Piazza della Repubblica is right in the heart of Florence. In fact, the column of Abbondanza is the geographical centre of the city, the ancient ‘belly button’ of the Roman Forum that once stood here. This monument also marks the boundary between three of the four historical Florentine districts on this side of the Arno river: the blues of Santa Croce, the greens of San Giovanni and the reds of Santa Maria Novella. The other district is that of the whites of Santo Spirito which is on the other side of the river. Part of the piazza used to be used as a market place due to the commercial, political and social importance of the square’s position. Many local myths and legends have been born out of the square. For example, local lore has it that on one day in 1245, Saint Pietro Martire was intent of preaching against heretics there as usual.
A great crowd had gathered to hear him speak, so many people that the square wasn’t big enough and there were people straining to hear him from Piazza delle Cipolle (Onion Square), where Palazzo Strozzi now stands. Suddenly the devil appeared in the form of a wild black horse who stampeded through the market in the piazza blasting everything and everyone out of its way to try to disperse the crowd. Saint Pietro Martire realised the danger his followers were in and drew the sign of the cross in the air facing the wild horse. The horse stopped instantly and then disappeared. Several centuries later, in memory of this legend, Bernardo Vecchietti ordered Giambologna to design a bronze flag holder in the shape of a small devil which he then had put on the corner of his palazzo on Via Vecchietti/Via Strozzi. The fruit and vegetable market was eventually moved from Piazza della Repubblica to Piazza delle Cipolle, where Palazzo Strozzi now stands. In memory of ‘Onion Square’, the lanterns on the corners of Palazzo Strozzi are onion shaped.