By Francesca Papi, Private Tour Guide of Florence



Piazza della Repubblica in Florence and its archeological site


Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, credit Comune di Firenze

Republic Square Florence, credit Comune di Firenze

Piazza della Repubblica in Florence 

Ancient Roman colony Florentia has reemerged from beneath the 18th century stone pavement in Piazza della Repubblica (Republic Square). The digging for resurfacing the square, part of the City council’s redevelopment plan, opened a window onto the square’s long history as the ancient heart of the city. Palazzo Vecchio (City Hall), in cooperation with the Archaeological Authority, gave citizens and tourists the possibility to visit the archeological remains that surfaced with an archeology guide from the Cooperativa Archeologia (Archaeology Cooperative). It is possible to learn a little more about the history of one of the most frequented places in the city center.

Forum of Florentia

Piazza della Repubblica in Florence has always been the “square” of the city, from its establishment in Roman times to today. Here in Roman times rose the Forum of Florentia, ancient name of the city. There was a temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno). This is where the cardo crossed the decumanus maximus, the major roads from north to south and east to west. Today the Colonna dell’Abbondanza stands where they intersected. In the medieval ages, it was the location of the Mercato Vecchio (The Old Market). It was surrounded by the towers of some of the most important Florentine families. In the 1500s the area was occupied by the Jewish Ghetto as Granduke Cosimo I. He ordered all Jews to reside here. It was so populated that there were two synagogues with ceremonies in Italian and in Spanish. In the late 1800s, in occasion of the city’s transformation as capital, a discussion arose about the need to “restore” the Ghetto area.

XIX century’s destructions

Unfortunately, the demolition proposal prevailed. It started from the area of the market and covered a good part of the city center, eliminating the city’s ancient medieval fabric. The ancient medieval walls were also destroyed and only a trace of them has remained. In 1888 demolition began in the area north of the Piazza della Repubblica. After the Mercato Vecchio, the medieval towers, churches, seats of the arts and crafts guilds, workshops and housing were also demolished to build the square as we see it today. Almost nothing remains of all of this, except for fragments and testimonies by journalists and artists of that time.

By |April 12th, 2018|Home|0 Comments

Her majesty, the Florentine steak (bistecca alla fiorentina)

Her Majesty, the Florentine steak (bistecca alla fiorentina)

Florentine steak

Florentine steak

What is the Florentine steak?

The Florentine steak comes from the loin of the Chianina bovine. It’s the part near the lumbar vertebra, mid-way up the back from the tail. The “t-shaped” bone is in the middle. This is why we also call it the t-bone steak, with a tenderloin on one part and a sirloin on the other. The meat – initially hung for at least two weeks in a cooler room – has to be room temperature when cooked. The cut is about 1 – 1.5 kg and 5-6 cm thick.

How is the Florentine steak cooked?

Florentine steak

Florentine steak

A lot of wood embers are used to heat the grill, most preferably oak, holly oak or olive. You need burning embers underneath a thin layer of ash and no flame. The meat is put on the grill with no seasoning, which is fundamental until it gets tougher. It has to be turned over once and cooked for no more than 3-5 minutes. Finally, it’s cooked “standing up” on the side of the bone for 5-7 minutes until there is no trace of blood outside. The Florentine steak has to be thick enough to stand on its edge. It should not be cooked using griddles, gas or electric grills, with firebricks, etc. First the meat has to be placed close to the coals so it quickly forms an aromatic crust. After one minute it has to be moved further away from the fire. Good cooking time is the key to this dish’s flavor. The meat has to have color on the outside and be red, tender and succulent on the inside. It should be hot, but not over-cooked.

The history of the Florentine steak

The history of the Florentine steak is as ancient as the city from which it gets its name and traces of it have gotten lost over time. Its name most likely goes back to the celebration of the San Lorenzo holiday and the Medici family. In occasion of San Lorenzo on August 10, the city lit up from the light of the big bonfires. Large amounts of beef were roasted and handed out to the people. The story goes that some fire-roasted beef was offered to some English horsemen at the San Lorenzo celebrations. They called it beefsteak. From this came bistecca, a translation in the language of that time that we still use today. In the next post I’ll tell you which restaurants in Florence serve the best Florentine steak! See you soon! 

By |March 20th, 2018|Home|0 Comments

Museum of the week: Santa Croce Church in Florence

Museum of the week: Santa Croce Church in Florence

Church of Santa Croce in Florence

Church of Santa Croce in Florence

The origins of the Santa Croce Church in Florence

The Santa Croce Church is a must-see, for its size and its big number of illustrious tombs, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. It is the second largest in the city and the largest Franciscan church in Italy (larger than Assisi). In 1217 Saint Francis of Assisi arrived in Florence. The city was fascinated by his personality. He preached the church’s return to holy poverty and he, the son of a wealthy merchant, abandoned his riches to live among the humble. A small church was first built to welcome his brothers in a swampy, rundown part of the city near the river. In time, the church got bigger, as did the city itself. In fact, in the XIII century, Florence experienced exceptional economical and demographic growth, followed by the expansion of the city walls that also included the Franciscan church. In 1294 the great architect Arnolfo di Cambio was called to begin work on a new project to reconstruct the Santa Croce Church in gothic style.

The tombs of Santa Croce Church in Florence

Galileo Galilei's tomb in Santa Croce Church

Galileo Galilei’s tomb in Santa Croce Church

The money was donated by the families of the neighborhood who wanted to be buried in the church. They were willing to pay large amounts of money. This is why Santa Croce Church is rich with chapels, where hundreds of people are buried. In Medieval times worshippers were buried in the ground and in the church there are 276 gravestones. Only in the Renaissance did they begin to create beautiful funerary monuments. Santa Croce Church hosts none other than the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. Michelangelo is the greatest artist of the Renaissance. He is famous for his statue of David and the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Galileo is the creator of the modern scientific method. This method is based on experiments that make it possible to demonstrate the laws of science. Machiavelli was the first to separate political action and Christian morality. He laid the foundation for the modern political mindset. In 1897 the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo, inspired by his visit to the tombs of such illustrious characters, wrote his best-known poem, The Sepulchres. Seeing those majestic funerary monuments caused him to fall into deep thought. They represented examples to follow for the living, models of civilization, passion, and talent. For this reason they inspired Foscolo to define Santa Croce as “the pantheon of Italian glory”.

The Leather School in Santa Croce Church

The Santa Croce Church also houses the Scuola del Cuoio (leather school). Here students from all over the world study artisan leather processing techniques. The school is a historical part of the church. During the second postwar period, Marcello Gori founded a school for war orphans to teach them the leather trade. 70 years later the school is still active and is the pride of Made in Italy. The ticket to Santa Croce costs €8. It includes entrance to the church, museum, the Pazzi Chapel, the cloister, and the Leather School. The Santa Croce Church is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 2 p.m. after Holy Mass.

By |March 6th, 2018|Home|0 Comments