While it is common knowledge that the lion is one of the symbols of Florence, what is much less well known is that, for centuries, real lions were kept in a cage in the centre of the city. .
The cage was originally located where the Loggia dei Lanzi now stands, but was later moved to the back of the Palazzo Vecchio, where the street is still called Via dei Leoni.
When Cosimo l de' Medici (r. 1537-74) and his family moved into the palazzo he soon found that the smell of the lions offended his ducal nose and so the beasts were once again relocated.
Piazza della Signoria, the civic heart of the city, is full of stone lions. The most famous is, perhaps, the Marzocco, but lions are also to be found above the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio and at the very top of its 95-metre-high tower, the so-called Torre del Arnolfo.
The entrance to the Loggia dei Lanzi is also flanked by two marble lions and there are countless other lions carved out of the actual fabric of the building.