It is nothing new that Florence is the crib of the Renaissance. Its history, however, has begun much earlier and if we look closely enough, we can find traces of the medieval period in the streets of the city. But we want to talk about a specific architectural treasure: the “Tower Houses”.
According to Nicoletta Casali, in the book “In search of the ‘tower houses’ in Florence”, “the towers are buildings that symbolize the conflicts and political rivalries that marked the end of the feudal era and the birth of the Municipality. Around the year 1000, with the end of the Struggle for Investitures between the Papacy and the weakened Empire, the cities had begun to expand and register a slow and gradual demographic increase. The invasions had decreased, and the cities had been able to provide citizens with protection: from the outside with the fortifications, inside with the organization of political and economic life “.
In this scenario, the towers represented prestige and power, and could also be built with limited urban space, being vertical. From there it was possible to check the events taking place in the city. Looking at the city from above was synonymous with superiority.
“Unlike the towers built along the walls, which served as guard posts or fortified gates, these were used as tall, difficult-to-access dwellings where one took refuge in moments of danger. During the conflicts, the owners of the houses locked themselves inside, preventing entry from the outside both in the event of incursions by external enemies and internal factions’ struggles.”
The solid masonry was interrupted by a few quadrangular openings of modest size which served as windows, and which allowed only the strictly necessary light to enter inside. Long narrow openings, such as cramped doors / windows allowed. The entrance and exit from the galleries or turrets.
Since originally there was no entrance on the street level, you could access the inside of the towers from the roof of the neighboring houses using wooden balconies, mobile structures connected by ladders that could be easily eliminated in case of danger. The turrets were supported by large beams called “sergozzoni” which went to fit obliquely in the pontoon holes and were blocked by the relative brackets.
Inside they had a simple and severe appearance, on each floor there was a large room connected to the others by hatches to which the ladders were supported. The light came from a few small windows so that the building was not weakened and offered no advantages to the attackers.
The services were on the ground floor of the courtyard, within the block consisting of several towers of the same coterie, linked by mobile structures, where it was possible to access water and wood supplies. In times when the fights were more frequent, the room on the top floor was used for cooking because here the smoke from the fire could be disposed of through the roof openings. Fireplaces spread later. Since, at the end of the 12th century, the factions, associations of several noble families belonging to the same family stock, had established blocks of adjacent towers and houses, connected to each other by balconies and turrets.
The first documented tower houses are 5 and date back to the end of the 11th century, later they spread until more than 160 were documented.
Power comes from above
It did not take long for the bourgeois to start building “tower houses” as a sign of distinction and climbing the social ladder. In practice, the “tower houses” were built next to the “real” house of the family, they were made of stone with strong ashlar or smoothed in a row. As you can imagine, the competition for who had the most austere tower was great!
But the competition for the tallest towers did not please the Municipality, which issued the statute entitled “De turribus exquadrandis” with which it imposed the “pruning” of the tallest towers of the families who competed in building them higher and higher. Thus, only the Arnolfo Tower of approximately 94 meters and that of the Bargello of approximately 57 meters, as public works, symbols of the power of the Municipality, could boast of their height and keep it intact.
These two can be admired like the other 41 that we recommend you visit:
- Torre dei Gianfigliazzi via Tornabuoni numero 1 – Antica Torre Tornabuoni
- Torre dei FIlipetri via dei Leoni numero 2
- Torre di Arnolfo piazza della Signoria
- Torre dei Salterelli piazza dei Salterelli numero 4
- Torre dei Gherardini via Lambertesca 28r
- Torre dei Girolami via Lambertesca in palazzo Bartolommei
- Torre dei Baldovinetti borgo santi Apostoli numero 4r
- Torre degli Acciaiuoli borgo santi Apostoli numero 8r
- Torre dei Consorti lungarno Acciaiuoli numeri 6r e 8r
- Torre degli Amidei via Por Santa Maria numeri 9/11
- Torre degli Judii via delle Terme numeri 3/5
- Torre dei Buonedelmomti via delle Terme numero 13r
- Torre dei Visdomini via delle Oche numero 20r
- Torre di Sant’Antonino via dello Studio numero 3
- Torre La Pagliazza piazza Santa Elisabetta numero 3
- Torri Donati/Ricci il Corso numero 48r
- Torre dei Ghiberti poi Donati poi Ricci il Corso numero 46r
- Torri dei Donati il Corso numero 33
- Torre dei Donati borgo degli Albizi numero 11
- Torre dei Pazzi di Valdarno borgo degli Albizi numero 30r
- Torre dei Donati via Matteo Palmieri numero 35r
- Torre degli Alberti borgo Santa Croce n. 6r angolo via dei Benci
- Torre dei Peruzzi piazza Peruzzi numero 4
- Chiesa di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia via santa Margherita
- Torre dei Giuochi via santa Margherita numeri 13r/1
- Torre la Castagna piazza san Martino numero 1
- Oratorio dei Buonomini di san Martino piazza san Martino
- Torri dei Della Bella via dei Tavolini numero 2 e via dei Tavolini angolo piazza dei Cimatori
- Abitazione degli Abati via dei Tavolini numero 8
- Torri dei Galigai via dei Tavolini numero 1r, via dei Cerchi numero 11r, via dei Cimatori numero 10
- Torri dei Cerchi via della Quarconia angolo via dei Cerchi
- Torre degli Alepri via della Condotta numero 52r
- Torre dei Sacchetti via della Condotta numeri 18/20r
- Torre dei Boscoli via del Proconsolo numero 4
- Case dei Cavalcanti via dei Calzaiuoli 11r
- Torre dei Compiobbesi via Calimala palazzo dell’Arte della Lana
- Torre dei Foresi via Porta Rossa angolo piazza Davanzati
- Torre dei Monaldi via Porta Rossa numero 19 in palazzo Bartolini
- Torre degli Strozzi via Monalda numero 1r
- Torre degli Agli via Vecchietti numero 6
- Torre dei Marignolli via dei Cerretani numero 2
- Torre dei Rondinelli borgo San Lorenzo numero 26
- Torri degli Adimari via Calzaiuoli numero 45