Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 23, 2014

Secret Florence

My friend Liz bought a fabulous book for me…Secret Florence, by Niccolo Rinaldi. It is full of interesting details that you might not notice on your wanderings in Florence.

We set off, book in hand, to discover some things we had not seen before. The first secrets were hidden around the Duomo. I never tire of standing in front of this magnificent building.


The beautiful baptistery is under scaffolding at the moment, but the Porta del Paradiso, Gates of Paradise, so named by Michelangelo, is visible. This is where we discovered our first secret. On the left-hand door at the 5th level is a self portrait of Lorenzo Ghiberti, the artist who created the door. Who could blame him for wanting to be part of this magnificent work of art?


The next one is on one of the front doors to the church. On the right of the doorway on the far right of the Duomo’s facade is the blasphemous angel. This naughty angel is giving us the finger. It is said to be a reference to the sodomy that was widespread on the banks of the Arno.


We had trouble finding the next secret high above the Porta Della Mandorla, which leads to the top of the gigantic cupola.


It took a bit of searching, but we finally located the bull looking towards a house opposite. It is said that this was the work of a master mason, who placed the bull there in order to mock a man who was jealous of his young wife.




I wonder how he got away with it.

There are many more secrets to be discovered in Florence. I will bring them to you as I find them. We have a Secret Venice too, thanks Liz.


  1. Always, always wanted to go to Florence, still Time!.. What superb shots and what a great little book.. c

    • It is a great book. I am looking forward to many visits to Florence to work my way through it. Fortunately Florence is an easy day trip from Bagni di Lucca and i can go often. You must visit one day soon.

  2. Very interesting. These are the things that one needs time for. Most of us visitors do not have that luxury but this makes it easy for us.

    • Following the directions in the book adds some fun to a day in Florence.

  3. Just wonderful! Looking forward to all your new discoveries!

    • I love finding things I have not seen before.

  4. I always have a touch of ‘Stendhalismo’ on entering Il Duomo. Though not a secret of Florence, my reaction is still very unusual.

    • What a great word. Florence can certainly take your breath away.

  5. Wonderful post Debra! Thanks to Francesca for the perfect new word to describe Florence….don’t laugh I had to look it up!
    “Florence is so full of art that travellers risk falling prey to the condition known as Stendhalismo, a term attributed to the writer Stendhal, who was so mesmerized by the beauty of Florence that he almost fainted. A type of travellers nervosa, Stendhalismo mostly strikes visitors who have difficulties prioritizing a visit.” Michelin guide to Tuscany

    • Thank you for looking up the word for us. The Duomo has to be one of the great sights in the world.

  6. Florence just knocks your socks off!

    • Yes, it does. I like having a new reason to explore Florence.

  7. Can understand Stendhalismo’s quote as Florence offers never-ending delights in every visit, truly a magical place at every corner. Debra, can you please find that Chocolate Shop mentioned in “Secret Florence”. We stumbled upon it, a tiny shop, one time, and I tried to find it again when I was in Florence but kept getting distracted by other delights. In this chocolate shop is a maestro of chocolate-making who will teach you the art of tasting chocolate on certain days of the week. Worth a look and a taste, I reckon!

    • I don’t think you would have seen the chocolate shop in this book as I have only had it for a few weeks. I will try to track down the shop anyway.

  8. What a lovely way to discover new things in Florence. Happy exploring.

    • There are some interesting things I am looking forward to finding.

  9. And the tales they create!

    • Some of the things mentioned in the book are there for all to see, but it is the stories behind them that make it really interesting.

      • Absolutely!!!!

  10. I will never tire of seeing the Duomo, Debra. I have now seen it with brand new eyes – what a special book. I find the secrets fascinating. Another reason for me to visit again. Thank you for reminding me of how much there is to learn from this beautiful yet mysterious city.

    • I love this book. It is great to see Florence with new eyes.

  11. Sounds like an interesting book and with a different perspective. Florence is a jewel. So much to see and do. Just being there is special. Must go back for another visit. Great photos Debra.
    Cheers, Robyn

    • Just being in Florence is excellent and finding new reasons to love Florence, even better.

  12. Amazing detail! I love seeing places through the eyes of others!

    • The book has given me new reasons to wander the streets of Florence.

  13. We are headed to Italy this year so I’m looking at your posts with a close eye! 😀

    • I hope you come to Lucca!

  14. I wonder if there will be a secret Lucca too?

    • Perhaps we could write it?

  15. I am reading everyword, I shall buy that book for our trip to Florence in May.

    • The book is great, you will love it, and Florence more.

  16. Speaking of stendhalismo, today I went to the Pontormo and Rosso exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi museum in Florence ( For foreigners the museum is sort of a secret. No queues! On until 20 July.

    • I saw the posters for that exhibition. I love the Palazzo Strozzi. I was almost the only person there for the last exhibition I saw. The added bonus is that it is just across the road from Giacosa, my favourite cafe in Florence.

  17. I’ll be looking out for these on my next trip to Florence – and your other posts about the city’s secrets. Lovely post 🙂

    • Florence is a beautiful and I go in the off season when the streets are not too crowded. Every time I go I find something wonderful…and the book is helping.

  18. How fun! I’ll be there in a few weeks…thanks for the suggestions! And I’m looking forward to meeting up with you in ROME!!

    • The book is great. I wonder if it possible to buy it here. I am keen to meet you too.

  19. WHOA! That was a surprising discovery. The angel IS giving us the finger, the Italian way. Even if I saw that, I wouldn’t think it that way. Awesome finds!!!

    • What a naughty angel. It is amazing that it got past the people in charge.

  20. how fabulous!!! I love finding out these little tidbits

  21. One secret you will not find in that fascinating book is that my Babbo was baptised in that Baptistry!

  22. […] Back at the Duomo I pointed out to my friend some of the little known aspects on the exterior, including the laughing ox, which coincidentally has been featured in this month’s Italy magazine. I discovered it in a book called Secret Florence, which is full of wonderful things to discover. See the post I wrote previously. Secret Florence […]

  23. […] And the side…I found the bull hiding in a corner on the side. Find the story of the bull and other secrets…Secret Florence […]

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