The medieval tower houses of Florence
  • Europe /
  • Italy /
  • Florence

An itinerary entirely focused on a very special type of dwelling, of which only a few examples remain in Florence.

Towers of Corso Donati
Heritage place of interest.

The tower houses on Corso Donati are located on the same block and are visible together from Piazza San Pier Maggiore. 

The first is located on Borgo Albizi 11 and was also formerly called Gemma’s Tower because it was mistakenly thought to have belonged to Gemma Donati, Dante Alighieri’s wife. From the Donati family in the early 15th century, the tower was passed to the Albizi family, to whom we owe the building in its present form. 

The tower has the typical stone “filaretto” cladding, the traditional irregular masonry of the medieval age. However, the palace to which the tower is incorporated is characterised by later elements such as windows with stone frames, aligned on the two cornices. On the doorway, set into the broken semicircular tympanum, is a bust of Cosimo II depicting the grand duke in contemporary armour, dating from the period when the Albizi family owned the building.

The second tower is located on Via Matteo Palmieri, 35r corner of Piazza San Pier Maggiore. It was first owned by the Corbizi family and later by the Donati. It is known and reported in the literature to have been in 1308, the site of Corso Donati’s last attempt of resistance against the “Guastatori Della Signoria”; the popular fury against the elderly leader of the Black Guelphs suspected him of wanting to make himself lord of the city. 

Still owned by the Donati in 1427, the tower later became the property of a secondary branch of the Medici family, remaining in its lineage until 1798. Thanks to a series of major restorations carried out during the twentieth century, today, this is one of the Florentine medieval towers most clearly legible in its original structure, although later buildings flank it. 

The structure expands on six levels and features a gatehouse with a ferrule and three asymmetrical windows on the main front, in addition to the usual pontaie holes with corbels below. Thanks to the complex of the two towers and the buildings to which they are attached, the Donati family must have benefited from a massive house that was extremely secure and well-defended. 

On the low building flanking the tower on the side of the square, a plaque with a proclamation from 1639 has survived, representing an exciting glimpse of ancient daily life. With it, all market gardeners and other vendors were forbidden to sell merchandise on the entire square of San Pier Maggiore, under penalty of paying a “scudo” (coin) and imprisonment.


1. The Ricci family Tower

2. Towers of Corso Donati

3. The Alberti family Tower

4. The Amidei family Tower

5. The Gianfigliazzi family Tower

6. Spini-Ferroni Palace