While it is well known that the lion is one of the symbols of Florence, what is much less well known is that, for centuries, real lions were kept in a cage in the centre of the city.
The cage was originally located where the Loggia dei Lanzi (also known as the Loggia della Signoria) now stands, but was later moved to the back of the Palazzo Vecchio, where the street is still called Via dei Leoni.
When, in 1541, Duke Cosimo l de' Medici (r. 1537-74), and his family, moved into the Palazzo Signoria (as the palazzo was then known) he soon found that the smell of the lions offended his ducal nose and so the beasts were once again relocated.
The entrance to the Loggia dei Lanzi is flanked by two marble lions (one ancient Roman in origin) and there are countless other lions carved out of the actual fabric of the building.
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