Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 October 2019
This is the first of two such short digressions that enable me to focus on a specific issue in a manner different from the chapters. In most of the cities of central and northern Italy a specific location, usually a piazza, became the traditional venue for poetic performance. By far the most famous and well-documented of these is Piazza San Martino in Florence, and it was arguably the city’s most famous soundscape. This essay explores the history and significance of this location in the heart of the Florentine wool district as a place that resisted control by special interests. Contrary to current perceptions, San Martino was not a low-brow venue for “wandering” hacks and mediocre poetry, but a prestigious and managed site where the full expressive range of Tuscan vernacular poetry was on display and in a continual state of forging and transmission.