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.