From the Duomo bull to the “Madonna del Puzzo”: discover Florence’s unusual sights with us on an itinerary through the city’s most offbeat locations.
The beauty of Florence needs no introduction. At least once in your life, you will surely have been amazed by the majesty of Florence’s Duomo, the imposing sculptures of the Uffizi, the elegance of Ponte Vecchio or you will have viewed the cityscape marked by the myriad artistic and architectural riches of the cradle of the Renaissance.
But what if you wanted to take a tour of the most hidden and unusual parts of Florence? Well, you’ll be happy to know that in the city you can still find quiet little-known corners that are rich in charm, where history, alluring legends and folk customs come together. In particular, we have selected five special attractions for more adventurous visitors who would appreciate seeing a little more than the classic touristic places. Are you ready to venture on an itinerary to discover Florence’s more offbeat sites? Let’s start!
“Il toro cornuto”, the legend of the Duomo’s horned bull
The first of our five things to see in Florence is always on display in plain sight of thousands of tourists who visit the city every day, but very few notice it. It is a bull’s head carved no less than … on the facade of the Cathedral!
If you look carefully, you can see the animal on the top of a supporting column near the Via Ricasoli corner. Popular tradition has it that a very beautiful lady lived right in front of the cathedral building site during its construction. She was the wife of a tailor, but also the mistress of a master stonemason who worked on the wall decorations. Allegedly, it was the stonemason who carved the bull’s head with marked “cuckold” horns as a sign of mockery toward the woman’s husband!
The window that is always open: a love story
Now, we move to Piazza Della Santissima Annunziata and behold Palazzo Budini-Gattai (also known as Palazzo Grifoni), the scene of a tragic love story. If you look closely, you will notice that the building has a window that always remains open, at most with the shutters slightly half-closed.
The legend goes back to the end of the 16th century and relates that a beautiful young bride spent her entire life embroidering in front of that window, waiting for her beloved to return from the war. It is said that her ghost is still there and that if someone tries to close the window, strange things happen…
Who has the longest stone? The “contest” in the Pitti Palace
Have you visited the Palazzo Pitti? Well, once you are outside the building, look carefully at its facade: you will notice that there are two stones of a particular size, one much longer and one much shorter than the others.
It seems that it was Luca Pitti himself, a bitter rival of the Medicis, who wanted them that way so that he could identify himself in the longer stone and the opposing family in the smaller, insignificant one. Considering the rivalry of the times, it is said that again in this atmosphere of competition, he had ordered that his family mansion should be so big that it could absorb Palazzo Strozzi within it. A proud man this Mr. Pitti!
Madonna del puzzo: a curious condemnation of street smells in Forence
So much for Michelangelo’s David! The most peculiar sculpture in Florence is surely Madonna del puzzo – the Madonna of the stench, a terracotta bust located in Via Toscanella; it stands in a niche in the Torre dei Marsili and depicts the Virgin who, raising her eyes to the sky, plugs her nose with her fingers while a rat runs up her arm.
Artist Mario Mariotti created the work in 1984 to protest against the foul smell wafting from the dumpsters stationed on that street and to generally condemn the neglect and degradation of the historic town center.
The scandal stone and the Florence of yesteryear
Near the Ponte Vecchio, the market that is held under the Loggia del Porcellino is one of the best places to shop in Florence. Right in the center of the loggia, if you look hard enough, you will come across a two-tone marble round, a life-size reproduction of one of the wheels of the Carroccio, the symbol of the Florentine Republic. It is the so-called “scandal stone” or “acculata,” the spot where insolvent debtors in the Renaissance were punished in a particularly humiliating way. How? Chained and with their trousers pulled down, they would be repeatedly pushed to the ground on their rear ends.
In Florence with Italo
How do you set off on this journey to see the oddities Florence has to offer and the most beautiful places to visit? The train is perfect: Italo offers you many trains to Florence from all over Italy. You can arrive directly at the Santa Maria Novella station, which also offers some interesting surprises: did you know, for example, that today you can visit the luxurious Royal Palace once reserved for the members of the Savoy dynasty?
In short, Florence is worth a visit not only for its “celebrated” wonders – there is so much more to see; just let your curiosity lead the way!