Florence is known all over the world for its art, culture and architecture. We’ve strayed from the beaten track (a.k.a Ponte Vecchio bridge) to uncover some little-known facts about this wonderful Italian city.
First European Pavements
All roads might lead to Rome, but Florence was the first European city to have paved streets —back in 1339. However, as the street names are particularly confusing we recommend installing a decent city map on your phone in order to get around.
Fish Skin Shoes
The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum contains over 10,000 pairs of shoes created by the eponymous fashion designer (and later expanded by his widow and children). Keep an eye out for the designs created using dyed fish skins.
Unique Florence Dialect
Florence has its own unique language – Florentine – which is a Tuscan dialect spoken in the city and its suburbs. Interestingly, the language is the parent language of modern Italian.
Florence Nightingale was born in Florence in 1820, and the original non-Disney Pinocchio also came from the city — author Carlo Lorenzini was born in Florence.
Birthplace of the Piano
Bartolomeo Cristofor invented the pianoforte in Florence somewhere between 1700-1720. Derived from the harpsichord, it’s the predecessor of today’s much-loved musical instrument.
Opera was invented in Florence at some point in the late 16th century, and it soon became a popular entertainment choice for Florentine nobles. The first complete opera — Euridice, by Jacopo Peri — was performed in 1600 at the wedding of Maria de’ Medici and Henry IV of France.
Lions, Giraffes and Hippos
Between the 13th and 18th centuries, lions were kept in a den in front of the Duomo (to entertain citizens, obviously). The Medici family also kept giraffes in the squares — they would regularly escape and wander the streets before being caught again — and a hippo in the Boboli Gardens.
The November 4th Floods
Florence has had two major floods in its history — one on November 4, 1333 and November 4, 1966. Luckily they’re 633 years apart, so we reckon you’re safe for another six hundred years or so.
Opened in 1775, La Specola is one of the oldest science museums opened to the public. Nowadays, it contains a vast collection of taxidermy animals and anatomical waxes. It’s certainly more unusual than Madame Tussaud’s…
One is not Amused
In 1857 Queen Victoria received a twenty-foot tall plaster replica of the famous David statue; she was so unimpressed by the vulgarity of the display that a plaster fig leaf was commissioned to strategically cover the artwork. Both artefacts are now on display at the V&A museum in London.