I’m not sure I would consider bringing young children to Florence; there just doesn’t seem to be enough to interest them in the town and the wonderful museums and artworks would be a bit much for little ones. But there is one place that kids can just relax and have fun – and that is on the merry-go-round at the Piazza della Repubblica.
Formerly named the Mercato Vecchio, the piazza is located at the site of the ancient Roman forum and was at one time the ghetto of Florence. Over the years it has been cleaned up and renamed and now an attraction for artists, writers, and tourists (and children!). In the center of the piazza is a tall column with a statue on the top, the Column of Abundance, which is a 1956 replica of the 1721 replacement of a 1431 original by Donatello that was getting worn from the weather.
The large triumphal arch along the side of the piazza proudly describes the Piazza della Repubblica in its inscription as: “The ancient center of the city restored from age-old squalor to new life.”
There is a YouTube video of the carousel, showing just how much fun kids can have in the Piazza della Repubblica. After a ride on the carousel, they will most likely want some gelato.
If you have a little bit more time, head over to the nearby Mercato Nuovo and pick up some good luck by rubbing the boar’s snout at the open air market. Don’t worry – he doesn’t bite.
This more "modern" square dates from the time that Florence was capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871. The square has a tourist market known as the new market and is surrounded by shooping streets that specialize in designer clothing.
Florence's Piazza della Repubblica stands where the Roman forum used to be several centuries ago. Over the years, the city had grown around and over the piazza, with many streets, houses, churches and so on being built over the empty market square. In the 19th century, when Florence briefly became the capital of Italy, work was undertaken to modernize the city. Several buildings were pulled down to make way for large boulevards, the Piazza della Repubblica being one of the most important projects. Citizens seeing a huge part of their patrimony disappear protested against the decision and probably saved the city from futher destruction. The new piazza was officially inaugurated in 1890 and the monumental arch that stands at its center was completed in 1895, bearing the controversial inscription "L'antico centro della citta de secolare squallore a vita nuova restituito" (the old city center from its past squalor was restored to a new life). It quickly became surrounded by luxurious hotels and cafes, many of which are still around today. There's no doubt that the sunny patios all around the piazza are very inviting, and we did take a look at some of the menus, but we quickly realized that the area was a bit out of our price range!
Further west along Via degli Strozzi from Piazza della Repubblica is Palazzo Strozzi, a HUGE renaissance edifice that is hard to ignore for its sheer size. During its construction in the 16th century, 15 buildings had to be demolished to accommodate the grand plans of its original owner, the banker Filippo Strozzi, who died long before the first stone was laid. The palace was a integral part in Strozzi's plans to create worthy rivals to the Medicis grand palaces in the area (now of course, we know Strozzi failed).
Three architects worked on the project - Giullano da Sangallo, Benedetto da Maiano, and Simone del Pollaiuolo. The original exterior of rusticaed masonry blocks remains to this day which gives the building a very solid look. And so are the renaissance torch holders, lamps and rings for tethering horses.
Finally, a grand palace not attributable to the Medicis!
Arguably, the café-lined Piazza della Repubblica is the city's liveliest and most entertaining square. This seemed to be the case even during the medieval and Roman times when it was the heart of city. Today, the square beats to the rhythm of children's carousel, freelance street performers, residents out for fresh air and promenading tourists. It's such a lively place and a great escape from the overwhelming amount of art to be seen and experienced in Florence's many museums. The square is best experienced after sundown when it's aglow in bright lights and the air filled with music from street performers, street vendors' sales pitches, and children's delightful shrieks from their carousel ride.
This unique plaza is home to the only merry-go-round in Florence. There is also a very large department store nearby. Perhaps the neatest thing about this plaza is that there are a lot of independent vendors selling paintings, leather belts, and other gifts that relate to Florence. There are food vendors selling sweet almonds and roasted chestnuts that give off a sweet aroma that fills the plaza. This is a nice place to visit towards the end of the day when you feel like winding down.
I was here on Boxing Day 2006, and the atmosphere here was festive. A huge Christmas tree was lighted up and the square was full of people. This square is relatively new because the site was previously known as Piazza del Mercato Vecchio or the Old Market Square which was destroyed in the late 19th century
This is one of the liveliest areas in Florence and is a great place to people watch & enjoy some refreshments in one of the outdoors cafes (if it's not too cold). If you have itchy feet, the shopping street and other attractions are just a few feet away
You can't miss a children's carousel close to the huge arch at Piazza della Repubblica. It is colorful and popular with the kids. The scene is especially beautiful at night when the carousel lights up in all colors & music
This should be fun to go on with the kids. Pity I'm not a kid otherwise I would take a ride on it! :)
Piazza della Repubblica (square of republic) was the center of Mercato Vecchio (old marketplace) years ago. You can see sidewalk cafes, some artworks and a huge triumphal arch there nowadays. Column at the square is from 18th century and it symbolizes fertility.
When Florence became capital city of Italy, triumphal arch was built (in 1895). There is also a car park very close to square. One of the biggest shopping malls (Rinascente) of Florence is located in east side of the square.
First here was a Roman forum, then the Mercato Vecchio, then the Loggia del Pesce (fish market), then the Jewish ghetto. Recently :) between 1885 and 1895 on top of all those previous the Piazza della Repubblica was built. Not very much to see there though, and not a place of shadow to hide.
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