my mom recently bought a really nice shawl on the mercato nuovo. but that’s not why i recommend that you go. most people go to the mercato nuovo to rub the nose of the wild boar. wait – it’s actually a bit more complicated – you have to place a coin somewhere, watch it drop and then rub the boar’s (‘il porcellino’) nose… . or something like that. in doing so, this means that you will come back to florence in the future.
in the age of easy jet and other low-cost airlines, this ritual doesn’t quite have the same resonance it might once have had. also, the current porcellino is (turns out) a copy, of a copy, of the original, which is in marble, and in the uffizi museum. does this new information mean you shouldn’t go to the mercato nuovo? well, no. remember, they sell nice scarves.
no, no, no, i joke, i joke. almost. the most fascinating thing about the mercato nuovo – which is located between the piazza republicca and the ponte vecchio – is the stone placed in the centre of the logia. it’s only really visible at night, when all the merchants are gone.
this stone is called ‘the stone of shame’. it’s origins go back to a long long time ago. or, as some prefer to call it, the renaissance. in those days, going bankrupt was one of the greatest crimes a merchant could commit (remember, florence was a city of merchants) and you deserved 2 punishments for it:
(1) outside of your shop, your bench (banco) from where you sold your products was broken in half (rotto). that’s right phil, here, we may have the origins of the term ‘bankruptcy’ (bancorotto). (although i’m not sure if it’s 100% correct… .)
(2) you were then brought to the center of the logia of the mercato nuovo, onto the ‘stone of shame’, your pants were pulled down and you were publicly spanked.
so, to sum it up, your bench was broken in two and you were spanked in public. sounds a lot like a child’s quarrel in today’s standards, but back then you can only imagine the kind of ripple effect it could have on your public life and commercial interactions.
right, enough said, i’ll now let you enjoy some of the photos i took on anna’s night tour, where i first heard all of these really, really fun facts:
…. and ….
(insert scary suspense music)
the spanking stone.
(please, do not insert kinky music)
piazza del mercato nuovo
off via calimala
very central florence