It is not exaggerate to affirm that Piazza della Repubblica is the ancient heart of Florence. This square marks indeed the 'magic' intersection of the axes of the cardo and decumanus which corresponds to the ancient roman city centre of Florentia and this square was also the site of the ancient roman forum, the beating heart of city's administrative and economic life.
The decline of the roman Empire led to a progressive transformation of this square, which was soon surrounded by tower houses belonging to the most important florentine families: since the medioeval period nothing was left of the ancient roman forum but the sacrificial column, which still remained there until 1431, when it was replaced by the Column of the Dovizia (or the Column of the Abundance), surmounted by a statue by Donatello. But the square still retained its role as city meat market. In 1568 it was enriched by the fish market, the weel-known Vasari's Loggia del Pesce commissioned by Cosimo I de' Medici. In the same period Cosimo I decided to put the Jewish ghetto on the north side of the square, so that the ancient forum became a lively commercial district full of people and goods.
The sixteenth century destination of both the market and the square remained unchanged until the fatidical proclamation of Florence as the capital of Italy. The ancient medieval city underwent in those years an intensive urban renovation, which interested most of all the ancient forum, radically transformed: the old ghetto and market were destroyed and the wonderful Vasari's Loggia del Pesce was totally dismantled and reassembled in piazza dei Ciompi. This ancient part of the city was built over and substituted by a modern square projected in a perfect piemontese style, which became the "lounge" of the new capital. The only "souvenir" of its glorious past was the Column of the Abundance with its statue substituted in the meanwhile by a Gian Battista Foggini's work of art. The square was dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele, who was also represented by an equestrian monument (today in the Park of the Cascine). This site though the urban renovation still continued to be what it had been always: the beating heart of Florence. Its nineteenth century palaces became seat some of the Cafes protagonist of the main chapter of literary history, first of all Le Giubbe Rosse, meeting place of artists and men of letters: among them two of the most famous italian poets, Eugenio Montale and Mario Luzi.
In the 20th century piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is the cultural city centre: one by one the palaces on this square become seat of the main florentine newspapers such as "La Nazione" and "Nuovo Corriere" directed by Bilenchi and the ancient Cafes carry on their glorious literary tradition. In the postwar period the square changed its name to piazza della Repubblica without loosing its characteristics: it still keeps its important spaces and elements, such as historical Cafes and bookshops, street artists and luxury hotels it is still known as the beating heart of Florence.
The Column of abundance - also called "of the justice" because it tied the criminals with the body of crime - it seems to ideally separate the two spirits of the square.
The road rised after the demolition of the Old Market, today has a vocation only trade them, with numerous stores that show here. Between buildings that rise along the way it reserve a mention Hotel Savoy, luxurious and eclectic construction, the historical Gilli's cafè and the space trade of Luisa in Via Roma, designed in the first half '80 about architect Claudio Nardi.
The Arcone, 1938 ca, realized on plan of Vincenzo Micheli in 1985, the Arcone, with his callbacks to the ancien arches of triumph and at the same time to the incomes of the nineteenth century city galleries, it's the symbol of the monumental that was conferred to the new square. In the cartouche that it's brought back, in fact, is transferd the epigraph dictated by Isidoro Del Lungo to memory of the great operation completed on "l'antico centro della città da secolare squallore a vita nuova restituito".