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  • TheWayToItaly

When a Tower Isn't Just a Tower

Since coming here in the late 90’s I have always been enamored by this stand-alone tower. It wasn't until my recent move to Italy that I took the time to know more about it. The only way inside is with a ticket and a guide. This suits me just fine as I would rather hear the history from a local rather than read it in a book. This way I get to ask as many questions as I want.

Torre San Niccolo
The current tower from the outside (l) and the inside (r).

Built in the mid-1300s as a gateway to Florence, Torre San Niccolo is the only remaining entry left at its original height in the city. It looks like a tower now that the defensive walls that joined the gate are gone. The walls were taken down in the nineteenth century to make way for the roadway that would encircle Florence.

The guide immediately helped us understand the timing of the tower in history by explaining that the extremely large door that is no longer there was made of wood. Nothing stronger was needed at that time due to the weapons used. Gunpowder wasn’t even introduced in the area until the sixteenth century.

Still visible in the bottom arch above the doorway is a fresco of the Madonna with child. Seated to their left is San Niccolo di Bari (patron saint of the neighborhood) and to their right Saint John the Baptist (patron saint of Florence).

Torre San Niccolo
Fresco over entrance to the city

The two upper arches housed the soldiers that protected the gate from intruders. On the top floor, you can see the now-grated openings that the soldiers would pour boiling oil or water on an enemy trying to force their way in.

Torre San Niccolo
Opening in the top floor for defending the gate

Our guide showed us a sketch of what the complete structure would have looked like prior to the nineteenth century. My photo of his sketch didn’t turn out very well, so here is a photo I grabbed from Wikipedia. The artist: Fabio Borbottoni

Torre San Niccolo as it was in the beginning.
The tower that is actually a gate to the city


Price is 6 euros payable by cash at the entrance (includes guide). It is free to those with the Florentine Card (museum pass valid for 72 hours).

Children under the age of 8 are not allowed.

Hours: 4:00PM - 8:00PM, last entrance at 7:30PM. Visits start at 4:00 PM and last a maximum of 30 minutes.

*Presently because of COVID

You have to wear a mask at all times during the tour.

You have to present a Green Pass (European citizens). For Americans, you need to show your vaccination card or a negative COVID test taken within the last 48 hours.

NOTE: There is no elevator the only way up is by climbing the steep, narrow steps. There is a handrail. The views are amazing if you can make the steps.


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