Did you know that one of the oldest churches in Florence has a stone head emerging from one of its walls?
Have you ever heard about the story behind the window always opened in Piazza Santissima Annunziata?
Does the name Baldaccio d’Anghiari ring a bell?
Visiting a century-old city is always a great pleasure, but if you add some eerie stories, secret corners and unsolved mysteries, you can really have an unforgettable experience. If you are keen to discover more about the dark side of Florence, read on and get ready to feel the shivers down your spine!
Every day thousands of tourists converge on Piazza della Signoria, largely unaware of its dark past.
For example, no one knows how many people were killed at Palazzo Vecchio over the centuries, but we can affirm with certainty that Baldaccio d’Anghiari, a mercenary captain wrongfully accused of treason, was one of them: on September 6, 1441, he was taken by surprise, shot from behind, thrown out the window, dragged into Piazza della Signoria and finally, his body was beheaded.
Then, 560 years later....
In 2001, on a summer night, a boy and a girl went for a romantic stroll at Piazzale Michelangelo and took some souvenir photos. The next day, while looking at the images on their computer, they realized that a creepy face was staring back at them from one of the pictures. The photos were then sent to some experts to be analyzed and turned out to be authentic; after further research, paranormal investigators concluded that the one portrayed was the ghost of Baldaccio d’Anghiari, unsurprisingly unable to find peace. According to another legend, his ghost wanders the rooms of Palazzo Vecchio.
Piazza Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio are the stage of some other very chilling stories.
On April 26, 1478, the masterminds behind the Pazzi Conspiracy (an unsuccessful attempt to depose the House of Medici, culminating in the murder of Giuliano and the wounding of Lorenzo) were hanged from the windows of Palazzo Vecchio, as a clear warning not to provoke again the powerful Family. The conspirators who had managed to escape were later caught, tortured and savagely killed; it is said that some corpses were dragged naked through the streets and eventually thrown into the Arno river.
Just twenty years later, Dominican friar and preacher Girolamo Savonarola, arrested for heresy, was locked up and tortured in the Arnolfo Tower, and finally, at dawn on May 23, 1498, was publicly hanged and burnt at the stake in Piazza Signoria. His ashes were scattered into those same Arno waters.
Last but not least, right at the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio there is a curious detail: a mysterious human profile engraved on the wall; an urban legend says it was made by Michelangelo, without even looking at what he was doing.
Moving, but slightly, from Piazza della Signoria, we arrive in front of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore (8th century). Hardly anyone among the crowd of locals and tourists who walk every day along Via de' Cerretani notices the stone head that emerges from the wall of the church. A strange and disturbing image, as is the legend that tells its origin: a woman looked out of the church window while a man, accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death, was being dragged to Piazza Santa Croce to meet his destiny; the woman shouted at the crowd not to give water to the man and the latter, in his anger, turned the woman into stone, trapping her head forever in the church wall.
Not too far from Santa Maria Maggiore is Piazza Santissima Annunziata with its ancient Palazzo Budini-Gattai, once known as Palazzo Grifoni. The far right window on the second floor of this building is always open and this is because a ghost lady is still waiting for her husband to come back. Centuries ago, one of the Grifoni sons was called off to war and had to leave his young bride with the promise he would return soon; the girl waited patiently behind the open window for decades, but her loved one never came back. The day of her death the window was finally closed: the furniture started shaking, books flew off the shelves, paintings fell of the walls… until the shutters were reopened. Since then the window has never been closed again!
Our final haunted spot is Ponte Vecchio, definitely one of the top sights in Florence.
In July 2005, an American tourist took some pictures of the bridge at sunset; once back home, he was shocked to discover that he had captured on film a translucent apparition of an old, white bearded man staring back at him from a bridge window. There is even a video, here.
Fact or faked, there was something going on behind that window!
The past is anything but dead in Florence and there are many other tales, mysterious corners and apparitions to add to your holiday!
With the collaboration of Ciaoflorence tours & travels.