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

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

The Gianfigliazzi house tower is located on Via Tornabuoni, next to the church of Santa Trinita and in front of Palazzo Spini Feroni. The first tower was built for the Guelph Ruggerini family but was almost totally demolished after the Battle of Montaperti and the defeat of the Guelph faction. 

Within a few years, however, the present tower was rebuilt. It was first owned by the Fastelli family and, from the 14th century, by the Gianfigliazzi family, who owned it until its extinction in 1764. 

The Gianfigliazzi family had a very rapid social rise between the 13th and 14th centuries when they suddenly became wealthy through their activities as bankers and merchants. Around 1215 they saw their wealth suddenly increase thanks to the large sums of money they managed to extract from one of their important insolvent creditors, the bishop of Fiesole. This money was cleverly reinvested in southern France, where they had numerous family members engaged in the credit business. If in Florence they were ordinary bankers charging standard interest rates, in France, they even went so far in their varied financial and credit activities as to set rates of up to 260 percent, lending money even to students at the University of Avignon.

In Florence, meanwhile, they obtained numerous honours and civil offices. Thanks to their accumulated wealth, they acquired various real estate properties, such as this tower house or the Gianfigliazzi palaces still visible today on the Lungoarno. 

Like the famous Amidei family, the Gianfigliazzi is also mentioned in a passage of the Divine Comedy, but, unlike the former, they are placed in the section dedicated to the “Inferno” (hell), in a circle reserved for usurers. This poetic choice can be explained by the fact that Dante frowned upon those who achieved easy money very quickly because, according to him, these caused people to lose the modesty and moderation that are the basis of good city living. 

Of the building, one can see the stone cladding with large square blocks of regular shape up to the cornice of the second floor. The upper levels have the simplest filaretto (thinner stones). On the facade, there are five rows of windows. Aligned to each floor are pontaie holes, four coats of arms of the Gianfigliazzi family (recognizable by the rampant lion), and, under the “Guelph” type battlements, are still the coats of arms of the families who previously owned the building.


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