In the eyes of Dante Alighieri, seven or more centuries ago, the area of S. Croce appeared as a border land, divided between the memories of the “old circle”, deep down to the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre in Via Torta, and the new building expansion, beyond the crossroads of Via de’ Benci – Via Verdi, linked to “new people and immediate earnings.” Connected with such a rapid development of the city is the size of the Franciscan church of S. Croce, financed by the big families of the areas (Bardi, Peruzzi, Cerchi, Alerti, Baroncelli).
The new religious centre was, and still is, urbanistically the opposite of and symmetrical to the Dominican one of S. Maria Novella. The square in front of S. Croce, among the largest and most regular of Florence, has also been used for centuries for competitions, festivals and performances (including concerts). The area, once marshy (as the name of the church of S. Jacopo in the Ditches records) became the most populated and popular of Florence, with a large wool industry.
Often the merchants’ residences (such as that of the Corsi family, today containing the Horne Museum) housed in their basements the tanks for dyeing fabrics, and some street names remind us of trades: for example, Corso dei Tintori or Avenue of Dyers, or Via delle Conce, Leather Road. However, the names of Via della Vigna or Road of the Vine and Via dell’Anguillara or Road of the Row of Vines take us back to farming patches.
The area was also characterised by the administrative centres of justice (first the Bargello, then the Castellani palace and, from the 1700’s, the complex of S. Firenze) and the prisons (still in Via Ghibellina, the Stinche block and later the Walls). During the 1700’s, alterations were made to the medieval and renaissance urban scene (around the Azeglio square, the realisation of a residential bourgeois area) and the demolition by the regime in the 1930’s (between Ciompi square and the present new Post Office, in via Verdi).
From S. Croce square, the first part of the itinerary crosses Borgo S. Croce up to the Alberti tower. It continues on the crossroads Via de’ Benci-Via Verdi (where the walls were situated in the 12th century) with a deviation in the de’ Peruzzi square and to the church of S. Remigio, in a well-preserved medieval urban fabric. The second part of the itinerary is a pleasant walk along the river Arno, from Ponte alle Grazie bridge up to Piave square and to S. Niccolò.
Tower of the Mint
History and architecture
The name derives from the fact that the interior housed the Office of the Mint, where the florins of the Florentine Republic were made, thanks to hammers powered by the action of the water. In the past, the Mint was also housed near Palazzo Vecchio, where the water of the Scheraggio canal, which rang along the present Via della Ninna, was used (see the church of San Pier Scheraggio).
Prior to the 19th century demolition of the last part of the walls (those of 1282-1333), the tower arose amidst the remains of a dismantelled fortress; furthermore, numerous millponds were present in this area with windmills and other buildings.
In old times, the real opening of the wall and the secondary Gate of Justice was found in the area, so-called as those condemned to death passed by, on their way to the gallows, situated outside the wall near the Tower of the Mint.
Today the tower looks simple but massive, with some small openings but without battlements. On the last floor, there is a terrace which gives a panoramic view. To reach it, a narrow stone staircase must be climbed, and for this reason, it is not accessible to the public. Inside the tower there are several rooms which were previously used by the guards, with vaulted ceilings.
Furthermore, the tower contains several areas reclaimed from the underground levels, from which a series of narrow sewer corridors covered by vaults runs in a fine network which extends in several directions. One of these channels is supposed to go under the River Arno and reach the other side, but today this is not possible as it contains water. In the 1950’s, some of these areas were used by a recreational club, of which a spectacular stone table and the rest of the electric system and bathrooms remain.
A sign on the outside quotes some verses by Dante which remember the River Arno:« Per mezza Toscana si spazia /
un fiumicel che nasce in Falterona, /
e cento miglia di corso nol sazia. »
(Dante Alighieri, La Divina Commedia, PgXIV, 16-18)
History of the Building – Hotel Paoli (Hotel Privilege)
Council of Florence
This grand building arose on the area already used by the Hospital of Saints Philip and Jacob of Ceppo, already documented in the early years of the 15th century and subsequently transferred to Saint Bonifacio in 1788 by order of the Grand Duke Leopold of Lorena, following various vicissitudes. The present construction dates back to the 1870s, in any case post 1867 when the system of the new River Arno banks Torricella and then Zecca was discussed. The renovation was mainly through the radical reconstruction of the interiors and the substitution of the new façade for the old, all under the influence of the dominant neo-renaissance style at the time.
After becoming the Hotel Paoli (Hotel Paoli is mentioned in the Illustrated Florentine of 1911), it was transformed into a civil residence in 1921. “The building is articulated through a central leitmotiv of Doric order on which a terrace is placed, in marked horizontal spaces subdivided, then in a vertical sense, in five sectors of pilasters which include three groups of openings. The façade is defined by Roman type eaves with large brackets. The rear façade on Via Tripoli repeats in simpler forms the architectonic elements of late manieristic and neo-renaissance Tuscan taste, with a clearly horizontal setting.” (Patrizia Pietrogrande). The entire property was renovated between 1970 and 1971 based on a project by Architect Giorgio Di Battista, with the integration of elements in artifical lacunous stones and the substitution of the deteriorated tiles of the base in stone (the work was awarded a prize by the Giulio Marchi Foundation in 1972).Source:
Repetoire of Civil Architecture of Florence
Supervised by Claudio Paolini
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