Hidden treasures

In Florence people are known to be a 'short arm'!

Historical Curiosities
Braccio Fiorentino_2

In Florence people are known to be a 'short arm'!

How many times have you heard the expression 'avere il braccino corto' (lit. to be a short arm)? Many I guess. You will also then know that it means to be reluctant to spend money. In other words, it is a word to describe a stingy person. What you may not know, however, is the origin of this expression. Some argue that it refers to the difficulty, typical of cheapskates, to stretch the arm to reach their wallet. In reality there seems to be another explanation. Do you know where you can look for it? Many of you will have thought of Genoa, given the parsimony of its inhabitants is well known! Instead... you have to head to Tuscany, precisely to Florence!

It all started in Florence’s workshops and precisely in those where fabrics were sold. The unit of measurement used by merchants was the owner’s arm. And do you know what these clever people sometimes did? They used the arm of the shop boys who, being very young and not yet fully grown up, had smaller limbs than an adult. The so-called sale by the 'arm' carried out using this trick used to cause raucous quarrels between shopkeepers and customers. To solve this problem, a ‘standard’ of measurement was established which corresponded to a little over half a meter: precisely 583.2 mm. That‘s how the 'Florentine arm' was born. To be sure that those dodgy characters adhered to the new unit in Via De Cerchi, between Via Condotti and Via Cimatori (near Piazza della Signoria) a bar of the right length was placed probably made out of copper. Today there is only a groove left which is where back then the bar probably used to be. In the event of a dispute, one could go to the unit of reference and check whether the person who had sold the fabrics had been honest or not.

But how many stories like these are hidden in the streets and squares of Florence? Many, surely! Almost every alley, every building, every church has its interesting anecdotes to tell. How to find out about as many as possible? Very simple! Book one of our tours in Florence: our guides will accompany you to discover this wonderful city and tell you many fascinating interesting facts. Why are you hesitating to book? Is it because you too are a short arm?

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Siena: The Legend of the Colle di Malmerenda

Mysteries & Legends

Siena in the 1300s would have provided excellent material for a beautiful animated fiction. In fact, the struggles between the most pow...


Florence: History of the 'Bischeri' of Florence

Figures of speech

Bischero is one of the best-known Tuscan words. Calling someone a 'bischero' means describing them as a naive, good-for-nothing and not...


Siena: Poggibonsi's horse and pig

Local Traditions

Even Tuscany, like any other part of the world, has its amusing collection of folk legends. These are legends that have been handed dow...


Florence: The Lampredotto of Firenze, the king of street food!

Did you know that...

There are dishes that count as established institutions in the tradition and culture of some cities. Here, in Florence, this role is pl...


Top posts

Arezzo: Guido d'Arezzo and the invention of the music

Big Names

In Talla and surroundings people have no doubt: the inventor of the musical stave, the inventor of the music notes and also of the mode...


Pistoia: The Kiss of the Christs in Gavinana

Local Traditions

It is a very ancient but still popular rite. Two large processions that meet up with a Christ on the cross in front of each one: the he...


Siena: Piero Carbonetti and his tin drum

Local Traditions

Subversive, persecuted, anarchist, homeless, dreamer: it is really difficult to define Piero Carbonetti, Tuscan bred and born and Garib...


Pisa: Kinzika, the young woman who saved Pisa from the Saracens

Local Traditions

It was really her, a young woman with an Arabian name, Kinzica, of the noble Sismondi family, to save Pisa from being sacked by Saracen...