It’s not as famous as Romeo and Juliet’s balcony, but Florence has a window that tells of a love-story, ghosts and long waits.
About three years ago, while I was on shift at Room Mate Luca, some guests asked me to point out on their map the site of the Palazzo Grifoni, as they wanted to see the so-called “window always open”. As I had never heard the place, I searched on the Internet the exact location, and marked it on their map. After they left, I read a very interesting and bizarre story that I’d like to share with you.
The window in subject is the one at the second floor of Palazzo Budini-Gattai, also known as Palazzo Grifoni, the red brick palace on the opposite side of the Basilica of Piazza Santissima Annunziata, in Florence.
You may have passed in front of it many times…back from a visit at the Galleria dell’Accademia, after staring at Michelangelo’s statue of David, or just coming out of university classes. Someone may have noticed the window at the top right with the shutters always open. But did you ever wonder why?
The legend – or reality… that is up to you – tells of a beautiful young bride, named Bianca Cappello, who had moved to the palace along with her beloved husband, the Grand Duke Ferdinand I towards the end of the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, however, their happiness lasted just a few months.
The handsome husband was called to the army to fight a war with the noble and patrician families of Florence. Riding his horse, the Grand Duke was forced to leave, while the young woman gave him the last greeting from the window of the palace.
During his absence, the bride spent her days embroidering, and sitting on an armchair beside the window overlooking the square, so that she could see the beloved groom returning from the war.
Unfortunately, however, the days passed and her husband never showed up. Only bad news related to the progress of the battle arrived. The now-old bride continued to peek on the square wayfarers, still full of hope, until the day she died there, next to the only “companion” of her life: the window always open.
After that, the story is divided into different versions. One tells about the neighbourhood of the square who, moved by that sad love story, decided to keep the window open in memory of the woman who had spent such a long time there.
Others say that as soon as the window was closed after the death of the widow, strange phenomena began to appear inside the room: the books flew, the furniture danced, the paintings fell down and the lights went out. In fear, the relatives reopened the window and everything went back to normality. Since then, the window stays open to allow the bride’s spirit to see her knight’s return (this is the one I prefer). According to another version, the look of the equestrian statue of Ferdinando I de’ Medici, located in the square not far from the building, would turn right towards the window always open. It is said that that it was the bedroom of a woman, belonging to the Grifoni’s family, who was clandestinely loved by the Grand Duke of Tuscany and who, was obliged to keep the shutters always closed because of her husband’s jealousy.
By researching and asking around, I can notice the deep interest around the Florentine legends and curiosities, and indeed all the versions found in the various texts are often the result of changes of some writers’ reworking.
The beautiful thing about these legends and anecdotes is that they are variable, and as we all know, the “passaparola” leads to the most extravagant fantasies and versions. And if it’s the Florentine who passes on those tales… it’s all said!!!
by Adriana Andaloro (Room Mate Luca & Isabella, Florence)