Date: Saturday, August 9, 1958
Felt lots better when I got up – I just might live after all!! We were all ready to go shopping when John came in and told us that the bus was here to take us touring. Went to an art gallery, and a couple of churches full of statues, etc.
After lunch, Judy H. and I decided to skip the afternoon tour in favor of a nap and then we went to the straw market to shop. Got lots of silver jewelery (two bracelets – $1.44, three charm bracelets – $2.40, bracelet and earrings – $2.80) there for presents! At leather shops near the hotel, I got two billfolds ($6.40), three umbrellas ($9.00), and a purse ($12.00). Had to send a cable to Dad ($6.80) for more money in Paris as a result!
Today the Straw Market is more commonly known as the Mercato Nuovo or New Market. The market is located in the historic center of Florence and dates back to the 11th century. It was originally a marketplace for selling goods such as gold and silk; it wasn’t until the late 19th century that it became known for its straw hats.
One attraction of the market is the “Fontana del Porcellino”, a fountain with a bronze statue of a wild boar. Legend has it that if you rub the boar’s nose, then you will return to Florence one day. The ritual also requires you to place a coin in the boar’s mouth – if it falls through the drain grate, then you’re in luck.
Another feature of the market is only visible when the vendors aren’t present – the pietra dello scandalo (“stone of shame”), a wheel-shaped marker set into the pavement. During the Renaissance, debtors were chained to a post over the spot, forced to remove their pants and underwear, and were spanked so as to be publicly humiliated.