Florence, Italy

Piazza della Repubblica

Piazza della Repubblica is a vast, quadrangular square in the center of Florence. Surrounded by caffès and elegant restaurants, it’s considered the upper class salon of the city, and is often a theater to musicians and street artists.

Ever since Roman times, the piazza was the center of town: the forum was here and, where today rises the imposing Pillar of Abundance, two Roman roads crossed, the cardo and the decumano, which were the main streets of the city center.

In the Middle Ages, the square became the commercial hub, as opposed to the religious center of piazza del Duomo and the civic core in piazza della Signoria. Around the populated marketplace, houses were built and high towers were raised. Here, in the 16th century, was where the Jewish ghetto developed, where Cosimo I obligated the citys Jews to live. It contained two synagogues and many houses.

The whole patrimony of ancient noble palaces, medieval towers, craftsmens’ workshops, tabernacles and churches was lost due to the massive demolition which took place in the 19th century, when the entire area was redefined by the choice of Florence as capital of the new Reign of Italy.

The piazza today is the result of what, at the time, was called a “cleanup campaign”; actually, the city suffered terrible losses and today, only the prints from the era or models can give an idea of what that lost piece of the city looked like.