Hidden Figures in Florence


posted by on Curiosities, History & Culture

Michelangelo hidden portrait Florence

The hidden portrait of Michelangelo in Florence

Florence is well-known for its beautiful architecture and famous works of art, that you can see all over the historical centre of the city. Tourists flock to these areas, but there are also several hidden treasures located here. If you’re keen to discover a little bit of Florence off the beaten path, then we have some great suggestions. In Florence, there are several ‘hidden’ figures located, unsurprisingly, in some not-so-obvious places!

Located on the corner of the beautiful Palazzo Vecchietti, which was owned by a powerful family who were in fact cited in Dante’s Divine Comedy, is a small devil figure carved out of bronze. There is a story behind this little figure, which goes back to the year 1245. St. Peter was giving a speech at the nearby Piazza della Repubblica, when suddenly the devil arrived in the form of a horse. This horse went crazy and started causing havoc, threatening the lives of the many bystanders. St. Peter made the sign of the cross, which stopped the horse in its tracks and it mysteriously vanished. In 1578 a statue on the corner of the palazzo was made by Giambologna, and this corner is now known as ‘Devils Corner’!

Another fascinating ‘hidden’ work of art is the ‘secret portrait’ of Michelangelo, located near the front entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio. You need to look rather carefully to see this profile of a man sculpted into the stone. Made in the 15th century, it is believed that this portrait was the result of a bet against Michelangelo, which said he was to sculpt a noble person using his hands behind his back! Another theory is that he sculpted this portrait with his hands behind his back as he was talking to a man who often came to narrate all of his problems near the Palazzo Vecchio. Whatever the story may be, this is a fine work of art, and the only Michelangelo that you can actually touch!

Finally, why not pay a visit to ‘Berta’, the stone head which can be found at one of the oldest churches in Florence, the Santa Maria Maggiore . Many people believe that ‘Berta’, a very religious woman who lived alone and was well known in her neighbourhood, wanted to leave all of her savings to the monks at the church. In return for this, she wanted them to cast a bell for the bell tower, in order to be able to warn peasants working in the countryside that at dusk, they should return to the city before the city walls closed. The slightly more sinister version of events, is that this head belonged to a woman who was turned to stone after having been cursed by a witch!

Why not try one of our Florence walking tours, such as the Medieval and Renaissance tour, which guides you around some of the most fascinating historical spots in the historical centre of the city.

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