giovedì 17 giugno 2010
FIRENZE: PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA
Piazza della Repubblica is a city square in Florence, Italy. It is on the site, first of the city's forum and then of the city's old ghetto, which was swept away during the city improvement works or Risanamento initiated during the brief period when Florence was the capital of a reunited Italy, work that also created the city's avenues and boulevards. The ghetto's remains may still be seen in the square, as may the Mercato Vecchio, the Loggia del Pesce. Among the square's cafes, the Giubbe Rosse cafe has long been a meeting place for famous artists and writers, notably those of Futurism.
The present appearance of the square is the result of the city planning announced and carried out on the proclamation of Florence as the capital of Italy (1865-71), with particularly intense activity in this Piazza between 1885 and 1895. In this period, known as the Risanamento in the commemorative nineteenth-century terminology (or, by its detractors, the sventramento or ruining), large parts of the city centre were demolished.
The decision to broaden the square allowed the total destruction of buildings of great importance: medieval towers, churches, the corporate seats of the Arti, some palaces of noble families, as well as craftsmen's shops and residences. The demolition was presented as a necessity if the area's insanitary conditions were to be improved, but was in reality led above all to building speculation and to legitimization of the will of the emerging middle-class emergente, protagonist in the events immediately prior to unification.
The town in fact underwent an enormous loss, minimally compensated for by the rescue of monuments like Vasari's Loggia del Pesce that was dismantled and reassembled in piazza dei Ciompi. The appearance of the square before the nineteenth-century demolitions is documented in prints, paintings and drawings in the Museo di Firenze com'era in Via dell'Oriuolo. A plentiful supply of works of art and architectural fragments fed the antiquarian market, and only some of them could be saved for the Museo nazionale di San Marco, whilst others were returned to the town as donations such as those that allowed the founding of the Museo Bardini and Museo Horne. Artists like Telemaco Signorini depicted with melancholy this disappearing part of town.
In 1888, after the demolition of the hovels in the center of the Mercato, the old piazza del Mercato Vecchio reappeared, with the Loggia, the Column of Plenty and the church of San Tommaso, but the shrewd restorers preferred to proceed with a more radical demolition yet.
On 20 September 1890, with the building-sites still open to rebuild the palazzoni in the square, the equestrian monument to Vittorio Emanuele II was inaugurated in his presence. This monument gave the piazza its original name. An old photograph taken on the day of the inauguration show the buildings of the square still incomplete and covered for the civil ceremony in scenery representing good luck. The statue, a commemorative and rather rhetorical work which did not please the Florentines, was mocked in a biting sonnet by Vamba, entitled Emanuele a corpo sciorto. Today the sculpture is in piazzale delle Cascine.
The palaces that rose in the new square, painted bitterly by the young Telemaco Signorini, followed the eclectic fashion of the time and had been planned by already well-known architects: Vincenzo Micheli, Luigi Buonamici, Giuseppe Boccini. Following this transformation, the square became a kind of "lounge" for the town; since then refined palaces, luxury hotels, department stores and elegant cafes have sprung up around it, among which the known Caffè delle Giubbe Rosse, where famous scholars and artists met and clashed.
The inscription on the arch
The porticos with the triumphal arch, called the "Arcone", was designed by Micheli and was inspired by the most courtly Florentine Renaissance architecture, even if its additions to that style seem to be distant from the true ancient style. The pompous inscription that dominates the square was dictated, it seems, from Isidoro del Lungo, or another literary source:
L'ANTICO CENTRO DELLA CITTA
DA SECOLARE SQUALLORE
A VITA NUOVA RESTITUITO
(The ancient centre of the city / restored from age-old squalor / to new life)
On top of the Arcone is an allegorical group of three women in plaster, representing Italy, Art and Science. The Florentines instead nicknamed them after three famous prostitutes of the era, la Starnotti, la Cipischioni e la Trattienghi. Having deteriorated, the group was removed in 1904.