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Explore the Hidden History Behind These 4 Italian Piazzas

Every piazza has a story to tell.

Piazza Santa Trinita, Florence

Exterior view of buildings in Piazza Santa Trinita in Florence, Italy
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

A brawl on this site left an indelible mark on the face of Italian history. Florence was split into two factions: the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. On Candelmaggio, May Day, in 1300, folks crowded into this very piazza to celebrate the arrival of summer. Some members of the Donati Family came looking for a fight and started shoving people around, injuring a member of the Cerchi Family in the process. These two powerful families finally came to blows, forever dividing the Guelphs into two sub-factions.

Piazza Santa Croce, Florence

Exterior night view of Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy

What’s most apparent about this piazza is the Basilica di Santa Croce, which is famously known as the resting place of many notable Italians throughout history such as Machiavelli, Galileo, and Michelangelo.

Less well-known, it’s in this piazza where a truly fierce sort of ancestral soccer began in the 1500s, died out in the 1600s, and was revived in 1930 as an expression of Fascist nationalism.

Piazza dei Ciompi, Florence

Exterior view of buildings and architecture of Piazza dei Ciompi in Florence, Italy

Piazza dei Ciompi is one of the more diverse squares in all of Florence. The Piazza dei Ciompi, dating only to the 1930s, is actually named for one of the most powerful popular revolts in history which took place in this neighborhood and throughout the city. In 1378, poor and underrepresented laborers known as the Ciompi effectively set the city on fire, freeing prisoners from the neighborhood jails before ultimately taking over the government for three full years.

Fra' Paolo Sarpi Monument, Venice

Closeup of the statue of Paolo Sarpi in Venice, Italy
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Walk around this picturesque piazza, and you'll find that it’s centered on the statue of Paolo Sarpi. Sarpi was a devoted scholar who held several roles in the church between Rome and Venice. Paolo Sarpi devoted himself to the defense of Venice, infuriating the Pope, and on October 5th, 1607, Sarpi was assaulted in one of three attempted homicides by the church. Somehow, Sarpi survived and continued his fight for the Venetian Republic. It’s said that with his final breath, he declared “Esto perpetua” (may the Republic live on forever).


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