Happy Valentine's Day

v-day-message-1Rob and I have never been big Valentine's Day people. I think it is mostly to do with our excessive frugality and the ridiculousness of inflated V-Day menus at restaurants. Today, however, I'd like to say Happy Valentine's Day to all of our wonderful friends...you know us and yet still love us ;-)

The blog may be quiet for a few days as we make our way to the U.S. We hope you understand.

araldica di firenze: the pazzi


Family: the Pazzi
Dates to: 1099
Meaningful shapes, colors and symbols: Two golden fish and
five golden crosses on a blue background
Where to find it: Palazzo Pazzi, not far from the Duomo

The story of the Pazzi is perhaps best summarized by translating their name: crazy. The first noteworthy mention of the family is an event which gave them their name. During the first crusade, a man who became known as Pazzo or Pazzino was the leader of the Florentine forces at the Siege of Jerusalem. Pazzo was the first man over the city's walls and planted the flag of the Crusaders.

The next mention of the family, though historians say this is a different branch of the family, is in Dante's Divine Comedy. Dante places two members in the circle of traitors in hell for killing a Bishop. Less honorable than the family's first round of notoriety, but no less crazy.

Without a doubt, the most famous act of any of the Pazzi has to be the murder of Giuliano Medici and the attempted murder of Lorenzo Medici on Easter Sunday, 1478. Giuliano was stabbed 19 times during mass, in front of a crowd of 10,000 who were gathered in Santa Maria del Fiore. The assassination was done in the name of liberty for the city, but in fact the people of Florence turned on the conspirators. Those involved were thrown from windows, dragged through the streets, hung and thrown in the Arno. The Pazzi Conspiracy, as it is now known, was not an unorganized coup attempt. In fact the conspirators had the full backing of the Pope at the time.

araldica di firenze: the Capponi


Family: The Capponi
Dates to: 1020
Meaningful shapes, colors and symbols: Half black, half white. Cut diagonally.
Where to find it: Palazzo Capponi on Via Gino Capponi

The Capponi are one of the oldest families mentioned in this series. They are recorded as early as 1020 in Orvieto, but are found in the Silk Guild in Florence in 1216. It seems that within three generations of their moving to Florence they had become quite wealthy from trade in silk. The family split into many branches early on, which has given them a colorful - and politically interesting - history.

Some members of the family were expelled from Florence during the conflicts between the Guelphs Ghibellines. Others left Florence for other cities and helped make Capponi a very common name throughout Italy. But much of the family stayed in Florence, where they became involved in the city's politics.

One of the family's most notable members is remembered primarily for his political abilities.  Piero di Gino Capponi was a good friend and ally of Lorenzo the Magnificant.  Lorenzo, as de facto ruler of Florence sent Piero to many cities and courts as the city's ambassador. However when Lorenzo died and his son, Piero the Unfortunate, came to power, Piero (Capponi) opposed his authority. His opposition came to a head with the invasion of Italy by Charles VIII of France. Charles' objective was Rome, but he meant to capture Florence along the way, and Piero the Unfortunate was unable to secure the safety of the city. Using this failure as leverage, Piero Capponi helped exile the Medici from Florence, and became head of the Republic of Florence himself.  It is Piero Capponi who said the famous phrase "E se voi suonerete le vostre trombe noi daremo alle nostre campane!" or "If you play your horn, we'll ring our bells," which is a reference to the bells that would call the city's milita. Florence has rememberd Piero fondly, and you can see a statue of him outside the Uffizi Gallery today.

As with any family that survives long politically, the Capponi didn't keep enemies longer than they needed to. Though they had helped to exile the Medici, when the family returned as Dukes, they soon reconciled. Members of the Capponi family served in various capacities under the Medici Grand Dukes, including as senator. Finally, by the 1860s, with Italy on the cusp of unification, Gino Capponi, a statesman and supporter of unification, helped bring about the Risorgimento (Reunification) of Italy.