In a small garden, at the back of the church of San Lorenzo, sits a statue of a woman to whom the city of Florence (and in particular all of its residents who work in the tourist industry) owes a huge debt of gratitude.
Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici (1667-1743) was the sister of Gian Gastone de' Medici (r. 1723-37), the seventh and final Medicean Grand Duke of Tuscany, who died childless. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany passed to the House of Lorraine and the Medici family's fabulous collection of paintings, sculptures, precious books, jewels etc, may have gone the same way, had it not been for the famous 'Patto di Famiglia' (Family Pact).
On October 31st 1737, Anna Maria Luisa, made a will which ensured that all of her family's art and treasures, which had been collected over nearly three centuries, remained in Florence 'per ornamento dello Stato, per utilità del Pubblico e per attirare la curiosità dei Forestieri' (for the ornament of the State, the use of the public and to attract the curiosity of foreigners).
The last scion of the House of Medici died on February 18th, 1743.
Titian's 'Venus of Urbino' is held, by many, to be the sexiest picture in the Uffizi. It was painted in 1538 for Guidobaldo della Rovere, Duke of Urbino and came to Florence in 1634 when Ferdinand II de' Medici (r. 1621-70) married Vittoria della Rovere.
When the painting entered the Uffizi in 1736 it was hung in the Tribuna where it was covered by a sliding panel depicting Sacred (ie. clothed) Love. The 'modesty' panel was removed at the end of the 18th century.
Titian's masterpiece no longer hangs in the Tribuna; it can now be found in a much less prestigious part of the gallery.
You can't walk around Florence for long before you start to notice what look like tiny windows at the bases of some buildings. The 'windows' are known as buchette del vino (holes of wine) and are unique to Florence.
The buchette del vino originated in the 17th century, during a period of economic crisis, and were the means by which noble families sold their wine direct to the public. Cutting out the middle men had obvious advantages for both buyers and sellers.
The holes are just big enough to allow the passage of a fiasco, a litre-bottle of wine encased in straw. The trade was strictly monitored by the authorities and a few plaques detailing the opening hours can still be seen.
The buchette del vino were often referred to as tabernacoli del vino, as their shape resembled small shrines.
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