace, which would have been impossible had it been attached to the next house. The internal arrangements of the building were entirely changed, and many rooms were added at the back, where there is a second courtyard with an entrance into the Via de’ Ginori. It was then that the architect, G. B. Foggini, committed the unpardonable vandalism of cutting off a corner of the chapel in order to widen the chief staircase, and thus destroyed part of Gozzoli’s fresco.

The Riccardi were of German origin. A certain Annichino di Riccardo came from Cologne and was made a citizen of Florence in 1368. The family made a large fortune by trade, but their name does not appear in the annals of the city until Riccardo Riccardi was created a Senator and a Marquis in 1654, by Ferdinando II. He founded the fine library, still known as the Riccardiana, and his son, after purchasing the Medici palace, had the great gallery gorgeously frescoed and decorated by Luca Giordano with the apotheosis of the Medici family and allegories of the vicissitudes of human life. Francesco Riccardi married the only daughter and heiress of Vincenzo Capponi, and her father’s valuable library was added to the one already existing in the palace, which later was further augmented by Canon Riccardi’s fine collection of manuscripts and illuminated missals.77

Palazzo Riccardi must have been let to the French government, as in March, 1799, General Gaulthier had his head-quarters there until the arrival of M. Reinhard, the Commissary-General. A wondrous ceremony took place in June in the large room. Orders came from Paris to hold a solemn funeral service in commemoration of those who had fallen at Rastadt. So all the officers, municipal councillors and heads of departments met in the Palazzo269 Riccardi, which was hung with black and decorated with festoons of cypress. On a sarcophagus stood the cinerary urn and round it were placed three crowns of oakleaves with the inscription: “Ils travaillaient pour la paix des peuples, les tyrans les ont assassinés.” Two tricolour flags draped with crape were at one end of the room, and a raised stand for the band of the national guard and the singers had been erected. M. Reinhard then pronounced a funeral oration and, while the band played a slow and solemn symphony his wife, dressed in white, with a black scarf across her breast and a crown of laurel on her head, mounted the steps up to the urn. Dramatically casting her eyes up to heaven she first embraced it and then scattered flowers over it. The ceremony ended with the singing of Ça ira and the Marseillaise. Eighteen months later Joachim Murat, the handsomest man in the French army, entered Florence at the head of a brilliant staff. Magnificently costumed, and with highly rouged cheeks, he rode proudly through the city and dismounted at the Riccardi palace, where General Gaulthier received him at the head of the staircase. He did not however stay long in the Via Larga, as he found the old palace too sombre, cold and triste, but requisitioned the Corsini palace where his wife, Caroline Bonaparte, soon joined him.78 The Palazzo Riccardi was the head-quarters of the civil engineers as long as the French supremacy lasted. In 1814 it was bought by the Tuscan government, and during the few years that Florence was the capital of United Italy, it was the seat of the Home Office. Later the old palace was sold to the Province of Florence and is now the Prefecture.


From Rodolfo, son of a certain Diotifece who lived at Poppiano in the Val di Pesa in the XIIIth century, descend the three families of Ridolfi whose name occurs so frequently in the annals of Florence. The Ridolfi del Ponte, whose old tower still stands grey and grim opposite to that of the Mannelli in the Via de’ Bardi; the Ridolfi di Piazza, whose houses were clustered round the church of S. Felice (Borgo di Piazza was one of the three borghi, or parishes, of the Oltrarno); and the Ridolfi di Borgo, who had their houses in the Borgo S. Jacopo. In 1378 the Ridolfi, being Ghibellines, were expelled the city, and their houses were sacked and burnt; but three years later they returned to Florence and made a large fortune as wool merchants. Lorenzo Ridolfi, born in 1362, was a remarkable man. A great jurist, he expounded canon law at the Studio Fiorentino, attended to business in his shop in the Via Maggio, was Pro-consul of the Guild of Wool, four times Gonfalonier of Justice, and was sent (whenever a knotty question arose) as ambassador of the Republic to popes and foreign sovereigns. He had four sons, Bernardo, Luigi, Antonio and Giovanni, from the second of whom descend the present representatives of the family. They were all Gonfaloniers of Justice, and friends of the Medici; indeed, so devoted was Antonio, that when Lorenzo the Magnificent was stabbed in the cathedral on the occasion of the conspiracy of the Pazzi he sucked the wound, fearing the dagger might have been poisoned. One of Lorenzo Ridolfi’s grandsons, Giovan Battista, was a gallant soldier, who fought against Bentivoglio and took him prisoner at Faenza. He was elected Gonfalonier of Justice for life after271 Piero Soderini, and opposed the return of the exiled Piero de’ Medici, whilst another, Niccolò, lost his head in 1497 for conspiring with Bernardo del Nero for his recall. Niccolò bought the palace in the Via Maggio, which still belongs to the Ridolfi, from the powerful family of the Corbinelli. The architect is unknown, but it is evidently of the XIVth century, with its large windows and fine doorway. The graffite on the façade are of course of a later date. All Niccolò’s possessions were confiscated when he was beheaded. But on the return of the Medici to power the estates were given back to his son Piero, husband of Contessina, daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, whilst the youngest, Niccolò, was made a Cardinal at twelve years of age, and became Archbishop of Florence at nineteen. He lived chiefly at Orvieto, where he kept up a princely establishment, and being intensely hostile to the Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, his house was the refuge of all the Florentine exiles. During the conclave of 1550 he died; poisoned, it was said, by the orders of Cosimo I., who feared he might be elected Pope.

Roberto Ridolfi, head of the banking-house in London, allowed his religious zeal to get the better of his discretion. He conspired in favour of Mary Queen of Scots, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London, but contrived to escape and took refuge in Rome.

Attached to the Ridolfi palace is another of the XVIth century, which was built on the site of two houses also belonging to the Corbinelli. Bought by the Sangaletti in 1583, they were soon afterwards sold to the Zanchini Da Castiglionichio, who threw them into one, employing, it is said, Santi di Tito as their architect. The courtyard is of pure XVth century design, and was probably incorporated with the new palace by the Zanchini, whose arms are still to be seen on the corner of the palace. Marchese Cosimo Ridolfi bought it in 1843, and added it to his own.

In the façade of a house nearly opposite the side entrance272 to the Boboli gardens in Via Romana is a bas-relief of S. Peter the Apostle seated; at either end are the old arms of the Ridolfi, and between is the inscription Hospitium Nobilis Ridolforum Familiae. This is all that remains of a hospital, which, according to the custom of those days when every great family had its own small hospital, Piero Ridolfi intended to build. He bought a house from the Calvacanti, but died in 1349 before he could carry out his intention. So his nephew Antonio built the hospital, and various members of the family left considerable sums for its maintenance. It was suppressed in 1751, and its funds given to the Bigallo.

The family of the Rondinelli made a large fortune in trade, and owned several palaces in the old Via de’ Rondinelli (now Via della Forca), and their coat-of-arms, with six swallows, is still to be seen there on the façade of a house. They afterwards lived in what is now the Via de’ Rondinelli, and a palace in the Piazza S. Lorenzo, which was incorporated in the convent of S. Giovannino, also belonged to them.

The origin of the family is given differently by two old writers. Verino says:

“Unde sit ignoro, tribuit cui nomen Hirundo:
Est antiqua tamen, carnit nec honore propago.
Ili Fesulis genitam soboles eeu nobilis omnis
Ist Flaminie dicunt ex arcibus ortam,”

while Gamurini declares they had nothing to do with Fiesole, but came from a castle near Arezzo called Rondine (Swallow). In 1192 a Rondinello di Ulivieri is mentioned in the records of the Opera del Duomo, and his son, Spinabello,273 commonly called Bello di Rondinello, was one of the Elders of the city who signed the league with Arezzo in Sta. Reparata in 1258. Vieri, Bello’s son, was the first of thirty-six Priors his family gave to Florence, and a few years later the first of twelve Gonfaloniers of Justice. The Rondinelli were Guelphs, and always in the van of every popular movement, and Michele, who was deputed to buy Lucca of the Scaliger in 1341, became extraordinarily beloved owing to his liberality and kindly manners, and was one of the leaders of the people when they rose against the Grandi. Rinaldo, his nephew, was twice sent as ambassador to the Republic of Lucca to watch the Pisan exiles who were plotting against Florence. He joined with Giovanni and Cosimo de’ Medici in building S. Lorenzo, but died before the church was half finished, and left strict orders in his will that his sons were to continue the work.

Antonio Rondinelli, whose name is linked for ever with that of the beautiful Ginevra degl’Amieri must, if he and Ginevra are not mere creations of the popular phantasy, have been a brother of Michele. The Amieri, one of the proudest and oldest families of Florence, whose magnificent palaces and towers stood near S. Andrea in the old market place, were strongly Ghibelline. Scorning an alliance with a Rondinelli, a Popolano and a Guelph, they forced Ginevra to marry Francesco degl’Agolanti, whose family was on a par with her own. In vain she tried to forget the handsome, gentle Antonio. She sickened, and one day fell into a deep swoon, as dead; her death was attributed to the plague which was then raging in Florence, and she was hastily buried in the vault of the Amieri adjoining the Duomo.79 In that terrible year (1400) people were often buried with their jewellery, and thieves, braving the274 infection, went at night to rob the corpses. Two of these fellows lifted the stone of the vault. The fresh air revived Ginevra, who sat up, whereupon the men, thinking she was a ghost, fled. Ginevra called her women, but to her horror saw she was surrounded by skeletons, and understood what had happened. Slipping off the linen bands which tied her hands, she was able to set her feet free. The moon was full as she climbed the steps out of the vault, and wrapping her shroud around her she crossed the Piazza, and went down the small street which has, they say, ever since borne the name of Via della Morte, to her husband’s house.80 Francesco opened the window when she knocked, but thought that the spirit of his dead wife was asking for suffrages, and promising to have masses said for the repose of her soul, shut the window. Ginevra then went on to her father’s house, where her mother sat weeping by the fireside, and in the old popular ballad in ottava rima by Agotino Velletti, we read:

“E spaventata e piena di paura
Disse: va in pace, anima benedetta,
Bella figliuola mia, onesta e pura;
E riserro la finestra con fretta.”

Rejected by husband and mother, she turned her steps to the house of her uncle, who had always loved her, and implored his help, but:

“Fugli risposto: anima benedetta,
Va, che Dio ti conservi in santa pace.”81

Shuddering with cold and misery, in utter despair she thought of Antonio Rondinelli. After praying under the portico of S. Bartolomeo she hurried to his door, and crying for aid, fell exhausted to the ground. “Then,” writes J. A. Symonds, “comes the finest touch in the poem. Antonio knows Ginevra’s voice; and loving her so tenderly,275 he hurries with delight to greet her risen from the grave. He alone has no fear, and no misgiving; for love in him is stronger than death. At the street door, when he reaches it, he finds no ghost, but his own dear lady yet alive. She is half frozen and unconscious, yet her heart still beats. How he calls the women of his household to attend her, prepares a bed, and feeds her with warm soups and wine, and how she revives, and how Antonio claims her to be his wife, and wins his cause against her former bridegroom in the bishop’s court, may be read at length in the concluding portion of the tale.”82

The Gonfalonier Tommaso di Vieri de’ Rondinelli was so beloved that on his death, in 1430, the people insisted on giving him a public funeral. The name of one of his descendants, Giovanni, is known as a poet of some note. When in 1790 the old family of the Vitelli died out, the Rondinelli inherited their estates and their name, and I believe the palace in Via della Stufa, where the last of the Rondinelli died, and which now belongs to his daughter, was a Palazzo Vitelli.

Tradition says that the ancestor of the noble house of Rucellai was a Messer Ferro, who came from Brittany with an Emperor, and took up his abode at Campi, near Florence, where the family still own a fine villa. But according to Count Passerini,83 an acknowledged authority, the real founder was Alamanno di Monte, a rich cloth merchant who, whilst travelling in the Levant about 1250, observed that a beautiful violet dye was extracted from the276 herb Oricella (Lichen Rocella of Linnæus); he introduced it into Florence, and from it the family took their name. Bernardo, his grandson, commonly called Naddo di Giunta, was Prior in 1302, the first of eighty-five the Rucellai gave to Florence; six years later he was Gonfalonier of Justice, and after him thirteen others of the family filled that important post. He built the chapel of Sta. Caterina, in Sta. Maria Novella, in which is the stately Madonna, said by Vasari to have been painted by Cimabue, whose triumphant progress through Florence he describes so vividly. Bencivenni, his son, generally known as Cenni di Naddo, played an important part in the faction fights between the Whites and the Blacks, and was six times elected a Prior of his native city. When Gonfalonier of Justice in 1328 he raised 60,000 golden florins to continue the war against Castruccio Castrocane, and by his energy and acumen saved Florence from falling into the clutches of the house of Anjou. After the city, owing to the incapacity of Malatesta da Rimini, General of the Florentine army, was seized by the Duke of Athens, Bencivenni’s son Naddo was beheaded, and he only saved his own life by taking refuge as a novice in the Dominican monastery of Sta. Maria Novella until the city had thrown off the yoke of the tyrant. Bencivenni was a man of large views and great prudence, he defended the people against the nobles and was so trusted by them that it was a common saying when a man was condemned to death, “God can save thee, or Cenni di Naddo.” The Rucellai then lived near the Piazza Vecchia di Sta. Maria Novella, and the Via di Cenni is supposed to take its name from him. Andrea, another of Naddo’s sons, having no taste for commerce, took service in France, where he was knighted, and fought in the wars against England. When eventually he returned to Florence he was made Castellano of Carmignano and the adjacent strong places guarding the Pisan and Lucchese frontiers. A few days before his279 death he determined to knight his two sons, Albizzo and Francesco; and as five marriages were to take place in the Rucellai family, he gave a splendid entertainment for the seven events in the cloisters of Sta. Maria Novella, which for a whole week resounded with music and dancing, singing and feasting. “Never,” says an old chronicler, “was so magnificent a sight.”


Berlinghieri, his nephew, usually called Bingeri di Naddo, was a gallant soldier, to whom the town of Siena granted the right to quarter her arms, a white lion on a red ground, with his own, as a reward for his services against the Tolomei. Paolo, son of Bingeri, when Gonfalonier of Justice in 1364, promulgated a law against the excessive luxury of dress indulged in by the Florentine ladies, and augmented the sum set apart every year by the Commune for the completion of Giotto’s beautiful campanile. He left his second wife, Caterina Pandolfini, with four young boys and little to live on. A descendant of his, Francesco Rucellai, who wrote in the XVIIth century describes Giovanni, the eldest, as “a man of singular goodness and well grounded in literature. He began his commercial life under the auspices of Messer Palla Strozzi, a man famed for his great learning, nobility and immense riches. Palla seeing Giovanni’s excellent character and keen intelligence, and loving him as a son, determined to give him his daughter to wife, and he did it in this wise. Giovanni usually accompanied Messer Palla every morning at dinner-time, after work was over, as far as his house, and one day, when as usual he asked leave to go to his own people, Messer Palla told him to enter his house, and calling Jacopa, his daughter, told Giovanni to take the girl’s hand because he intended that she should be his wife. The said Jacopa when her father called her had just washed her hair, and did not wish to appear before a stranger in undress, so her mother made excuses for her; but Messer Palla insisted on being obeyed, saying in the280 presence of his family that the young man brought by him was to be her husband. In 1427 the marriage took place, when Giovanni became the partner of Messer Palla in his commerce and participated in the great gains made by the house of Strozzi, so that in time he became very rich.”

In 1456 Giovanni obliged his eldest son, Pandolfo, to marry Caterina, daughter of Buonaccorso Pitti. Even as a child Pandolfo was extraordinarily religious and had set his heart on entering the Church; but he was a good husband and father, and showed great ability in banking affairs and in the various high offices he filled. After his wife’s death, when his children were grown up and no longer needed him, he received the habit of S. Dominic at the hands of Savonarola, to whom he was devoted. Owing to the exile of Messer Palla Strozzi, Francesco Rucellai tells us that “Giovanni was out of favour, and for twenty years was looked upon with suspicion by the party of Cosimo the Elder, the ruler. So he was obliged to be careful, as people tried to stir up accusations against him. But real goodness is above malice and suspicion, and Giovanni preferred to suffer for the peace of the Republic rather than harm his beloved country by attempting to change the government for the benefit of Messer Palla and himself. Thus he gave no hold to his enemies, and Cosimo, astonished, desired to have him as a friend and relation. So in 1461 he gave Nannina, daughter of his son Piero, to Giovanni’s second son Bernardo, a lad younger than the bride.”

It is to Giovanni that we owe the lovely Palazzo Rucellai still inhabited by the family, which was built by his intimate friend Leon Battista Alberti, as well as the exquisite loggia opposite. In 1450 the palace was finished, and Neri di Bicci notes in his Ricordi: “In 1455 I painted for Giovanni Rucellai in his house five arches of sham perspective, a coat-of-arms in high relief with a helmet,281 and two half-length figures, a lady and a serving-man, in fresco.”

In the loggia of the Rucellai, now defaced by being turned into a post-office, the marriages of three of Giovanni’s five daughters were arranged on the same day “to his great content.” The citizens of Florence used to meet and discuss their affairs under these loggie, and after the introduction of the game of chess from the East, such large sums of money were lost at dice, draughts and chess, that a law was passed forbidding any games to be played in courtyards, porticoes, or loggie. Sacchetti84 describes how “while seated in a loggia a most notable citizen of Florence, named Guido de’ Cavalcanti, was intent on a game of chess, a boy, playing with other children at ball, or with a top, as is their habit, often came near to him with such noise as boys usually make, and being pushed by a companion against the said Guido, he, perchance being worsted at the game, rose furiously and struck the boy saying: ‘Go and play elsewhere,’ and then continued his game. This angered the boy, who, crying and shaking his head, still loitered around muttering: ‘I will repay thee,’ and having a nail from a horseshoe he returned with the others to where Guido was playing, and with a stone in his hand went behind him and began to hammer on the bench at first softly, and at long intervals, and then quickly, and more impetuously, so that he caused Guido to turn round and say: ‘Dost thou desire more? It were better for thee to go home. What art thou hammering with that stone?’ The boy answered, ‘I am only straightening this nail.’ So Guido turned again to the board and continued his game. Little by little the boy, always hammering with the stone, stole nigh to where a fold of Guido’s tunic, or the trimming thereof, fell on to the bench, and holding the stone with one hand and the nail with the282 other, he drove it through the said fold, hitting harder and harder so that it should be firm and fast, with the intent that the said Guido should be driven to rise. And it came to pass as the boy desired. Guido, sick to death of the hammering rose quickly in great anger, the boy ran away, and Guido remained fastened to the bench by his tunic.”

Monsignore V. Borghini (MSS. Magliabechiana) mentions that fifteen loggie existed in Florence when he wrote, and traces of some of them may still be distinguished. One belonging to the Agolanti, opposite the Ghetto, was so celebrated in olden times as a place for arranging marriages, that the street corner was commonly called “del Parentado,” and people said that beneath that loggia you might be sure “di non far casaccia,” i. e., not to make an unsuitable alliance.

Not satisfied with building a palace, Giovanni also occupied himself with churches, for Vasari writes: “Wishing to ornament the façade of Sta. Maria Novella in marble at his own expense, Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai consulted with Leon Battista, his intimate friend, and having obtained, not only advice, but a design from him, resolved to do the work in order to leave a memorial of himself, and it was finished, to the great satisfaction of all, in 1477.” The Rucellai were always great patrons of the church of Sta. Maria Novella. Albizzo di Naddo di Giunta left in 1334 one hundred and sixty florins to build a tomb for himself outside the chapel of All Saints and to pay for the painting of the chapel itself. It was restored a hundred years later by Andrea Rucellai, whose name can still be traced on the marble stoop at the door. Another of the family, Gugliemo, gave the marble pulpit designed by Brunelleschi, and beneath it he made a vault, in which he was buried in 1477. He was so rich that he owned a large fleet of ships and was deputed by the Republic to receive Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, when he came to Florence.283 The indolence his brother Piero, Gonfalonier of Justice in 1455, became proverbial. No letter was ever read or answered by him, and Lorenzo the Magnificent, when he did not wish to reply to any document used to say, “I shall do as did Piero di Cardinale.”

Giuliano Bugiardini painted the martyrdom of S. Catherine for the altar of the chapel of the same name in Sta. Maria Novella for Palla Rucellai. “He kept it twelve years,” writes Vasari, “and in all that time never could finish it, as he lacked the invention and the knowledge for representing the various incidents that occurred in that martyrdom; and as he was always changing, trying how to arrange the wheels and how to represent the lightning, and the fire that burned them, he undid one day what he had done the day before.... Palla, who often asked him to finish the picture, at length bethought him to take Michelangelo to see it, and Bugiardini told him with how much labour he had painted the lightning, which falling from heaven had shattered the wheels and killed those who turned them; and the sun, which shining from a cloud liberates S. Catherine from death. He then begged Michelangelo, who could not control his laughter on hearing the woes of poor Bugiardini, to tell him how he would arrange eight or ten principal figures in the foreground of the picture; a row of soldiers on guard who, in the act of escaping, fall down wounded and killed; because he did not know how to fore-shorten them in such way as to get them all into so restricted a space. So Buonarroti, out of complaisance, and having compassion on the poor man, took a piece of charcoal and sketched a row of marvellous naked figures, fore-shortened in various attitudes, some falling back and others forward, both dead and wounded, drawn with the knowledge and the excellence which pertains to Michelangelo.”

A curious book by Giovanni called Il Zibaldone Quaresimale has never been published in its entirety, but an account284 of it, and various extracts are given by Marcotti.85 It begins: “This book has been planned and written by me Giovanni di Pagholo di Messer Pagholo Rucellai, merchant and citizen of Florence in the year 1459, in the castle of Sancto Gemignano where I am with all my family, having fled from the plague in my city of Florence. In it I have begun to instruct and inform my sons Pandolfo and Bernardo of many things that I think may be useful to them. It will be a salad of various herbs according to the understanding of the reader.”

There is a little of everything in the Zibaldone, town gossip, reflections on the commercial superiority of Venice, copies of letters, philosophical discussions, quotations from Aristotle, Boethius, Dante, S. Bernard and Seneca, followed by moral and religious maxims taken from sermons, an account of his forbears and their doings, excellent advice as how to bring up children, and a description of his various buildings. Near the end of the book his reasons for being thankful to God, are so typical of a Florentine of the fifteenth century that I give them in full:

“First I thank him for having given me life and made me a rational and an immortal creature, for he might as easily have made me a mortal beast without intelligence.

“Secondly I must thank him for causing me to be born in a place where the true faith exists, that is in Christendom, and I must add in the midst of the faith, that is near Rome, the residence of our Holy Lord Pope and of his honourable brethren the cardinals, representing Christ with the apostles; for he might have caused me to be born a Turk, a Moor, or a barbarian, in which case I should have been irremediably lost.

“Next I thank him for being born in Italy, which is the most worthy and the noblest portion of all Christendom,285 and in the province of Tuscany, which is reputed as amongst the worthiest provinces of Italy and in which is part of the city of Rome which once dominated the world: and in addition to have caused me to be born in the city of Florence, which is reputed the most worthy and the most beautiful birthplace there is, not only in Christendom but in the whole world.

“Then I thank him for causing me to live many years in perfect health, for I am sixty years of age and do not think that in all my life I spent a month in the house on account of illness, and it seems to me that health is the greatest grace that one can receive.

“And then I thank him for the good fortune he has conceded to me in my business, for I have increased and multiplied exceedingly the small substance that was left to me, so that I find myself to-day with considerable riches, fine prospects, great credit and a good reputation. And not only has he conceded unto me grace in acquiring, but also in spending these riches well, which is not a less virtue. And I consider that having spent my riches well does me more honour than having made them, and gives me more satisfaction, particularly with regard to the buildings I have made; my house in Florence, my place at Quaracchi,86 the façade of the church of Sta. Maria Novella and the loggia which is begun opposite my house, and also the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, like to that at Jerusalem of Our Lord Jesus Christ, made in S. Pancrazio, and the hangings of golden brocade for the same church.


“Also I have to thank him for causing me to be born of a good face, that is of noble blood with high connections, and for giving me a fine family, that is seven children, two male and five female, all of whom have married into noble houses.

“Also I have to thank him for being born in the present time, which all competent persons say is, and will be regarded as, the finest period of our city since it was created, for the reasons that are set forth in this book; and more particularly for living in the time of the magnificent citizen Cosimo de’ Medici, who was and is so rich, has so much knowledge and tact, so high a reputation and so numerous a following, both outside and within the city, that in all Christendom there has never lived such a citizen or one with so many good qualities as have been and are in him; and among other graces vouchsafed to me by God is that he has made me a relation of the said Cosimo, because Nannina his grandchild, daughter of Piero his son, is the wife of Bernardo my son, to whom was born on the 1st June, 1468, a son named Cosimo.

“Also I thank him for many other benefits and gifts too numerous to recount. Then I must thank him for guarding and defending me from many evils and annoyances and adversities which I might have had and have not had.

“Also I thank him for granting my desire of seeing our city at peace in my day without any fear of war, for ten or more years, from 1454 to 1464, during which time I experienced perfect tranquillity of mind, and reflected on the great anguish we endured in past times by reason of wars and fear of wars.

“Also I thank him for an admirable mother he gave me, named Caterina, who having four male children when our father, Pagolo, died, and being nineteen years of age, would not abandon us, but strenuously resisted the wishes of her mother and her brothers that she should marry287 again; and he left her with me for a long time, as she lived more than eighty years and was a great consolation to me.

“Also I thank him for the most worthy wife he gave me named Jacopa, daughter to Messer Palla di Nofri Strozzi, who was a most dear wife to me by reason of her great love for me and the good rule she kept in our house and family; she was given to me for a long time as she lived about fifty-five years, passing from this life on the 24th April, 1468, and this I consider the greatest loss that I ever had or could have.”

The marriage of Giovanni’s son Bernardo with the fascinating Nannina de’ Medici, sister of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was celebrated with extraordinary magnificence. The whole street and the loggia, which was enlarged for the occasion so as to cover the small triangular square in front of the palace, were hung with blue cloth and decorated with garlands of flowers and leaves. A stand, raised a foot and a half from the ground, was erected, and for three days every Florentine of note was entertained at the bridal feast, eating, drinking, dancing and listening to music. 1,004 wax candles were made on purpose to burn for twelve hours each, and 3,686 golden florins were spent by Giovanni in honour of his Medici daughter-in-law.

Bernardo was a man of inordinate ambition, and when Piero de’ Medici refused to listen to his advice, he became one of the most violent of his antagonists. In 1502 he strenuously advocated the appointment of a Gonfalonier for life, hoping the choice would fall upon himself: but when Piero Soderini was elected, he again joined the Medicean party, and the plot against Soderini was hatched in the Oricellari gardens. He is described by contemporaries as difficult to get on with. He scouted every plan that did not originate with himself, decried every form of government because he was not the chosen head, and was swayed by personal dislikes and a passion for popularity. But if288 he failed as a statesman his learning was undeniable. The oration de auxilio Typhernatibus adferendo, to induce the Florentines to succour Città di Castello, was published in London in 1733 as a model of elegant Latin, and at the same time his de Bello Gallico, which Erasmus declares might have been written by Sallust, went into a second edition. Muratori has published his de Urbe Roma, which is highly praised as a description of ancient Rome.

The celebrated Platonic Academy, instituted by Cosimo the Elder, met in the Rucellai gardens during the exile of its founder, whence its name of Academia degl’Orti Oricellari.

Of the six children of Bernardo Rucellai and Nannina de’ Medici two merit especial mention: Palla, who took the lead in turning the Gonfalonier Piero Soderini out of the Palazzo della Signoria, and thus paved the way for the return of the Medici to Florence; and then repenting of having placed his country under such tyranny, voted against the election of Cosimo I. to the throne, and is said to have been poisoned by him; and the more famous Giovanni, author of Rosmunda, Oreste, and Le Api. Giovanni, born in 1457, had Francesco da Diacceto as his master in philosophy and literature, and he was brought up with his cousin, Giovanni de’ Medici, afterwards Leo X., Bibbiena and Machiavelli, in the society of such men as Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino, the Pulci and Pico della Mirandola. Palla and Giovanni were sent to France to finish their education, and a charming letter written from Avignon by the latter is still extant.87 “I seem to be in the Promised Land,” exclaims the young Florentine, “abounding in every good thing that can be desired in this world. Among others I find myself opposite a house which is intimately connected with that of Madonna Laura of Petrarch. And there, amidst other noble ladies,289 is one whose like mine eyes have never beheld; verily nothing save the name is lacking in her, so that the sonnets should hit the mark. And if, on my return, I appear to thee another Petrarch, do not be astonished, for love is the cause of all things; and if God (ut Platoni placet) non est mirandum if it works miracles. Also here kisses are allowed, as glances are at home, only I find they have a far sweeter flavour than in other places. Her name, to tell thee all, is Anna, and had I more time I would send thee something to prove what I have told thee. I have seen the effigy of Madonna Laura, which is indeed most beautiful, and worthy to be loved by such a man as was Petrarch. I wished to have her copied from the picture to send thee; but there is not to be found a man capable of doing it in the way I desire. Still I hope to send thee a sketch if fate so wills it. I have already learned to say nani and oi (yes and no), and I can give a kiss without smacking my lips.” When Giovanni de’ Medici became Pope, young Giovanni Rucellai followed him to Rome and entered the Church. He was for some time Papal Nuncio in France and afterwards Clement VII. made him Castellano of S. Angelo.

Giovanni Rucellai’s Rosmunda shares with the Sofonisba of Trissino the glory of being the first Italian tragedy. It depicts the well-known story of Alboin, who turned the skull of his wife’s father into a wine-cup, out of which he forces her to drink. When Giovanni died in 1526 he bequeathed to his brother Palla and to his friend Trissino a poem on bees. An eyewitness related to Scipione Ammirato how “these two friends when together in a room would jump upon a bench, declaim passages out of their tragedies, and then call upon the audience to decide which was the best. In one of these contests Rucellai inadvertently got upon the bench with his braces undone, and Trissino in a loud voice exclaimed: ‘Now see the290 man who would contend with me! Like a child he does not know how to fasten his braces.’” The Api was published in 1539, and Trissino undertook to see his friend’s work through the press. “It is,” writes Symonds, “no mere translation from Virgil; and though the higher qualities of variety, invention and imagination were denied to Rucellai, though he can show no passages of pathos to compete with the ‘Corycius senex,’ of humour to approach the battle of the hives, no episode, it need hardly be said, to match with ‘Pastor Aristaeus,’ still his modest poem is a monument of pure taste and classical correctness. It is the work of a ripe scholar and a melodious versifier, if not of a great singer; and its diction belongs to the best period of polite Italian.”

Giovan Battista, great-grandson of Pandolfo, a favourite of Cosimo I., acted as one of the Captains in the game of calcio, celebrated in the annals of Florence for its magnificence, which was played in honour of the marriage of Cosimo’s son Francesco de’ Medici by the young Florentine nobles. Giovanni, his grandson, studied mathematics under Galileo at Pisa, and was a remarkable linguist; like so many of his family he was a fine musician and a good artist. He gave wonderful feste, what we should now call garden parties, at Il Pratello, the Rucellai villa near Campi, sending tessere with one of the many emblems of the family to his guests, instead of invitations. By the kindness of the Countess Edith Rucellai I am enabled here to reproduce one with the emblem adopted by Bernardo after his marriage with Nannina de’ Medici—the Medicean ring and three ostrich feathers, white, green and red, denoting faith, charity and hope. Other emblems used by the family, such as a compass, a cupid, a peacock and poppies, are to be seen on the municipal palaces in towns where the Rucellai were Vicarii or Governors for Florence, on the façade of Sta. Maria Novella, of the Rucellai palace, and291 of their loggia. The oldest, Fortune standing in a ship and holding up a sail to catch the wind, alludes to the great commercial gains which had enriched the house.

Francesco Rucellai, a cousin of Giovanni Battista, from whom the present branch of the family descends, began life as a page to the Grand Duke Ferdinando II., and was Vicario of the Upper Val d’Arno in 1658. A man of considerable culture, and gifted with charming manners, he was made a member of all the learned academies of Florence, and wrote a history of his native town in nine large volumes and one of his own family, from which I have quoted. His grandson Giulio studied law at Pisa in 1736, and became a Senator and legal adviser to the Grand Duke Giovan Gastone, last of the Medici. Enlightened, patriotic and liberal, he determined to curb the power of292 the clergy and to abolish the Inquisition. Several times the Pope demanded the dismissal of so obnoxious a minister, and when Francis I. of Lorraine became the ruler of Tuscany he renewed his request. But Rucellai was too necessary a man. He steadily withstood the pretensions of Clement XII. to nominate bishops, a right that had been exercised by the Grand Dukes for two hundred years; and at length, after the well-known case of the poet Tommaso Crudeli, the last inmate of the prisons of the Inquisition in Tuscany, he succeeded in suppressing the tribunal. Soon afterwards he framed a law obliging the clergy to contribute their quota to the general taxation, and on the 2nd March, 1769, by his advice, the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo proclaimed the celebrated law against mortmain. Ten years later the right of asylum, that fertile source of scandal and incentive to crime, was done away with, the jurisdiction of the bishops was limited to purely spiritual matters and, in order to protect young girls from being forced to enter a convent against their will, no woman under thirty was allowed to take the vows. The large sums arising from the sale of suppressed convents Rucellai used in founding schools for poor girls.

He adopted his orphan nephew Giovanni Pietro, who became a member of various Florentine academies, was an admirable musician, and painted well in tempera. Count Cosimo Rucellai has a curious collection of small family portraits which were probably copied by Giovanni from old frescoes and pictures which no longer exist.


Jacopo Salviati bought the house of Folco de’ Portinari, where Beatrice was born, together with several others, and where they stood he built a large palace. This great and powerful family descended from a doctor, Messer Salvi, whose son Cambio was the first of sixty-three Priors and of twenty-one Gonfaloniers of Justice of his house. Lotto, another son, was a great jurist, and his descendant Jacopo Salviati played an important part in Florence in the XVth century. After subduing the Counts Guidi and the Ubertini in 1404 he was solemnly knighted by the Signoria, became Commissary of the Pisan war, and his name appears in every embassy of that time. Bernardo, his son, was father of Francesco the Archbishop of Pisa who joined in the Pazzi conspiracy against Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, and was hung from a window of the Palazzo Vecchio (see p. 373). His grandson Jacopo, husband of Lucrezia de’ Medici, daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was the only man who dared raise his voice at the court of Clement VII. against creating the bastard Alessandro de’ Medici Lord of Florence, and against building the fortress of S. Giovanni. It was then that he uttered the prophetic words, “God grant that Filippo [Strozzi] in advocating the building of this fortress is not digging his own grave.” A cousin of his married Laudomia de’ Medici, and their son Giuliano, after insulting the name of his mother’s family and helping the mob to destroy their arms in 1527, became the intimate associate of the Duke Alessandro, and is famous, or rather infamous, for his behaviour to Luisa Strozzi (see p. 335).


Maria Salviati, a daughter of Jacopo, married Giovanni de’ Medici delle Bande Nere, and their son Cosimo, afterwards Duke of Florence, was born in her father’s palace. There is a tradition that Giovanni ordered the child to be thrown from a first floor window into the courtyard, where he caught him in his arms, and foretold that the boy would become a great man because he showed no fear. Maria’s brother Alamanno left a very large fortune, and his descendant Jacopo was created Duke of Giuliano by Urban VIII., and for his sins married Veronica Cybo, daughter of the Duke of Massa and Carrara. “Donna Veronica was endowed with but small beauty,” writes a contemporary, “but per contra with a most violent and imperious temper and a jealous disposition. Her husband, poor man, had small joy with her.” Duke Jacopo, handsome, gay, an elegant poet and a gallant soldier, met the beautiful Caterina Canacci, surnamed “the fair Cherubim” on account of her golden hair and wonderful colouring, and fell desperately in love with her (see p. 62). The Duchess’ vengeance was a terrible one, and only her high birth saved her from condign punishment. The Salviati family is extinct, and their title is borne by a younger member of the princely family of the Borghese of Rome, one of whom married Anna Maria, only daughter of Duke Averardo Salviati, about 1790. The palace was bought by the Da Cepperello family, and now belongs to the Scolopi friars, who have their school there.




A palace built by Don Luigi di Toledo was bought by the Guadagni family in the XVIth century, and Gherardo Silvani was commissioned to enlarge it, incorporating part of the old palace in the new one. Silvani succeeded in making a handsome building, and the trim garden with pleached hedges suits the stately loggie and arched corridors.

This was the house about which the Pretender and Lord Cowper went to law. That delightful old gossip Sir Horace Mann writes to Walpole in 1776: “The quarrel was about a house, which he [Charles Edward] wanted to buy; but some obstacles obstructed the conclusion of the bargain. In the mean time Lady Cowper wanted a more proper house than her own to lay in; and proposals were made to the proprietor, to have it for a certain number of months, and he inclined to let it to Lord Cowper. This displeased the Comte Albanie, and the dispute was carried to a publick tribunal, which decided in the Comte’s favour. This displeased the Great Duke, who favoured the Cowpers. In short, the whole town took part in it, but I dissuaded my Lord from making an appeal to another court, so that the Albanies now reside in it; though the contract heightened the price considerably. What the Comte complained of most was, that he should meet with so rebellious an opposition from one of his own subjects. The ladies still vye with each other in beauty, so that they can never more be friends.” The following year Sir Horace again mentions the Pretender: “I have told you how dangerously ill the Count Albanie has been. His physicians sent to inform me that a mortification had298 begun in his legs, that his body was swelled, and that the affanno was great, so that he thought him to be in the most imminent danger. This account was sent post to Rome to his brother and the Countess.... He made a will in a hurry; and it has been said, in joke, that he has bequeathed his three kingdoms to the son of the Great Duke, in example of what King Theodore did, by leaving his crown to his creditors.... I formerly gave you an account of the fracas in the Pretender’s family, by the elopement of his wife, whom everybody then pitied and applauded. The tables are now turned. The cat, at last, is out of the bag. The Cardinal of York’s visit to his brother gave the latter an opportunity to undeceive him, by proving to him that the complaints laid to his charge, of ill-using her, were invented to cover a plot formed by Count Alfieri, who (by working up Tragedies, of which he has wrote many, is most expert, though he always kept behind the curtain) had imposed upon the Great Duke, the Pope and the Cardinal, and all those who took her part. All that he said on that subject, at a time that he thought himself and was supposed by everybody to be in the most imminent danger, made a great impression on his brother, who, on his return to Rome, exposed the whole to the Pope, and obtained an order from him to Count Alfieri to leave the Pope’s state in fifteen days. Not content with that satisfaction, the imprudent Cardinal (for a more silly mortal never existed) published the whole of the Countess’s intrigues with Alfieri. This has exasperated all the Roman Nobility against the Cardinal, insomuch that, instead of considering the delinquencies of the parties, their wrath is turned against the publisher of the scandal; and they compassionate the situation of the disconsolate lady who, I really believe, will marry the Count a week after she becomes a widow.”

In July the following year Charles Edward acknowledged his natural daughter by Mrs. Walsingham, under299 the title of Lady Charlotte Stuart, Duchess of Albany, and Mann reports: “She is allowed to be of a good figure, tall, and well made, but that the features of her face resemble too much those of her father to be handsome. She is gay, lively, very affable, and has the behaviour of a well-bred Frenchwoman, without assuming the least distinction among our ladies on account of her new dignity.... The new Duchess has appeared at the Theatres (which were crowded on her account) with all her father’s jewels, which are very fine.... Poor Count Albine,” writes Sir Horace again in December, “decays every day, visibly. His daughter did well to come in time to reap his succession, for which she will not wait long. The faculties of his mind are as weak as his body.”

After the death of Charles Edward the palace became the residence of the British Minister to the Court of Tuscany. Charles Greville, who was in Florence in 1830, writes: “I breakfasted with Lord Normanby, who has got a house extending 200 feet in front, court, garden and stables, for about £280 a year. His house was originally fitted up for the Pretender, and C.R.’s are still to be seen all over the place.”

The Velluti-Zati, Dukes of San Clemente, to whom the palace now belongs, descend from one of those great merchant families of Florence whose members were able to turn their hands and their brains to anything. The first time the name occurs is early in the XIIIth century when Piero di Berto, surnamed Velluti, had a cloth factory in Oltrarno, and dealt largely in wool. His son Buonaccorso fought at Montaperti in 1260, and when he died thirty-six years later was reputed to be one of the richest merchants in Italy. He built a palace and a tower, together with factories and houses for his workpeople, on a podere, or farm, called La Casellina (Via de’ Velluti and Via de’ Vellutini still mark the site). The Corsini, the Ridolfi and the Corbinelli built such fine houses near his, that the300 street was called the Via Maggiore (afterwards shortened into Via Maggio).

Lippo, Buonaccorso’s son, was the first of twenty-nine Priors of his house, and many of the Velluti filled important posts under the Republic as ambassadors to Lucca, Naples and Tunis, and as governors of various subject towns. One of the most famous of the family, and eminent as a jurist, was Donato, born in 1313. He filled the important post of Gonfalonier of Justice several times, was elected advocate of the poor, went to Bologna as ambassador in 1344, and in the same year was sent to Arezzo to quell a rebellion that had broken out in that city. A few months later, he represented the Commune of Florence in negotiating a peace between Perugia and Siena. Donato Velluti was several times ambassador to various courts of Europe, and wrote a chronicle which deals chiefly with family matters. In reading it one gathers how terrible the plague must have been in those days. Instead of mentioning a year, he perpetually dates events as “before (or after) the great mortality.” He nearly died of it, and records that he owed his life to the devotion of his wife Monna Bice de’ Covoni, “for hardly one in a hundred escaped.” Agnolo degl’Albizzi, husband of his wife’s sister Monna Ginevra, died of the plague of 1348, and Ginevra of the next epidemic in 1363. She had been left with four small boys, whose story, as related by Donato, will give an idea of the greater part of the chronicle. “Giano, son of the said Monna Ginevra, notwithstanding the sound and severe whippings received from her, showed signs of being a good-for-nothing and wicked youth; for his evil conduct his relations put him in prison some time ago, and there he still is. Paolo, the second son, gave hopes of becoming a good youth when in the bank of the Covoni, and did well until he took to running after women and idling about, thus wasting his time. He has now reformed and is doing well, and will become an honest man301 and a good relation. Filippo, the third son, is of no account, neither good nor bad, and has been made a monk in S. Miniato a Monte, all he was fit for. Antonio, the youngest boy, will be a good man if he continues as he has begun. He is now in Provence.”88

Paolo, a descendant of Donato, carried on the good traditions of his house, and began a chronicle in 1555, when he was fifty-five years of age. It gives a curious description of the relations between a merchant and a king of one of the proudest nations in Europe, and so pleasing a picture of honest Paolo himself that one is sadly tempted to translate the whole of it. Of his ancestor Andrea, a son of Donato the jurist, he writes: “He was a most excellent man, expert in his trade and active, and God-fearing. He always attended the first mass in S. Spirito and then went about his business in which he made large profits, as he began to trade after the great mortality of 1448, at which time goods were sold for ready money, so the gains were large. Piero, his son, preserved, but did not augment his patrimony as he might have done had he paid attention to the business. Andrea, eldest son of the said Piero, was tall, well made and of a fine presence, courageous and very hot-tempered when young, cantankerous and quarrelsome; his mother and his sister Maria offered up many prayers for him, and as it pleased God he was seized with a desire to go abroad. He went to Spain with a horse and nine ducats in his pocket, where he did so well that he left 60,000 ducats.... In Spain he acquired many friends, being serviceable to the great, to his equals and to those beneath him; lending and giving, and being very liberal. He was so beloved by the gentlemen and grandees, that no other foreigner had ever been held in such consideration. King Ferdinand, the Catholic, when in Valladolid was wont to rise at an early hour, and sometimes went to mass at the302 church of S. Francesco next door to Andrea’s house. After hearing mass the King would ride on his small mule into the entrance hall of the house and send for Andrea, who came down with his nightcap on his head, his habit being to go to his study and write for two or three hours, and then he would dress and brush his hair. The King seeing him thus said: ‘Andrea, is it not shameful that you, being a merchant and having to make money, should only get up now?’ So he swore upon his life, and such like modes of speech as they use in Spain, that he had been up for many hours, and would tell the King all he had written and done. Often the King would keep him talking thus in private for an hour or more, and when Andrea went to the palace the King would leave whomsoever he was talking to and come forward to meet him.” After describing various other members of the family Paolo continues: “It now remains to say something of myself; but as it is not fitting that one should speak well or ill of oneself, I leave that to others. I will only mention that I began to work in the Capponi’s shop when a small boy. Then, by my uncle’s desire, I went to Lyons and was in the house of the Panciatichi, and thence to Spain to join my said uncle. He kept me but a short time with him, sending me to see after his business at Valencia, Saragossa and Barcelona, and several times I went to the fairs in Castile. I was three hundred miles away when he died, and as he left all his fortune to the nephews of his sister, I found myself without money, save the little that came to me by law from the said uncle’s patrimony.... I repeat that I remained with little money and the loss of my youth, for I was then thirty-five. So I bethought me that with what I had to expect and any dower I might receive, I could live well, and decided to take unto myself a wife. But it did not turn out as I thought, for my gains were far less than I had calculated and my expenses much greater than I had imagined, in addition to which I had to buy303 much furniture, as I found but little of what had belonged to my father when I returned from Spain.... I then reasoned with myself that it would be better to do at once willingly what later I might be forced to do by want, and earn something by my own work. Our Lord God opened for me a chance in the bank of Federigo de’ Ricci, not, it is true, with a large salary, but had I it not to-day I should be, I will not say poor, because that I am with so many children, but in dire need. God be thanked for His aid. To go back somewhat, I note that in January, 1547, I took for my legitimate and beloved wife Francesca Guidetti, who has been good, and is dearer to me than I can say. Easy tempered and an amusing companion, she rules our family excellently well; and has always been, and is, most affectionate to me, for these and other good qualities I love her very deeply....” Paolo Velluti died in 1562, and the present Dukes of San Clemente come from his younger brother Raffaello, one of whose descendants took service in the Spanish army, and settled in Sicily. He made a large fortune and married Maria Zati, after having bought the estates of Grottaglia and Galluccio. When the Sicilian family of Zati died out, all their possessions came to Francesco Velluti, who was born at Galluccio in 1699. He was made Duke of San Clemente, Marquess of Sta. Maria a Rifesi, etc., etc. His son returned to the old cradle of his race, and bought from the Guadagni the fine palace in the Via Gino Capponi. The present Duke is his grandson.


Of the old Serristori palace but little remains as it was incorporated in the large new building in 1873. It was chiefly interesting because the arch-traitor Malatesta Baglioni, who sold Florence to Charles V. and Clement VII., had his head-quarters there during the siege of 1530.

A certain Ser Ristoro came from Figline in 1384 and became notary to the Signoria, and from him descend the family of Serristori who gave ten Gonfaloniers and twenty-seven Priors to Florence. They were staunch adherents of the Medici until the time of Alessandro, when Francesco and his sons Gugliemo and Niccolò were exiled as rebels. Niccolò joined Filippo Strozzi against Cosimo I., was taken prisoner at Montemurlo and imprisoned for life at Volterra.

The Senator Serristori was Minister for Foreign Affairs under the Grand Duke Ferdinando III. His son Luigi served for a time in the Russian army, and afterwards became Governor of Siena, and of Pisa in 1845, when the last Grand Duke of Tuscany revived in his favour the title of Count Palatine, bestowed on an ancestor of his in 1439 by the Emperor Paleologus. His son Alfredo went to Constantinople and acted as adjutant to Omer Pasha during the Crimean war. In 1858 he filled the same post to General Cialdini and assisted at the campaigns fought for the Unity of Italy. He died unmarried and was succeeded by the son of his sister, who took the name of Serristori.


From the Ponte alla Carraja to the Piazza di Cestello all the houses along the Lung’Arno once belonged to the Soderini, who came to Florence in the XIIth century. Ruggiero fought under the Guelph standard at Montaperti in 1260, and was the first of thirty-two Priors and his grandson the first of sixteen Gonfaloniers of Justice the family gave to Florence. Tommaso was twice Gonfalonier of Justice and as one of the leading men of the Guelph party was exiled after the Ciompi riots. The portrait by Donatello, of his son Francesco, the great enemy of Cosimo de’ Medici, is on the façade of Giotto’s campanile.

Niccolò, his nephew, was a great admirer and friend of S. Catherine of Siena. Whenever she came to Florence, she stayed in his house, and he bought and arranged for her a tiny house on the Costa di S. Giorgio as a place of retreat and meditation. He was so popular that when he was elected Gonfalonier Machiavelli tells us, “it was a marvellous thing to see what a concourse, not only of honourable citizens but of the people, accompanied him to the palace; and as he went a crown of olive was placed on his head to show that on him depended the welfare and the liberty of the country.” But he accomplished little during his term of office and his anti-Medicean policy proved his ruin. His brother Tommaso was on the contrary an intimate friend of Piero de’ Medici. He successfully negotiated the league between the Duke of Milan and the Republics of Venice and Florence, and when he went as ambassador to Rome, was knighted with great pomp by Paul II., who also bestowed on him the privilege of quartering the Papal Keys and the Triple Tiara in his arms. “Being one of the chief citizens,” writes Machiavelli,306 “and much superior to the others, his prudence and authority was recognized not only in Florence, but by all the princes of Italy. So that after the death of Piero many citizens came to visit him as the head of the city, and many princes wrote to him. But he, being prudent and knowing well his own fortune and that of their house, did not answer the letters of the princes, and gave the citizens to understand that they should not come to his house but go to that of the Medici.” He called a meeting of the chief citizens, to which Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici came, and after “a long and serious oration on the condition of the city and of Italy,” he concluded that the two young men must be continued in the position their forefathers had held. Machiavelli tells us that Lorenzo was governed very much by the advice of Messer Tommaso, in whose charge he left the city and the state when he went to Naples in 1479, Soderini being then the Gonfalonier. He died in 1484 leaving five sons, one of whom, Piero, was proclaimed Gonfalonier of Justice for life in 1502. He continued Savonarola’s constitution, but his want of decision caused his downfall. Giovanni Cambi in his quaint Istorie tells us “that another Gonfalonier was elected on the 28th September, 1512, because Piero Soderini, out of fear of the principal citizens who would have no more of him and demanded back their privileges, left the palace with three youths who had gone there fully armed, saying that if he did not come with them quietly they would cut him to pieces. He begged them to spare his life and they granted his request. Unknown to the Signori, who were then sitting in council, he went with them, and many citizens accompanied him from the palace as far as the house of Francesco and Pagholo Vettori. When he arrived at their house near the Ponte a Sta. Trinita, behind the loggia of the Frescobaldi, he refused, in his great anguish and fear for his life, to go further, his own house being at the Ponte alla Carraja near S.307 Frediano.” Virtù, or strength of character, was the one quality admired in those days, and Piero being a simple, good-hearted and not very courageous man, has been branded for ever as a fool by the biting pen of the famous secretary:

“La notte che morì Pier Soderini,
L’alma n’ando nell’inferno alla bocca;
E Pluto le grido: Anima sciocca,
Che inferno? va’ nel limbo de’ bambini,”

wrote Machiavelli with infinite scorn.

The Soderini palace, after passing through several hands, is now the property of Signor Schneiderff, and on the garden door is inscribed Jus: ut pal: flor:, words which have often puzzled passers-by. Passerini suggests that they were abbreviations of the motto engraved on Piero Soderini’s private seal ring, Justus ut palma florebit.

According to a genealogy drawn up by one of the Spini in the XVth century the family descend from Spina Moscardi, who lived in the XIIth century; and whose ancestor, a Roman soldier, settled in Florence at the time of the foundation of the city. His sons were Manetti and Ugo, both knights of the Golden Spur and wealthy merchants. Verini names the Spini among the great families of Florence.

“Qualis Spinorum fuerit fortuna secundos
Vobis, quæ fuxta sunt alta palatia muros
Testantur genus antiquum Romana propago.”

The houses and towers of both the brothers were partially destroyed by the Ghibellines in 1260–1266, and the remainder by the terrible flood of 15th December, 1288,308 when the Gianfigliazzi palace opposite was also swept away.

The present magnificent pile was erected about 1290 by Manetti’s son, Ruggieri, commonly called Geri, on the site of the old family palaces. Some say that Arnolfo di Lapo superintended the building, others that he only gave the design. Geri Spini, an able and very rich wool merchant, and the recognized head of the Guelph, or Black, party in Florence, must have been a remarkable and a many-sided man. Charles of Anjou named him his representative in Tuscany, he was Commissary of War for his native city, ambassador to Pope Boniface VIII. and afterwards to Benedict XI., when he rode into Rome at the head of 150 horsemen, all his own followers. On his return he was made Captain of Florence and a knight of the Golden Spur. King Robert of Naples created him Lieutenant-Governor of Arezzo and other cities, and in addition to all these multifarious duties he, together with the Mozzi, was banker to the Holy See, and he had to attend to his own business. He and his wife, Oretta Malespina, “a charming and virtuous lady,” are both immortalized by Boccaccio in the Decamerone. The story of the lady depends entirely on its charming and almost untranslatable language, but that of Messer Geri gives a vivid description of Florentine life and manners in the XIVth century.


“I tell how Pope Boniface, with whom Messer Geri Spini stood in high honour, sent to Florence certain noble ambassadors on account of the great need he was in. They dismounted at the house of Messer Geri, and talking together of the Pope’s affairs it happened that Messer Geri and these ambassadors walked out nearly every morning, passing in front of Sta. Maria Ughi, where Cisti, the baker, had his oven and personally exercised his art. Although fortune had bestowed on him such a humble calling yet had she been very kind to him, inasmuch as he had become exceeding rich, and though he would not311 change his occupation, he lived splendidly; having, among other good things, the best red and white wine that were to be found in Florence or in the country round. Seeing that Messer Geri and the ambassadors of the Pope passed his door every day and the heat being great, he bethought him that it would be an act of courtesy to offer them some of his good white wine to drink. But having regard to his condition and to that of Messer Geri, it did not appear fitting that the invitation should come from him, so he cast about for a way of inducing Messer Geri to invite himself. Always dressed in a jacket of dazzling whiteness and an apron fresh from the laundry, so that he looked more like a miller than a baker, every morning he set in front of his door, at the hour when Messer Geri and the ambassadors were wont to pass, a new copper waterpot, well tinned, a new earthen vase of Bologna full of his good white wine and two tumblers, which seemed to be of silver, so bright were they. Then sitting down he would clear his throat once or twice, and as they passed begin to sip his wine with such manifest delight that a desire for it would have been raised in a dead man. Messer Geri saw this for one morning, and for two, and on the third he said: What is it, Cisti? Is it good? Cisti, rising quickly, replied: Messere, yes indeed, but how good I could never make you understand unless you taste it. Messer Geri, in whom either the weather, or more business than usual, or perchance the tasty sips of Cisti had caused thirst, turned to the ambassadors, and smiling, said: What say you, gentlemen, would it not be well if we taste the wine of this good man; most likely we shall have no cause to repent? And together they went towards Cisti. He placed a fine bench outside and begged them to be seated, and to their servants who pushed forward to wash the tumblers he said: Companions, stand back and leave me to do this work, for I know as well how to pour out wine as to make bread, and do not you think to have a312 drop. Saying this he washed four good new tumblers, had a fresh small earthen jar of his good white wine brought up, and carefully gave to drink to Messer Geri and his companions. The wine seemed to them the best they had tasted for a long, long time, and they praised it mightily, so while the ambassadors stayed they went nearly every morning together with Messer Geri to drink. When the time came for their departure Messer Geri gave a fine banquet, to which he invited many of the most honourable citizens, and he also invited Cisti, who would not go on any account. So Messer Geri ordered one of his servants to go for a flask of Cisti’s wine, and to serve half a glass of it to every guest during the first course. The servant, perchance angered because he had never been able to taste of the wine, took a large double flask, and when Cisti saw it he said: My son, Messer Geri has not sent you to me. The servant affirmed that he had, but not being able to obtain any other reply, returned to Messer Geri and told him. And Messer Geri said: Return, and tell him it is so, and if he answers thee in the same fashion, ask him to whom I send thee. The servant went and said: Of a surety, Cisti, Messer Geri sends me to thee. Cisti answered: And I am sure, my son, it is not so. Well then, replied the servant, to whom has he sent me? And Cisti said: To the Arno. And when the servant brought this reply to Messer Geri the eyes of his intellect opened and he said to the servant: Let me see what manner of flask thou hast taken. And when he saw it he said: Cisti was right, and scolded the man well and made him take a proper flask. When Cisti saw it he said: Now I know Messer Geri has sent thee, and he filled it joyfully. And on the same day he filled a small barrel with like wine and causing it to be carried with all due care to the house of Messer Geri went there and waited on him, saying: Messere, I would not that you should think that the large flask of this morning alarmed me. Only it seemed to me313 that you had forgotten what I said to you; that this is not everyday wine for a family, and so I desired to remind you this day. Now as I do not wish to act as your guardian, I have brought you all the wine to do with as you will. Messer Geri accepted Cisti’s gift with great joy and rendered him such thanks as were fitting, and ever after looked upon him as a friend.”

Old Dino Compagni attributes the bitter hatred between the Cerchi and the Donati, which brought such evils upon Florence, to the direct agency of the devil, “abettor of all ill; who so arranged that a company of youths who were riding together after supper one evening on the calends of May, became so full of pride that they planned to meet with a company of the Cerchi and use fists and swords against them. On that evening, which is the renewal of springtide, women are wont to dance with their neighbours. The young Cerchi met the company of the Donati, amongst whom were Messer Corso’s nephew, Baldellino de’ Bardi, Piero Spini and others, and they fell upon the Cerchi with drawn swords. During the encounter Ricoverino de’ Cerchi had his nose cut off by one of the Donati party, said to be Piero Spini, in whose house they afterwards all took refuge. This stroke was the destruction of our city, because from it arose great hatred among the citizens. The Cerchi never said who did it, waiting to take signal vengeance.” The old chronicler goes on to describe how in 1301, when Charles of Valois stayed in the Frescobaldi palace in Florence, they and the Spini fortified their palaces and erected machines on their towers for throwing stones, so that together they could command Ponte a Sta. Trinita. Messer Manetto Scali also made warlike preparations on his palace, “so the Spini, whose large palace was opposite his, increased their fortifications, knowing how powerful the Scali were. Thereupon the two parties began to try and deceive each other and mutually made friendly314 speeches. The Spini said to the Scali, Now why do we act thus? After all we are friends and relatives, and all Guelphs; and our only intent is to liberate our necks from the chain which the people have put upon you and upon us, and then we shall be more powerful than we are now. Therefore, by God, let us be one, as we ought to be.”

When later there was discord in Florence because the Ghibellines wished to send an embassy to salute the Emperor Henry VII. who was at Pisa, and the Guelphs, with Messer Rossa della Tosa, Messer Pazzino de’ Pazzi, Messer Betto Brunelleschi and Messer Geri Spini at their head, refused, old Dino finishes his chronicle with an outburst of indignation. “Oh, iniquitous citizens, who have corrupted and vitiated the whole world by evil ways and illicit gains. It is you who have introduced every bad custom into the world, which now begins to revolt against you. The Emperor, with his army will capture you and destroy your riches on land and on sea.” But the Emperor soon afterwards died at Buonconvento, so Dino’s prophecy came to nought.

Doffo Spini was killed at the battle of Montecatini in 1315, and Nepo, his brother, was foremost among those citizens who expelled the Duke of Athens, tyrant of Florence. In 1498 another Doffo Spini made himself conspicuous by his virulent antagonism to Savonarola. He was the leader of a band of young nobles who called themselves the “Compagnacci,” and when the ordeal by fire was to take place Doffo, at the head of three hundred well armed Compagnacci, forced his way into the Piazza della Signoria in spite of the proclamation that armed men should not enter. Violi tells us that Doffo Spini often went to Botticelli’s workshop “and frequently said that they had no intention of making the Franciscan enter the fire, and of this they had assured him; it sufficed for them that he should continue the game long enough to enable them to carry out their intention of putting an end to this business315 of the Friar.” Doffo was one of the examiners appointed to conduct the trial of the three friars, but according to the testimony of Simone Filipepi, Botticelli’s brother, he seems afterwards to have repented of his persecution of Savonarola.

In 1651 the northern half of the great palace was bought by Niccolò Guasconi, and after his death it was sold to the Da Bagnano family, from whom the Marchese Alessandro Feroni bought it in 1768. The other half remained in the possession of the Spini until the death of the last of the family, leaving an only daughter married to Gugliemo Del Tovaglia. She had no children and made Luca Domenico Pitti her heir, whose son Roberto Pitti Spini sold his half of the palace to the Marchese Francesco Feroni in 1807. The southern façade rose straight from the bed of the Arno and the street passed under the palace by a long archway. Room after room and balcony after balcony overhanging the river had been built until the height reached 60 braccie, and grave fears were entertained for the stability of the building. So in July, 1823, that side of Palazzo Spini was taken down and the façade thrown back to admit of the continuation of the Lung’Arno Acciaiuoli. In 1834 the whole palace was sold to Mde. Hombert, and the fine old building was turned into an hotel. The Commune of Florence bought it in 1846, and some years later it was admirably restored.

In the church of Sta. Trinita is a fresco by Domenico Ghirlandajo in which Palazzo Spini is represented as it was in the XVth century.


The descent of the Strozzi family is traced like one of those old Tuscan towns which claim Noah or Hercules as their founder by an old chronicler, Lotto Fiesolano, who in his History of Florence says: “We cannot pass over in silence what our ancestors have so well described and what is so worthy to be remembered; i. e. that before the Arno was ennobled by the wonderful walls of the Florentine city, the Strozzi already existed. They took their origin from a noble and illustrious cavalier who sprang from the antique race of Arcady, and bore as his emblem a half moon.89 When fighting, with his strong hand he throttled (strozzò) his enemy. The Etruscans in consequence renamed the family and from that famous father the Strozzi took their name. After Fluentia was built they were made citizens of the town, and aided by that house Fluentia enlarged her frontiers.”


The real progenitor of the house of Strozzi was however an Ubertino who lived early in the XIIth century. He had two sons, Strozza, and Geri who was killed in the battle of Montaperti. Amongst the descendants of the latter were Tito Vespasiano, and Lucia (the mother of Matteo Bojardo, author of Orlando Innamorato), they were born at Ferrara, where their father, an exile, had entered the service of the Duke. Tito was the favourite pupil of Guarino Veronese, and his name as an elegant Latin poet stood so high that Aldus Manutius collected and published his works. His son, Ercole, was also well known as a writer of Latin verse, and only became a convert to the use of the vulgar tongue owing to his friendship with Bembo. He was one of the wits and scholars who formed the brilliant court of Lucrezia Borgia after she319 became Duchess of Ferrara. But one June night the poet was found dead, pierced with twenty-two wounds, and as no judicial enquiry was made, rumour accused both the Duke and the Duchess of the deed. Alfonso, out of jealousy of his wife, whose praises Ercole sang in impassioned verses; Lucrezia, because her poet had recently married Barbara, widow of Ercole Bentivoglio. Ciriaco, one of Geri’s many descendants, travelled for some years in the East, and on his return to Florence took his degree as Doctor of Law and opened a school for the teaching of Greek and peripatetic philosophy. In 1535 he was invited to teach in the University of Bologna, and afterwards Cosimo I. summoned him to Pisa. His name, now forgotten, was once lauded to the skies for his attempt to complete the Politics of Aristotle by writing the two lost books. The work was published in Florence in 1563, and a translation appeared in Paris in 1600, as well as an introduction to Aristotle’s Ethics. The gentle fair-faced Maddalena Doni, painted by Raphael, was another descendant of Geri Strozzi, and Caterina, the nun who left the celebrated Strozzi library to the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo in 1786 was the last of this line.

Strozza, son of Ubertino, who fought at Montaperti in 1260, was among those who signed the peace between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. One of his sons, Pagno, was the first Gonfalonier of Justice of sixteen of his house in 1297, when the foundations of the Palazzo Vecchio were laid, and no less than ninety-four of the family were Priors. Lapo, another son, Gonfalonier in 1309, was the father of Palla Strozzi, one of the twelve ambassadors sent by different potentates to Rome to assist at the coronation of Pope Boniface XIII. who, when he heard that they all came from Florence, remarked that the Florentines were the fifth element.90 Palla’s son, Francesco, distinguished320 himself by defeating the Pontifical Legate, Cardinal del Poggetto, at Ferrara and was received with high honour on his return to Florence. He filled various important posts under the Republic, and was the ninth Gonfalonier the Strozzi gave to Florence. From him descended the well-known Palla Strozzi, one of the great merchant princes of Florence. In the catasto of 1427 his property was valued at one-fifth more than that of Giovanni de’ Medici. Born in 1372, his name is included in every embassy between 1410 and 1434 and to him together with Coluccio de’ Salutati was due the establishment of a Greek chair in the University of Florence. Vespasiano tells us that he sent to Greece for countless volumes. The Lives of Plutarch, the works of Plato and the Cosmography of Ptolemy, he got from Constantinople, while the Politics of Aristotle were unknown in Italy until he obtained them. I cannot do better than quote J. A. Symonds’ words about this most pathetic and dignified figure in Florentine history. “Palla degl’ Strozzi devoted his leisure and his energies to the improvement of the Studio Pubblico at Florence, giving it that character of humane culture which it retained throughout the age of the Renaissance. To him, again, belongs the glory of having first collected books for the express purpose of founding a public library. This project had occupied the mind of Petrarch, and its utility had been recognized by Colluccio de’ Salutati, but321 no one had as yet arisen to accomplish it. Being passionately fond of literature, Messer Palla always kept copyists in his own house and outside it, of the best who were in Florence, both for Greek and Latin books; and all the books he could find he purchased, on all subjects, being minded to found a most noble library in Santa Trinita because it was in the centre of Florence, a site of great convenience to everybody (Vespasiano).”

During the struggle for supremacy between Rinaldo degl’Albizzi and Cosimo de’ Medici, Palla degl’ Strozzi, “who was,” writes Machiavelli, “a peaceful man, well-mannered and kindly, better fitted for a life of study than for keeping a party in check and averting civil discord,” tried to preserve a neutral attitude. But the presence of so enlightened and rich a citizen seemed dangerous to the Medicean party, and after the return of Cosimo de’ Medici from exile in 1434 he was banished to Padua, where he died, separated from his children, who shared the same fate in other parts of Italy. The wonderful bust of his daughter Marietta by “il bravo Desider si dolce e bello,” as Raphael’s father called Desiderio da Settignano, is one of the treasures of the Palazzo Strozzi. His cousin Matteo, married to Alessandra Macinghi, was exiled at the same time, and the Strozzi property having been confiscated, she was left in dire poverty with six small children. After her husband’s death at Pesaro, she sent her eldest boy, Filippo, to an old family friend who had a house of business in Palermo. She must have been a lovable, courageous, and sensible woman, judging by her letters.91 When the last boy left her she wrote to Filippo: “I have no treasure but you my three sons, and for your welfare I have sent you from me, one after the other, without a thought of my own happiness.” When Filippo set up on his own account at Naples she longed to join him, but322 thought it wiser to stay in Florence and work for the possible restoration of her children to their native city. Charming are her descriptions of the various girls she proposes to her son as suitable wives; they pass before one like a procession out of the frescoes of the XVth century.

Of Filippo’s life at Naples, where he made a large fortune and became a favourite with the King, who eventually obtained his recall from exile from Lorenzo de’ Medici, we have an account by his son, who writes: “He lived well, but not magnificently ... entertaining rarely, but when he did, splendidly and with great ceremony, being served by the youths in his house, who were nearly all Strozzi, as he preferred to benefit his own blood rather than strangers. Ofttimes there were eighteen at his table, and he cared for their honour and advancement as though they had been his sons. It can truthfully be said that all the riches of the house of Strozzi of that time are due to him.... Near to the city of Naples he had a Masseria, or farm ... and he took such delight in it that he often worked with his own hands, and gathered from it the rarest and finest fruits.... He enriched his native State with many noble plants, introducing the ‘gentile’ fig, and artichokes, which had never been brought to these parts [Florence] before.... In stature Filippo was above the common, good-looking, alert, lithe and well made, fearing neither cold nor heat, hunger nor thirst. So kind was he of heart that when any of his partners, relations, or friends fell out (a thing that often happened, as their number was considerable), they came to him as head of the family, and he always reconciled them, often giving, in addition to his time and trouble, whatever he saw was needful to facilitate peace. He visited friends or relations in adversity or sickness, comforting and aiding them with all necessaries, so that his presence was often of more use to such persons than any other comfort or medicine. In323 short, he seemed made by nature not less to dispense his riches usefully, than to accumulate them.”

In 1466 his sentence of exile was cancelled, and he once more beheld his native city, where he married the beautiful Fiametta degl’ Adimari, one of the girls described by his mother, by whom he had a son, Alfonso, and two daughters. After her death he married Selvaggia, daughter of Bartolomeo Gianfigliazzi, who bore him three daughters and two sons; Lorenzo, writer of the records of his father and of other members of his family, and Giovanbattista, who by his mother’s desire took his father’s name, Filippo, after his death.

In the Strozzi archives is the contract between Filippo Lippi and Filippo degl’ Strozzi for the painting of the chapel which Strozzi had bought from the decayed family of Boni in Sta. Maria Novella, showing the shrewd man of business, who was determined to have his money’s worth:


Let it be known to all that Filippo di Filippo, painter, has engaged to paint for Filippo di Matteo degl’ Strozzi, his chapel in Sta. Maria Novella, next to the high altar, under the following conditions: In the ceiling there are to be four figures, either Doctors, or Evangelists, or others, as the said Strozzi prefers, to be decorated in blue and gold as richly as can be; the remainder of the ceiling to be all of blue ultramarine of the finest, of the cost of at least 4 “fiorini larghi” the ounce, and the shafts and capitals are to be adorned with painting and gold, according to necessity. And on either side there are to be two stories [paintings] the subjects to be given by the said Filippo Strozzi; and the sides of the window, and the pillars, and the arch of the chapel inside and out, and the coats of arms, are to be ornamented as the said Filippo orders; and in every place where it be necessary such gold and ultramarine as is called for, shall be used, and every other colour shall be good and perfect. And the said Filippo di Filippo promises to the said Strozzi to paint it in fresco and to finish it with all the care and diligence he is capable of; and all with his own hand, especially the figures.

And it is agreed that the said Filippo is to have for his work, with painting, colours, azure, scaffoldings, lime, wood and everything else, so that the said Strozzi shall have no other calls upon him, 300 fiorini di suggello92 paid as follows: 35 fiorini now, when he begins the work,324 for the wood, lime, and other necessaries; the remainder, up to 100 fiorini, when he desires to go to Venice;93 and the rest from time to time as he works, but so that 50, or at least 40, fiorini shall remain, which the said Strozzi promises to pay punctually when he has finished, which he promises to do by the 1st March, 1480....

Lorenzo gives a graphic account of the building of the great palace in the Life of his father, already quoted. “Having amply provided for his successors, and being more desirous of fame than of riches, seeing no better or surer method for transmitting his memory to posterity, and being naturally inclined towards building, and of no small intelligence, Filippo determined to raise an edifice which should perpetuate his name and that of his family in Italy and abroad. But he was confronted by the great difficulty that he who governed [Lorenzo de’ Medici] might conceive that another’s glory would outshine his; so, fearing to do a thing that might arouse envy, he spread abroad the rumour that having so many children and so small a house, he was bound, having begotten them, to provide a dwelling for them, a thing better done during life than after death. Thus he began tentatively, discussing first with masons, then with architects, about the necessity of having a house. Sometimes he seemed inclined to begin it at once, then he would appear irresolute and alarmed lest he should spend in a short time what he had gained in long years with much toil and industry; astutely hiding from all his desire and his intention, in order the better to carry out his design; declaring always that he only wanted a comfortable burgher’s house, for use and not for show. But the masons and architects, according to their wont, enlarged and improved on every plan, which pleased Filippo, although he feigned anger, saying that they drove him into what he neither wished nor could accomplish. Add to this that the ruler desired that the city should be adorned with every sort of ornament, thinking that as good325 and ill depended alone on him, so every beautiful or ugly thing would also be attributed to him. Aware that so great and costly a work could not be regulated or calculated with exactness, he feared that it might not only destroy his credit, as often happens with merchants, but cause his ruin. For these reasons he began to interfere, and insisted on seeing the plans, to which, besides many other expenses, after due consideration, he added the ‘bozzi’ [dressed blocks of stone with bosses] on the outside. The more Filippo was encouraged, the more he affected to hold back; declaring nothing should induce him to add the ‘bozzi,’ being unsuited to his condition and too costly, as he was building for use and not for show, and intended to arrange many shops under the house as a source of income for his sons. This was strenuously opposed, the extreme ugliness being dwelt upon as well as the inconvenience to those who were to inhabit the palace. Filippo respectfully demurred, and would occasionally complain to his friends that he had entered upon an undertaking which he prayed God might end well, and that he had rather never have mentioned it than find himself in such a labyrinth. Thus the more he appeared intent on avoiding expense, in order to hide the greatness of his designs and the vastness of his riches, the more he was driven and encouraged to fulfil his secret desires. By such sagacity and astuteness he attained what would either have been denied to him, or have caused him great harm. Most men thought that such a building would be his ruin before its completion; but he had planned to finish it in every detail, year by year out of his income, without diminishing his capital, and would have done so if death, which often interrupts magnificent and great enterprises, had not prevented him.”

Part of the Palazzo Strozzi covers what once was the Piazza de’ Tornaquinci, belonging to various families who had their towers and loggie round it. Without the intervention of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Filippo would never have326 been able to obtain possession of the ground. On the 10th February, 1489, Giovanni Tornabuoni, Pietro and Bartolomeo Popoleschi, Girolamo and Giachinetto Giachinotti, Giovanni, Piero and Niccolò Tornaquinci ceded all their rights to the whole, or part, of the said Piazza, to Lorenzo de’ Medici to give, sell, or cede irrevocably to whomsoever he wished. On the 10th March following Filippo was authorized to straighten the line of the Piazza, and to occupy any portions of the streets and small alleys that might be necessary. He was also permitted to build “sedilia,” or stone benches, suitable to the building. All the rights that the Commune might have to the Piazza de’ Tornaquinci were ceded to him. This act was ratified by the Signori and Collegi of the Republic, and on the 10th April Lorenzo de’ Medici had the deed of gift drawn up by a notary, on condition that the building should be begun within a year and continued without intermission under pain of forfeiture.

On the 10th July the first cartloads of sand and small stones were thrown into the foundations, and Filippo writes: “On the 15th July at daylight I began to pull down the carpenter’s shop in the Via Larga de’ Tornaquinci, as a beginning to my work; this spot was pointed out to me as good by Benedetto Bigliotti, who also advised that the building should begin on Thursday, the 6th August when the sun rose above the mountain.” This opinion being ratified by Niccolò and Antonio Benivieni, by the Bishop Paganotti and by Marsilio Ficino, all learned in astrology, the first stone of the foundation was laid by Filippo in the middle of the arch of the large door in the Via Larga di Santa Trinita e Tornaquinci (now Via Tornabuoni), when he placed certain medals under the stone. Tribaldo de’ Rossi, who happened to pass by at that moment, notes in his Memoirs: “Filippo said to me, take up a stone and throw it in, and I did so, and then put my hand into my leathern satchel in his presence and took out327 a ‘quattrino vecchio gigliato’ to throw in; he demurred to this, but for luck I threw it and he was pleased. Then leaving, I went to my shop, opposite to Sta. Trinita, and bethought me that for the memory of the event I would send for Guarniero, my son, and for Francesca, my daughter. Tita, our maid, who had come to the shop to fetch the meat, it being Thursday morning, went for them, and Nannina, my wife, sent me the two children well dressed, and I took them to the said foundations. Raising Guarniero in my arms so that he could look down, I gave him a ‘quattrino gigliato’ and he threw it in, and a nosegay of damask roses he held in his hand I made him throw in also, and said to him: ‘now thou art to remember this,’ and he answered yes, together with our servant girl Tita who was there; Guarniero was exactly four years and two days old, and Nannina had but a few days before made him a new overcoat of silk, shot green and yellow, and thus may it ever be to the glory of God.”

In a few days the foundations of the palace on the side next to the Piazza were filled in and work had begun, to the great discomfort of the neighbours; particularly of the chemist, Luca Landucci, who notes in his diary: “The pulling down of houses by great numbers of master-masons and workmen continues, so that all the streets around are choked with mountains of stone and lime, and with mules and donkeys carrying away rubbish and bringing rough stone. The worst is for the shopkeepers, who are bothered with dust and the plague of people who stand and look on, and for those who cannot get past with their laden beasts.” On the 21st August building commenced, and on the 18th May, 1490, the wall below the “bozzi” was finished on the side next the Piazza; on the 2nd June a mast, and a crane for raising the stones, were set up, and six days afterwards the first of the large “bozzi” was put in its place. “Every day,” writes Rossi, “eight or ten of these were set,” and Landucci the chemist notes, “on the 20th July,328 the ring at the corner of Tornaquinci, the one with the serpent or dragon, was put into its place.”

On the 18th May, 1491, Filippo Strozzi died, and Rossi writes: “In all the land has arisen great respect for the beautiful building, and he [Filippo] is held to be the good man he was. He had begun to put in the irons of the windows, five were already set in the front and the others were ready.” The day before his death Filippo made his will, containing most minute directions for finishing pictures and buildings commenced by him, particularly with regard to the “big house, which not being finished inside and out according to plan and model, so that both houses can be inhabited, my heirs are to see that it is completed; therefore fifty men at the least, between master-masons, men, and stone-cutters, are to be kept continually at work, so that without loss of time it shall be finished at the latest in the year 1496.” Filippo deputes “Messer Andrea Buondelmonti to hasten matters and to command everybody, at a salary of 50 ‘fiorini larghi’ a year for so long as he gives his time to the building, but the salary is to cease in 1496.” If not then finished he begs “the magnificent Lorenzo de’ Medici, if then living, and willing to undertake the charge, to see that it be completed in two years from that date, and if he be not alive or is unwilling to accept such charge, then the Consuls of the Guild of Merchants of Calimala, with two governors of the hospital of Messer Bonifazio and two elders of the house of Strozzi, are to have authority to finish it.” The will is far too long to transcribe, but the following clause is too characteristic to omit. “In order that the said Lorenzo, or the said Consuls, etc., may see to the work, I direct that between 1496 and 1498, or for whatever less time may be needful to finish the said house, they be authorized to come once every fifteen days to dine in the said house, in whatever part thereof seems to them most honourable and convenient, at the expense of my heirs, but no dinner is to cost329 more than fifty lire piccioli.” Filippo also forbids his heirs to sell the house or even to let it, save to a Strozzi. The two houses mentioned in the will are in reality but the one palace which was built to serve for two separate families; a fact often forgotten when the internal arrangements are criticized. Filippo’s widow did her utmost to carry out his wishes. “She was most desirous,” writes her son Lorenzo, “to husband the family wealth for her sons, so that when they attained majority they might not find their paternal inheritance diminished or the house unfinished.” In the family archives the building may be followed week by week by payments to the various artisans until 1507 when, writes Giovanni Cambi, “Selvaggia, for account of her sons, finished her part in obedience to the will, but Alfonso” [Filippo’s son by his first wife] “took no heed of it and did not hasten to take up his abode in the house. He began by inhabiting the ground floor and then continued building little by little for his own need and use, so that the said building will remain imperfect and do dishonour to their father.” Lorenzo Strozzi confirms this when in mentioning the will he adds: “It is as though he had been prescient that some of them had in their minds not to carry out what he had ordered. Though on the palace, that grand and splendid work, he [Alfonso] spent something, yet he did it unwillingly, and the blame is his if it is still incomplete.”

Signor Iodici Del Badia, in his historical notes to Messer Mazzanti and Del Lungo’s fine work94 throws doubt on the accuracy of Vasari in attributing the original design of the Palazzo Strozzi to Benedetto da Majano. Vasari states that “Filippo Strozzi summoned Benedetto da Majano, who made a model, isolated on all sides, and then commenced the work, but not according to the plan, as shall330 be explained below,95 because several neighbours declined to sell their houses. So he began the palace as he best could, and nearly finished the shell thereof before the death of the said Filippo: the shell being of the rustic order and graduated as can be seen. The ‘bozzi’ from the first-floor windows downwards, as well as the doors, are huge rustic work, and from the first-floor windows up to the second-floor they are of lesser rustic work. Now it happened that at the very time that Benedetto left Florence, Cronaca returned from Rome, and being recommended to Filippo, made for him so admirable a design for the courtyard and for the cornice surrounding the palace outside that, perceiving the excellence of his talent, Filippo decided to leave all in his hands, and employed him ever after. So Cronaca added to the beautiful exterior of the Tuscan order a most magnificent Corinthian cornice round the top of the palace up to the roof, of which at present but the half is finished, of such exceeding beauty that it could not be improved or anything finer be desired. This cornice was drawn by Cronaca, who copied and took exact measurements of an ancient cornice at Spoglia Cristo, in Rome, acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful of the many existing in that city; it is true that Cronaca enlarged it in proportion to the palace, so that it might make a suitable finish, and with its projection a roof, to the said palace. Thus by his genius he understood how to use the works of others and made them almost his own, a thing few people can do; for the difficulty lies not alone in making copies and drawings of such beautiful things, but in knowing how to apply them according to necessity, with grace, proportion, and suitability.... Now Cronaca executed the said cornice with consummate art as far as the middle, all around the palace with label and egg, and on two sides he finished331 it, balancing the stones in such guise and so poising and tying them, that no better building can be seen or one finished with more care and perfection. Thus also all the other stones of this palace are so dressed and fitted that they appear to be of one piece, and not joined together. And in order that everything might be in unison, he caused beautiful iron-work to be made for the whole palace, and for the lanterns that are at the corners; all done by Niccolò Grosso Caparra, a Florentine smith, with extreme care. Marvellous in these lanterns are the cornices, the columns, the capitals, and the brackets, wrought in iron with perfect mastery. Never has any workman of recent times made objects in iron so large and so complex with such knowledge and skill.”

Other critics had already observed that the name of Benedetto da Majano, as an architect, appears in connection with no other building, and Signor Del Badia has found in the Strozzi archives that between Sept. 1489 and February of the following year, Giuliano da San Gallo received 115 lire (no small sum in those days) at three different dates, “for work, and in part for wood, used in making the working model for building the house;” in April 1490 “the carpenter Filippo d’Andrea received 9 lire for his trouble and his work on a model of the first floor of the house;” and in July a quantity of trunks of lime trees were bought to make “the new model” of 120 large and small columns. The iron cressets also do not appear to have been exclusively the work of the famous Caparra, for in the account-books of the family in 1491, 28 lire are mentioned as paid to Benedetto di Leonardo da Majano “for a wooden model of the cresset made by order of the chief,” and 13 soldi were reimbursed to Simon del Pollaiolo which he declares to have paid to Ippolito the turner for two wooden models of banderai [the iron rings between the windows].

In 1533 Filippo Strozzi the younger, irritated at seeing332 his father’s great work remain unfinished succeeded, together with his brother Lorenzo, in inducing their eldest half-brother Alfonso to finish his part, by offering to bear one-third of the expense. Two courses of “bozzi” were wanting, and the cornice. A contract was signed with stonecutters of Settignano for the cornice, and in October 1534 another with a master-mason for putting it up. But the rupture between Filippo and the Duke Alessandro stopped the work, and in August the following year the contract was dissolved by common consent.

Alfonso died without male heirs and the palace went to his half-brothers, Lorenzo, from whose Lives of the Strozzi these facts are quoted, and Filippo, who married Clarice, daughter of Piero de’ Medici and Alfonsina Orsini. This marriage created a great stir in Florence. The Strozzi and the Medici had always been rivals, and the Gonfalonier Piero Soderini denounced the “presumptuous licence and audacity” of young Filippo in daring to marry the scion of an exiled house. He was summoned before the Priors and though he defended himself with great ability was sentenced to a fine of 500 golden crowns and exiled for three years. His bride came to live in the palace in Florence, and by her modest and dignified manners won all hearts, so after some months her husband was permitted to return to his native city. A few years later the Medici were once again rulers of Florence; Giovanni ascended the papal chair as Leo X.; and astute Filippo Strozzi at twenty-two years of age became one of the most influential men in the city. But his brother lays stress on the fact that he was not elated by his position for, “if any Florentine saluted him by taking off his hood out of respect, or called him Messer Filippo, instead of as heretofore plain Filippo, he would be angry as though he had been abused; saying he was neither a doctor nor a knight to whom the title of Messere belonged, but plain Filippo, son of a citizen and merchant of Florence of the same name.”


When Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, the nephew of Pope Leo X., went in 1518 to France to marry Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, he insisted on his brother-in-law accompanying him, and Filippo left Palazzo Strozzi in great state clad in crimson velvet. He was also charged to represent the Pope as godfather to the son and heir of Francis I. M. de Fleuranges, who was at Amboise, describes the festivities as the most splendid that had ever been seen in France or in Christendom. They lasted for nearly six weeks and then the Duke and his bride returned to Florence. Six years later he died and his cousin, the Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, ruled in Florence.

When Giulio de’ Medici, the illegitimate son of Giuliano, ascended the papal throne as Clement VII., Filippo Strozzi hastened to Rome to congratulate his wife’s kinsman, and to beg for a cardinal’s hat for his eldest son Piero. Not long afterwards the Pope was forced to take refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo, and had to sue for peace with Charles V. A hostage was demanded, and Filippo, sorely against his will, was chosen and went as a prisoner to Naples with Don Ugo di Moncada. Needless to say Clement kept none of his promises and Filippo was in some danger of losing his head. A shift in politics saved him just as his wife Clarice reached Rome, where she spoke some hard words to the Pope. Soon afterwards Clement for the second time sought refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo and Rome was sacked by the Constable de Bourbon. “Never,” writes old Varchi, “was chastisement so tremendous inflicted, nor was it ever more richly deserved.” Filippo and his wife left two days before the catastrophe for Civitavecchia and sailed for Pisa, where messengers met them from the Cardinal of Cortona, who was governing Florence for the Medici, and from Niccolò Capponi, brother-in-law of Filippo and head of the anti-Medicean party. Strozzi had need of all his prudence and astuteness at this juncture. Clarice urged him to334 proceed at once to Florence, where his influence would be supreme on whichever side he chose to use it. After much pondering he decided to send her to “try the difficult ford” as his brother Lorenzo puts it, and Clarice, who had always been he continues, “high-spirited even beyond what was prudent,” started for Florence at once. Her first interview was with Niccolò Capponi and others of the “Ottimati” or patrician party, to whom she promised her husband’s and her own help in expelling her kinsmen the Medici. She was then carried in her litter to the Palazzo Medici (now Palazzo Riccardi), where the Cardinal Ridolfi and young Ippolito de’ Medici met her on the staircase and conducted her into the room next the chapel where sat the Cardinal-Governor. He rose to salute her and, as Varchi writes, she said to him: “Ah Monsignore, Monsignore, whither have you led us. Does it seem to you that your past and present conduct is in any way similar to that practised by my ancestors?” After setting forth how they had always obeyed the will of the people, she turned to the two lads, Ippolito and Alessandro de’ Medici, and advised them to think of their own safety, for which she naturally felt more anxiety than the cardinal.

Two days later prudent Filippo Strozzi entered Florence; many of his relations and friends met him at the city gate and escorted him to his palace, which was crowded by anxious citizens eager to know what he would do. After long consultation he decided to go at once to the Palazzo Medici and advise the Cardinal to leave the city with Ippolito and Alessandro. On the 17th May, 1527, he and Niccolò Capponi rode with them, through a threatening crowd, down the Via Larga (now Via Cavour) to the city gate, and Filippo accompanied them ten miles further to their villa of Poggio a Cajano.

A year later he lost his wife and not liking the condition of things in Florence went to Lyons, where he had a large commerce in silk. One of his daughters had married Luigi335 Capponi and is described by Varchi as being “not less honest and virtuous than beautiful, noble and of most engaging manners.” She was invited to a masked ball given in honour of the marriage of Guglielmo Martelli to Marietta Nasi, where the Duke Alessandro and his courtiers were disguised as nuns. Among them was Giuliano Salviati, “a man,” writes Varchi, “of abominable life and ill fame. His wife bore an evil reputation and he, desiring that others should be like her, accosted Luisa at the ball and said some words, with actions worthy of himself but certes not of her; whereupon she, being virtuous and of high spirit, with haughty speech and scornful demeanour, repulsed him. But in the morning, when the entertainment which had lasted until daylight was over and Luisa wished to mount her horse,96 he, being impudent and shameless, pressed forward to aid her repeating the words and the actions of the night before; and with most angry scorn she replied to him as he deserved. The affair passed, and would perhaps have had no consequences, had Giuliano been satisfied with using discourtesy towards a gentlewoman such as she was, and not openly boasted of his behaviour....”

It was customary on every Friday in March for people to go up to S. Miniato to obtain pardon for their sins, and Luisa’s brother Leone Strozzi, Prior of Capua, Giuliano Salviati and other young nobles, stood watching the ladies come out of the church. As Luisa passed Giuliano made some insolent remarks, so the Prior said: “Giuliano, you perhaps do not know that she is my sister;” whereupon Giuliano repeated his insulting words. On the following night, as Salviati was returning on horseback from the Palazzo Medici, he was assaulted by three strangers and wounded in the face and on the leg, so that he was lame ever after. Duke Alessandro was furious, and gave orders that the assassins must be discovered. Suspicion,336 of course, fell on the Strozzi. Piero, Leone the Prior, and two of their friends were arrested, and there was a question of putting them to the torture; but Clement VII. interfered, and ordered that nothing more should be done. Piero Strozzi and his brothers, knowing their lives were in danger, took horse and went to Rome. Meanwhile Luisa, who had remained in Florence with her husband, supped joyously one night, as the old chronicler Segni reports, with her sister Maria, wife of Lorenzo Ridolfi. A few hours afterwards she died in excruciating agony, and her body turned black. Her relations insisted on a post mortem examination, and the doctors declared that she had died from the effect of some virulent poison. Varchi more than hints that her own family were the culprits, out of fear that the Duke, “by means of some treachery or fraud, purposed to stain the honour of their family in the person of Luisa.” But Segni and others agree that, having repulsed the Duke Alessandro, as she had done Salviati, his infamous wife poisoned her by the Duke’s orders. Not long after the death of the beautiful Luisa, her father and her brothers were declared rebels and outlaws by the Duke Alessandro. The sentence was confirmed by his successor Cosimo I. because Lorenzino de’ Medici, after he had murdered his cousin the Duke Alessandro, fled to Venice where Filippo Strozzi hailed him as a second Brutus.

The exiles invaded Tuscany, but were beaten; Strozzi was made prisoner at Montemurlo, together with Bacio Valori, and they were taken to Florence mounted on miserable peasants’ horses in August, 1537. Filippo was immured in the fortress of S. Giovan Battista (now Fortezza del Basso), for which but four years before he had advanced the funds to Clement VII. He was put on the rack, but no avowal of guilt was wrung from him; so his friend Giuliano Gondi was tortured, and his confession—or what purported to be his confession—was sent to the Emperor Charles V. and an order obtained from him to337 give up Filippo Strozzi to the Duke Cosimo. On the morning of the 18th December, 1538, he was found dead in his prison, but how he came by his death was never known. The anonymous writer who finished the biography begun by his brother Lorenzo, states as a fact that he killed himself with a sword left by chance by one of his guards, and gives a document which he says was found in the prison in his handwriting. Three contemporary chroniclers state that he was beheaded, and Segni adds: “His body was never seen; nor was it ever known where he was buried.” It was generally believed that he had killed himself when he knew that he was to be delivered into the hands of the executioner. Signor Bigazzi gives a facsimile of two epitaphs in Filippo’s handwriting, one to be used “In my own country, if in these times it shall be permitted,” consisting of these few proud words:

Philippo Strozzae.
Satis hoc; caetera norunt omnes;

the other, also in Latin, “for a cenotaph in some foreign city,” gives us his opinion of himself.

“To Filippo Strozzi, by far the most illustrious of all Tuscans in nobility, learning and wealth; who, when Rome was sacked by the Imperial forces, and Pope Clement was besieged therein, restored his country, then reduced to base slavery, to liberty. Ten years afterwards, when again opposing resuscitated despotism, he was taken prisoner at the castle of Montemurlo, and soon after cruelly put to death. His seven surviving sons placed this monument to his memory amid the tears of all good men. The tyrant did not blush to buy his blood at a vast price, for he could find no means of remaining in security while so powerful an enemy lived. But Liberty, knowing well that all her hopes fell with him, willed to be buried in the same tomb. Pour forth then, stranger, abundant tears if the338 Florentine Republic is aught to thee; for thou wilt never have cause to mourn the loss of a greater citizen. He lived forty-eight years, ... months, ... days. His last words were, ‘It is sweet to die by whatsoever death for one’s country.’”

Filippo’s supposed will was commonly reported to have been written by Pierfrancesco of Prato, who had been tutor to Duke Cosimo, and was devoted to his interests.

The anonymous writer before mentioned gives the following description of the great banker: “Filippo was tall of stature, and of a cheerful and pleasing countenance; sallow of complexion, agile, and made more for a life of action than for one of repose. No one was more agreeable in manner, in gesture, deed and word; he was extremely affable, almost always smiling when he first met people. His step was extraordinarily rapid, and when his friends remarked upon it he would say nothing was so irksome to him as loss of time, and that he did not see why, when he could go quickly from place to place, he should go slowly. When he could pass a day according to his fancy he was wont to divide it into three portions; one he gave to his studies, one to his private concerns, and one to his pleasures.... He was more inclined to pleasure than was perhaps fitting, not only from inclination, but to adapt himself to the wishes of his superiors and friends. When he was at any public or private assembly where there were ladies, he would lightly fall in love, for he was much inclined to the society of women; attaching himself rather to those remarkable for elegance and grace of manner than to those who were merely beautiful in feature. He was exceedingly fond of music, sang well and accurately, and was not ashamed to sing the penitential psalms at night in public together with his brother Lorenzo and others such on holidays. He took much pleasure also in composing in our own tongue both in prose and verse, as may be seen by the translations and madrigals of his339 which are sung at the present day. He was sumptuous in dress; as much so as any other man in the city. He delighted in travel, and in seeing new manners and people, but his many and various affairs did not permit him to indulge this desire. To sum up his character in one word, those who were acquainted with literature thought that he had never given his attention to other things; while those who had business relations with him, and knew in how masterly a fashion he conducted his affairs, could not easily be persuaded that he ever attended to other matters; whilst those who knew him as a man of pleasure could scarcely believe that he found time for aught else.”

Filippo’s son, Piero Strozzi, went to Barcelona to plead the cause of the exiles before Charles V., and after their disastrous defeat at Montemurlo and his father’s murder, entered the service of Francis I., who created him Lord of Belleville and a knight of S. Michael. When the Marquess Del Vasto was beaten by the Conte d’Enghien in 1544 at Ceresole, Piero Strozzi attempted to seize Milan. Failing in this, he crossed the Po at Piacenza, and fought his way down to Serravalle, but had to retire into Piedmont, where he besieged and took the town of Alba. He was recalled to France in 1545, when he fought against the English, and the following year he joined the Protestant army in Germany against Charles V. Later he took part with the Duc de Guise in defending Metz, when besieged by the Emperor. On the Sienese appealing to Francis I. for help against Duke Cosimo I. backed by Charles V., Strozzi rushed to their assistance armed with full powers from the King, who made him a Marshal of France. When Siena was forced to capitulate Piero, who knew that Duke Cosimo had offered a large reward for his head, fled in disguise, but returned to Italy in 1556, sent by Henry II. to the aid of Pope Paul IV. against the Emperor. After the battle of St. Quintin in the Netherlands, where the Spaniards gained a decisive victory,340 Strozzi was recalled to France, and assisted at the taking of Calais by the Duc de Guise. Two years later he was killed at the siege of Thionville.

His brother Leone, Prior of Capua, went to Malta, where he became a Knight of the Order and Captain of the galleys. He fought with distinction under Andrea Doria, and in 1541 entered the service of Francis I., whose rivalry with the Emperor Charles V., patron of the Medici, gave him hopes of revenging the murder of his father and of liberating Tuscany from the yoke of a family he hated. In 1547 Leone fought against England, and is said to have been the first European admiral to sail through the Straits of Gibraltar. Four years later after vainly trying to force Andrea Doria to fight, he drove his fleet from the coasts of France, and setting sail for Barcelona, captured several of the enemy’s ships within sight of shore. Discovering that the Connetable Anne de Montmorency was intriguing against him, Leone sent back his standard to the King and, breaking the chains which closed the port of Marseilles, sailed back to Malta, where he planned the fortifications of S. Elmo and S. Michael. When the Sienese rose against Cosimo I. he re-entered the service of France and, summoned by his brother Piero, preceded the fleet with three swift galleys and landed at Scarlino on the coast of Tuscany, where he was killed whilst reconnoitring.

The noble palace belongs to Prince Piero Strozzi, head of the family; as in 1568 Cosimo I. restored to the Cardinal Lorenzo Strozzi and his nephew Leone the half of the building confiscated by the State when Filippo Strozzi rebelled.97


According to Litta this beautiful little palace was built in 1450 by Agnolo degl’ Strozzi, son of Palla, surnamed Novello to distinguish him from his father Palla, who died as Captain of the Guelph Party in 1377.98 This statement is confirmed by an entry in the Dei MS. in the State archives, kindly communicated to me by Dr. G. Gronau, which runs: “1450. Agnolo, son of Messer Palla [Novello], who was son of Messer Palla, built the palace on the square of the Strozzi, called ‘of the three doors.’” Palla Novella was sent to Martin V. in 1423 to ask for aid against the Duke of Milan who had taken Forli. But the Pope, who had never forgotten the mocking rhyme of the Florentine street-boys, refused, and Palla went to Naples, where he obtained the promise of ships. On his return he was made Commissary of War. It must have been about this time that he bought the Gondi houses and tower adjoining Sta. Maria Ughi, for he was despatched on an embassy to Savoy soon afterwards, and being waylaid on his return by Visconti was imprisoned in Milan until the peace of Ferrara in 1428. His absence, and the high rate of exchange consequent on the war, caused his bank to fail; and he came back a sadly impoverished man. He must, however, have kept the Gondi houses and re-made a certain fortune, as Herr v. Fabriczy cites an entry in the catasto of 1451 in the State archives: “All the houses mentioned on the opposite page have been incorporated into one house for my own usage,” and this is confirmed by a marginal note of a clerk of the catasto. “All these houses are being arranged for him [Palla] to dwell in, as342 Nicholo di Ciennj saw them being demolished in order to make one house.”99

Michelozzi is generally credited with having designed the palace, but Herr v. Fabriczy and Herr v. Geymüller agree in attributing the beautiful courtyard and the upper floor to another hand, probably Giuliano da Majano. When Michelozzi left Florence in 1460 nothing is more likely than that he charged his friend and pupil Giuliano to finish the building, which, according to the catasto was done in 1469. I have entered into these details because it has long been a vexed question as to who built one of the most beautiful palaces in Florence, now fast falling into ruin. For many years it was the property of the Commune and has now been sold to Signor Chiari.

The architect of the sombre Della Stufa palace is unknown, and the loggia on the top has been walled up, which spoils its appearance. Tradition says that a Lottario, or Lotteringo, came from Lorraine with the Emperor Otho III. about 998, and gave the name of Lotteringhi to his descendants, afterwards called Della Stufa because their house was built on the site of the ancient Roman baths (stufe). Lotteringo Della Stufa was one of the seven founders of the Servite Order, of which he became the General after the death of Filippo Benizzi in 1285. Ten years later the Commune, at his request, opened the Porta di Servi near the S.S. Annunziata, so that the peasants outside the walls could more easily come and pray at the343 Virgin’s shrine. He was beatified, as was Girolamo, a Franciscan monk of exemplary piety a century later. Ugo, knight of the Golden Spur and a learned jurist, after being many times an ambassador to popes, princes, and other republics, put himself at the head of the People when they rose against the nobles in 1343, and three years later was sent by the Republic to Avignon to remonstrate with Clement VI. about the arrogance of the Inquisitor. His son, Giovenco, was one of the Ten of War in 1399, another, Ugo, after being Captain of Arezzo and Vicario of the Val d’Arno, was sent in 1408 as Captain to Pisa, where he made himself so popular that when he left the Pisans gave him a splendid banner with the arms of the town, and begged that he might be sent the following year as their Podestà. He founded and endowed the church of Monte Asinario (commonly called Senario) near Florence. His nephew, Angelo, must have had a fluent tongue, as his name perpetually occurs as ambassador of the Republic. At Milan in 1476 the Duke made him a knight of the Golden Spur, and when he died four years later in Florence, his funeral, at the public expense, was attended by the Gonfalonier and the Priors. The Della Stufa were always adherents of the Medici, and Lorenzo sent Ugo’s son, Luigi, to thank the Soldan of Babylon for various gifts and animals. The latter are mentioned by Tribaldo de’ Rossi in his Ricordanzi.100 “I record how in 1488 was presented to Lorenzo de’ Medici from the Soldan of Babylon a giraffe; brought by an ambassador, a man of high position and a great lord of that country; and with the giraffe were goats and sheep.... The giraffe was seven braccie high, with feet like an ox; it was a gentle beast and one of those Turcomans led it about; it was shown in the country round and in many convents. Lorenzo put it in the Pope’s stables in Via della Scala, and in winter it had a deep bed of straw and a fire was often kindled near,344 as it dreaded the cold. It ate of everything, and when it could would put its head into the baskets of the peasants; it took apples from the hand of a child, so tame was it. The ambassador stayed some months and the Commune gave him many presents. The giraffe died in January, and its skin was preserved; every one was sorry because it was a beautiful beast.” In a grotto in the garden of the Villa di Castello its effigy in coloured marbles still exists.

On Luigi Della Stufa’s return from the East he was made Commissary of War at Castrocara, and in 1513 he was sent to Rome to congratulate Leo X. on his accession to the Papal throne, and was knighted with great honour. But when Leo came to Florence in 1433 “he was much displeased and annoyed,” writes Varchi, “with Messer Luigi, an intimate friend of the family, who on going to salute him in the name of the city with other ambassadors, showed him, as is reported, a loaf of white bread such as is sold by the bakers for four quattrini, assuring him that it only cost two. What is certain is that when this was known in Florence the boys, as is their custom, made a song about him, and none could stop their singing these words, put into rhyme by themselves, in all the streets:

“Messer Luigi Della Stufa
Ha fitto il capo in una buca,
Il qual non ne puo uscire,
Se il gran non val tre lire.”
(Messer Luigi Della Stufa
Has put his head into a hole,
Out of which it can’t be drawn,
Until wheat costs three lire.)

His son, Prinzivallo, was the man who fired off an arquebuse at Clarice degl’Strozzi when she went to protest against the bad government of the Cardinal Passerini, and advised him and the two young Medici to leave Florence. He was imprisoned during the siege, but when the city capitulated was one of the five citizens named to examine the fortifications, and afterwards became a Senator. The345 Grand Duke Ferdinando II. made Pandolfo Della Stufa Marquess of Calcione in 1632, an estate purchased by one of his ancestors from the Republic of Siena. The old palace belongs to the present Marquess Della Stufa.

The Torrigiani were vintners of Lamporecchio, and came to Florence in the XIVth century, where they made a considerable fortune by trade. The family then lived in the centre of Florence, and the fine old building, now the Hotel Porta Rossa, was one of their palaces. The present Palazzo Torrigiani was left to them by the Baron Gerbone Del Nero, a relation, in 1816, when the loggia at the top was walled up and turned into rooms, which has spoiled the façade. It was built by Tommaso Del Nero in the XVIth century after his own design, and he must have been a man of some genius, as he is said to have painted the decorations of the interior of his palace with his own hands, as well as designing it. He also founded the Academy of the Alterati, the precursor of that of the Crusca, which first met in his house. His ancestor, Bernardo Del Nero, was thrice Gonfalonier of Justice, and in 1483 Commissary-General of War in the Lunigiana against Costanzo Sforza. The following year he drove the Genoese out of Vada. His fate was a sad one, as after his third term of office as Gonfalonier in 1497, he was accused of conspiring in favour of the Medici and beheaded in the courtyard of the Palazzo del Podestà when he was seventy-two years of age.

The riches of the Torrigiani family were increased by the inheritance of the parsimonious Luca, Archbishop for346 twenty-four years of the rich See of Ravenna and the son of an heiress. His brother Carlo bought the estate of Decimo in the Pontifical States, when his son Raffaelo was created a Marquess by Clement XI. in 1712. Cardinal Luigi Torrigiani was Secretary of State to Clement XIII.; his devotion to the Jesuits, and his blind obedience to their orders, nearly cost the Pope the allegiance of France, Spain, and Portugal. Dismissed by Clement XIV., he died in 1777, the last male representative of his house, leaving his possessions to his sister’s second son, Pietro Guadagni, with the obligation of taking his name. Rich, and of some consequence in the city, the Marquess Pietro Torrigiani was arrested by order of the French General Gauthier, and transported to France with other prominent citizens. When the Grand Duchy of Tuscany became the Kingdom of Etruria he returned, and soon afterwards Etruria ceased to exist, being declared a province of the French Empire. Napoleon I. named the Marquess a member of the Council of the Department of the Arno, made him a Baron, and in 1812 a French citizen, but on the restoration of the house of Lorraine he resumed his Italian nationality and was elected a Senator. His son Luigi was an able administrator and a patron of the arts, and many of the finest pictures of the Torrigiani gallery were bought by him. Carlo Torrigiani, his brother, devoted himself to ameliorating the condition of the prisons and to popular education. He started the society for building blocks of decent houses for small artisans, and gained the hearts of the Florentines by his fearless charity during the outbreak of cholera in 1855. An inscription to his memory was placed by the municipality of Florence on the façade of his small palace, which now belongs, as well as the larger one beside it, to his nephew, the present Marquess Torrigiani. It was begun by Baccio d’Agnolo for the Nasi family and finished by his son Domenico.




The Uguccione are a branch of the old family of Lippi-Scalandroni, and took their name from Bernardo di Uguccione, who was the first of eleven Priors of his house in 1434. They lived in the quarter of S. Spirito until 1500, when Buonaccorso Uguccione bought from Taddeo dell’Antella and his brothers a house in the Val del Garbo (now Condotta), with an entrance also on the Piazza della Signoria. After his death his son Giovanni purchased some adjoining houses and built the beautiful little palace which has been variously attributed to Raphael, Palladio, and Michelangelo. Raphael is out of the question, as he died thirty years before Giovanni thought of building his house. Cinelli declares that “the façade of the house of the Uguccione is by Michelangelo and very beautiful. The cornice is wanting, which was to have crowned it, and to have rested upon plain but fine corbels; their very plainness would have given an uncommon majesty and grandeur, as can be seen by the model which is in his house.”101 This model was constructed by Mariotto Folfi, surnamed l’Ammogliato, from a design which Uguccione obtained from Rome, and is mentioned in a letter from the Commissary “delle Bande” to Cosimo I., which proves how the Duke occupied himself with the small details of the affairs of his subjects. “Giovanni Uguccione has just left me in great anger about a drawing for a building which he got from Rome, and which must be, as far as I can gather, a very splendid thing. He gave it to Ceccho Allori, a master-mason, to make an estimate of his part of the work with strict injunctions not to show350 it to any one. The mason promised to return it in two or three days, but now declares that he has lost it, which is an evident falsehood. Giovanni wanted to appeal at once to the court of the ‘Otto,’ but I persuaded him to wait a few days and again try to obtain possession of the drawing by amicable means. This I did because I wished to refer to Your Highness, and also because the said court usually only inflicts a fine for the loss of manuscripts, etc., if not returned within so many days, which avails but little against scoundrels, and lastly because I understand that the architect has no time to make another design.” The Duke, who was extremely eager to beautify the city, wrote on the margin of the letter, “Let the court send for him and insist on his finding it.” The drawing was eventually returned to Uguccione, and Folfi, as I have already said, made the model and superintended the building. Signor Iodici Del Badia thinks he probably designed the fine coats-of-arms, emblems, and internal decorations of the palace.102 In a manuscript record belonging to the family, Giovanni Uguccione is described as “living in great splendour, and being one of the noblest, richest and wisest citizens of that time. He was a merchant, but kept no shop. When he rode out his horse was splendidly caparisoned, a sign of magnificence, as at that time there were no carriages.”

Uguccione evidently knew that he could rely on the interest the Duke took in his beautiful house, for he encroached on the rights of his neighbours on either side in a most high-handed manner. They went to law, but only obtained a small pecuniary award for the loss of their sedilia and their light. When the palace was completed early in 1559 Giovanni begged to be allowed to occupy part of the Piazza by putting steps outside his door “according to the design, and to give greater beauty to the house.” The permission must have been granted, as in a drawing of the façade by the younger Vasari in the351 Uffizi, there are five steps leading up to the front door. These have gradually disappeared owing to the rise in the level of the Piazza. Giovanni Uguccione died in December, 1559, leaving the house to his widow Nannina, daughter of Palla Rucellai, and afterwards to his nephews. Nannina’s arms and emblems, the sail and the ring with three feathers, are sculptured together with his own in the entrance hall and in one of the ground-floor rooms. Pope Benedict XIV. bestowed the title of Marquess on Benedetto Uguccione in 1749, and the palace still belongs to his descendants.

The old family of Orlandini were the original proprietors of this palace, and traces of the arches of their loggia are still to be seen. The street corner was called Canto degl’Orlandini until the palace was sold to Bernardetto de’ Medici, when it took his name, which is inscribed on an old marble tablet let into the wall. Bernardetto was descended from Averardo, grandfather of Cosimo the Elder, and was Gonfalonier of Justice in 1447, and again in 1455. He was the ancestor of Alessandro, Pope for twenty-seven days under the name of Leo XI., and of Bernardetto, married to Giulia, natural daughter of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, who bought Ottojano from the Gonzaga in the Kingdom of Naples. In 1737, his descendant, Prince Giuseppe d’Ottajano, lay claim to the throne of Tuscany after the death of the last Grand Duke Giovan Gastone, but his claim was disallowed.


Although partly rebuilt and modernized traces of ancient splendour can still be seen in the pretty courtyard of this palace. Piero de’ Monaldi, in his manuscript history, tells us “the Vecchietti came originally from Arezzo, they were a powerful family within the first circuit of the walls of Florence and owned towers, streets and a piazza, whereon they built the church of S. Donato. Two Gonfaloniers of Justice and twenty-four Priors did they give to the city. Vecchietto, Consul of Florence in 1128, was of their race, as was also Marsilio, knight of the Golden Spur, who was then Captain of Arezzo in 1288. Dante makes honourable mention of them in his Paradiso.”

The corner of the Palazzo Vecchietti is called the Canto de’ Diavoli from the tradition that when St. Peter Martyr preached here one of his violent sermons against the heretics, a great black horse suddenly appeared and the crowd fled in dismay before his kicking and rearing, some even declared that fire came from his nostrils. People were convinced that it was the devil and hence the name of the street corner. On the angle of the old palace was the satyr (now in the Bargello) made by Gian Bologna for Bernardo de’ Vecchietti, who was his patron and friend. The house now belongs to the family of Del Corona, and a copy of Donatello’s satyr has been placed where the original once was.


“On the 24th February, 1299, the foundations of the Palazzo de’ Priori, for the Commune and the People of Florence, were laid,” writes Giovanni Villani, “the Priors not feeling themselves in safety where they had hitherto lived, that is to say in the house of the Cerchi behind the church of San Procolo.” Arnolfo Cambio was the architect chosen to build the palace, and he took as his model the one built at Poppi by his father Lapo. Vasari’s story that he could not make it square and straight as he desired, because the people would not allow him to build where the houses of those hated Ghibellines the Uberti once stood, is not borne out by history, for Villani states, and various documents dating from 1299 to 1311 confirm his words, that the site occupied by the houses of the Uberti was made into a square, so that it might never again be built upon. Houses of other citizens, such as the Foraboschi and the Della Vacca, were bought, and where they stood was erected the palace. The tower of the Priors still retains the name of the latter family, one of whom, Falcone Della Vacca, was an Elder of the city in 1260, and from it the street opposite is called Vacchereccia. When in those “good old times” Guelphs and Ghibellines, Whites and Blacks, flew at each other’s throats, and the great bell rang to call the people to arms, the saying was la vacca mugghia (the cow is lowing).


Vasari’s statement that Arnolfo filled up most of the old tower to build his own upon was disproved in 1814. The architect del Rosso, in executing some restorations in the old palace, discovered a small dark room which had been walled up, and which he surmised, probably correctly, to have been the famous Alberghettino, or Barberia, where Cosimo the Elder was immured, and in later days Savonarola.356 In one corner of this room is a rectangular opening, or well, the bottom of which is about ten and a half feet below the level of the courtyard; various underground passages, to which access is obtained by a man-hole in the guard-room, communicate with it and seem to bear out the old tales of secret trapdoors down which unhappy prisoners disappeared for ever. Vasari is also wrong in saying that part of the church of San Piero Scheraggio was destroyed at the same time, for it was only partially swept away to widen the street a century later.103

The tallest part of the Palazzo Vecchio with five windows on the northern side and six on the western (not counting the modern balcony) crowned with the square, so-called Guelph battlements, is Arnolfo’s original building and his design was faithfully carried out after his death in 1301. The tower, so majestic, and at the same time so elegant is a model of daring and skill, half resting as it does on the alur, or covered passage, supported by machicolations, which surrounds the top of the palace. Half-way up the tower is another alur, adorned with swallow-tailed, or so-called Ghibelline battlements, whence rise four columns with Gothic capitals, supporting the battlemented top of the tower with its golden lion, the emblem of Florence, as a weathercock. It was not until 1344 that the bell of the Council, which till then had been suspended on the battlements of the palace, was hung in the tower, so that it might be better heard on the opposite side of the Arno. In its place was put the bell from Vernio, which rang to warn the guards whenever a fire burst out in the town. In 1363 the bell of Foiano, taken when the castle was sacked, was brought to Florence and placed above the357 alur, to tell the merchants that the dinner hour had come. The big bell cracked and in 1373 was recast by a certain Ricco di Lapo, when it was said that it could be heard for thirteen miles round the city. When the Florentine arms were victorious, it rang for days in token of triumph, until Duke Alessandro de’ Medici destroyed it in 1532.

The Gonfaloniers and the Priors lived entirely in the Palazzo Vecchio during the two months they were in office and were not allowed to go out save on pressing business affecting the Commune. No one could speak to them in private, they were forbidden to accept any invitations and no one could dine with them save the notary of the city; but their dinners, served on silver plate, were excellent and their wines choice. Rastrelli writes: “Ten golden florins were assigned each day to the Priors solely for their food, all other expenses being defrayed by the Commune of Florence. This sum was for the maintenance of the Gonfalonier, the Priors, the notary, the nine donzelli, or office servants, five monks who served the chapel of the palace, two who had charge of the seal of the Commune, and the almsgiver and bursar, who were also monks; there were also the curial notary, two mazzieri, or mace-bearers, and a cook who was bound to keep two scullions; two trumpeters and two pifferi, to play while the Signori were at table, four bell-ringers and one servant.... No man who had been a Gonfalonier could be arrested until a year had elapsed from the time of his holding office, save for some very heinous offence, and he was allowed to carry arms of any kind for the rest of his life.”104 In front of the great door of the palace, where now are the steps and a platform, was the ringhiera,105 erected in 1323, of which one hears so often in the history of Florence. Here the Podestà harangued the people from358 his bigoncia, or pulpit, and here the Gonfalonier received the Standard of the People in state and delivered batons of command to the various condottieri who served the Republic. On the ringhiera Walter de Brienne, Duke of Athens and Count of Lecce, met the Priors on the 8th September, 1342, when the people and the nobles shouted, “Let the Duke have command for life, let the Duke be our lord.” The latter, gathering round him, forced open the door of the palace, led him into the apartment of the Priors and hailed him as ruler. The Priors were relegated to the Sala delle Armi, the white silken banner with the red cross of the People was removed, the books containing the enactments were torn to shreds, and the Duke’s flag, foreign to Florence, was unfurled on the tower, while the bell of Liberty rang out the Dio laudiamo. Two days later the Priors were thrust out, and the Palazzo de’ Priori became the Palazzo Ducale.

A council of Wise Men was instituted by the Duke, with but one Florentine among them, Cerettieri Visdomini, a man of evil repute; and soon the growing dissatisfaction of his subjects made the Duke think about fortifying himself in the palace. “He caused,” writes Giovanni Villani, “the antiporta, or fortified porch, in front of the Palace of the People to be built, and put iron bars in the windows of the Sala de’ Dugento, or Council Chamber, being afraid and suspicious of the citizens; and ordered that the whole palace of the Figliuoli Petri, the towers and houses of the Manieri, of the Mancini and of Bello Alberti, comprising the ancient citadel, and extending into the piazza, should be included in the circuit of the said palace. He began to lay foundations of thick walls, and of towers and barbicans, to make of the palace a great and strong fortress; stopping the work of building the Ponte Vecchio, which was of such infinite necessity to the Commune of Florence, and taking from thence hewn stone and timber. He threw down the houses of San Romolo in order to extend the piazza as far359 as the houses of Garbo ... and demanded permission from the papal court to destroy San Piero Scheraggio, Santa Cecilia, and Santo Romolo, but the Pope refused his consent. From the citizens he took certain palaces and houses that stood round about the palace, and lodged in them his barons and followers without paying any rent.” Vasari, in his life of Andrea Pisani, writes: “Walter, Duke of Athens and tyrant of the Florentines, made use of Andrea also in architectural matters, causing him to enlarge the piazza. Opposite to San Piero Scheraggio, he added the walls, encased with ‘bozzi,’ alongside of the palace to enlarge it, and in the width of the wall he constructed a secret staircase for going up and down without being seen. In the said façade of ‘bozzi’ he made a large door, which serves to-day for the customs, and above it he placed his arms, all being done according to the design and advice of Andrea.” The addition made by the Duke of Athens extends, on the northern side, to the door now called della Dogana, and his battlements adjoin the machicolations which sustain the alur surrounding Arnolfo’s original building. On the southern side, where once stood S. Piero Scheraggio, and now stands the Uffizi, can be seen the door of the old dogana, above which were the Duke’s arms, effaced by order of the magistrates when he was deposed.

On the 26th July, 1343, the Florentines rose against the Duke. Armed bands suddenly invaded the streets, waving banners which had been secretly prepared with the arms of the People emblazoned upon them, and shouting, “Death to the Duke and his followers! Long live the Commune and Liberty!” They released the prisoners from the Stinche, forced open the door of the Palazzo del Podestà, and burnt all the records. Next day the Duke, hoping to pacify the people, offered the honour of knighthood to one of their leaders, who disdainfully refused, and told him he had better haul down his flag and replace the banner of360 the People on the tower. Meanwhile the allies of Florence hastened to her aid. Siena sent three hundred horse and four thousand bowmen, Prato five hundred men-at-arms, S. Miniato two hundred, while the peasants of the country round seized what weapons they could and poured into the city. The Bishop Acciajuoli, the nobles and the popolani met in Sta. Reparata and elected fourteen citizens, seven nobles, and seven popolani, giving them full power to make laws, while six others, three from each caste, were to keep order and see that violence and robbery should be severely punished. To save himself the Duke delivered his chief adviser, Guglielmo d’Assisi, with his young son, into the hands of the surging multitude in the Piazza. The lad was torn to pieces first, and then his father. The old chronicler gives details of this tragedy too horrible to repeat, and then continues: “On the 3rd August the Fourteen men of Florence appointed to set things right in the city went to the Palazzo de’ Priori, with Count Simone and much people, and the Duke ceded the Lordship, saying he had taken it treacherously, by cunning and by falsehood, as he should not have done. The said Duke threw down the baton on the ground, and then picked it up and gave it to the Fourteen, thus delivering to them the Lordship for the Commune of Florence, and these Fourteen were Lords for the Commune, and this was written down. The Duke quitted his room that very evening, and the Fourteen entered it, and by courtesy he was allowed to have another room with fifteen of his people. During the day it was publicly ordered several times that every man should lay down his arms, the bells of the Palazzo de’ Priori rang joyously, great bonfires were lit on the palace and in every corner of Florence. In truth it was a fine festival.”

For three days, until the people became quieter, the Duke remained in the palace, and then left at night with a strong escort, carrying off all the gold plate which had been made361 for him of the value of 30,000 golden florins. When he got to Poppi he ratified, “but with a very evil grace,” the renunciation of the Lordship of Florence, and by way of Bologna went to Venice, whence he returned to Apulia.

The Fourteen repealed all the Duke’s laws, and with that odd childishness that sometimes shows itself in the Florentine character, spent twenty golden florins to have him and his chief advisers painted “in ignominious fashion” on the tower of the palace of the Podestà and elsewhere. The day of S. Anna was decreed a public festival, and on that day the banners of the Guilds are still hung round Or San Michele in remembrance of the deposition of the tyrant of Florence. They also demolished the fortified porch, built by the Duke in front of the great door of the palace, and restored the ringhiera. Signor Gotti, in his exhaustive work on the old palace, thinks that about the same time the two stone lions, which were gilt, said to have been sculptured by Giovanni de’ Nobili, were placed on either side of the entrance. Matteo Villani speaks of four others, which the Priors, in 1353, “having little else to attend to on account of the leisure born of peace, caused to be carved of granite and gilded at great expense, and placed on the four corners of the palace of the People of Florence. This they did for a certain vanity that obtained at that time, instead of having them cast in bronze and then gilt, which would have cost but little more than the granite, would have been beautiful, and have lasted for many centuries; but small things and great are continually being spoilt in our city by the avaricious whims of the citizens.”106

Three years later the Signoria decided to build a loggia,362 a necessary adjunct in those days to a palace, on the southern side of the Piazza where the houses and tower of the Mint stood. But the project, according to Matteo Villani, met with considerable opposition among the citizens, who declared that “a loggia was suitable for tyrants, not for the People,” and it remained in abeyance until, owing to incessant rain, the installation of the new Priors on the 1st January, 1374, could not take place on the ringhiera, and the ceremony was performed in the small church of S. Piero Scheraggio. The building was then confided to the Opera del Duomo, and the Operai named an overseer—Capudmagister operis Loggie. According to Vasari, Andrea Orcagna was ordered to make a design, and the work was given to him. But Dr. Carl Frey, in his critical and learned work on the Loggia de’ Lanzi, writes: “But can the Loggia be attributed to Orcagna? When the building was begun in 1376 Orcagna had already been dead seven or eight years, so that we can only suppose that he may have made the design in 1356, when the idea was first started. Although Orcagna was probably in Florence about that time there are many reasons against this. To begin with, the first building was evidently intended to have been far smaller, as in the documents of 1356 the erection of a loggia on ground belonging to the Commune is mentioned: in domibus comunis predicti positis prope plateam populi Florentie, que vulgariter appellantur domus della moneta, whereas the resolution passed in 1374 deals with the acquisition and demolition of other people’s houses, indicating the intention of occupying363 a larger space. It is evident that as the necessary land had not been bought in 1374, nothing had been definitely settled, and there could have been no question of choosing an architect—a choice which rested with the Operai—or of a design, to be made by an architect and then approved by the Operai.... Orcagna seems to have had many enemies in Florence; at least, such is the impression left on one’s mind after reading the documents, for he was not regularly employed on the Duomo, but only called in consultation with other masters, and although various committees had approved of his model and design for the pillars [of the Loggia], in the end the work was entrusted to Francesco Talenti. This goes to prove that Orcagna had no hand in designing the Loggia, as it is hardly likely that the Operai would have permitted a plan rejected by them to be carried out, or that Simone, Francesco Talenti’s son, would have chosen Orcagna’s design in preference to a better one by his father or by himself. A comparison between the columns of the Loggia, the Duomo and the Tabernacolo [Or San Michele] is sufficient. To all this we need only add the absolute silence of all contemporary writers, to feel convinced that Orcagna neither built nor made the design for the Loggia dei Signori. When the Operai del Duomo undertook the building of the Loggia, their Capomaestri were Simone Talenti, son of the famous architect who succeeded Arnolfo and Giotto as overseer of the building of the Duomo and of the Campanile; Taddeo di Ristori, who was appointed overseer of the new building for the month of October; and Benci di Cioni Dami of Como, who took his place as Capomaestro of the Duomo.” Dr. Carl Frey thinks that probably the design of the Loggia was made by the three architects in common, but that the columns and all the ornamentation are due to Simone Talenti.107


But we must return to the palace and the Priors, who on the 19th July, 1378, heard that a revolution was to break out next day. So they arrested a certain Simoncino, and the Proposto led him in front of the altar in the chapel108 and interrogated him. Their conversation is given by Gino Capponi in his history of the Republic. “Simoncino said, yesterday I was with eleven others in the hospital of the priests in the Via San Gallo, and having summoned other minor artisans, we determined that about six to-morrow a revolution shall begin, as has been ordered by certain leaders nominated by us some days ago. You must know, Signore, that our number is infinite, and amongst us are well-to-do and excellent artificers; also most of those who are under police supervision have offered to join us. And, asked the Proposto, if the people rise, what will they demand of the Signoria? They will ask that the trades subject to the Guild of Wool should have their own consuls and colleges, and they refuse to acknowledge any longer the officer who worries them with trifles, or to deal with the master clothiers [maestri lanaiolo] who pay them badly, and for work worth twelve, only give them eight.” Poor Simoncino was incontinently handed over to the captain, and, in the cant phrase of that day, “made to sing,” i. e. tortured, until he confessed the name of the leader of the revolt, Salvestro de’ Medici. But his shrieks and groans were heard by Niccolò degl’Orivoli, who had charge of the clock in the tower; he rushed into the street shouting, “Wake up, the Signori are making meat,” and the people ran out of their houses ready armed, while the church bells rang furiously. In a moment the Piazza was invaded by365 a crowd shouting for the release of Simoncino and others who were in prison; and when their demand was granted they dispersed, and went through the streets setting fire to the houses of Luigi Guicciardini, of the Gonfalonier, of one of the Albizzi, of Simone Peruzzi and of others, and then to the palace of the Guild of Wool.

This was the famous Ciompi revolt, which but for the level head and strong will of Michele di Lando, a poor wool carder, whose father sold earthenware pots and pans, would have overthrown all law and order in Florence. When the mob invaded the Palazzo de’ Priori, Michele, who, according to an old chronicler, “was without stockings and had but little on, held the banner of Justice aloft and turned to the crowd asking what they intended to do. With one voice they saluted him as Gonfalonier and Lord of Florence. He accepted the office, and to put an end to robbery and arson ordered the erection of a gallows and threatened all disturbers of the peace.... Creating new magistrates, four chosen from the popolo minuto, two from the major Guilds, and two from the minor, he dismissed the Dieci di Guerra; so that for eighteen hours Michele may be said to have been absolute master of Florence. Thinking that the new Gonfalonier favoured the popolani nobili at their expense, the mob returned to the piazza shouting and rioting; not being listened to they went to Sta. Maria Novella and created eight magistrates with consuls, so that the majesty of Government was divided in two. But Michele di Lando would not suffer such arrogance; with the weapon he had in his belt he severely wounded the members of the deputation who had come to announce that he had been superseded, and mounting a horse he took armed men and beat the rebels, thus remaining in peaceful possession of his dignity.” Machiavelli, in his narrative of the Ciompi riots bears eloquent testimony to the poor wool carder. “The riots were put down solely by the energy of the Gonfalonier,366 who far surpassed all other citizens of that time in courage, prudence, and goodness; he deserved to be named among those who have been benefactors of their country.”

In September, 1433, the Piazza della Signoria was once more invaded by an angry crowd of popolani. Their benefactor and favourite, Cosimo de’ Medici, had been treacherously seized and imprisoned in the small, dark Alberghettina, or Barberia, in the tower of the palace, and they feared the Signoria would make away with him. The great bell rang to summon a parliament, and it is said that Cosimo heard the crowd below debating as to his fate. For some days he refused all food fearing poison. He appears to have had grounds for suspicion, as it is said that the Captain of the Guard, Federigo de’ Malavolti of Siena, had been asked to do away with him. He not only refused, but warned his prisoner, and to prove his good faith tasted everything that was placed before Cosimo, and thus induced him to eat. Machiavelli relates that one evening Malavolti brought a facetious and pleasant fellow, a friend of the Gonfalonier, surnamed il Fargonaccio, to supper to amuse Cosimo, and then left them alone together. Cosimo, knowing the man he had to deal with, gave him a token for the governor of the hospital of Sta. Maria Nuova, who on receiving it was to give him 1100 ducats, 100 for himself, and 1000 for the Gonfalonier. Cosimo in his diary remarks: “They were people of small intelligence, for I would have given them 10,000 or more to escape from peril.”

Thanks to the Gonfalonier and the many friends Cosimo had in the city and outside, he escaped with his life; but was condemned to exile for ten years. He was recalled a year later and received with all honour by the Signoria in the very palace in which he had been imprisoned. With him came his friend and favourite architect, Michelozzo Michelozzi, who had gone with him to Venice, and built there by his orders the library of S. Giorgio Maggiore.367 To him was given the task of restoring the noble old Palazzo de’ Priori, which showed signs of collapsing. Vasari in his life of Michelozzi states that, “several columns in the courtyard had suffered; either on account of the great weight they had to bear, or that the foundations were weak and insufficient, or because they were ill-built and the stones badly joined.... Michelozzi made new foundations and rebuilt the columns as they now are, having first put strong, upright beams of thick wood to support the curves of the arches, with three-inch boards of walnut under the vaults, so that the weight which had rested on the columns was evenly distributed and sustained; and little by little he took those down which had been badly put together and rebuilt them with well-wrought stone, in such guise that the building suffered no harm and has never moved a hairsbreadth. And in order to distinguish his columns from the others, he made the octangular ones in the corners with leaves on the capitals sculptured in the modern fashion, and some circular ones which can be well distinguished from the old ones made by Arnolfo. Afterwards, by the advice of Michelozzi, the ruler of the city ordered that the weight resting on the arches of the columns should be diminished, that the courtyard be rebuilt from the arches upwards, and that windows of a modern order, like those he had designed for Cosimo in the courtyard of the Medici palace, should be made, and the walls ornamented a sgraffio, with the golden lilies which are still to be seen. All this Michelozzi did with extreme rapidity, fashioning circular windows, different from the others, above the windows of the second floor in the said courtyard, to give light to some rooms above, where now is the Hall of the Two Hundred. The third floor, where the Priors and the Gonfalonier lived, he made more ornate, and arranged rooms for the Priors on the side looking towards S. Piero Scheraggio; till then they had slept all together in one room. Eight rooms were368 made for the Priors, and a larger one for the Gonfalonier, all leading out of a passage with windows on the courtyard, and above these he made another set of convenient rooms for the servants of the palace ... also rooms for the office and house servants, trumpeters, pifferi, mace-bearers, and heralds, and various others necessary for such a palace. He also made a stone cornice surrounding the courtyard above the alur, and there he arranged a tank for rain water, in order to feed provisional fountains when needed. Michelozzi also adorned the chapel where mass was said, and made very rich ceilings, painted with golden lilies on an azure ground, to many rooms near it, and in those above and below in the palace he made new ceilings, covering all the old ones, which were according to ancient fashion.... Only one thing the genius of Michelozzi could not overcome, and that was the public staircase, which was badly designed, built in the wrong place and most inconvenient, being steep and dark, and made of wood from the first floor upwards. Still he worked to such purpose that at the entrance to the courtyard he made an approach of circular steps and a door with pilasters of stone, whose beautiful capitals he sculptured with his own hand, a cornice with double architraves of good design, and in the frieze were the various arms of the Commune. He also made stone stairs up to the floor where the Priors lived, and fortified them at the top and in the middle with portcullises in case of tumults: and at the top of the staircase he made a door which was called la catena, or ‘the barred,’ where one of the servants of the magistrates always stood to shut or to open it, according to the orders of the master. The tower, which had cracked owing to the weight of that part which rests obliquely, that is to say on the corbels overlooking the Piazza, he fortified with huge bands of iron. In short he improved and restored the palace in such a way that the whole city praised him, and in addition to other rewards he was appointed to be one of the ‘Collegio,’369 magistrates whose office is of the most honourable in Florence. If I seem to have been too prolix in all this it must be excused, because having told, in the Life of Arnolfo, how the palace was first built in 1298, crooked, lacking every rational measurement, with columns in the courtyard that did not match, large and small arches, inconvenient stairs, and dark and ill-proportioned rooms, it was fitting that I should point but how it was changed by the genius and judgment of Michelozzi.”

About the same time the Ten of Balìa, considerato defectu et penuria presentis Palatii circa pannos darazza et circa gausape seu tovaglias et argentum seu vasa argentea, et quod multum condecens esset in hujus modi tali Palatio, voted two thousand golden florins for refurnishing the palace, and also commissioned Neri di Bicci to paint and gild the tabernacle in which the celebrated Pandects of Justinian were kept. Neri thus describes his work: “I undertook to paint and gild for fiorini 56 a tabernacle of wood made according to ancient fashion, at each side were columns, above was an architrave, a frieze, a cornice and a lunette, and below the base was all of fine gold. In the picture of the said tabernacle I painted Moses and the four animals of the Evangelists, and in the lunette S. John the Baptist; round Moses and the animals I put golden lilies, and inside was the picture, which is to be the front of the cupboard where the Pandects, and another book which came from Constantinople, and certain other most rare things of the Florentine people, are kept, and it is to stand in the Hall of Audience of the Signori.”

In 1441 the old palace was soiled by the blood of Baldaccio d’Anghiari, a gallant soldier in the service of the Republic, and an intimate friend of Neri Capponi. Therefore Cosimo de’ Medici and all his party hated him, and according to Machiavelli, decided to do away with a man whom it was dangerous to keep, and still more dangerous to dismiss. The Gonfalonier of Justice at that moment370 was Bartolomeo Orlandini, a man devoted to Cosimo with a personal grudge against Baldaccio, who had openly accused him of rank cowardice at Marradi, where he fled and left the pass open and undefended. One of the principal actors in this cold-blooded murder, Francesco di Tommaso Giovanni, describes the scene in his diary much as a sportsman would tell how he shot a stag. “On Tuesday evening, the 5th September, being in the audience chamber after supper, all of us save Cante (Compagni, one of the Priors), with cautious words agreed to do whatever appeared good to the Gonfalonier; the allusions to Baldaccio were manifest, but his name was not mentioned because during the day many of us had talked of doing a thing, and of him, in such manner that we all understood. So on Wednesday the 6th, having called the cavalier and eight soldiers of the Captain of Florence, and shut them into my room, the Gonfalonier sent for the said Baldaccio, who was in the Piazza, and he came in about an hour’s time. He and the Gonfalonier being alone in the passage between the rooms, we caused the soldiers to come into the small chamber, and I stood at the end of the passage pretending to read letters. When the Gonfalonier made me a sign I signalled to the soldiers, who instantly threw him down and bound him as I had commanded. Now Baldaccio, in the attempt to defend himself and to attack the Gonfalonier, wounded one of the men; the others, to save themselves, wounded him, and then by order of the Gonfalonier threw him into the Captain’s courtyard below, and struck off his head on the doorstep. The people showed their satisfaction and praised the deed; but afterwards, as it had displeased some, they blamed it; however, in the end it was acknowledged to have been an excellent thing.” One of the people who was “displeased” was Pope Eugenius IV., who had taken Baldaccio into his service the day before he was murdered, and who left Florence in an angry mood.


In 1452, when the members of all the major and minor Guilds were admitted to sit in the great council, the Hall, or Sala de’ Dugento, was declared to be too small, but seventeen years passed without any decision being taken. It was then determined to use certain moneys “the Jew Isahac owes to the Monte, or public pawnshop, for rebuilding the Council Hall in the Palace of our Magnificent Signori.” This second decision also came to nought, as the money of Isahac went to rebuild the walls and castle of Castrocaro. At last, in 1472, Giuliano di Nardo da Majano and Francesco di Giovanni, alias Francione, were charged to do the work. Vasari attributes it to Benedetto da Majano, and in his life of that artist gives a long description of how he rebuilt the Sala de’ Dugento, and made two rooms above it; one called the Clock Room, because in it was a clock made by that excellent mechanician Lorenzo della Volpaia, the other the Audience Hall, with the triumph of Camillus painted by Salviati, while Domenico and Giuliano, brothers of Benedetto, made the ceilings. The marble door was sculptured by Benedetto himself, who “made a figure of Justice seated, with the sphere of the world in one hand and a sword in the other, and round the arch is written, Diligete justitiam qui judicatis terram.” The outer door of the Audience Hall was, according to tradition, a beautiful work. But nothing remains of Benedetto’s boys holding up festoons of flowers. Only the statue of the youthful S. John, which stood in the centre, is now in the National Museum in the Bargello. Vasari also attributes to Benedetto the wonderful intarsia doors, with Dante on one side and Petrarch on the other; but the archives show them to be the work of his brother Giuliano, and of Francione. The old Palazzo de’ Signori was decorated in a strange and horrible manner in 1478, when, in consequence of the Pazzi conspiracy, an Archbishop and several nobles, with priests, men-at-arms and serving-men, were hung round the outside from the columns of the windows. Filippo372 Strozzi was in the cathedral when the attempt to murder the Medici brothers was made, and has left a vivid account of what he saw. “I note a terrible event which happened in our city of Florence on the 26th April, 1478, a Sunday morning. The Very Reverend Messer Raffaello da Saona, Cardinal of S. Giorgio, nephew of Count Girolamo, a youth of about nineteen or twenty, had been at Montughi for about two months in the house of Messer Jacopo de’ Pazzi. He had lately received the cardinal’s hat at Pisa, and his chief adviser was Messer Francesco Salviati the Archbishop of Pisa. He, with others, instigated Lorenzo de’ Medici to invite him, and he did so for the said Sunday, and Messer Marino, ambassador of King Ferrando, Messer Filippo Sagramoro, orator of the Duke of Milan, Messer Niccolò of Ferrara, and six or seven cavaliers were asked to meet him. The said Cardinal was in Sta. Maria del Fiore at mass, and at the words missa este, Ser Stefano da Bagnone, secretary of Messer Jacopo de’ Pazzi, and Messer Marco Maffei of Volterra, with some armed followers, assaulted Lorenzo de’ Medici; while Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini fell upon Giuliano, as both were walking round the choir. Lorenzo saw them, drew his weapon, and jumped into the choir. Passing in front of the altar, he entered the new sacristy and ordered the door to be bolted. There he remained until aid came from his house, and he only had a wound in the neck, which healed in a few days. Giuliano, assailed by both Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini, fled into the choir, and in front of the chapel of the Cross received ten or twelve such blows that he fell to the ground dead; they also gave two blows to Francesco Nori, who was beside Giuliano, and killed him. Then arose a great tumult in the church. Messer Bongianni and the other cavaliers with whom I was talking were all stupefied; one fled here, the other there, loud shouts filled the church, and one saw arms in the hands of the adherents of the Pazzi, who made common373 cause with them. The Cardinal remained all alone by the side of the altar until he was conducted by the priests into the old sacristy, whence he was fetched away by two of the Eight, with a strong guard, and taken to the Palazzo de’ Priori. During the time all this was happening, the Archbishop of Pisa had gone to the Palazzo under pretence of visiting the Signoria, and hearing the tumult he tried to seize the palace. With him were Jacopo his brother, Jacopo di Jacopo Salviati, Jacopo di Messer Poggio, Perugini and others. The Signori and their guards defended themselves and rang the great bell to call the people to arms, and the citizens rushed into the Piazza and forced open the door of the palace, which had been bolted on the inside, and took them all. The instigators of all this are said to have been Francesco de’ Pazzi and the Archbishop of Pisa, together with Count Girolamo, the Pope’s nephew, and Messer Jacopo de’ Pazzi. The latter was in Sta. Maria del Fiori in the morning with armed followers, and as soon as the deed was done he returned home, and with some of his nephews and friends went into the Piazza shouting ‘Liberty.’ When he came to the door of the palace he was warned by those on the battlements to withdraw, or stones would be hurled on him. Seeing that the palace had not been taken, he returned straight to his house, and with his followers mounted on horseback rode to the gate of Sta. Croce. Taking the keys from the citizen who kept them, he opened the gate and set his people as guards, and then again returned to his house, where he remained for about two hours. Finding the city was quiet, and that all the armed popolani were either at Lorenzo’s house or in the Piazza, he decided to depart, and left by that same gate with nigh two hundred men. On the same day the Signoria hung from the windows of the palace the Archbishop of Pisa, Jacopo di Messer Poggio, and others of good birth, such as Jacopo, Jacopo Salviati, and several of his friends, and the servants of the Cardinal, who had gone with him374 to the palace. They also hung Francesco d’Antonio de’ Pazzi, who was taken in his own house. On Tuesday Messere Jacopo and Renato de’ Pazzi were hung, and Ferugini and many others were killed in the palace at the foot of the staircase. About eighty were killed either in the Palazzo or in the Palazzo del Podestà....”

A great name is associated with this old Florentine palace—that of Savonarola. When in July, 1495, he preached a farewell sermon in the Duomo, in the presence of the Signoria and all the magistrates, he said: “I have preached to you four things, the fear of God, peace, the common weal, and the reform of Government, that is to say, the Great Council.... Accelerate the construction of the Hall of Council by every means in your power; take, if necessary, the workmen from the Duomo, for their labour will thus be more acceptable to God. Insist on this Council, ameliorate it, correct it and let it be the one hope, the one power of the people.” He preached to willing ears, for Francesco di Domenico, carpenter, and Simone del Pollaiuolo, had already been chosen by the Operai of the Palazzo as master-builders. Vasari, who afterwards re-arranged the great Sala de’ Cinquecento as we now see it, states that it having been determined “according to the desire of Fra Jeronimo Savonarola, then a famous preacher, to build the great Hall of Council in the Palazzo della Signoria of Florence, counsel was taken of Lionardo da Vinci, of Michelagnolo Buonarroti, though he was but a youth, of Giuliano da San Gallo, of Bacio d’Agnolo and of Simone del Pollaiuolo, surnamed Cronaca, a great friend and follower of Savonarola. After much dispute they collectively ordered the hall should be built as it remained until almost entirely remodelled in our day. The work was entrusted to Cronaca as a competent man, and moreover a friend of the said Fra Jeronimo; he did it with great celerity and diligence, showing especial cleverness in building the roof, for the edifice was375 immense....” After describing how Cronaca overcame all the difficulties, and praising him, Vasari condemns the hall as being “without light, and in comparison with its great length and breadth, dwarfed, and far too low, in short it is all out of proportion.” At first the work went slowly, but after Savonarola’s return from Rome, Cronaca displayed such zeal and energy that the hall was nearly finished early in 1496; indeed the building made such extraordinary progress that it was commonly said that angels had helped him.

The following year the Signori looked down from the windows of the old palace upon the bonfires, in the Piazza, of “vanities and obscenities,” as playing cards, masks and dominoes, drawings, pictures, illustrated books and the like, were called by the partisans of Savonarola, and on the 20th August he preached before the magistrates and principal citizens in the great hall. But a few years later the friar was a prisoner in the old palace, confined in the small, dark Alberghettino where Cosimo de’ Medici had passed so many anxious weeks. On the evening of Sunday, the 8th April, 1498, he was arrested by order of the Signoria, and with his faithful Fra Domenico passed through the surging mob which once hung upon his words and now insulted, taunted and even struck him. Fra Silvestro had hidden himself when the convent was attacked and was only taken prisoner next day. In the great hall, built but a few years before by Savonarola’s advice, a few lines of the accusations against him were read in his absence, the chancellor of the “Otto” declaring to the people that he had refused to appear because he was afraid of being stoned. On the 22nd May the Apostolic Commissaries decided the fate of Fra Girolamo and his followers. Only one man, Agnolo Niccolini, raised a warning voice. “This man,” he exclaimed, “could not only give faith anew to the world, in case it died out, but also science. Keep him in prison if you will; but let him376 live and give him leave to write, so that the world may not lose the fruits of his genius.”

In the great hall the three friars met once more after forty days of rigorous imprisonment and horrible torture, and next morning Savonarola was allowed to say mass in the chapel and to communicate himself and his two companions before going to the stake. In the eloquent pages of Pasquale Villari’s Life of Savonarola the reader has this episode, but it must be added that the “pious women” mentioned by Luca Landucci in his Diary still have many imitators, for every year in the Piazza della Signoria there is a fiorita on the 23rd May in memory of the great friar; rose leaves are scattered, and garlands are laid, upon the place of his martyrdom, and many a poor woman kneels in prayer.

When Michelangelo’s statue of David was finished the question arose where to place it. Giuliano da San Gallo declared that “seeing the imperfections in the marble, being friable and corroded, and having been much rained upon, I do not think that it will be durable; it should therefore be put under the Loggia de’ Signori in the middle arch of the said Loggia, or under the centre of the vaulted roof so that one may walk round it; or on one side in the centre of the wall with a black niche behind it in the shape of a hood; for if it is exposed to the rain it will suffer. It ought to be covered.” Others, like Maestro Francesco, herald of the Signoria, wanted the statue to be in the open. “I have turned over in my mind,” he writes, “what my judgment suggests to me. There are two places where such a statue will do well; the first is where stands the Judith; the second is in the centre of the courtyard of the palace, in the place of the first David;109 for the Judith is a deadly emblem and not a good thing, as we have the X for our emblem and the Lily. It is not fitting that the woman should kill the man; also she377 was set up under an evil constellation, for ever since we have gone from bad to worse and have lost Pisa. Then the David in the courtyard is not a perfect figure because his leg lacks symmetry. Therefore I advise putting the statue in one of these two places, but by preference where stands the Judith.” Michelangelo was of the same opinion, so his Giant, as the people called it, was set up on the ringhiera by the entrance door of the Palazzo Vecchio, and Donatello’s statue was moved to the arch of the Loggia facing the Piazza, where now stands the Rape of the Sabines. The Judith had been placed on the ringhiera in 1494 when Piero de’ Medici was driven out of Florence and his possessions, amongst them the statue, confiscated, not so much as an ornament as to warn the people to maintain their liberty and to kill tyrants, as is proved by the inscription on the pediment: Exemplum Sal. Pub. Cives posuere. MCCCCXCV.

During the riots which ended in the Medici being again exiled, a large stone fell from the balustrade of the alur of the palace upon an arm of Michelangelo’s statue and broke it into three pieces. For several days the fragments lay on the pavement, until two lads, Giorgio Vasari and Francesco Salviati, picked them up and took them to Salviati’s father, who sixteen years afterwards gave them to the Duke Cosimo I. In a letter from a certain Riccio, of 7th November, 1543, we find that “the people pass their time in watching the building of a scaffolding round the giant David. It is put up for the mending of his poor arm, but many think that his face is to be washed.” In 1875 the statue, which showed signs of deterioration was, after much consideration, removed to the Gallery of the Belle Arte, where it now is. Michelangelo was to have made a companion giant for the other side of the door of the Palazzo Vecchio—Hercules slaying Cacus; but Clement VII. was persuaded to give the block of marble378 to Baccio Bandinelli, with what result we see at the present day. That madcap, egoistical, highly-gifted artist, Benvenuto Cellini, thus described the statue to Duke Cosimo in the presence of Bandinelli, to whom he said: “You must know that it pains me to point out the faults of your statue; I shall not, however, utter my own sentiments, but shall recapitulate what our most virtuous school of Florence says about it.... Well then, this virtuous school says that if one were to shave the hair of your Hercules, there would not be skull enough left to hold his brain; it says that it is impossible to distinguish whether his features are those of a man or of something between a lion and an ox; the face too is turned away from the action of the figure, and is so badly set upon the neck, with such poverty of art and so ill a grace, that nothing worse was ever seen; his sprawling shoulders are like two pommels of an ass’s pack-saddle; his breasts and all the muscles of the body are not portrayed from a man, but from a big sack full of melons set upright against a wall. The lions seem to be modelled from a bag of lanky pumpkins; nobody can tell how his two legs are attached to that vile trunk; it is impossible to say on which leg he stands, or which he uses to exert his strength; nor does he seem to be resting upon both, as sculptors who know something of their art have occasionally set the figure. It is obvious that the body is leaning forward more than one-third of a cubit, which alone is the greatest and most insupportable fault committed by vulgar commonplace pretenders. Concerning the arms, they say that these are both stretched out without one touch of grace or one real spark of artistic talent just as if you had never seen a naked model. Again, the right leg of Hercules and that of Cacus have got one mass of flesh between them, so that if they were to be separated, not only one of them, but both together, would be left without a calf at the point where they are touching.379 They say, too, that Hercules has one of his feet underground, while the other seems to be resting on hot coals.”110 On either side, nearer the door, were placed two terminal statues, which are still there; one by Bandinelli is intended to represent the power and magnanimity of Tuscany, the other, a woman about to change into a laurel, by Vincenzio de’ Rossi, the grace and intellect Tuscany has shown in the arts. They are commonly called Philomen and Baucis.

When Piero Soderini was elected Gonfalonier for life in 1502, Landucci notes in his Diary, “For the first time the wife of the Gonfalonier, by name Madonna Argentina, went to live in the Palazzo de’ Signori. It seemed odd indeed to see women abiding in the palace.” Large sums were spent in decorations, and Soderini determined that Leonardo da Vinci should paint the great Hall of Council. It seems certain that Leonardo devoted two years to this work, the beauty of which is minutely described by Vasari, who says he abandoned it because having attempted to paint on the wall in oils the colours ran. Michelangelo was then deputed to paint one side of the hall, and his cartoon excited extraordinary enthusiasm and admiration in all who beheld it. Vasari accuses Baccio Bandinelli of tearing the magnificent drawing to pieces during the riots of 1512, when the Gonfalonier Soderini was deposed and the Medici returned to power.

Giuliano de’ Medici entered Florence first, he dismounted at the Albizzi palace, as the family palace in the Via Larga had been sacked when the Medici were driven out. There he waited until joined by the Cardinal Giovanni, when they went to the Palazzo de’ Signori and established themselves there as masters. The great bell was rung to summon the people to a parliament, and at sundown on the 16th September the Signoria assembled on the ringhiera380 and read the new laws to the people. Landucci notes in his Diary that “on the 2nd October the Medici caused their arms to be re-painted on their palace, on the Annunziata and in many other places, they also caused the effigy of the Gonfalonier to be removed out of the S.S. Annunziata.111

Not content with abolishing the Great Council and the Ten of Balìa, and nominating their own people to all important posts, the Cardinal and Giuliano de’ Medici installed a strong guard of Spanish soldiers in the old palace, and to lodge them the noble hall of the Five Hundred was ruined. “At this time it pleased the new government,” writes Landucci, “to destroy the woodwork of the hall of the Great Council, besides many other beautiful things, which had been made at enormous outlay. Rooms were built for the soldiers, and a new entrance was made, which things were lamented by all Florence; not the change of government, but the loss of that beautiful woodwork which had cost so much. It had been a great glory and honour for the city to have such a splendid residence. When ambassadors came to visit the Signoria all who entered were astounded when they saw such a magnificent palace and such a multitude of citizens in council.” It must however be said that a hoarding was erected in front of the painting by Leonardo da Vinci when the hall was turned into381 barracks, so that it might not be spoiled. Seventeen years later the Medici were again driven out, and again there was a “tumult” in the Palazzo de’ Signori. In a very long letter112 from that most excellent of men old Jacopo Nardi to Benedetto Varchi, who was writing his famous history, he describes the scenes at which he, as Gonfalonier of one of the quarters of the town, assisted. After stating the difficulty he had to reach the palace, he goes on: “I found a great multitude in council, without order or head, uncertain what to demand or what to desire, so that they did nought but shout, etc., as though that constituted a victory. Meanwhile the Signori were conducted, almost by force, to their usual seats, jam redacti in ordinem, with no more reverence than if they had been private persons. The Gonfalonier did not lose his head, but asked in a loud voice what they wanted, saying we had met to carry out their wishes, if they expressed them quietly and without violence. But the Compagnie, who were always arriving and entering the Council Hall, did not see what was being done and by their shouts increased the tumult; so that the Signori were not heard, nor the Gonfalonier, who declared that he was ready to propose anything, etc., and above their heads were a hundred swords and halberds. I advanced with due obeisance to the Signoria and addressed the young men, repeating in a loud voice what the Gonfalonier had proposed for their satisfaction, reproving those I knew and entreating those who were unknown to me. So at last some resolutions were put and carried with shouts by those around, one by one as they were convinced, and they were inscribed by Giuliano da Ripa, who was brought up almost by sheer force, for no other notary could be found in the palace. The resolutions carried were: that all those who had been condemned, exiled, banished (to other towns or to their villas), or imprisoned382 for political offences, should be pardoned and liberated; that the government should be what it was in the time of Piero Soderini, before 1512; that the great bell should again be rung for parliaments; and that the exile of the Medici be proclaimed to the sound of trumpets. I do not recollect the order in which these were voted on account of the confusion and the violence of certain youths, which was so great that, whilst I was in front of the Signoria, a blow was aimed at the Gonfalonier; the flat of the sword hit him on the shoulder near the neck, but not severely, and I put my handkerchief to his neck, fearing it would bleed.”

After the departure of the Cardinal of Cortona with Ippolito and Alessandro de’ Medici the great hall of the Five Hundred was cleared of the barracks erected for the Spanish soldiers and restored to its proper use. Niccolò Capponi, head of the ottimati party, was elected Gonfalonier of Justice and began to treat with the Pope to gain time, which incensed the popolani, or popular party, who were already angry because he showed such reverence for the memory of Savonarola. “At this time,” writes Varchi, “the Gonfalonier, either persuaded by the friars of S. Marco, with whom he consorted, or more probably to gain the party of the friars, which was considerable and of no small reputation, favoured and seconded as much as he could all that Fra Girolamo had instituted, so that he was blamed and scoffed at by many. Amongst other things he repeated almost word for word a sermon of the friar’s, in which he first predicted much evil, and afterwards much good, to the city of Florence, and at the end he threw himself on his knees and crying out misericordia in a loud voice, persuaded the whole council to repeat misericordia. Not content with this he proposed in the Great Council that Christ should be accepted as the especial King of Florence. There were twenty dissentients, and thinking that no one would ever obliterate it, Capponi had383 the following inscription placed above the door of the palace—


The curious thing is that Segni gives two other different inscriptions and that none of the three coincide with the one still over the door—


with the monogram Y.H.S. in the centre of a star above.

The old palace saw stormy scenes in 1529 when Niccolò Capponi was deposed and Francesco Carducci, a leader of the Arrabiati or ultra democratic party, was elected Gonfalonier. Florence, that “most republican of all Republics,” stood alone facing the united forces of the Pope and of Charles V. After a hopeless struggle, which lasted two years, the Signoria met in the Hall of the Two Hundred to hear the death warrant of Florentine liberty. Duke Alessandro entered in state, and then the envoy of Charles V. and the Pope’s Nuncio took their seats on either side of the Gonfalonier, the Priors and other magistrates sitting below them. The envoy preached a homily on the sins of the Republic and the graciousness and goodness of the Pope and the Emperor, and then read the Brieve of Charles V. which all present swore to obey. Meanwhile the crowd in the Piazza below raised the well-known cry of Palle.Palle.Eviva i Medici.

Some months later a deputation waited on Alessandro to announce that a new form of government had been decided on, “abolishing for ever the rule of the magistrate created by the people to oppress the nobility, and decreeing that all power was to reside in the Duke and four of his noble councillors.” Segni, in his History, tells us that384 “Alessandro de’ Medici, accompanied by his councillors, one of whom was Filippo Strozzi, and his guard in state, attended a solemn mass in San Giovanni to give thanks to God for his Dukedom and for the new form of the Republic, and then went to the Palace. There the last Signoria, descending to the ringhiera (Giovanfrancesco de’ Nobili being the Gonfalonier, the last we had), gave him, what he already possessed, the rank of Lord and Duke and absolute Prince. And thus amid the shouts of Palle! Palle! and Duke! Duke! by the people and a salute of artillery and of fireworks which exploding all together made the whole air resound, he returned in great pomp to his house, triumphant over the murdered liberty of Florence.” As already mentioned he broke up the great bell of the Palazzo Vecchio, “no less good than beautiful,” writes Varchi, “which weighed 22,000 lbs. Some think for coining money, as it was said to have so much silver that it might serve as alloy for crazie, but this was not the case.” The Florentine merchant Davanzati records in his diary, “the bell of the Council was taken from us in order that we should no more hear the sweet sound of Liberty.”

After the murder of Duke Alessandro by his cousin Lorenzino de’ Medici in 1537, the son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere succeeded to the throne as Cosimo I. He inhabited the Medici palace in the Via Larga for five years and then took up his abode in the Palazzo de’ Signori, “where,” writes Gianbattista Adriani, “he caused the rooms which once had been those of the Priors and of the Gonfaloniers to be arranged in princely fashion ... and this he did to show that he was absolute Prince and sole head of the Government, and to disabuse those who pretended, as some had done, that the government of the city was a separate thing from that of the Medici family. Also, as it was necessary to have a guard in the Palace, the principal seat of the State, he judged it to be safer,385 less expensive, more dignified and more conducive to authority to live there.” The Duke evidently mistrusted his subjects and had German soldiers, Lanzknechte, as his guards. Their quarters were close to the Loggia de’ Signori, in which they lounged during the day and which ever since has been called the Loggia de’ Lanzi. Having established himself in the old palace Cosimo called in Tasso, an admirable carver in wood and a good architect,113 and ordered him to add to it by incorporating the two fine residences of the Captain and the Executor of Justice, and a large house with a courtyard where the lions were kept, which were then sent to S. Marco. These orders were only partially carried out as will be seen later on. Tasso superintended the works besides carving the windows, doors, ceilings and cornices, while Vasari, to whom the Duke took a fancy in 1550 when he presented him with a copy of his Lives of the Painters, began to paint the rooms. For the description of all he did I must refer my readers to his own delightful book, but no wonder he remarked, after he had raised the roof of the great Hall of the Five Hundred and, aided by his pupils, frescoed it all over, rebuilt the staircases, made two floors where originally there was but one, etc. etc., that Arnolfo, Michelozzo and others, who had worked at the palace from the beginning would not recognize it and would think it was not theirs, but a new marvel and another edifice. Vasari however omits to mention that he sacrilegiously destroyed the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Mr. Berenson has kindly called my attention to a letter written in 1549 by Anton Francesco Doni to Alberto Lollio who was going to visit Florence. Doni gives him excellent advice and after mentioning the “Giant” by Michelangelo at the door of Palazzo Vecchio, etc., he continues: “mount then the stairs to the great hall and carefully consider the group of horses and men (part of a battlepiece by Leonardo da Vinci), which you will386 see to be a miraculous thing.”114 So that Leonardo’s fresco was in existence when Vasari began to paint in the Palazzo Vecchio.

After the death of Tasso the whole work was confided to Vasari, whose task was rendered easier as the Court moved into the Palazzo Pitti. Bronzino was called in to decorate the Duchess’s former apartments on the second floor of the old palace. In the chapel he painted three episodes from the life of Moses and an altarpiece, which was considered so fine that the Duke sent it as a present to Granvela in Flanders, and another was painted by Bronzino, now in the Gallery of the Uffizi.

Among the rooms built by Vasari on the second floor is a large one which served as a guardaroba, with cupboards all round the walls. It bears the name of Sala del Mappamondo, from the paintings on the cupboard doors by Egnazio Danti, a Dominican friar. For eight years he worked at these curious geographical maps until, for some unknown reason, he fell into disgrace, when they were continued, but not finished, by another friar, Don Stefano Buonsignore. These fifty-three large maps are exceedingly interesting, and merit more attention than they generally receive.

For the marriage of Francesco de’ Medici to the Archduchess Joan of Austria the old palace was sumptuously decorated. Round the courtyard, in the centre of which Cosimo I. had already placed a basin of porphyry with Verrocchio’s exquisite little bronze boy throttling a dolphin, were painted views of the principal cities of Austria by pupils of Vasari in honour of the Princess. At the same time the columns were encrusted with garlands of fruit, flowers and leaves, upheld by “putti” and grotesque masks in stucco. But the greatest work Vasari did for this387 marriage was the corridor connecting the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. On the 12th March, 1565, Messer Tommaso de’ Medici signed a contract, in the Duke’s name, with the master-mason Bernardo d’Antonio, in which the latter promises to finish a corridor between the two palaces by September. He obliges himself “to build two arches, one above the street where is the Dogana to the wall of the church of S. Piero Scheraggio, the second above the said church; and another arch at the house of Signor Trajano Boba, servant of His Excellency; and along the Lung’Arno a corridor with arches and pilasters as far as the Ponte Vecchio, proceeding onwards above the shops and houses of the said bridge on the side looking towards the Ponte a Rubaconte, and round the tower of the house of Matteo Mannelli by means of brackets of stone. From this tower another arch, spanning the Via de’ Bardi, shall repose upon the tower of the Guelph party opposite the house of the Mannelli. The corridor is then to follow the small alley behind the houses facing the principal street, and pass above the steps of the church of Sta. Felicita, where is to be built a loggia. Thence the corridor, supported on pilasters along the whole length of the cloisters of the priests of Sta. Felicita, shall gradually descend to the level of the garden of the Pitti. The said corridor and its adjuncts are to be roofed in, the ceilings plastered, whitewashed and finished, according to the order, design and model, given from time to time by the magnificent and excellent Master Giorgio Vasari, painter and architect of the aforesaid most Illustrious Excellency. The said Messer Tommaso declaring that he binds himself to remove any and every difficulty that may be thrown in the way of the said Master Bernardo, especially by the various owners of the houses, above or by the side of which this corridor is to be built.”115

Agostino Lapini records in his diary that the foundations388 of the first pilaster of the corridor were laid on the 19th March, 1565, and that it was entirely finished by the end of November, and six years later shops were built [along the Lung’Arno] in the arches. The passage between the two galleries was only thrown open to the public in 1866; and eighteen years later, on the proposal of Prince Corsini, then Syndic of Florence, the shops under the corridor in the Via degl’Archibusieri were swept away, to the great convenience of foot-passengers and the improvement of the view.

In 1569 the ambition of Cosimo I. was gratified. Pope Pius V. bestowed upon him and his heirs the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany, and on the 13th December Don Michele Bonelli, the Pope’s nephew, presented the Papal Bull to him in the Hall of the Five Hundred in the presence of his sons, the Papal Nuncio, the ambassadors of Ferrara and Lucca, the Senate of the Forty-eight, the magistrates of the city, the knights of S. Stefano, the nobles, and the representatives of the people. A many-rayed regal crown, with a red lily, the ancient emblem of Florence, in the centre, as ordered by the Pope, was placed above the Medici arms all over the city, and Cosimo’s subjects were informed that henceforth he was to be addressed as “Highness.” Like all his race, he loved festivities and splendour, and in carnival time the old hall in the Palazzo Vecchio was the scene of many banquets to the fair ladies of Florence, followed by recitations and plays with elaborate scenic effects. After Cosimo’s marriage with Camilla Martelli he withdrew almost entirely from public life, and his son Francesco lived in the Palazzo Vecchio until he succeeded to the throne.

We hear little about the palace until it was once more decorated and embellished by Poccetti for the wedding of the Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici, who left the Church to ascend the throne and marry Christine of Lorraine. He added considerably to the palace on the eastern side,389 “where,” writes an old chronicler, “from the great door made by Tasso, carpenter and architect, as far as the corner of the said palace which is opposite to Borgo de’ Greci where one turns to go into the Piazza, there was an old and ugly curtain wall, eight or ten braccie high, so that the rooms of the palace near the said door were exposed to the view of all who passed by, and one saw balconies, terraces, little gardens and such-like. And between the said rooms and the curtain wall we have just mentioned, was a large vacant space full of rubbish, where in the time of the Signoria the lions had been kept.... Seeing all this ugliness, the Cardinal decided that the palace should have a fine and lordly façade behind as it had in front, that the number of rooms should be increased, another courtyard be made, and many other conveniences. Bernardo Buontalenti was ordered to make a design, and the work was at once begun. In a few years the handsome and rich façade we now see was finished, all of hewn stone and ‘bozzi,’ in the rustic style. It has a grand air, and contains many fine rooms, and a courtyard in the centre.”

In those days great sculptors worked even in sugar for their patrons, as when Maria de’ Medici was married by proxy to Henry IV. of France in 1600, Giovanni da Bologna modelled various figures and statues in confectionery and in sugar, which were moved by hidden mechanism. Among them was an effigy of the King of France, mounted on a charger which trotted down the table in front of the Queen. He also arranged a huge fleur-de-lis, built up of an infinite number of gold and silver cups and goblets, statues of gold and silver, vases of rock crystal, and ornaments inlaid with precious stones, in the Sala of Leo X. in the Palazzo Vecchio.

The marriage of Cosimo de’ Medici, son of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I., with the Archduchess Maria Maddalena of Austria, was celebrated with extraordinary pomp in 1607. A great banquet was given in the Hall of the390 Five Hundred to the Florentine nobility, of which an anonymous eyewitness has left a long description. Two hundred and forty ladies sat opposite the Princes, as “being more fair to look upon than men,” and after dinner appeared a Venus’ shell gliding forward on sham waves, which bore Zephyr, the messenger of the goddess who, stopping in front of the bride, offered her all his mistress could give. Then came the chariot of Venus drawn by black sparrows in which sat Love, who declared all he had was hers. On the raising of a curtain at the end of the hall, angels floating among clouds were seen, who chanted:

“E sol risuona,
E Maddalena intuona
La valle, il colle, il monte, il prato il bosco
Di questo lido Tosco,
E’l Ciel, l’Aria, e la Terra e l’Onda piena
Cosmo, Cosmo risponde, e Maddalena.”

After this the Princes retired by the corridor to the Palazzo Pitti, the Archduchess graciously inviting the ladies present to follow her as far as the gallery, where a long row of tables were laden with delicate sugarplums and confectionery. What they could not eat or carry away was seized by the populace which streamed in; the Princes watched with great amusement the demolition of all that rare food, and then withdrew to their rooms.

Cosimo II. and his Austrian wife only used the old palace occasionally for receptions and banquets. Their son, that morose bigot Cosimo III., when he lost all hope of seeing any descendants from his two sons, proclaimed his daughter Anna Maria Luisa, married to the Elector Palatine, heiress to the throne in the great hall. His proclamation was, however, futile, and in 1723 his son Giovan Gastone solemnly received the Infante Don Carlos at the door of the Palazzo Vecchio as heir to the throne. Austria, however, interfered, and Francesco of Lorraine was proclaimed as future Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1737 his representative received the oath of allegiance, and two391 years later the Grand Duke visited Florence, and splendid festivities were given in his honour. But the Florentines were very sore at his departure for Vienna after a short visit, and still sorer at the invasion of Lorrainers and Austrians, who filled so many of the Government posts. In 1745 Francesco II. became Emperor of Austria, and his second son Pietro Leopoldo succeeded to the Grand Duchy. Zoby, in his History of Tuscany, describes how the Senate of the Forty-eight, the Council of the Two Hundred and the principal magistrates of Florence, assembled in the great hall of the Palazzo Vecchio, where a throne had been placed for the Grand Duke. The late Emperor’s will, leaving Tuscany to his second son, was read aloud, and at the same time the renunciation by the Emperor Joseph to any claims thereon. But Joseph died, and once more a Tuscan Grand Duke became Emperor of Austria, to the sorrow of his Italian subjects, who had learned to appreciate Pietro Leopoldo at his proper value. His second son, Ferdinando, became Grand Duke, and in 1791 a fair was held in the Piazza, the Loggia de’ Lanzi was turned into a garden illuminated with many lamps, and a magnificent pavilion was erected in front of the old palace for the Court. Eight years later Ferdinando III. with his wife and four children were driven out of Florence by General Gaulthier in the name Of the Directoire. A Tree of Liberty was set up in the middle of the Piazza della Signoria, newly christened della Libertà, and the French flag was hoisted on the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio. Giovanni da Bologna’s fine statue of Cosimo III. was about to be destroyed and melted down for the benefit of the poor, but was saved by the presence of mind of the President of the Buon Governo and of the advocate Paolini, who remonstrated with the mob, which had already tied ropes round the horse to pull it down, saying that it was a pity to destroy the effigy of despotism which now witnessed the restoration of liberty in Florence. The Marquess Gino Capponi gives392 a vivid account of the behaviour of the French soldiers in his Ricordi. He saw them depart, and was in the Piazza when, after months of silence, the great bell once more rang out at midday and all present sank on their knees at the beloved sound.

The old palace saw one ruler after another pass through its great hall like puppets. Ferdinando III. returned for some months, but was soon driven out again by the French. Then Tuscany for a few years became the Kingdom of Etruria, only to be merged in the French Empire in 1808, and the following year Napoleon I. again created a Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and gave it to his sister Elise Baciocchi, who was already Duchess of Lucca and Princess of Piombino.

The roof of the Palazzo Vecchio had for some time been in a bad state, and the municipal architect, G. del Rosso, was charged to survey the whole building. In 1809 the work began. The reservoir for rain water made by Michelozzi had become useless, and was only an additional weight on the columns of the courtyard, so it was done away with, the cornice was renewed, and windows, which had been arbitrarily pierced here and there, were closed and the ancient ones restored. Del Rosso was forced to whitewash the walls of the courtyard, decorated with the golden lilies of Anjou on a blue ground—an emblem utterly distasteful to the new ruler. The stucco ornaments of the columns, and the frescoes in the vaults and round the courtyard had suffered terribly, and were carefully renovated, but those of the Austrian towns are now once more almost invisible. In order to avoid the incessant passage of the soldiers through the courtyard to their guardroom, del Rosso was ordered to make an entrance from the outside, and this necessitated the destruction of the old ringhiera, so intimately connected with the history of Florence. Part of it had already disappeared when Ammannati set up his huge, ugly fountain at the northern393 angle—il Biancone the Florentines call it—still it was with unwilling hands that del Rosso levelled what remained and made the platform, the steps and the door immediately under the balcony. The ancient Marzocco, which had lost all semblance of a lion, was removed, and on its beautiful base was put the one by Donatello (replaced by a copy in 1885). It was at this time that the Alberghettino was discovered in the tower.

With the fall of Napoleon ended the rule of his sister Elise, and the Grand Duke Ferdinando III. once more returned to Tuscany. He was succeeded in 1824 by his son Leopoldo II., under whose reign the lovely tower of the old palace was restored to its pristine beauty by having the plaster and whitewash, with which it had been bedaubed a century before, removed. The architect, Giuseppe Martelli, also took down one of the supporting corbels of the tower, which being of friable sandstone was breaking away under the great weight of 67,908 chilogrammes which rested on it. It was replaced by one of hard stone, and at the same time the arms of the Florentine Republic round the top of the palace were freed from whitewash and restored.

On the 17th February, 1848, the Grand Duke Leopoldo II. inaugurated the first parliament of constitutional government in the Hall of the Five Hundred. But one ministry after another fell, and the following year the Grand Duke abandoned Tuscany. A provisional government abolished the Senate and the Council in favour of an assembly of representatives of the people, elected by universal suffrage. There was fighting in the streets of Florence and the friends of Austria were scheming to bring back Leopoldo II., so in April, 1849, a Commission, amongst whom were Bettino Ricasoli and Gino Capponi, was named, which not only met in the Palazzo Vecchio to conduct the government of the country, but lived there as the Republican Signoria had done in former times. A month later the394 Austrians entered Florence and the Grand Duke’s representative took up his abode in the old palace, in front of which was placed an iron railing where once was the ringhiera, behind which Austrian sentinels paced backwards and forwards.

On the morning of the 27th April, 1859, Florence awoke to the cry of Viva l’Italia and the same evening the Grand Ducal family once more took the well-known road to Vienna, while the tricolour flag was hoisted on the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio amid the exultant shouts of the crowd below. Four months later, in the Hall of the Five Hundred, Baron Ricasoli, a descendant of the Bettino Ricasoli who in the middle of the XIVth century locked the door and sat upon the keys until his party had won the day, ended his speech with these words: “Let us remember that while in this hall, which has not echoed to the voice of liberty for three centuries, we are dealing with the affairs of Tuscany, our thoughts must be turned to Italy;” and one by one the deputies passed in front of the provisional ministry, and dropped into the urn their votes for the union of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emanuel.

1860 awoke to the sound of the big bell of the Palazzo Vecchio calling the people to a plebiscite. The result was proclaimed from the platform, which had replaced the ancient ringhiera, to the crowd which had waited for hours in the Piazza, as 366,571 ayes, out of 386,445 voters. H.H. Prince Eugenio of Savoia Carignano, the King’s cousin, was named Viceroy of Tuscany and Baron Bettino Ricasoli Governor, with his official residence in the Palazzo Vecchio. Five years later, when Florence was for a few years the capital of United Italy, the old palace became the seat of the parliament and was sadly pulled about. The great Hall of the Five Hundred was arranged as a House of Parliament, doors were opened to give free access to the various offices, and room had also to be found for the395 Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The architect Falconieri was vehemently attacked and defended himself in a pamphlet, declaring that he had done his utmost to respect all that was beautiful, and at all events had finished that part of the palace in the Via de’ Leone which had been left so long uncompleted.

In 1866 Baron Ricasoli announced in the great hall that Victor Emanuel had declared war on Austria, and four years later the King himself, amid delirious enthusiasm, stated that his soldiers had entered Rome. With this the story of the Palazzo Vecchio comes to an end. It is now the seat of the municipality of Florence, and it only remains for me to acknowledge the help I have derived from Signor Aurelio Gotti’s book Storia del Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze.

* * * * *

Arms of the Republic of Florence under the machicolations of the Palazzo Vecchio.

A white Lily on a red field; the ancient arms of the city.

A red and white Shield divided lengthways; signifying the union of Florence and Fiesole.

A red Lily on a white field; the arms of the city, 1251.

A blue Shield with the word Libertas in gold letters; the arms of the Priors of Liberty.

A red Cross on a white field; the arms of the People.

Two golden Keys on an azure (or white) field, placed crossways; the arms of the Church.

A red Eagle standing on a green Dragon in a white field, a small golden Lily on the head of the eagle; the arms of the Guelph party. (Really the arms of Clement III., who bestowed them on the Guelphs in 1365.)

Golden Lilies on an azure field with a golden Bar (rastrello) at top; the arms of Charles of Anjou.

A shield divided lengthways to the left, golden Lilies396 on an azure field to the right, red Stripes on a field or; the arms of King Robert of Naples.

Under the machicolations of the tower are painted the arms and emblems of the various quarters of the city. On the southern side are the arms of S. Spirito, a white Dove with golden rays in her beak on an azure field: the gonfaloni, or banners, of the quarter of S. Spirito bear a Ladder on a red field; five Shells on a blue field; a green Dragon on a red field; a five-thonged Whip on a blue field. On the eastern side are the arms of S. Croce, a golden Cross on a blue field: the gonfaloni have a silver shield with a red Cross on a black field with broad silver rings round it; a Cartwheel on a blue field; a Lion on a white field. To the west are the arms of S. Maria Novella, a golden Sun with rays on an azure field: the gonfaloni bear a white Lion on a blue field; a blue Viper on a gold field; an Unicorn on a blue field; a red Lion on a white field. S. Giovanni, to the north, has its own Temple with a suspended Key on either side on a blue field: the gonfaloni bear two red Keys on a field or; a shield, the upper half red and the lower of ermine, on a white field; a golden Lion on a blue field; a green Dragon on a field or. Some of these are almost entirely obliterated.

This palace, built by Ammannati for the great family of the Pazzi, whose dolphins are still above the doorway, is one of the literary landmarks of Florence. In the beginning of the XVIIIth century it was the fashion for the beaux esprits of the town to meet together at a chemist’s or a bookseller’s shop, or now and then at each other’s397 houses. Giovanni Pazzi, a studious, cultured man, was generally to be found in his library at the very top of his palace, in what remained of one of the ancient towers of his family. Here his friends would meet in the evening and they jokingly called his abode la Colombaia (the dovecot) from its height, and himself il Torraiolo (the tower pigeon). A society was formed in May, 1735, and each member chose a nickname which had some reference to a pigeon; their emblem was a tower with the motto from Dante, Quanto veder si puo, and their seal an old intaglio representing two doves feeding each other, to which was added the words, Mutius Officiis. S. C. The Società Colombaia still meets and reads learned papers in Via de’ Bardi.

Vincenzio Viviani, the disciple and friend of Galileo, rebuilt his house with the pension granted to him by Louis XIV. of France, after the design of his pupil and friend, G. B. Nelli. Fontanelle writes in his Eloge: “Viviani called his house Aedes a Deo datae, an apt allusion to the name bestowed on the monarch,116 and to the origin of the building.... Galileo has not been forgotten, for his bust is over the door and the story of his life is told in certain inscriptions on either side.” From these huge scrolls the palace is commonly called the Palazzo de’ Cartellone. Viviani was with Galileo during the last three years of his life, and by his tender friendship in part consoled the blind, infirm man for the loss of his daughter Maria. Named Court Mathematician by Ferdinando II., he had much to do with regulating the course of the rivers in398 Tuscany, and was greatly looked up to and respected. He died in 1703, aged 81, leaving his real estate to his nephew the Abbé Jacopo Panzanini for life, and then to G. B. Nelli. All the personal estate was left to his nephew save the library of printed books, which were to go to the hospital of Sta. Maria Nuova. After the death of the Abbé Panzanini, Vivian’s manuscripts, amongst which were many of Galileo which he had bought from his natural son, and of Torricelli, were for a time religiously preserved by his heirs, but at last the contents of the cupboards were stowed away in the granary, and the servants began to sell them for waste paper. Senator Nelli heard of it and bought what remained from the various shop-keepers and from the Panzanini.

To English people the palace is interesting, as when Milton came to Florence he stayed here as the guest of Viviani.

Giuliano da San Gallo built this palace for himself and his brother in 1490, while he was engaged in designing the Villa of Poggio a Cajano. Lorenzo the Magnificent ordered him to construct a large hall, the ceiling of which was to be one huge arched vault, so Giuliano tried the experiment on rather a smaller scale in his own house. The result can be seen in a noble room on the second floor. The palace, bought by the great Portuguese family Ximenes d’Aragona, was considerably enlarged by Gherardo Silvani in 1603; the large entrance hall and the courtyard with a fine loggia leading into the garden were probably built by him. In 1769 the daughter of the last399 of the Ximenes d’Aragona married the Marquess Niccolò Panciatichi. After her father’s death the palace was let to General Miot, French Minister at the Court of Tuscany, whose guest Napoleon Bonaparte was for two days in 1796. Lord Burgersh lived here when British Minister at Florence, and his entertainments were the talk of the town, as he turned the large courtyard into a ball-room by covering it with a tent. The late Marquess Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona only left his family palace in Via Cavour for this one in 1850. Sixteen years later, in order to prolong the Via del Mandorlo, it was cut in two, but it is still one of the largest in Florence.



1 See Florentine Villas, Dent and Co., 1902.

2 Le Bellezze della Città di Fiorenza. Scritte da M. Francesco Bocchi In Fiorenza. MDXCI.

3 Opere Volgare di Leon Battista Alberti. Anicio Bonucci. Firenze. 1843.

4 See Preface to Opere Volgare di L. B. Alberti. A. Bonucci.

5 Manuale di Letteratura Italiana. Compilato dai Professori Alessandro d’Ancona e Orazio Bacci. Vol. ii p. 75. Firenze. G. Barbèra. 1904.

6 This is not the place to enter more fully into the subject; the reader can consult J. A. Symonds’ Renaissance in Italy; the Manuale quoted above; G. S. Scipioni, L. B. Alberti e A. Pandolfini; V. Cortesi, mentioned in the text; G. Mancini, Vita di L. B. Alberti; the Arch. Stor. Ital. serie iv. xix; A. Bonucci, Opere Volgare di L. B. Alberti; and many others.

7 Renaissance in Italy. J. A. Symonds. Vol. ii, p. 247. Smith Elder and Co. 1897.

8 See Paradiso degl’Alberti Edito da A. Wesselofsky. Bologna. 1867.

9 Marietta de’ Ricci. Di A. Ademollo. Con correzione e aggiunte di Luigi Passerini. Vol. ii, p. 697. Firenze. 1845.

10 Istoria di Firenze. Di Goro Dati. Dall’anno MCCCLXXX all’anno MCCCCV. con Annotazione. In Firenze MDCCXXXV. Nella Stamperia di Giuseppe Marmi.

11 This gate, which was on the bank of the river, was destroyed in 1860. At the same time foundations of massive stone walls were discovered, and the ancient pavement of the city was found far below the present level.

12 Storie Fiorentine di Messer Bernardo Segni. Dall’Anno MDXXVII al MDLV. In Augusta. MDCCXXIII.

13 Genealogia e Storia della Famiglia Altoviti. Luigi Passerini. Firenze. 1871.

14 See Storia Politica dei Municipii Italiani. Paolo Emiliani-Giudicci. Firenze. 1851.

15 Now in the collection of Mrs. Gardiner, Fenway Court, Boston.

16 De Ingressu Antonnii Altovitae Archiepiscopi Florentini, Historico Descripto Incerti Auctoris. Dominicus Morenius. Florentiae. MDCCCXV.

17 Domenico Passignani, Matteo Rosselli, Ottavio Vannini, Giovanni da San Giovanni, Fabbrizio Boschi, Michelangelo Cinagelli, Niccodemo Ferrucci, Andrea del Bello, Michele Buffini, Ton Guerricci, Filippo Tarchiani, Cosimo Milanesi and Stefano da Quinto.

18 See Memorie del Calcio Florentino. Tratte da diverse Scritture e dedicate all’Altezze Serenissime di Ferdinando, Principe di Toscana e Violante Beatrice di Baviera. Firenze. 1688.

19 Marietta de’ Ricci. A. Ademollo. 2A edizione con correzione e aggiunte per cura di Luigi Passerini. Vol. iv. p. 1303. Firenze. 1845.

20 For an account of the Marquess F. Bartolommei and the bloodless Florentine revolution, see Il Rivolgimento Toscano e l’Azione Popolare, by his daughter Signora Matilda Gioli. Firenze. 1905.

21 Marietta de’ Ricci, di A. Ademollo. 2A edizione con correzzioni e aggiunte per cura di Luigi Passerini. Vol. v., p. 1850. Firenze. 1845.

22 Vasari erroneously says, from the Life of Alexander the Great, Pippo Spano, or to give him his proper name, Filippo Scolari, was related to the Buondelmonti (see p. 54). King Sigismund of Hungary discovered the extraordinary military genius of the Tuscan merchant, and made him Captain-General of his army. He beat the Turks in twenty pitched battles, and died in 1426. His tomb existed in the royal mausoleum at Albareale until destroyed by the Turks in 1543.

23 See Bulletino dell’Associazione per la Difesa di Firenze. Antica. 4a Fascicolo, 1904.

24 Don Antonio de’ Medici al Casino di San Marco and Il Casino di San Marco. P. F. Covoni, 1892.

25 Commentarj di Gino Capponi dell’Acquisto ovvero Presa di Pisa. Vol. 18, Script. Rer. Ital.

26 Istoria delle Famiglie Fiorentine. Scritta nell’anno. 1607 da Piero di Giovanni Monaldi Cittadino Fiorentino. Tomo Unico. Al Sermo: Ferdinando Gran Duca di Toscana, con l’aggiunta di Monsre. Sommai, sino all’anno 1620.

27 Raccolta Delle Migliori Fabbriche Antiche e Moderne di Firenze. Disegnate e Descritte da R. ed E. Mazzanti e T. del Lungo. Architetti. Firenze. G. Ferroni, 1876.

28 Vasari calls him Francesco Tornabuoni. For a full account of the much vexed question of this monument see Verrocchio. M. Cruttwell, Duckworth & Co., London, 1904.

29 Vasari, Vol. III., p. 266 note; and Manni. Sigilli, xviii., 131.

30 See Archivio Storico Italiano, Serie V., Tom. VI. Giovanna Tornabuoni e Ginevra de’ Benci. Dispensa 6a del 1890, p. 432.

31 Now a villa, belonging to Mr. Cannon.

32 Lasca. Rime, Vol. I., p. 113.

33 Le Bellezze della Città de Firenze. Cinelli, 1677.

34 Genealogia e Storia della famiglia Ricasoli. Luigi Passerini. Firenze, 1861.

35 The Life of Benvenuto Cellini, translated by John Addington Symonds, Vol. i, p. 113, 2nd edition. John C. Nimmo, London.

36 Marietta de Ricci. Opus cit.

37 See Miscellanea Florentina. Il Chiasso del Traditore, etc. Anno I, No. 12. 1886.

38 Celio Malespina, Part II. Novella 24.

39 For a full account of the Gondi family see Histoire Généalogique de la Maison de Gondi, par M. de Corbinelli, a Paris chez Jean-Baptiste Coignard, Rue St. Jaques, MDCCV. 2 Vols.

40 See Raccolta delle Migliori Fabbriche Antiche e Moderne di Firenze. Disegnate e Descritte da R. ed E. Mazzanti e T. del Lungo. Architetti. Firenze. G. Ferroni, 1876.

41 Genealogia e Storia della Famiglia Guadagni. L. Passerini. Firenze, 1873.

42 Cerrettiere Bisdomini, the infamous counsellor of the Duke of Athens, who was torn to pieces by the people in the Piazza della Signoria.

43 See Apologia de’ Cappucci. Archivio Storico, Vol. IV. part II. p. 329.

44 All these decorations have disappeared.

45 See Raccolte delle Migliori Fabbriche Antiche e Moderne di Firenze. Opus cit.

46 Ricordi intorno ai costumi, azione e governo del Serenissimo Gran Duca Cosimo.

47 Firenze, Città Nobilissima. Illustrata da Ferdinando L. del Migliore. In Firenze. MDCLXXXIV.

48 See Florentine Villas, pp. 42–44. Dent. London, 1902.

49 Istoria delle Famiglie Fiorentine. Scritta nell’anno 1607 da Piero di Giovanni Monaldi, Cittadino Fiorentino. Tomo unico. Al Sermo, Ferdinando Gran Duca di Toscana, con l’aggiunta di Monsre. Sommai, sino all’anno 1620.

50 Vita della Venerabile Serva di Dio Donna Leonora Ramirez di Montalvo etc. etc. In Firenze L Anno MDCCXI.

51 See Renaissance in Italy, J. A. Symonds. Vol. v. p. 239. London, 1868.

52 Passerini, from whose Genealogia e Storia della Famiglia Panciatichi I have taken most of the facts about the family, cites the deed of 9 June 1191: “Infrangilasta quondam Astancolli, Montialtissimo Belgiglio et Nobilino, a servitio sancti Sepulchri, a Saladino Crucis Christi inimico capti, de ultra mare reversi, dictam ecclesiam paupertate laborare videntes, predictum petium terre eidem in potestate dederunt.”

53 See Storia del Commercio e dei Banchieri di Firenze, dal Comm. S. L. Peruzzi. Firenze. 1868.

54 Paradise. Canto XVI, Dante. Cary’s translation.

55 Cronica di Buonaccorso Pitti, con Annotazione. In Firenze. MDCCXX, nella Stamperia di Giuseppe Manni.

56 Where wool is carded, spun and woven.

57 Mann and Manners, Vol. II, p. 102.

58 See Cronachette Storiche Florentine. Pierfilippo Covoni. Firenze, 1894.

59 See Il Palazzo Pitti. Lettura fatta alla Società Colombaria nell’adunanza del dì 6. Marzo, 1887. Prof. Cosimo Conti. Succ. Le Monnier Firenze, 1887.

60 Cronaca di Giovanni Villani, lib. 8, cap. 8.

61 See Del Pretorio di Firenze. Lezione Academico, etc., da Luigi Passerini, 2A edizione, Firenze, 1855. Ricordi e Jouhaud.

62 Hoc opus factum fuit tempore potestarie magnifici et potentis militis domini Fidesmini de Varano civis Camerinensis honorabilis potestatis ... the remainder is wanting.

63 In an article in the Quarterly Review for July, 1904, the following suggestion is made: “A theory of reconciliation is clearly required, and easily suggests itself. May not the chapel have been originally decorated by Giotto, and have sustained, in the fire of 1332, injuries which left nothing but the main lines of its compositions intact? May not the date 1337, inscribed on the left wall below the figure of St. Venanzius, refer to a restoration undertaken, according to the original design, by the nameless pupil who also painted the miracle of the fallen child? Such an explanation receives support from the fact that, on the south wall of the chapel, the framing is not adapted to the frescoes, and is therefore hardly likely to be of the same date.”

64 Through the kindness of Sir Dominic Colnaghi I am informed that, “no painter of this name is known to have worked in Florence in the fourteenth century. Vasari evidently mixed up two painters in one notice, i. e. Giotto di Maestro Stefano, known as Giottino, and Maso di Banco. Antonio Billi (libro di Antonio Billi, ed. Frey. p. 14) states that among his other works Maso di Banco painted the Duke of Athens and his followers, on the façade of the Palazzo del Podestà.”

65   By the effigy of the Duke was:

Avaro, traditore, e poi crudele,

Lussurioso, ingiusto e spergiuro,

Giammai non tenne suo stato securo.

2. By that of Messer Cerrettieri Visdomini:

Come potevi tu signor durare,

Essendo in vizi et in peccato involto

E me per tuo consiglio avevi tolto.

3. By that of Messer Ranieri di S. Gemignano:

Deh come degnamente mi potevi

Far cavalier; che tu ed io avari

Siamo e sempre fummo piu che Mida,

Tradendo sempre l’uom che in noi si fida.

4. By that of Messer Gugliemo d’Assisi, Captain of the People:

Tu mi fascesti più che altr’uom crudele;

Però mi grava più la tua partita,

In quel furore ch’io perdei la vita.

5. By that of his son Gabriel:

Aver padre crudel, m’era diletto

Poi vidi gli occhi suoi in palese insegna;

E quello avviene a chi male c’insegna.

6. By that of Meliadusse d’Ascoli, Podestà in 1342, who helped to make the Duke Lord of Florence:

Io porto sotto la lima e la fraude,

E di te m’ingegnai farti signore;

Or ne se fuor per tuo poco valore.

7. And on a book which Friar Giotto of S. Gemignano holds in his hand:

Vie più m’incresce di me e mio fratello

Veder l’un traditore, l’altro ingrato,

Che veder te di signoria cacciato.

66 Il Palazzo del Podestà. Illustrazione Storica di Giovan Battista Uccelli. Firenze, 1865.

67 In large characters was written:

“Superbo, avaro, traditor, bugiardo,
Lussurioso, ingrato e pien d’inganni,
Son Bonnaccorso di Lapo Giovanni.”

68 In one of these the Podestà, Fulchieri da Calvoli, cruelly tortured those of the Bianchi who fell into his hands, before they were beheaded in the courtyard.

“Their flesh, yet living, sets he up to sale,
Then like an aged beast, to slaughter dooms.
Many of life he reaves, himself of worth
And goodly estimation.”
Dante Purg., Canto XIV, Cary’s trans.

All instruments of torture found in these chambers were burnt in the courtyard by the orders of the Grand Duke Leopoldo when he abolished the Inquisition.

69 Descrizione dei Delinquenti condannati a morte in Firenze. Firenze, MDCCCI.

70 See Archivio Storico Italiano, T. I. Firenze. G. P. Vieusseux, Editore, 1842.

71 In the archives are the sentences pronounced by the various Signori which are too characteristic to omit.

“13th Feb., 1529. Alessandro Corsini continues in his evil courses; a rebel he is, and a rebel he may remain; and that he should serve as an example to all, it is ordered, as he has no house which can be destroyed, that he be painted as a traitor on the palace of the Podestà, so that others may learn from him.

“3rd March, 1529. In the name of God I judge that Taddeo Guiducci be condemned as a rebel, and all his goods be confiscated according to law, and as he has no house of his own in Florence which can be destroyed, he is to be painted on the palace of the Podestà by the side of Alessandro Corsini, and in the same manner as the said Alessandro.

“10th March, 1529. As to the complaint against Pierfrancesco Ridolfi which to-day has come before us, I decide that, as a most virulent enemy of his city, and an enemy of our Holy liberty, as he has always been, he be condemned as a rebel, with all the pains and penalties pertaining unto rebels, as far as the law allows, and that, within fifteen days, he be painted hanging by one foot, alongside of Taddeo Guiducci, on the palace of the Podestà, as a traitor to his country.”

72 Opus cit.

73 See Jahrbuch d. Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, 1903. Heft. IV. (Fabriczy, Giuliano da Majano in Siena.)

74 Milan was famed for the construction of these “carrette,” which were much used there.

75 Istoria di Firenze. By the Marquess Gino Capponi.

76 Storia d’Alessandro de’ Medici. Abate Modesto Rastrelli. Firenze. MDCCLXXXI.

77 See Miscellanea Fiorentina. Anno I, No. 12, 1886.

78 See Cronachette Storiche Fiorentine. Pierfilippo Covoni. Firenze, 1894.

79 At the end of the XVIIIth century her tomb was still pointed out, and del Migliore says that before the vault was restored after it became the property of the Bracci family, the initials “G. A.” were visible on one of the stones.

80 More likely because it adjoins the chapel of the Misericodia.

81 a Storia di Ginevra Amieri che fu sepolta viva in Firenze. Pisa. Nistri.

82 Renaissance in Italy. J. A. Symonds. Vol. iv, p. 216, second edition, 1898.

83 Genealogia e Storia della Famiglia Rucellai. Luigi Passerini. M Callini e C. 1861.

84 Novella, 68.

85 Un Mercante Fiorentino e la Sua Famiglia, nel Secolo XV. G. Marcotti. G. Barbèra. Firenze. 1881.

86 The name is said to be derived from chiare acque (limpid waters) as mentioned by Bernardo’s son Giovanni in his poem Le Api, when he begs his friend Trissino to listen:

“A l’umil suon de le forate canne,
Che nate sono in mezzo a le chiare acque
Che Quaracchi oggi il vulgo chiama.”

(To the soft rustle of the hollow canes, which have their birth in the clear waters called now Quaracchi by the common herd.)

87 See Le Opere di Giovanni Rucellai per cura di Guido Mazzoni. Bologna. N. Zanichelli. 1887.

88 Cronaca di Firenze di Donato Velluti. Dall’anno MCCC. in circa fino al MCCCLX. In Firenze. Presso D. M. Manni. MDCCXXXI.

89 The Strozzi arms are three half moons.

90 The conversation between the Pope and the prelates in the Consistory was as follows. The Pope asked: “Qualis Civitas est Florentia. Et quia interrogatio ipsius non dirigebatur ad aliquem in spetiali, idcirco nullus respondebat. Tandem post tertiam interrogationem, turbatus quia nullus ei respondebat dixit: Nisi mihi respondeatis, omnes vos poni faciam in multa, sive in carcerem. Tunc Cardinalis Hispanus respondit dicens: Domine, Civitas Florentina est una bona Civitas. Cui Papa Bonifatius ait: O male Hispane, quid est hoc quod dicis? Imo est melior civitas totius Mundi. Nonne qui nutriunt nos, et regunt, et gubernant Curiam nostram, sunt Florentini? Etiam totum Mundum videntur regere et gubernare. Nam omnes Ambaxiatores, qui istis temporibus ad nos per Reges, Barones, et comunitates sunt directi, Florentini fuerunt.... Et ideo cum Florentini regant et gubernent totum Mundum, videntur mihi quod ipsi sint Quintum elementum.”

91 Lettere di una Gentildonna Fiorentina. Publicate da Cesare Guasti Firenze. G. C. Sansoni. 1877.

92 i. e. of perfect alloy and weight. A fiorino was worth about 6s.

93 The only place where pure and good ultramarine could be bought.

94 Raccolta Delle Migliori Fabbriche Antiche e Moderne di Firenze. Disegnate e Descritte da R. ed. E. Mazzanti e T. del Lungo, architetti. Firenze. G. Ferroni. 1876.

95 He wanted to pull down all the houses to the north and make a fine square as far as S. Michele Bertelde; and to the south a garden, which was to have extended to the Via Porta Rossa.

96 Carriages were only introduced into Florence about 1534. See p. 173.

97 Archivio Strozzi. Filza IX. A. No. 4.

98 Le Famiglie Celebre Italiane, del Conte Pompeo Litta. Vol. V.

99 Giuliano da Majano in Siena. Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen Kunstsamlungen. 1903. P. 333.

100 Magliabechiana Library.

101 Le Bellezze della Città di Firenze. Gio. Cinelli. Firenze. 1677.

102 Le Migliore Fabbriche, etc., opus cit.

103 It remained untouched until 1410 when the right hand aisle was demolished and the left hand one ceded to a Compagnia. In 1561 the priest’s house, the campanile, the cemetery and the loggia were destroyed by Cosimo I., when he built the Uffizi, but the small nave continued to be used as a church until 1743, when it was suppressed and used for the archives of the tribunal.

104 Illustrazione Istorica del Palazzo della Signoria, etc. Modesto Rastrelli Firenze. 1792. presso Ant. Gius. Pagani e C. p. 52.

105 or “rostrum,” derived from the word arringare—to harangue.

106 In old times the Florentines had an almost superstitious admiration for the lion, emblem of the Republic. The Marzocco, as the stone lion of Florence was called, was set above the door, on the four corners, and on the ringhiera of the Palazzo Vecchio, this last was decorated with a golden crown on solemn festivals. The live beasts were kept behind the palace (the Via de’ Leoni still marks the place), and there they remained until Duke Cosimo I. removed them to the Piazza San Marco. Great was the rejoicing in the city when a lioness had cubs; Villani notes the birth of two in 1331 on the day of S. Jacob, in July; and a few years later of six, which he records as a glory for the city and a sign of prosperity for the Commune. Another old chronicler, Paolo Minerbetti, relates how “in 1391 there was much discord and a great battle among the lions, and a lioness who had cubs every year was killed, which was regarded as of evil augury by the citizens.”

107 See Die Loggia dei Lanzi zu Florenz. Eine quellenkritische Untersuchung von Dr. Carl Frey. Berlin. Wilhelm Hertz. 1885.

108 The chapel of St. Bernard in the Palazzo Vecchio is painted by Rodolfo Ghirlandajo, who, as Vasari writes, “made in the centre of the ceiling the Holy Trinity, and in the other divisions some angel boys holding the instruments of the Passion, and heads of the twelve Apostles; in the corners he painted the Evangelists, and at the end the angel Gabriel kneeling before the Virgin. In some of the landscapes he figured the Piazza of the Annunziata in Florence, as far as the church of S. Marco.”

109 By Verrocchio, now in the Bargello.

110 The Life of Benvenuto Cellini. Translated by J. A. Symonds. 2nd edition, p. 220. Vol. 2. John C. Nimmo. 1888.

111 Signor Iodico Del Badia, in a note to his edition of Luca Landucci’s Diary, writes: “Out of devotion it was the custom for illustrious Florentines and also strangers of rank, such as popes, cardinals, princes, condottieri, etc., to put their own portrait made in wax of the size of life in this church. These were placed on shelves constructed on purpose. But in 1448 these were full, so the waxen images were hung by ropes from the ceiling. If by chance one of them fell down it was looked upon as an evil augury for the person or for his family. When political passions ran high the dominant party removed the portraits of their antagonists.”

Varchi also mentions that in 1527 certain youths “entered one morning very early into the church of the Annunziata, and cast down the waxen images of Pope Leo and Pope Clement; and after inflicting many wounds upon them, they carried them off; which deed was severely, and to my thinking justly, blamed by good and prudent men.”

112 First published in the Miscellanea Fiorentina. No. 9. September, 1886.

113 He built the Loggia of the Mercato Nuovo.

114 Raccolta di Lettere sulla Pittura, Scultura ed Architettura. Scritte da’ piu celebri personaggi dei secoli XV. XVI. e XVII. Publicata da M. Gio. Bottari. Vol. 3. Milano. Giovanni Silvestri. MDCCXXII.

115 Miscellanea Fiorentina di Erudizione e Storia. By Signor Iodico Del Badia. No. 1. p. 4.

116 Dieu-Donné.


Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they were not changed.

Spelling and accents in Italian words follow the way the original book was printed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation marks were remedied when the change was obvious, but several remain unbalanced.

Illustrations in this eBook have been positioned between paragraphs and outside quotations. In versions of this eBook that support hyperlinks, the page references in the List of Illustrations lead to the corresponding illustrations.

The index was not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.