Unusual Punishment in the New Market


Florence Italy overview

Another Curiosity from Florence

By Margo Lestz

In Florence’s New Market (the same one where the bronze pig resides) you can find leather good and all kinds of souvenirs. But be careful about going there if you have any outstanding bills. This is where people were once punished for failing to settle their debts.

The 500 year old New Market
In the centre of Florence, the New Market, or il Mercato Nuovo in Italian, has been in the same location since the 16th century so it’s not really all that new. It was originally called the New Market to distinguish it from an older market which no longer exists.

New Market, Florence Italy at night  Mercato Nuovo
The loggia of the New Market in the evening

It’s covered by an elegant loggia to keep the merchants and shoppers dry in inclement weather. At first, it was a market for silk and other luxury goods and had an upstairs room where the official measuring instruments were kept. If there was a dispute and someone claimed that a merchant was trying to cheat them. The official measure would be brought down to settle the matter.

Later it became the straw market where Florentine straw hats were sold. And today, leather and souvenirs are sold. But there’s something very interesting here that you can only see in the evening or early morning when the loggia is emptied of the portable market stalls that fill it every morning.

The stone of shame, New Market, Mercato Nuovo, Florence Italy
This is called la pietra dello scandalo = the stone of shame or la pietra dell’acculata = the stone of butt on the ground.

The stone of shame
It’s a round stone embedded in the floor in the centre of the loggia. It resembles a wagon wheel and in medieval times, there was a special cart which would be placed here. This cart was used as a movable war alter. It held the Florentine flag and before the troops went to battle it would be brought to this place where the priest  would say mass at it. Then it accompanied the soldiers into battle.

Later this stone took on a second use. It was a place of public humiliation and punishment for merchants who became insolvent or were found to be dishonest. This is where it gets its current name, the pietra dello scandalo or pietra dell’acculata in Italian, which means the “stone of shame” or the “stone of the butt (or bum for British readers) on the ground” in English.

Cruel and unusual punishment?mars velazquez large
If a merchant went bust, he was brought to this spot which was always full of people. Then his trousers were removed and his hands and feet tied. He was soundly spanked and then he had to drop himself bare-bottomed onto the stone three times while shouting, “I give my belongings to pay my debts”. Then he had to sit bare-bottomed on the stone while his possessions were divided up among those he owed. After this the debts were considered fully settled and no one could pursue it further.

This punishment sounds quite severe and humiliating but apparently it was common throughout Rome and was introduced by Julius Caesar to replace a more severe law. The old law allowed an unsatisfied creditor to either kill the person owing the debt or take him as a slave. So I guess it was, indeed, an improvement.

There is still a Florentine saying, stare col culo a terra which literally means “to have one’s butt on the ground” and means that someone has no money, they are broke.

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The Bronze Pig of Florence


il porcellino, bronze pig fountain, Florence ItalyBy Margo Lestz

I’m back in Florence studying Italian and my courses seems to be going better this time. I’m not confusing Italian and French anymore (at least during the first week). We rented a beautiful little apartment in a 15th century palazzo which has painted ceilings, huge windows, and terracotta floors. Florence is full of these wonderful old buildings and it’s such a pleasure to stay in one of them.

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July and August in FranceClosed for Vacation
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fougasse by Cocteau

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Statue of Miles Davis by Niki de Saint Phalle in front of the Negresco hotel in Nice
Miles Davis statue – Negresco hotel in Nice.  Photo by Margo Lestz

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French Riviera beach, Nice France

The beach in Nice, France in the summer. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

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Cours Saleya market, Nice FranceBy Margo Lestz

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Blockhead Building gets a Thumbs Up



blockhead building, nice france, tête carrée,

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SpainBy Margo Lestz

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Parc Phoenix, Nice, France

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tooth fairy vs the little mouse

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By Margo Lestzmay day, more chocolate, spirit of labor day

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By Margo LestzEaster bunny vs Easter bell

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Celebrating the Gourd, nice, france, gourd festivalBy Margo Lestz

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April fool or april fish

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statue of liberty with baguette

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Might this have been Bartholdi’s original design ?

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Venice carnival

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Nice, France café - being rude is costly
“A cup of coffee” – € 7.00
“A cup of coffee, please – € 4.25
Hello, a cup of coffee, please – € 1.40

By Margo Lestz

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Cathedral, Church, Nice, France, Empress, Tsarina Maria

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nice carnaval yellow face

Photo courtesy of Rose-Marie Morro©

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Old Town Nice France

By Margo Lestz

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Italian? Never! … Well, sort of… Continue Reading »

The King Cake holds a Surprise


king cake, galette des roisBy Margo Lestz

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