When I Met Italian Nobility: A Brief History of Via del Giglio 6

By Emma Montross, MA 2014-15

As a Masters Student with an interest in history, I often find myself wondering about the history of the buildings in which I study and work. Who lived here before? Is the function of this building today the same as it was in the past? What does that symbol on the wall or the exterior refer to? Did a formerly powerful and famous person live here? It is fun to speculate what could have been, but after staring at the Bartolini Salimbeni stained-glass crest (pictured right) almost every day when I come into the Marist office at Via del Giglio 6 to work, I realized I had the means to find out about the history of this building, and could not pass up the chance to finally find something out.

Bartolini Salimbeni Crest
Bartolini Salimbeni Crest

I was able to sit down with the owner of the building, Lorenzo Bartolini Salimbeni, who graciously explained to me the history of his family, and therefore the building, which I am more than excited to share.

Hailing originally from Siena, the Bartolini Salimbeni family relocated to Florence where they become involved in governing the city and banking. The family’s main palazzo was located in Piazza Santa Trinita (pictured left), though the family does not own the building anymore. The family itself has popped up here and there throughout history, important enough in their time to make a few appearances in literature. Dante mentions the brothers Niccolò and Stricca Salimbeni among the squanderers in Inferno, and some believe that the Salimbeni/Tolomei feud inspired, through some means, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.[1] But it is the story of the family’s crest that I found the most interesting.

The Bartolini Salimbeni family symbol, when you look careful enough, can be seen scattered all over Florence. The official crest usually includes one or more lions, however, the true Bartolini Salimbeni ‘symbol’ are three poppies. These poppies are always encircled in a gold ring, tied together by a ribbon inscribed with PER NON DORMIRE in Latin. As the story goes, a Bartolini intent on receiving a spice shipment set to arrive the next morning invited his rivals over for dinner the night before. He laced their food and drink with opium, putting everyone to sleep to ensure that he would be the only merchant to purchase the shipment the next morning. PER NON DORMIRE refers to the plant he used, as well as the family saying, “By not sleeping, you make a fortune.”

Bartolini Salimbeni Stained Glass Crest in Via del Giglio 6
Bartolini Salimbeni Stained Glass Crest in Via del Giglio 6

Via del Giglio 6, Lorenzo explained to me, had been his family’s primary residence until the

Photo of the Bed and Breakfast, where the Marist Italy conference room is today
Photo of the Bed and Breakfast, where the Marist Italy conference room is today

1920s. His father was born in what is now the Marist Italy office space; it was only until the family relocated to Rome for business did they begin renting out the building. Between the time that the family relocated to Rome and the Marist Italy Office became the Marist Italy office, however, the space was a bed and breakfast hotel. The T.V./living room area located behind the wall of glass windows was a dining area, and the conference room with the beautiful 18th century frescoes on the walls and ceiling was a bedroom (pictured at right).

I am sure that Via del Giglio 6 holds many more secrets that I have yet to learn, but as of now, I am so happy to have been able to meet Lorenzo and receive the smallest glimpse of what a treasure trove of a building we work and study in. If you are interested in learning more about the Bartolini Salimbeni family or would like a first-hand experience by staying in the villa Lorenzo’s family owns, please visit http://www.villa-collina.com or say hello to Lorenzo if you manage to catch him in his office on the first floor! I know he would love to share his story with you as he shared it with me.

And remember Marist students, when you have a potential problem concerning your future, just put your foes to sleep with some poppy seeds. Everything will turn out fine. What could go wrong?[2]

Bartolini Salimbeni family motto
Bartolini Salimbeni family motto

[1] Vidimos, R. (2010, November). Relating to “Juliet”: Author Dug into Italian History to Unearth 1300s’ Family Feuds. The Denver Post. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_16526482.

[2] Lorenzo strongly recommends you not do this, as, in his words “nowadays you could go to jail for using poppy juice…”



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