The birth of Via Larga
- Protagonists :
- The Medici
- Epoch, date:
Florence, Via Cavour (formerly Via Larga)
- Description and history :
Via Larga, now Via Cavour, is the road on which the Medici purchased their residences in the fourteenth century, and in the following century built the palazzo that still bears their name. Parallel to Via dei Servi, Via Larga was located in the northern district of the old city of Florence, within the urban area bordered by the streets Borgo San Lorenzo-Via Ginori-Via San Gallo and Borgo Pinti.
At the end of the thirteenth century, the Florentine Comune passed a number of measures designed to stimulate the development of this part of the city comprised within the last two wall circles, the more recent of which was still being built. Via degli Spadai (now Via Martelli) was opened up, and was then paved in 1289. In 1294 the town criers were ordered to read the proclamations in Piazza San Giovanni at the foot of the new Via degli Spadai. Before the end of the century Via di Cafaggio (now Via Ricasoli), Via San Zanobi and Via Santa Reparata were all also opened and Piazza Santissima Annunziata was enlarged. In the early years of the following century (1308) Via dei Fibbiai and via Gino Capponi were also opened and paved.
The opening of Via Larga took place as a consequence of the provisions of the civic statutes of 1322-1325, which were concerned to facilitate matters for the merchants and farmers bringing wheat and hay "de partibus Macelli et Romandiole" to the grain market of Orsanmichele (which was still a loggia at the time). The new road was thus intended to relieve the intensive traffic along the old and narrow Via San Gallo, by diverting a part of it to Via degli Spadai. Despite the exceptional width for the time, Via Larga was a secondary road, quiet and with relatively little commercial activity, in the form of just a few taverns. The road started as a continuation of Via degli Spadai but ended alongside the convent of San Marco, at the level of Via Salvestrina; it was not extended to its present length as far as the walls until the nineteenth century (1826-1830).
When the Medici purchased their houses and lands in the first half of the fourteenth century, the road was already taking on a residential character. In the second half of the fifteenth century, Cosimo il Vecchio transformed it into the principal artery of the Medici district through an astute operation that comprised the financing of various architectural enterprises (Palazzo Medici, San Marco, San Lorenzo) and shrewd investments (the so-called "garden" looking onto Piazza San Marco).
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