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.

The Alberti family Tower
(by Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Plan of the ancient walls of Florence
Heritage place of interest.

(by Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The tower was the primary residence of the Alberti family of Catenaia, a prominent city’s Guelph family exiled from Florence after the Battle of Montaperti and returned to the town after Manfredi’s defeat at the Battle of Benevento in 1266. In subsequent internal disputes within the Guelph faction, the Alberti sided with the Black Guelph faction. 

Throughout the Middle Ages, they formed a profitable trading company, thanks to which they achieved prominence among the Florentine families of the 14th and 15th centuries. 

They had branches in Bologna, Genoa, Venice, Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Bruges, London, and even in the Levant, Greece, and Syria. 

This tower house stands near the line where the city walls of the second circle ran; these walls were equipped with a moat, as also remembered by the name of the opposite church, called St. Jacopo “between the ditches”.


The building has a trapezoidal plan that is very unusual in the panorama of medieval Florentine architecture and was also “lowered” following the edict of 1250. Nevertheless, on both the side and main facade, it has small windows, in some of which it is still possible to glimpse the old outlines of some “monofore”, arched windows, usually with a very narrow opening. 

On the front facade still stands out the Alberti family coat of arms consisting of four silver chains arranged in a cross held together by a ring. Heraldic chains also recur on the capitals of the small, elegant loggia marking the road junction. 

On the side facing Borgo Santa Croce, it is possible to glimpse the imprint of the ancient gateway to the tower. The tower’s severe defensive character is softened by a small terrace added in the 19th century. Like so many other medieval buildings, the tower house had been plastered over and lost its original character.


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