The Florentine being

We could go in depth of a lot of stories to expose and examine how the Florentines, and the city of Florence along with its various governances, have shown their character in what have been difficult times.

A good example in history would be a match of the Calcio Storico, a precursor of modern football, which was played in 1530 during a battle which saw Florence under siege and its people on the brink of starvation. It was obvious that the city would fall to the invading Papal army. However, to show their contempt for the enemy, the Florentines decided to organize a match of the Calcio Storico in a square in full view of the attackers. The game was accompanied by music played from atop a nearby church to underline the scornful nature of the event. The enemy took the opportunity to fire on the gathered crowd but was unable to hit the desired target and being ridiculed by the entire population.

But there are simpler stories that give a definite idea of the way that Florentines are in their everyday lives. In the historical centre, there is a street named Borgo Ognissanti, which was historically the access road from one of the gates of the city wall, Porta al Prato.

In this road, you will find of an architectural anomaly that may escape the average tourists if they don’t know what they are looking for. At Borgo Ognissanti number 12 the best, if not only, example of an upside-down balcony. Except for the floor, this balcony has been designed and constructed entirely upside down in all its structures. The most obvious and immediately striking structural part is the baluster which, at the time, was generally designed with its widest part at the bottom. The console corbels, in the same fashion, are aesthetically built upside down with the part that is usually supporting the balcony attached to the building’s façade and vice versa.

This strange design is to be attributed to the wit of Sir Baldovinetti, the historical owner of the building. Around 1530 the Lord of the city of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici, had enacted an edict that stated that, since the city was becoming crowded and the sky hidden by all the new buildings, no new balconies could be built. In that year Baldovinetti had decided that he not only wanted to build a balcony but he wanted it to be imposing to publicize his family’s wealth. Baldovinetti asked permission to the city government to build the balcony and was refused. He kept requesting permission on more occasions and finally, fed up with Baldovinetti’s repeated petitions, the city offices finally replied that he could build it bud only upside down. Baldovinetti took them to their word and had plans drawn up where all the architectural parts where planned reversed compared to the norm of the day. The plans were submitted and it is said that Alessandro de’ Medici himself was struck by the astuteness and sharpness of Baldovinetti and of his actions that he gave permission to Baldovinetti to build his balcony.

Just as we opened on a quote to get across a message we will close on a quote, however lesser known internationally but not less important in the sense of understanding the way of thinking of the average Florentine person. This quote is found in a movie made in and around Florence (“Amici miei” – “My friends” – by Mario Monicelli) and spoken by the character named Perozzi:

“What is ‘genius’? It’s creativity, intuition, determination, and quick execution”

— Writted by Andrea Gardenti, Room Mate Luca

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