In the heart of the historic center, just a few steps away from Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria, you'll find one of the most characteristic points in all of Florence, the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, or New Market.
This arcade with its wide Renaissance-style arches, was built halfway through the 16th century to accomodate the silk and precious objects trade and is still today a lively marketplace crammed with stalls of souvenir sellers.
The place constantly attracts flocks of tourists due to the famous fountain of the Piglet, on its southern side. Oddly enough, the fountain is not of a piglet but of a wild boar, and is a copy of the Greek marble original on display in the Uffizi Galleries.
There are numerous other copies of it around the world: in Belgium, France and even in a hospital in Sydney, Australia.
The fountain of the piglet is one the most popular monuments in Florence, a bit like the Mouth of Truth, in Rome. Tradition has it, in fact, that whoever wants good luck should touch the nose of the statue: the nose is shiny from the daily rubbing of hundreds of hands. To complete the operation, you have to place a coin in the boar's mouth and wait until the water makes it fall: if the coin slips through the grate over the drain, all is well, otherwise—nothing doing.
An ancient tradition connects the Loggia to the origins of a well-known Italian expression: to "end up with your butt on the ground" means to be flush out of money, broke. Set into the center of the pavement, there's a disk that, in Renaissance Florence, functioned as a true scandal stone. Debtors were chained over it, forced to take off their pants and underwear and then repeatedly made to bang their bottom "on the ground".
The stone also has a precise historical significance because it's the full-sized representation of a wheel from the 'carroccio', the traditional ox-drawn cart that was the symbol of the Florentine Republic carrying the banners of the Comune onto the battlefield. Around this stone point indicated on the ground, the Florentine troops would gather before combat.