The legend of “Porcellino” The Florentine nickname for the beautiful bronze fountain of a boar

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Photo by : Dorin Vasilescu | www.timmistudio.com

We’ve all admire it and rubbed its nose for good fortune. Some of us even placed a coin in its mouth and let it slip hoping it would fall in between the grates and fulfill our wishes. But the story of “Porcellino” represents much more than just a lucky charm. Il Porcellino is a Florentine nickname for the beautiful bronze fountain of a boar, sculpted and casted by maestro Pietro Tacca, commissioned by Cosimo II of Medici in 1612.

The sculpture is a Roman copy of a Greek marble which Papa Pio IV gifted to Cosimo I in 1560. Originally placed in the Boboli Gardens, the fountain was later moved where it still stands proudly today, in Mercato Nuovo. The legends circling the Porcellino are many and the superstitions around it have roots so deep into the past that are almost untraceable. Without any doubt the fountain was considered as a source of wellbeing for its flowing water. The poor and the children had to lean on the animal’s nose in order to drink the water pouring from its mouth. In time the mussel started glowing because of the constant touches of hands. Throughout the years, the superstition evolved and became an attraction point, added the fact that one must place a coin in the beast’s mouth and let it fall. If the coin slipped in between the grates the wish would come true.

The fountain is also mentioned in several literary works and the stories around it arouse curiosity and enchant the eyes of the readers. During one of his trips to Florence, the famous Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, dedicated one of his stories to the bronze fountain in 1842. “In the city of Florence, not far from the Piazza del Granduca, runs a little street called Porta Rosa. In this street, just in front of the market-place where vegetables are sold, stands a pig, made of brass and curiously formed. The bright color has been changed by age to dark green; but clear, fresh water pours from the snout, which shines as if it had been polished, and so indeed it has, for hundreds of poor people and children seize it in their hands as they place their mouths close to the mouth of the animal, to drink. It is quite a picture to see a half-naked boy clasping the well-formed creature by the head, as he presses his rosy lips against its jaws.

Everyone who visits Florence can very quickly find the place; he has only to ask the first beggar he meets for the Metal Pig, and he will be told where it is”. With these words Andersen starts the journey of a young boy who is carried by the awaken-to life boar on the streets of Florence. But Andersen is not the only one inspired by the Porcellino. It is said that in 1895, American author  Charles Godfrey Leland who loved folklore, walked the streets of Florence trying to gather as many legends as he could from the locals. We later find one of the legends in his book about the bronze boar fountain. The story circles around a life lesson and tries to warn us to always be careful what we wish for…it may come true. No matter what the stories recount one thing is sure, the fountain of the bronze boar is one of the most popular and “touched” touristic attraction in Florence. And if you are one of the believers in disguise, here is a tip for you: the law of physics can give you a hand and make your wishes come true; the heavier the coin, the more chances you have for your coin to fall in the grate.

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