if the first time you waltzed onto florence’s piazza della republicca you thought ‘wow, nice shops! nice cafés! nice luxury hotels!’ then you thought wrong. what you should have been thinking was: ‘wow, this dense, somewhat oppressive architecture really stands out from the rest of the city’s spaces and buildings. in fact, it feels like they’re trying to impose something on me, like…. wait i know it….. nationalism!’ according to rick stein’s guide book, that’s what all the other fiorentinos thought at the time that the piazza was being remodeled.
let’s take a step back in time: it’s the mid-to-late nineteenth century, italy has just been united, tuscany has recently joined it, and florence has just been proclaimed italy’s new capital. obviously, the guys on top want to make a big statement about nationalism. why not sweep out this section of the city (causing significant urban population shifts but, hey, who gives a shit) (more info via this link) and build a really big ‘statement’ piazza about the new italian nation?
these are the origins of the piazza della republicca, as we know it today. but this begs another question:
why on earth was florence chosen as a capital city (1865-1870)?
florence was always linked to notions of nationalism. this had a lot to do with its roman ruins, and the special significance that rome continued to give to this particluar city for many centuries. already in the middle ages, florence was considered ‘a second rome’.(1) to find out more about florence’s ‘nationalist’ history, i recommend a rather fascinating article written in london during the second world war: nicolai rubinstein’s ‘the beginnings of political thought in florence. a study of medieval historiography’, journal of the warburg and courtauld institutes, vol. 5, (1942), pp198-227.
and/or, you can just enjoy this photo:
sunrise on piazza della republicca
complete with merry-go-round and transient bookshop
(1) nicolai rubinstein, ‘the beginnings of political thought in florence. a study of medieval historiography’, journal of the warburg and courtauld institutes, vol. 5, (1942), p208.