By: Emily Hurley, MA, 2018
When most people think of Florence, they usually think of art and the Italian Renaissance instead of ghost tales and spooky legends. However, Florence has been around for hundreds of years and while it may not be known for scary stories, it has a rich history of conflicts and death – there is bound to be some spooky and kooky spectres haunting the city.
In Piazza Santissima Annunziata you will find Palazzo Budini-Gattai, a former palace which now rents out space for banquets. There is a window on the far right of the second floor where the shutters are always left open. As the story goes, a man who lived in the palace left for war, telling his wife that he would quickly return to her. She watched for him to come back everyday through this open window but she waited in vain. After decades her husband had still not returned. She continued to wait until her death and when this window was finally closed, the furniture in the room began to shake and objects flew across the room. This all stopped when the window was opened again and it has never been fully closed since.
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, near Piazza della Signoria, may at first appear just like any other. But if you look closer at the Northern wall you will see a strange sculpture of a disembodied head which is supposedly the head of a woman who was cursed. In the 14th century, a scientist named Cecco d’Ascoli was accused of witchcraft and condemned to death. As he was being taken to his execution, he passed by the church and asked for some water. A monk peered down from a small window and commanded the crowd not to give the man a drink. In anger, Cecco cursed the monk saying “That will cost you, your head will never take off!”, and ever since the head has remained petrified in the window.
One of the city’s greatest tales of love and loss is that of Bianca Capello and Francesco I de’ Medici. Francesco had a perilous marriage with Joanna of Austria, thus seeking solace with Bianca, his mistress. After Joanna died, Francesco secretly married Bianca, much to the chagrin of his family. A few years after their scandalous marriage, both Bianca and Francesco are said to have been poisoned by arsenic by Francesco’s own brother, Cardinal Ferdinando. They died within hours of each other after eleven days of agony from the poison. Francesco was buried with his previous wife but because Bianca was never truly accepted into his family, she was placed in a common grave. Legend has it that she now haunts the palace her husband had built for her on Via Maggio, eternally looking for her beloved.
The picturesque gardens of the Romanesque Church in Piazza del Limbo have an unfortunate beginning. This was once the spot for babies that had not yet been baptized to be buried and their bones still rest below it. Even though they had never sinned, because the babies had not been baptized, it is said that their souls would forever be in limbo – unable to move on and rest in peace. The gravestones have since been removed but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still signs that the cemetery was once here. Today the babies are said to still haunt the visitors to the piazza as they are stuck there for eternity.
From lost loves, curses, and haunted cemeteries, Florence sure does seem to have its fair share of spooky sites. And with the history Florence has, I’m sure there’s many more scary stories where these came from. If you’re not too scared, take a trip to these places and see if the stories are true, but be careful! You never know what you’ll find in this city…
Featured Image created by Kate Rathman