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 Amidei family Tower
(by Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
(by Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

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

The tower house was erected in the first decades of the 13th century and is recorded in archival documents dating December 1241. In these years, it belonged to the powerful Amidei family, which owned several other houses on this stretch of the street towards Ponte Vecchio. According to chroniclers such as Giovanni Villani and Dante Alighieri, the Amidei punished the young Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti with a death sentence. The reason for this hatred was the marriage repudiation of one of the Amidei’s daughters, giving rise to bitter clashes between the two families. These clashes led, within a few years, to the splitting of the famous city into Guelph and Ghibelline factions. Moreover, on the front face is a memorial plaque affixed in 1865 commemorating the mention of the Amidei family in the “Paradiso” of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The verses read, “The lineage from which your weeping was born because of the righteous disdain that ruined you and put an end to happy living was honoured along with its consortia: O Buondelmonte, how ill you did to flee marriage by following the advice of others!” 

With these words, Dante is referring to the previously mentioned affair involving the Amidei and Buondelmonti houses and the rivalry and hostility that ensued in 1215. Buondelmonte broke his promise to Reparata Amidei to marry Beatrice Donati instead. For this reason, on the very day of the wedding, he was slaughtered by representatives of the Amidei family who thought to wash away the shame suffered by the beautiful Reparata right under the tower. This death marked the beginning of the rivalry between Guelphs and Ghibellines.

Not much is known about the subsequent events of the building, except that it changed hands first to the Gherardini family and then to the Capponi family. 

In August 1944, following the explosion of mines placed by the German army in the area, it was almost entirely destroyed. Although at a first inspection its demolition had been decreed due to its worrying static condition, the recovery among the rubble of the door jambs and windows with their archivolts prompted the Superintendence to carry out its reconstruction, which was based on photographs and some graphic documents from before the destruction. 

The structure, as of today, has the classic “filaretto” stone, and the differentiation of the mortar in the joints makes it possible to recognise the reconstructed part. On the ground floor are two large double-arched doors crowned by two arches, one very low and one higher. Also very clearly visible in this tower house are the old pontaie holes and the corbels below that supported the wooden gallery. 

Above the doors protrude two white marble lion heads, of which only the one on the left is original and fished out of the bombing rubble, while the one on the right is a reproduction. Because of these two lion heads, the building has often been identified as the “Tower of Lions.”


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