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PEEPS AT
GREAT CITIES



FLORENCE



l:V Till: SAME AUTHOR



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IL i

O NUOVO.






PEEPS AT GREAT CITIES



FLORENCE



BY



ELIZABETH GRIERSON

AUTHOR OF "ENGLISH MINSTERS," "THE CHILDREN'S BOOK
OF EDINBURGH," ETC.



CONTAINING TWELVE FULL-PAGE
ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR

BY

COLONEL R. GOFF
AND OTHERS



LONDON
ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK

1912



\v



:








. .

V



Q



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. FLORENCE IN THE OLDEN DAYS - I

II. THE FLORENCE OF TO-DAY 5

III. FLORENTINE HOUSES IO

IV. IN THE STREETS - 13

V. HUMBLE CRAFTSMEN 19

VI. THE MARKETS - 23

VII. THE ARNO AND ITS BRIDGES - 25

VIII. A STRANGE PROCESSION - 32

IX. HOW THE CHILDREN ARE CARED FOR 37

X. WHERE THE BABIES ARE BAPTIZED - 4!

XI. ITS BUILDERS - 45

XII. THE STORY OF THREE FRIENDS - 49

XIII. ITS PALACES - 55

XIV. TWO OLD MONASTERIES - 6 1
XV. ITS PAINTERS AND SCULPTORS - 65

XVI. ITS POET 71

XVII. ITS MARTYR j6

xviii. ITS SURROUNDINGS' AND FESTAS - - 84

























-

'. '



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

IN COLOUR

I. " IL PORCELLINO," THE BRONZE BEAR OF THE

MERCATO NUOVO Frontispiece

FACING PAGE

2. A PEEP AT FLORENCE THROUGH AN OLIVE GROVE - 9

3. A COOK'S SHOP, WHERE WINE AND OIL ARE SOLD - 1 6

4. THE EAST SIDE OF THE PONTE VECCHIO - 25
5- MONKS AND NUNS - 32

6. BAMBINO (ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA) - - 41

7. INTERIOR OF SANTA MARIA NOVELLA - 48

8. COURTYARD OF THE PALAZZO VECCHIO, SHOWING THE

LOGGIA DE* LANZI THROUGH THE DOORWAY 57

9. VIA DE' SERVI, SHOWING DUOMO - 64

10. OLD HOUSES BY THE ARNO - 73

11. IN THE CASCINE, OR PUBLIC PARK 80

12. PIAZZA S. F1RENZE, SHOWING THE BARGELLO AND THE

TOP OF THE DUOMO On the cover

A Picture-Plan of Florence inside Jront cover



vn




THE MARZOCCO, OR SYMBOL OF THE
POWER AND RIGHTS OF THE REPUBLIC
OF FLORENCE.

[The name Marzocco i3 supposed to be derived
from that of Martc (Mars), the god of war, who
in ancient times was believed to be the protector
of the city of Florence. A statue of this god
stood near the Ponte Vecchio, but during a flood
it was swept away by the River Arno. After
this, the figure of a lion, seated, and guarding the
arms of the city, was substituted for that of the
god, and placed in the Piazza della Signoria, in
front of the Palazzo Vecchio, where the magis-
trates resided.

Now, however, like other statues of great
value, it has been removed to one of the halls of
the Bargello.]



FLORENCE

CHAPTER I

FLORENCE IN THE OLDEN DAYS

No one can enjoy a visit to the city of Florence without
knowing a little of its history. For it is almost the
greatest centre of Art in the world, and the Art that we
see there is the work of men who lived from five to
six hundred years ago.

It is known as the Art of the Italian Renaissance,
and, although we can see beautiful collections of pictures
and statues and frescoes in other Italian towns, there is
no other place where we can see so many of them
together.

Besides this, the history of the city is so wonderful.
For in its streets and its houses we can read the story
of what the life of a foreign town in the Middle Ages
was, especially as Florence was a city that was governed
by its own magistrates, and owned no allegiance to any
outside ruler. These governing magistrates, of whom
there were eight, were known as Priori, and they only
held office for two months at a time, at the end of which
period others were elected in their place.

These magistrates were all obliged to have a trade or
profession. That is, they must belong to one of the
great Guilds, or Arti, of which there were originally
twelve the Guilds of the Silk-merchants, the Physicians
and Apothecaries, the Furriers, the Blacksmiths, the

FL. I



2 Florence

Woolcombers, the Stockbrokers, the Hosiers, the
Butchers, the Armourers, and so on, and if a noble-
man wanted to become a magistrate, he must, in name
at least, become a tradesman, and join one of these
Guilds. Thus the Florence of olden days could have
shown a very good example to our own time, in that
she encouraged everyone to have a means of livelihood,
and to be proud of the fact.

Many of these merchants became rich and powerful,
and founded families which ranked with those of the
Italian nobility. Indeed, it was they who made
Florence the important city that she was. They
carried on trade, especially in silk and wool, with
every part of the known world, " from Syria to Great
Britain," and this brought immense wealth and fame,
not only to themselves, but to the whole community in
which they lived.

It will help to show you how rich these men some-
times were, when I tell you that one family, the Bardi,
were the bankers of Europe that is, they lent out
money, just as a bank lends it to-day, and they supplied
Edward III. of England with gold to carry on his wars.

But, as was natural perhaps, these merchant-princes
were very jealous of one another, and if the head of one
family showed signs of becoming a person of more
importance than the head of another, the latter simply
gathered all his friends and dependents together, and
did battle with his rival, and did not mind in the least
if one or two of the combatants chanced to be killed.
In this way there were always parties, or "factions," in
the city, between whom there were constant fightings
in the streets within the narrow walls, and often, when
the leader of one party fell, his followers would be



Florence in the Olden Days 3

driven right out of Florence and banished ; just as in
other countries Scotland, for instance a dead man's
retainers were often " put to the horn," or outlawed.

This state of things made the merchants who could
afford to do so, build themselves huge palaces, which
stood in the streets, but which were more often like
fortresses, which they not only filled with all kinds of
beautiful things for we must not think of them as
savage barbarians, but as highly cultured men but
in which they also defended themselves against their
enemies.

It would take too long to tell you about all these
factions, but there were two in particular whose names
will always be connected with the history of Florence ;
the Guelphs, and the Ghibellines. These names do
not represent families, remember, they represent parties,
just as to-day we have Conservatives and Liberals, but
for a century, at least, the townsfolk ranked them-
selves under the banner of one or the other, and hated
all who were connected with the opposite side with a
deadly hatred. And because they hated one another,
they would fight with one another, and kill one another,
for no other reason than that one was a Guelph and the
other a Ghibelline.

Later on, one great family rose steadily into power.
This was the family of the Medici, who began by
being bankers, but ended by becoming Grand Dukes
of Florence, the title being created for them by the
Emperor and the Pope. And, if you remember, one of
their descendants, Catherine, became Queen of France.

They were very wicked men in many ways, but they
did a great deal for Florence, especially in extending
her commerce and her Art.



4 Florence

During all these centuries, when quarrels and blood-
shed were raging within the walls of the little city,
another kind of life, and a very different kind, was
going on at the same time. In quiet workshops,
within convent walls, and in the great churches, a band
of men, who came into prominence one after the other,
and who were endowed with wonderful gifts of architec-
ture, and painting, and sculpture, were working quietly
at their crafts, giving little heed to the noise and tur-
moil that was going on around them, and producing
some of the most beautiful buildings, pictures, frescoes,
and statues that the world has ever seen.

A great many of these pictures, and statues, and
frescoes were so made that they could not be carried
away, but formed part of the fabric of the buildings of
Florence and it is this that helps to make the city so
beautiful and wonderful, for, in order to see them, one
must walk about its streets, and examine its old houses
and palaces, and in so doing we cannot help learning as
much about its life in the olden time as about its life in
the present day.

It is very curious how so many strangely gifted men
were born in and around Florence. Perhaps it was
because they were the descendants of the Etruscan
nation, a people who lived in Italy, especially in Tus-
cany, as this part of the country is called, as long ago as
a thousand years before Christ, and who were so artistic
that even the Greeks took their ideas of Art from
them.

They lived in little walled cities, perched far up on
the hill-tops, and were great fighters, but at last, about
400 B.C., they were conquered by the Romans, and were
gradually merged into that race. A colony of them



Florence in the Olden Days 5



lived on the hill of Fiesole, overlooking the Arno, but
as time went on, they lost their individuality as a
separate nation, and came down into the valley, where
a bridge had been built across the river to carry the
highway which led from Germany and the centre of
Europe, to Rome.

Here a new town sprang up, known as Florence, or
the City of Flowers, because it was built on a meadow
in which flowers, especially lilies, grew profusely, and
while, from its position, it naturally became a great
commercial centre, the skill of the old artistic Etruscans
still showed itself in many of her sons.



CHAPTER II

THE FLORENCE OF TO-DAY

PERHAPS the best general view that we can get of the
city of Florence is from the hill of Fiesole, which rises
on the north-east side of the town. From here we can
see the entire sweep of the Valley of the Arno, with
what seems to be only the centre of the city crowded
along its banks, while all round, ten miles in each
direction at least, the low-lying hills are covered with
what looks like dull-coloured brushwood, but which is
in reality one vast olive-yard and vineyard, dotted
thickly with tiny clusters of houses, or houses standing
by themselves, so that the whole stretch of country
looks like one enormous suburb.

This is not so, however. The city is clearly defined
by broad viali, or boulevards, which have been laid out
on the site of the old walls, the greater part of which
were taken down in 1865, although portions of them



6 Florence

can still be seen. These walls were pierced by seven
gates which are still standing, and give access to the
surrounding country. Beyond the via/i are numberless
villas, half hidden by vines, olive-trees, and fig-trees,
and standing in beautiful gardens filled with every flower
and sweet-scented shrub that you can think of - roses,
oleanders, jasmine, myrtle, heliotrope, and lilies.
Farther out, these suburbs merge into little separate
villages, which can be reached by a network of electric
tramways, which run for miles along the roads in all
directions.

When we go down the zigzag road which leads back
from Fiesole, and enter the city itself, we are struck at
once by its quaint, narrow streets, and by the way in
which all the important buildings are crowded together.
Not the churches these are scattered all over the town,
even in the more modern parts, for they were nearly
always attached to convents, which were built outside
the older and smaller city wall but the Duomo, or
cathedral, the market-place, the principal palaces, the
great building which served as a town-hall, and that
also which served as a prison, the old bridge, and the
tiny little shops, in which various handicrafts have been
carried on for hundreds of years. This is because the
old city was very much smaller than the modern one,
or even than that which was erected in the sixteenth
century, and it stood within a much smaller space,
enclosed by an earlier wall, which has now disappeared.
Indeed, there have been three walls altogether, each
one built to encircle a larger space of ground, as the
town gradually grew and extended its boundaries.

The houses are high, and most of them very
large, being let in flats and apartments, and their walls



The Florence of To-Day 7

are covered with plaster or whitewash, which is not
white, but tinted with the most delicate shades of
yellow, and brown, and pink, which makes Florence
appear very clean at all times, and wonderfully beautiful
when the soft colouring of her buildings happens to
catch the rays of the rising or the setting sun.

The roofs are tiled with dull red tiles. They do
not slope very much, but they generally project two or
three yards over the walls, thus forming very flat eaves,
having great beams of wood underneath, and are most
picturesque, as well as useful, for the strip of pavement
under them is often quite dry after a shower of rain.

A great many of the houses have loggias, or roofed
balconies, if one can call them so, where the inmates
may live in the open air, and yet be protected from the
sun or rain. These loggias are quite a feature of the
city. Sometimes they are only raised a few feet from
the ground, and seem like low open balconies on the
street ; when this is so, they generally belong to some
great building which used to be inhabited by some very
powerful family, who could in this way spend their
time outside, and watch the life of the street, and hear
what was going on, without actually walking there, and
mixing with the crowd. Now they are used by every-
one as nice shady side-walks, or as places in which to sit ;
or, if they are outside a hotel or restaurant, as cool and
open spaces for people to have meals in. And they
are rilled from morning to night with numberless little
tables, covered with clean white cloths, which look most
inviting to lunch or dine at.

Other loggias are on an upper story, and they often
have vines, or fig-trees, or great masses of wistaria
trailing over their railings. But the most common



8 Florence

place of all for them to be situated is on the roof, and
this is the most picturesque spot.

\Ye need to be on some high tower where we can
look down on the rest of the city to see these loggias
at their best. Even the poorest houses have them- -just
a tiled roof, supported by four plaster pillars, and a low
wall all round to prevent anyone, especially a child,
from falling over. Here we see the little touches that
show the real life of the people the boxes filled with
flowers, which convert the tiny space into a roof
garden ; the pile of work ; the bird in its cage ; the
clothes hung out to dry ; even the appliances for cook-
ing, with the stove fixed against the gable wall of a
higher house all these show how the Florentine people
love the fresh air and sunlight, of which they have such
abundance.

There is no lack of seats in the streets, however,
where people may sit down and rest, or watch their
neighbours. These seats are not like ours, but are
broad slabs of marble or stone, which run round the
base of most of the great houses and churches. Here
people are to be found at all hours, waiting for a car, or
simply resting and talking to their neighbours. Quite
late at night, in hot weather, we may see, in the public
squares, whole rows of tired men and women, many or
them old, who, their day's work done, have come here
to enjoy the coolness ot the evening air. .

These stone ledges serve also as sleeping-places for
workmen during their midday siesta. In Italy, in
summer, it is too hot for anyone to work in the middle
of the day, and men who may be engaged in the
streets, paving, or hewing, or painting, simply lay
down their tools, stretch themselves at full length on








-V) r'

















The Florence of To-Day 9

some shady ledge, and go to sleep, heedless of the
passers-by.

Some of the streets are so narrow that the over-
hanging roofs almost meet overhead, and we can just
see a slit of blue sky when we look up, but, somehow,
the sun always manages to peep through the slit and
shine down on the roadway below.

Then, as we walk along, we are constantly coming to
some old building which has a beautiful statue outside,
standing in a niche, or on a loggia, or perhaps there
may be a picture on the wall, covered by glass to
preserve it from the weather. Or, what is more
common, the picture may be formed of mosaics that
is, little pieces of coloured stone set in plaster. And
as the background of these mosaics is very often formed
of gold, you can imagine how brilliant they are when
they catch the light of the sun. It seems strange to
have such pictures out of doors, but of course wind or
rain cannot harm this kind of work, and although it
seems to us almost waste to have such beautiful things

o

in the open streets, when we enter the buildings and
see the wonders inside, we realize that the old masters
could well afford to let a little of their work adorn the
outside also.

In the square of the Duomo, for instance, we almost
feel as if we were in fairy-land as we look around us.
There is the magnificent cathedral, second only to St.
Peter's in Rome, entirely covered with marble ;- -black,
and white, and pink, rising like a snow palace in the
sunshine. Over every doorway, and in other places as
well, are pictures in glittering mosaics, so large that the
figures are life-sized, and all representing scenes from
the Bible.

FL.



TO Florence

Beside it stands a wonderful Campanile, or bell-tower,
formed of the same fairy-like colours, with delicately-
planned windows, or " shafts," and marvellous carving.
This is called Giotto's Tower, and it is considered one
of the most perfect pieces of architecture in the whole
world. Close beside these two buildings is a third, the
Baptistery, also covered with marble, about which we
will read in another chapter. All three are within
a stone's throw of one another, while any one of them
is beautiful enough to make a city famous for that one
building alone.

CHAPTER III

FLORENTINE HOUSES

MOST of the houses in Florence are large, and arje
divided into flats. The poorer dwellings are entered
by doors from the street, but those which are inhabited
by richer people almost always have a great arched
doorway, like a doorway for a carriage to pass through,
closed by a heavy wooden door opening in two halves,
and adorned with large wrought-iron knockers.

When these doors are opened, one sees a cool, broad,
flagged passage, with often a little room opening out of
it, in which the porter, or portinajo, lives, if there chance
to be one, or it may be let to some decent needle-
woman or laundress. In the doors of these rooms
we often see a little wicket, or sliding panel, and this
takes us back to the days when these great houses were
all inhabited by their owners, t|fie heads of noble
families, who had estates in the country, and who were
not ashamed to sell the wine and oil 'made there through
those little wickets, the porter, usually an old family



Florentine Houses 1 1

retainer, being the salesman. Now, however, times are
changed. The wine and oil go direct to the merchants,
and not so many of the great families have houses in
FLorence.

When the owner of one of these houses lives in it
nowadays, he occupies, as a rule, the first floor, which
is quite large enough for all he requires. The ground
floor he lets for offices or ware-rooms. In the flat above
him will perhaps live one of his younger brothers, who
is married, but still wishes to have his abode in the old
home. The floor above that will be rented to other
families, who pay a smaller sum in proportion to the
number of stairs that they have to ascend

These stairs are very wide and cool, and are kept
free from insects, which otherwise might be troublesome
in such a hot climate, by being first sprinkled with
paraffin, and then brushed over with sawdust, in the
same way that housemaids use tea-leaves at home.
The floors of the dwelling-rooms are treated in the same
way, which is easily managed, as they are of tiles, and
although a faint odour of paraffin is apt to cling to them,
one knows, at least, that they are fresh and clean.

All the windows are well protected, having wooden
shutters inside to shut out the cold in winter, and
wooden shutters outside like stiff Venetian blinds set
in a frame to keep out the sun in summer, and yet
allow the window to be open, and air to come in. On
the ground floor, where the rays of the sun are not so
apt to penetrate, there are barred iron gratings over the
windows, instead of these sun-blinds, which would make
that part of the building look rather like a prison, were
it not that most of them are beautifully wrought, and
some of them bulge out in a curious way, so that the



1 2 Florence

people in the room inside can push their heads forward,
and look up and down the street. These are called
" kneeling gratings," and it is interesting to know that
it was the great Michael Angelo who invented them.

Of course these gratings are placed over the windows
to allow them to be always open in summer, day and
night, without risk of thieves.

O '

The outside blinds are kept constantly closed during
the day in hot weather, which makes the interior of the
houses very dark, but it also keeps them nice and cool ;
and as evening comes, and the sun loses its fierceness, they
are pushed aside, and the light streams in. In winter
the rooms are not heated with open fires, as ours are in
England, but with stoves, in which quantities of wood
is burned ; and in most houses the cooking is done on
stoves also, which are heated by wood, or by charcoal,
which, as you know, does not actually burn, but
smoulders away without any smoke, until it is one deep
red glow, which gives out an even heat, especially good
for broiling meat over. It gives off dangerous fumes,
however, so that it is never safe to burn charcoal in a
bedroom stove.

The wood for the household fuel has to be brought
from the mountains, many miles away, and the charcoal
also, which is prepared by the charcoal-burners before
they send it to the city. If we chance to be travelling
by night past the foot of any of these mountains, which
are the spurs of the Apennines, we may see, far above
our heads, a ring of fire shining out brightly in the
darkness. Then we may be sure that the charcoal-
burners are at work.

In the city, both wood and charcoal are sold in the
darkest of cellir shops, which have no windows, and are



Florentine Houses 13

reached by a flight of steps which go down till they
disappear in awful blackness. If our courage fail
us, and instead of venturing down, we remain in the
street and call out to the shopman, whom we presume
is inside, such a grimy, wild-looking figure answers our
summons that we are brave indeed if we stand our
ground, and do not turn and fly.

Most of the great houses, of which we have been
speaking, bear the proud title of Palazzo, or palace, and
are built round a square courtyard or garden, where cool
water bubbles up out of a fountain in the centre and
flowers and fruits grow luxuriantly. We get glimpses
of these gardens from the street, when the outer doors
are open, and they look so restful and shady that we
wish we did not need to wait until we made the acquain-
tance of the owners, but could walk in and sit down at
once.

CHAPTER IV

IN THE STREETS

As we walk along the streets of Florence, we see many
people and many things that are very quaint and
interesting. And perhaps what we notice first is neither
a person nor a thing, but an animal "Brother Mule,"


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