Leaving ancient history aside, if we consider city planning, modernity was marked by the short-lived appointment of Florence as Capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871. Then, the inner city walls were mostly demolished to make room for large avenues. The “Risanamento” (renewal) of Florence carried on in those years also lead to the demolition of the old market and the ghetto and to the creation of Piazzale Michelangelo and of new districts.
Lead by architect Giuseppe Poggi, Florence and its old town centre substantially took their current structure and appearance: the most ancient among the restaurants and taverns in the centre Florence dates back to that same period or immediately after. In time, some of them became renowned, often elegant places, while others kept a more familiar touch.
Il Pennello is no less so. Its rooms have been hosting taverns since the times of Vasari and Cellini, when painter Mariotto Albertinelli decided to dedicate himself to “a happier art” and opened the first inn. In 1886, right after the Risanamento, the old tavern became the “Ristorante Il Pennello”. The current ownership is “only” 45 years old and in all these years it remained true to itself and to the tradition of the old taverns in the centre of Florence.
We must recognise it, Florence went through the turmoil of modern gastronomy with pretty good results. There are of course fast food restaurants, but they didn’t replace the old “barrocci” (carts) selling sandwiches with lampredotto, nor even the genuine taste of the taverns in the city centre.
Some dishes became less familiar (like soups or entrails), but they are not impossible to find. The beauty of the capital of Tuscany is in good measure a result of this out-of-time environment which is still preserved in the old town centre.
The ancient hearth of Florence, the old town, is a network of small alleys going from Piazza della Signoria to Piazza del Duomo: an area that even Poggi left unchanged and where the visitor, walking toward the Uffizi, will have the chance to see the tower house once belonging to Dante Alighieri’s family, almost hidden among other ancient building.
And right there, nowadays, at lunchtime, people working nearby still queue for the famous lampredotto sandwiches, while the taverns are filled by customers looking for an equally Florentine but more complete meal.
Due to its own structure and artistic value, this area, traditionally reserved to pedestrian, has been spared by the changes in the city structure, in the controlled traffic zone or by others more modern sources of appeal.
And it is here that, to our days, we are still proud to welcome our customers.