Piazza di Santa Croce

sights / Squares & plazas

Piazza di Santa Croce information

Florence , Italy
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This square was initially cleared in the Middle Ages, primarily to allow hordes of the faithful to gather when the church itself was full. In Savonarola's day, heretics were executed here.

Such an open space inevitably found other uses, and from the 14th century it was often the colourful scene of jousts, festivals and calcio storico matches. Still played in this square in the third week of June each year, calcio storico (www.calciostorico.it) is like a combination of football and rugby with few rules (headbutting, punching, elbowing and choking are allowed, but sucker-punching and kicks to the head are forbidden). Look for the marble stone embedded in the wall below the gaily frescoed facade of Palazzo dell'Antella , on the south side of the piazza; it marks the halfway line on this, one of the oldest football pitches in the world.

Curiously enough, the Romans used to have fun in much the same area centuries before. The city's 2nd-century amphitheatre took up the area facing the western end of Piazza di Santa Croce. To this day, Piazza dei Peruzzi, Via de' Bentaccordi and Via Torta mark the oval outline of the north, west and south sides of its course.