Family: The Capponi
Dates to: 1020
Meaningful shapes, colors and symbols: Half black, half white. Cut diagonally.
Where to find it: Palazzo Capponi on Via Gino Capponi
The Capponi are one of the oldest families mentioned in this series. They are recorded as early as 1020 in Orvieto, but are found in the Silk Guild in Florence in 1216. It seems that within three generations of their moving to Florence they had become quite wealthy from trade in silk. The family split into many branches early on, which has given them a colorful – and politically interesting – history.
Some members of the family were expelled from Florence during the conflicts between the Guelphs Ghibellines. Others left Florence for other cities and helped make Capponi a very common name throughout Italy. But much of the family stayed in Florence, where they became involved in the city’s politics.
One of the family’s most notable members is remembered primarily for his political abilities. Piero di Gino Capponi was a good friend and ally of Lorenzo the Magnificant. Lorenzo, as de facto ruler of Florence sent Piero to many cities and courts as the city’s ambassador. However when Lorenzo died and his son, Piero the Unfortunate, came to power, Piero (Capponi) opposed his authority. His opposition came to a head with the invasion of Italy by Charles VIII of France. Charles’ objective was Rome, but he meant to capture Florence along the way, and Piero the Unfortunate was unable to secure the safety of the city. Using this failure as leverage, Piero Capponi helped exile the Medici from Florence, and became head of the Republic of Florence himself. It is Piero Capponi who said the famous phrase “E se voi suonerete le vostre trombe noi daremo alle nostre campane!” or “If you play your horn, we’ll ring our bells,” which is a reference to the bells that would call the city’s milita. Florence has rememberd Piero fondly, and you can see a statue of him outside the Uffizi Gallery today.
As with any family that survives long politically, the Capponi didn’t keep enemies longer than they needed to. Though they had helped to exile the Medici, when the family returned as Dukes, they soon reconciled. Members of the Capponi family served in various capacities under the Medici Grand Dukes, including as senator. Finally, by the 1860s, with Italy on the cusp of unification, Gino Capponi, a statesman and supporter of unification, helped bring about the Risorgimento (Reunification) of Italy.