A permanent crick in my neck

Well, I’ve done it now. I can no longer look down as I walk in the streets of Florence. Why couldn’t they have thought ahead, and put all the neat stuff at eye level during the medieval and renaissance ages? Talk about inconsiderate.

Today, this is what I found for you. It’s on one of the (upper) side walls of the Chiesa Santa Maria Maggiore.

Sourced online

Sourced online

Is this the face of the cleric who was involved in the execution of the astrologer Francesco Stabili, and turned to stone for adding to the torture of the astrologer before  his death by fire?

Or, is it that of a woman who mocked a condemned man as he was led to his execution? His curse was said to have turned her head to stone.

Well, one thing I know for sure, I don’t have the answer. But apparently this was carved around 1327, and there must have been a reason for it. And, it’s quite satisfying when you finally see the carving, so high on the side wall of the church.

Now, where did I put that ice-pack for my neck?




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The last Pitti family crest

Some sharp real estate agent back in 1549 rubbed his hands with glee as he pocketed his fee from the sale of the Pitti Palace to the wife of Duke Cosimo  1.


The Pitti family took what was left after the agent’s cut, conveyance costs, etc., and sloped off  into the gloom of history.

Now, the observant can see the one and only remaining example of the Pitti family crest, overlooking their former modest bungalow. I shan’t tell you where it is, just keep your eyes peeled as you walk from Tourist Central towards the Palace. Yes, you do have to look up, inconvenient as that may be.


Look for this building, light, and traffic sign.

It’s quite an attractive crest, I think.



It’s about time for another wine window, heaven knows I have enough of them.





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Why Mario was late getting home from the pub

It was a dark and stormy night in Florence. The date was 17 February, 1600. Mario and his mates had just finished a highly satisfying wine drinking session at the osteria in  the Via Proconsolo.

They stopped for one last buona notte just behind the Cathedral when suddenly there was an almighty crash of thunder and flash of lightning. Then the men heard what sounded like a thousand ox-carts all dumping their loads of building stone at one time. When they looked up toward the cupola, what they saw soon cleared their wine befuddled brains! The gilded ball on the lantern at the top of the cathedral had been struck by the lightning. It and about two tons of building material came crashing down towards Mario and his mates.

That little white spot in the pavement marks where the lantern came to rest.



You can get some idea of the path the gilded bronze ball and cross took as it bounced and smashed its way down the curve of the dome when you stand on that piece of white marble and stretch your head way back to look up.




When the damage was repaired and the lantern replaced,  holy relics and Latin inscriptions were placed in the arms of the cross, to prevent a recurrence of this event. In more modern times, a pragmatic approach was taken: the lantern is protected by a lightning conductor.

And Mario and his friends? They like everyone else in Florence were unhurt by this dramatic event, but it is not recorded what their wives had to say about their late night out.



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What a morning!

Thanks to the ladies who write the very helpful blog Florence for Free, I heard about an event to be held at the Basilica Santa Maria Novella on the morning of 20 March. basilica-of-santa-maria-novella

Not only would there be the opportunity to view the solar eclipse in safety, but also it was the day of the vernal equinox, and we’d be able to see the sun strike  the appropriate spot on the meridian line placed on the floor of the Basilica.

Keeping in mind that all of the calculations were done in the 1500s, without the aid of computers, what was accomplished by Egnazio Danti, cosmographer to the Grand Duke Cosimo I de Medici, allowed us in 2015 to see both of these events.

Two holes on the southern façade of the Basilica act as camere oscuri. You can read more about them for yourself on this site, which translates adequately using Google: gli-strumenti-astronomici-della-basilica-di-santa-maria-novella/

Every day, the sun’s rays shine through a hole in the rose window on the façade of the Basilica. You can spot this hole just below the red wing of the angel.


Today this gift from Danti allowed us to see an image of the solar eclipse projected onto the interior surface of the Basilica. (Cameras projected the images onto screens for the many viewers.)


Gradually, the image crept lower, until we could see it on a pillar of the Basilica.


From there it was a matter of waiting patiently for the sun’s image to make its way further down, until it touched the floor.


Its target was the specially placed meridian.


And finally at 12:22, the grand moment arrived. However, your reporter was bit late, not being able to battle through the scrum eager to capture this moment in time!


I was so gratified to have been in Florence at just the right time, and to have read the previously mentioned post on Florence for Free. I wonder how long it will be before a solar eclipse and vernal equinox coincide again?



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Kids were well catered for in Florence!

Some of the Florentine palazzi had a special little feature to make the lives of the little boys and girls just a tad more interesting. Below some of the regular windows, small windows (finestrelle) were installed. They were protected by wire mesh, so the youngsters could safely sit there and observe the street life below them.

The two examples I have found so far have been completely closed in. I guess the little ones watch TV or play with an iPad these days.





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The death of a bee

I read recently about the death of  37 million bees in Ontario,  Canada. (I wonder who counted each little bee body?)

Their deaths were attributed to the proximity of genetically modified maize, and the use of a particular pesticide which damages the immune system of bees, and affects their sense of direction. This is disturbing news, if it is accurate. We depend, more than we know, on these busy little pollinators.

I have to report on the death of one little bee here on the streets of Florence. It wasn’t nasty pesticides that caused its death. No, it seems to have been fire. Poor little bee.



I forgot to mention that the Italian word for these 3 wheeled vehicles is “ape”, which is pronounced ah-pay. It means “bee”. If you’ve seen and heard one of these, you might remember the tiny engine sounded like a buzzing bee

Here is what a living one looks like.



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The church with its ass in the Arno *

We will start this treasure hunt by coming back across the Ponte Vecchio from Tourist Central, to the civilized side of the river.

Once you’ve shoved your way past all those pesky tourists and fellows selling selfie-sticks, chuck a right-hand turn onto Borgo San Jacopo. Stay on here until you realise you must have passed the star attraction of the day. (It’s very self-effacing.)

This is what you’re looking for:


It’s the front view of the Greek Orthodox church San Jacopo Apostoli.


Now, dear readers, you have to trudge back across the river. (I never said this would be easy, did I?) You may go back to the ultra crowded Ponte Vecchio, or keep on along the Borgo to the next bridge, Ponte Trinita.

Either from this latter bridge, or a little distance along the crowded sidewalk that follows the river (Lungarno Acciaoli), look for this piece of architecture. It’s the back end of the church, hanging over the river.



* I can take absolutely no credit nor blame for the title of today’s post. The honour goes to Jeff Cotton, whose wonderful website Churches of Florence is chock full of facts and fun.

This is how he ends his description of our featured church:

“Because of it’s flying buttresses hanging over the river this church is popularly known as the church with its ass in the Arno.”

Because you’ve been good sports and didn’t whinge too much about walking a bit, here’s a little taste of Clet’s work.



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