HISTORICAL PLACES

- Via Tornabuoni -
 

Historical places in Florence are found in the history and art of via Tornabuoni. The Santa Trinità Church is one example

 IN THE FRESCOS PORTRAYED IN THE SASSETTI DAL GHIRLANDAIO CHAPEL,

historians had linked the names of the characters to the events that were lived in the street. There are also art and history in the San Michele Church in which contestants were blessed when duels called the “Justice of God” took place and where a special “mass for the duel” was celebrated.

 

THE GRAND CAFFE' DONEY

A HISTORICAL FLORENTINE PLACE

1823 - 1985

 

The history of the Gran Caffè Doney, the most elegant historical place in Florence, is interwoven with that of Via Tornabuoni, the street of luxury and fashion. Gasparo Doney was the first person to open a shop in Via Tornabuoni (at that time Via dei Legnaiuoli).

Gasparo Doney, who was a nobile French officer, fell into disgrace after the defeat of Napoleon and was “exiled by the family”. Once settled in Florence, he began importing special French pastries and opened his first shop as a tearoom in Via del Castellaccio. After reaching success, he transferred to the present location in Via Tornabuoni in the Palazzo Altoviti Sangalletti.

The Caffè Ristorante Doney was built in the 19th century by Doney's son-in-law, the Anglo-Italian Giacomo Thompson who paid out of his own pocket to have a modern iron-glass cover built in the courtyard of the Royal Palace of the Cascine. This was where the most important room was located and later closed at the beginning of the 20th century.

IT WAS ALSO CALLED CAFFE' DELLE COLONNE,

due to the four columns that hold up the vault of the room which was decorated with gold friezes on a white background. It was very popular with the Florentine bourgeoisie, aristocrats, politicians and literary men. It was a meeting place for the English community in Florence, as the Cafè was only a short distance from the British Consulate (in Lungarno Corsini). In fact, when Benito Mussolini attacked Ethiopia in 1935 and the English demonstrated to show their dissent, fascist squadrons made some violent raids on the Caffè Doney.

 

Mussolini and Hitler had dinner there when they met in Florence. One of the most famous clients was Lady Violet Trefusis who had a private conversation with Mussolini in 1937. This meeting was brought back to life by the film director Franco Zeffirelli in the film “Tea With Mussolini”. 

THIS WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PLACES TO BE ILUMINATED BY LANTERNS.

Doney was an institution among the historical places in the city, a concentration of the history and daily events of the cosmopolitan Florence of the last two centuries. Doney was very fashionable in the 1960's, also for international business meetings, with business appointments being fixed from abroad. Famous for receptions and weddings, to use its organisation in public places and in private homes was a symbol of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. Doney's appanage were the important receptions for the famous fashion shows of the Pitti High Fashion.

The Cafè closed in 1985 and this was “a loss” for Florence.

 

 

PIAZZA SANTA TRINITA'

IT IS THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD.

Unique among historical places in Florence, four buildings with four different architectural styles are situated in this square.

Palazzo Spini-Feroni - 1300 - a unique example of a 14th century building

Palazzo Buondelmonti - 1400 - plastered with the classical Tuscan pale yellow colour, it is of grand elegance with a terminal portico.

Palazzo Bartolini -Salimbeni - 1500 - first example of Renaissance architecture, it was built by Baccio d'Angelo who was harshly criticised by the Florentines on account of all the changes introduced, so much so that he had the inscription “carpere promptius quam imitari” shown above the door which means: “It is easier to criticise than to imitate”.

 

The façade of the Santa Trinità Church (1600): the church dates back to the year 1200, while the façade is Baroque and was built by Bernardo Buontalenti at the end of 1500. The “Column of Justice”, erected in 1554, rises up in the centre of the square. Cosimo dei Medici wanted this to celebrate his victory over Siena. He received the granite column (from the Baths of Caracalla) as a gift from Pope Pius IV after a long trip. The statue of justice in porphyry with a loose-fitting ample bronze cloak was erected here in 1581.

 

THE SANTA TRINITA' CHURCH

The Santa Trinità Church is one of the most important historical sites in Florence. It was built in the second half of the 11th century by the Vallombrosani and was included in the circle of the city walls in 1175. Between 1300 and 1330 it was enlarged in Gothic style according to a project by Neri di Fioravante (some say according to a drawing by Giovanni Pisano).

 IN 1348 WORK WAS STOPPED DUE TO THE PLAGUE

AND STARTED AGAIN IN 1365 AND 1405.

 Owned by the Vallombrosani family, it was rebuilt in Gothic style between the 13th and the 14th century on top of a previous Romanesque church. It has a stone façade executed by

Bernardo Buontalenti at the end of the 16th century in a manneristic style. Even though it is small, inside it houses absolute masterpieces of the pictorial and figurative arts from the end of the 14th century to the 17th century despite the pillaging and expropriation of the past centuries.

THE CHURCH OF SAINTS MICHAEL AND GAETANO

Located in front of Palazzo Antinori, the Church of San Michele, now called San Gaetano, was similar to that of Santi Apostoli, but more antique. Its façade was aligned to the medieval walls.

 

IT WAS DEDICATED TO SAN MICHELE, THE WARLIKE ARCHANGEL

 

and it is for this reason that it was well-loved by duellists. The church disappeared at the beginning of the 17th century when it was rebuilt in fine Baroque style by Silvani. A large convent was built next to it for the Teatini Fathers who dedicated the church to their founder, San Gaetano Thien from Vicenza.

The reconstruction of the church cost 120,000 scudos and the benefactor was Cardinal Carlo De' Medici who is remembered for having given life back to one of the most significant historical sites in Florence with large letters written on the architrave of the façade. It became the church of the Florentine upper middle class and is still today one of the most complete and richest examples of Florentine Baroque.

 

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