San Firenze and turnip

San Firenze is the name of a strange little square of Florence

It has a bizarre shape: long and narrow. The name intrigued me from the beginning, when I went for the first time from this square near Piazza della Signoria: in fact, it would seem that the town itself is elevated to sainthood.

Actually, this misconception is easily explainable: San Firenze is the “local” distortion the Florentines have made of San Fiorenzo, which in the past was dedicated the majestic baroque church that occupies much of the east side of the square.

The place in ancient time was known as the monastery of San Fiorenzo is one of the most unique buildings in all of Florence: it’s only apparently a church, since inside there’s the Court of Florence (until the final move at the new Palagiustizia in Novoli).

Like any saint worthy of respect, also San Fiorenzo is usually represented with his own iconographic symbols: if Santa Caterina has a sprocket and Saint Lucia has a saucer with two eyes, San Fiorenzo is represented with a turnip in his hand.

However, in this case, the symbol associated with the saint doesn’t refer to the mode of his martyrdom, but simply to a strange event: the San Fiorenzo festival falls on December, 30, i.e. the eve of the last day of the year.

Turnips are picked in this particularly lean period, and that’s the reason for this unusual association. Turnips are the ‘last fruit of winter’.



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