Piazza della Repubblica Florence

Piazza della Repubblica Florence
Piazza della Repubblica

The 75 by 100 meter Piazza della Repubblica in Florence is one of the biggest squares of the country. Its most striking features are the enormous arch on the west side and the Colonna dell’Abbondanza and the colorful merry-go-round in the square itself.

History of the Piazza della Repubblica

Carrousel, Piazza della repubblica Florence
The Merry-go-round of the Piazza della Repubblica.

The present layout of the square dates back to when Florence was the capital of the then just formed Italian state (1965 to 1871). As part of an urban renewal project called Risanamento (“Renovation”), big parts of the historical center were completely changed. What is now the Piazza della Repubblica underwent the biggest upheaval.

Roma Forum

It may be hard to imagine when looking at it nowadays, but the Piazza della Repubblica used to be the site of the Forum of Roman Florence.

Remains of several Roman buildings found during the works. These included thermal baths, places of worship and the foundation of the Capitolium.

Piazza del Mercato and Ghetto

The area was densely populated during the middle ages. Most of the area taken up by the piazza used to consist of a narrow alleys punctuated with tower houses.

Around the beginning of the 11th century, the former forum became the Piazza del Mercato, and thus the commercial center of the city. At the same time, the Piazza del Duomo became the religious, and the Piazza della Signoria the political center.

In the 16th century, a new market was built near the Ponte Vecchio. The Piazza della Repubblica one thus became the Mercato Vecchio. Cosimo I turned part of the area into the Jewish Ghetto.

Risanamento

The area kept it medieval character until the end of the 19th century, when Florence briefly was the capital of Italy. Then the Risanamento took its toll. Between 1885 and 1895, the entire area was flattened. Churches, historical palaces, shops, tower houses, the Ghetto and its synagogues, nothing was spared.

Ostensibly, the decision to amplify was passed off as being for reasons of public health and well-being, in reality much of it was simple speculation.

Some monuments were saved, but moved elsewhere. The Loggia del Pesce is now in the Piazza dei Ciompi while the original Colonna dell’Abbondanza found a new home in the Palazzo della Cassa di Risparmio in the via dell’Oriuolo.

Several works of art and architectural elements of the demolished buildings can be seen in the San Marco Museum, the Museo Horne and the Bandini Museum. The “Museo storico topografico Firenze com’era” showcases prints and paintings of the way the city used to look.

In 1890, an equestrian monument for king Vittorio Emanuele II, since moved to the Piazzale delle Cascine, was inaugurated.

What to see

The buildings surrounding the square are mostly palaces for the wealthy, luxury hotels and cafes.

The west side is taken up by the Palazzo dell’Arcone di Piazza. The inscription on the enormous central arch claims that the square, after centuries of squalor, has been restored to splendor.

The central building on the north side is the seat of two coffee houses, the Caffè Paszkowski (on the left) and the Caffè Gilli (on the right).

The Hotel Savoy takes up the left half of east side. Like the Palazzo dell’Arcone, it was designed by Vincenzo Micheli.

Another famous cafe, the Caffè delle Giubbe Rosse, occupies the central building on the south side of the square.

The Colonna dell’Abbondanza adorning the square since 1956 is a copy of the original one. It is located on the exact spot where the Roman Cardo and Decumano Massimo used to intersect.


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