Online Gazetteer of Sixteenth Century Florence

Notes on Using the Gazetteer.

The Online Gazetteer of Sixteenth-century Florence is a data base of about 750 items (identified and annotated objects, streets, piazze, quarters, gonfaloni, parishes and social characteristics) that can be searched and viewed on the Stefano Buonsignori "bird's eye" view of Florence of 1584/94. The items chosen for display are ones significant in the sixteenth and early seventeenth-century transition from the Renaissance Republic to the Medici Grand Duchy, as discussed in R. Burr Litchfield Florence Ducal Capital, 1530-1630. All of the 225 objects numbered in Buonsignori's key of Luoghi Notabili are shown and annotated, plus 105 additional objects. [Concordance between the Buonsignori "Luoghi notabili" and the Gazetteer].

Notes on features of the web site

The opening page

Clicking on View the Map (1594 edition) will show the Buonsignori map as a whole. There are six zoom levels. You can navigate by using the '+'.

Click on ENTER to reach the informational items.

Click on View the Gazetteer on this page to go on to the...


Start by clicking on Grid map of numbered squares.

This displays the Buonsignori map overlaid by a grid of 87 squares, the same units used for analysis in Florence Ducal Capital. The squares cover all parts of sixteenth century Florence that had streets. You can click on any number to go to one of the Individual square pages (to which the square numbers in the other two indices also refer). Try clicking on the number '51'. This will lead you to one of the

Individual square pages

These pages show a close-up enlargement of the part of the map with the square in question. The image has numbered yellow dots ("locations") for identified objects. These can be hidden or shown by clicking on the "Hide/Show locations" line in the upper right corner of the screen. The left-hand box gives the names of the locations, and at the bottom are some notes about that particular square: the quarter, parish(es), major street names and social characteristics of the square, and any additional notes. Individual street names are not indicated in the close-up image (there was not enough room); but see Streets below.

Some locations listed (highlighted and underlined in purple with an *) were beyond the square boundaries. Clicking on any of these location names will take you to a supplementary view showing the object in question from which you can return to your initial square.

Clicking on "Show descriptions" at the top of the box will unfold descriptions for the locations. These are necessarily brief but should be informative. At the end of the descriptions are annotations of three kinds:

1) The number of religious in monastic or inmates other institutions. You will note at the end of the description for "S. Croce Mon". in Square 51 the abbreviation [64 R 1551, 61 1632]. This means that there were 64 religious in S. Croce in the ducal census of 1551 and 61 in the census of 1632. The abbreviation "I" is used for other institutions.

2) Bibliographic references with volume and page (or item) numbers (for S. Croce: B30 M/R 25 Paatz I:497) where you can find further information. The bibliographic references are as follows:

  • B= The Buonsignori number on the map and in his list of "Luoghi notabili".
  • G-L= Leonardo Ginori-Lisci, I palazzi di Firenze nella storia e nell'arte. 2 Vols. (Florence: Giunti, 1972). There is an English translation by J. Grillo. 2 Vols. (Florence: Giunti, 1985).
  • Limb= Walther Limburger, Die Gebäude von Florenz: Architekten, Strassen und Plätze in alphabetischen Verzeichnissen. (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1910).
  • M/R= Osanna Fantozzi Micali e Piero Roselli. Le soppressioni dei conventi a Firenze. (Florence: LEF [Libreria Editrice Fiorentina], 1980).
  • Paatz= Walter Paatz, Die Kirchen von Florenz, ein kunstgeschichtliches Handbuch. 5 Vols. (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, 1952-55).
  • Pass= Luigi Passerini, Storia degli stabilimenti di beneficenza e d'istruzione gratuita della Città di Firenze. (Florence: Le Monnier, 1853).

3) The current street address (if the building still exists).

You can navigate one square in any direction using the "navigate" arrows at the upper right. If you click on an arrow and don't get to another square it is because you have reached a dead end in that direction. To reposition yourself return to the Grid map of numbered squares.

You can go to the Index of objects, the Index of Streets, etc., the Grid map, Home, to the Information page, or to the initial Full map by clicking on items in the upper margin of the Individual square pages.

Index of identified objects.

The Index of identified objects lists the about 330 annotated locations. You can go to the square by clicking on the number to the left and then find the object in the numbered dots and in the list of locations. Sorting the index by "type" will provide a rough subject index.

Index of Steets, Quarters, Parishes and Social Characteristics

Clicking on the number for one of the items in the Index of streets, etc. will take you to the Grid map of numbered squares rather than to one of the Individual square pages; in many instances more than one square will be highlighted. But by clicking on the number in the Grid map you can go to any of the Individual square pages.

Streets, Canti, Piazze

Only the more important streets (about 270) are indexed and listed in the Individual Square "Notes". Prominence is given to the sixteenth-century street names (or rather those used in the 1561 ducal census of houses). Thus you will see in the "Notes" area for Square 51 "V degli Alberti (V de Benci {p})" because in 1561 what is now Via dei Benci was listed as Via degli Alberti, and this was only {part} of the modern Via dei Benci. What was "Via Larga" is now "Via Cavour". What appeared in the census as "V da Cto degli Alberti a Pza del Grano" is now "Via dei Neri". "Canti" are "corners". When there was a significant change of names, both the older and current names are listed in the index, and the modern name is followed by an *. Since the street names are not shown in the images of individual squares you may need to refer to a modern street map to locate a street exactly, although the Index of Streets will show you roughly where it was on the Grid map. You can also refer to the encyclopedic survey of the historical evolution of Florentine street names in the [Florence, Italy], Stradario storico e amministrativo della Città e del Comune di Firenze. 2nd. Ed. (Florence, 1929). [There is now a 3rd. edition: Stradario storico e amministrativo del Comune di Firenze. 3 Vols (Florence, Polistampa, 2004)].


The exact boundaries of the historical quarters of Florence (from the redistricting in 1343--S. Croce, S. Giovanni, S. Maria Novella, and S. Spirito) are not shown on the map, but clicking on a quarter name in the index will highlight the area of that quarter on the Grid map of squares. There is some overlap when quarter boundaries passed within a square.


The names of the sixteen historical Gonfalone of Florence (from the redistricting in 1343-SC Carro, Bue, Leon Nero and Ruote; SG Leon d'Oro, Drago, Chiavi and Vaio; SMN Vipera, Unicorno, Leon Rosso and Leon Bianco; SS Scala, Nicchio, Ferza and Drago) are not shown on the map or in the "notes" for the individual squares, but clicking on a Gonfalone name in the Index of Streets will highlight the rough area of each gonfalone on the Grid map (again there is some overlap of squares). The gonfaloni were the basic units of political sociability of the Republic. Adult male citizens were inscribed in a gonfalone for service in the militia, the night watch, the fire brigades, taxation and scrutinies for office. There were periodic gonfalone assembly meetings, and the sixteen standard-bearers of the gonfaloni were members of an advisory council to the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia and Priors of the Signoria. However, for practical purposes the gonfaloni went out of existence in the first decade of the duchy. The urban militia was permanently disbanded in 1531, the gonfalone assemblies ceased to meet, and taxation and appointment to office reverted to central ducal officials. The dukes circumvented the political sociability of the Republic. The traditional gonfalone membership of families remained only as a residual administrative category in the tax and scrutiny books of the duchy; it had no other real use. Thus we did not emphasize the gonfalone districts in the Gazetteer, although you can see roughly where they were at the end of the Republic.

Map of Quarters and Gonfaloni ca. 1515-30 from the Online Tratte

Another more precise map of quarter and gonfalone boundaries in the early sixteenth century, with the surnames of families inscribed, is available from the Online Tratte. [The Medici are not in this list of names, but they were in SG Leon d'Oro (41).]


The names and areas of 51 parishes are included in the Index of streets (the exact locations of the parish churches are shown in the Index of identified objects). Many of the parishes in the central city were quite small, but some extended to the more densely populated urban periphery. Clicking on a parish name will highlight the rough area of that parish on the Grid map (there is again some overlap). It is quite difficult to know the exact boundaries of Florentine parishes; the areas shown in the Gazetteer were deduced from annotations in the ducal census of shops in 1561. Again, the Index of streets will show the rough areas involved.

Social Characteristics

To provide a sense of the social characteristics of the square/neighborhoods eight typical social characteristics are indicated in the Individual square "notes". There is much more discussion of this subject in Florence Ducal Capital. For each square social characteristics have been deduced from the ducal census of 1561 (or 1551 for households with servants). Florentine neighborhoods were quite heterogeneous: no squares were lived in only by the rich or only by the poor. However, in this walking city there were distinctions, which appear in the social characteristics indicated. The better-off patrician elite tended to live around the city center, while households of the poor, including people without surnames and widows, were pushed into the intermediary zone and the periphery. The very center of the city (around the Mercato Vecchio) was crowded with shops; bookshops were near the Piazza della Signoria. Households of dyers were in the eastern part of the city, while households of weavers tended to be in the western part. In popular culture there were quite marked rivalries between weavers and dyers because they not only exercised different functions in the textile industry but also lived in different parts of the city.

These characteristics were specified by arranging the number of households in each category in the ducal census of 1561 (1551 for households with servants) by square in descending numerical order and distinguishing the top quartile of squares as "many", the middle two quartiles as "a moderate number" or "some", and the lowest quartile as "few". The numerical values are in the following table:




















Moderate or Some




















None (Squares)




















HHOLDS (the total of households in the square-the total population of individuals in 1561 was 59,280) shows the relative density of households.

PATRICIANS (the number of households headed by "patricians") shows the presence of the urban elite. "Patrician" is defined here as families prominent in the fifteenth-century republican priorate or who rose to prominence after 1530 through the ducal court (about 526 surnames in all). "Patricians" are further discussed in Florence Ducal Capital.

W/SERVS (the number of households in the square with servants) shows the presence of the wealthy, or better-off.

DYERS (the number of households headed by dyers) shows one important group of workers in the textile industry.

WEAVERS (the number of households headed by weavers) shows another important group.

W/O SURNAME (the number of households whose head was listed in the census without a surname) shows a telling aspect in Florentine nomenclature indicating people in the working class.

WIDOWS (the number of households headed by widows) shows relative poverty. Many households were headed by widows at different social levels (17 per cent in the census of 1561), a group not much studied. This was because of the difference in age between husbands and wives and the habit of giving dowries to women on their marriages, which gave them a small degree of independence on their husbands' deaths ("a widow's mite"). There were both patrician and non-patrician widows, but more than 80 per cent were non-patrician. Patrician widows tended to have family members living with them, and servants. Non-patrician widows were less likely to live with family, did not have servants, and about a third lived all alone. We have taken the presence of households headed by widows as an indication of relative poverty.

SHOPS (the number of shops of dealers or artisans) shows the commercial districts.

BOOKS (the number printers and bookbinders) shows the highly concentrated book trade.

You can assess the underlying social characteristics of neighborhoods as you move through the Gazetteer, keeping in mind that there was a mixture of social groups in each neighborhood. For instance, square 44 (a working class neighborhood where weavers were likely) had "many households, few shops, some patricians, some households with servants, many households w/o surnames and many households headed by widows" and square 47 (along aristocratic Via Tornabuoni where Palazzo Strozzi was located) had "many households, many shops, many patricians, many households with servants, but also many households w/o surnames or headed by widows". There is more discussion of this in Florence Ducal Capital.

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