History of the 'Bischeri' of FlorenceFigures of speech
History of the 'Bischeri' of Florence
Bischero is one of the best-known Tuscan words. Calling someone a 'bischero' means describing them as a naive, good-for-nothing and not particularly bright person. It is certainly not a compliment, but it can also be used in a positive way. It is not rare among friends to give each other a pat on the shoulder and say 'you’re a right old bischero' without this offending the other person. In short, everything depends on the tone and the context. That said, have you ever wondered where this word comes from? To find out, let’s go back in time a bit, to the Middle Ages.
At the end of the 13th century one of the richest families in Florence was the Bischeri family. So at that time, this word was associated with the wealth of a family composed of wealthy landowners, skilled merchants and even prominent public figures such as 15 priors and 4 gonfalonieri. So when was it that the name of such an important family took on such a negative meaning that it even forced them to change their name?
It all began in the late 1200s, when Florence decided to build a new cathedral. The first stone was laid on September 8th, 1296. Since the building was really huge, the local council decided to purchase the land that was in the perimeter affected by the imposing construction. The properties of the Bischeri were all located precisely in that area, between Piazza del Duomo and Via dell'Oriolo, as evidenced by a plaque with the words 'Canto dei Bischeri'. In order to try to make the most money possible, they began a long and exhausting negotiation with the government of Florence. They must have gone a bit too far, because eventually the land and its houses were expropriated for a few ‘fiorini’ coins. There is also a more 'fanciful' version of the story, according to which the houses and land were burned and razed to the ground. Whatever actually happened, it marked the beginning of the decline of the wealthy family began that was even forced to flee Florence because of shame. They returned home only in the 16th century, but the term bischero had already become synonymous with stupidity, so they decided to take on a new surname that didn’t remind people of that sad affair. They must have decided to choose an auspicious name because they decided to call themselves 'Guadagni', i.e. ‘earnings’. Definitely better than Bischeri!
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