An itinerary entirely devoted to the Florentine trade guilds that contributed so much to the city's wealth and prestige.
(Horemhat modified by elements by Sodacan, CC BY 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
The palace of the Arte Dei Beccai, or Butchers’ Guild, was constructed in the 14th century but became the property of the guild only a few years later. With the suppression of the Arts at the end of the 18th century, the building passed from hand to hand to different owners and today it has become the seat of the Academy of Arts and Design. The only surviving symbol indicating the ancient Arts is the symbol representing the ram placed between the second and third floors.
The guild was part of the Minor Arts and, throughout its history, never managed to obtain a place among the Major Arts.
The association included three professional categories: the “beccai” or butchers, the fishmongers, and the tavernkeepers.
The first ones traded livestock from the countryside outside the city, slaughtered them and sold them at the Old Market and then at the New Market, built in the mid-16th century. The first was located in today’s Piazza Della Repubblica, but no traces remain due to the rebuilding of the entire square. On the other hand, the second one is still observable today by the “loggia” (guild) under which the sale took place. Here could be found all types of meat like beef, sheep, pork and cow meat, but the most consumed used to be sheep and goat meat for their convenience. On the other hand, red meat could only be purchased by the wealthier classes.
A second professional category that joined the Art of the Beccai was that of fishermen. Most of the fish came from the Arno River, where a fair variety of typical river fish such as eels, trout and carp could be found. The goods were then sold in the small square near the Ponte Vecchio that still bears the name Square of the Fish.
Finally, there were the tavernkeepers. They served wine and dishes of all kinds and very often was the case that the beccai themselves had their taverns where customers could consume their meats.
As for the Art organisation, six consuls and a council of twenty-five members were responsible for managing its affairs. However, the rules governing the guild’s statutes were made in agreement with the municipality because the production and consumption of meat had to be subject to stringent regulations. The most important of these included strict hygiene rules, controlled prices necessary to avoid excessive mark-ups, and inspecting instruments such as scales on which meat was weighed.