The Loggia of the Mercato Nuovo (New Market) and the ‘stone of scandal’

One of the attractions of our tours of Florence, The Loggia del Mercato Nuovo or ‘New Market’, can be found at the end of Via di Calimala – the street takes its name from the Calimala Corporation – as you head towards Ponte Vecchio from the city centre.

Built in the XVI century to accommodate a burgeoning silk and precious fabrics market, the loggia was a popular destination among local businessmen and merchants from around the world.

If you head towards the center of the market, you will notice a large marble circle on the floor. This stone feature is known as la pietra dello scandalo or ‘stone of shame’. During the Renaissance, the ‘stone of shame’ marked the spot where insolvent merchants were publically shamed before being sent to prison or exiled.

Guilty debtors were chained, forced to take off their trousers and then whipped across the legs. The pain would invariably lead to many of them falling and hitting the ground with their naked bottom – which in a city of merchants and bankers such as Florence marked a ritual that was designed to both humiliate and shame debtors.

Some modern Italian sayings seem to date back to this time such as the common expression ‘sculo’ which means bad. ‘Sculo’ is an adaptation of the Italian word for ass or ‘culo’  – and the phrase ‘essere con il culo per terra’ or ‘to touch the ground with your ass’ is used to describe someone who is stone broke.

During the XIX century, changes to the fabric trade in Italy saw the market reinvent itself as the Straw Market and the place to buy Panama hats made in Florence.

Nowadays its stalls are lined with souvenirs and leather-goods, however, you can still find the occasional silk scarf or Panama hat on sale.

Travel tip:
Towards the corner of the market, you can find a small stand selling traditional Florentine sandwiches. A great way to taste Tuscany and try the famous panino col lampredotto, it’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat!

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