The beginnings of Florentinisms + bischero, ganzo, brindellone

Florentinisms: a dictionary of the florentine dialect

Alexandra Lawrence, Francesco Stefanelli
June 26, 2008

Linguists and scholars agree: the Florentine dialect can be considered the origin of the Italian language. Thanks to writers and poets like Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Francesco Petrarca and Alessandro Manzoni, the Florentine dialect became the peninsula's lingua franca when Italy united in 1861. However, not all of the Florentine vocabulary made it into the Italian dictionary, and there are several words and phrases that you will hear only in Florence and the surrounding area.  Florentines tend to express themselves in a joking, teasing manner, but they'll be the first to tell you that their humor can be biting and sharp. Though their wit can often seem cynical, the aim is to get to the heart of the issue, to come into contact with the true personality of the person in front of you, to provoke benevolently among friends and to stimulate the intellect with constant banter. This is especially evident in the Tuscan tradition of giving nicknames to each other by homing in on a person's defects and habits, but also his or her good points. Thus a chubby colleague becomes Gommone (Inner tube), your friend who failed math every year is christened Pita (for Pythagoras), the girl with no neck is called Giraffa, and your bowlegged cousin is Parentesi (Parenthesis).


Remember that Florentine humor should always be taken with a grain of salt, since it is often used in an affectionate and accepting way. The clever and witty turns of phrase are unique linguistic gems that couch a host of historic and cultural facts and tidbits.


In order to bring the fun to our readers and honor our city's parlance, we've decided to include a ‘Florentinism' in each issue of the paper.  As a special kick-off to our column, we have three heavy hitters: bischero, ganzo and brindellone.




, adjective: foolish, thick, simple, dim, inept. The origin of the word seems to date back to the end of the thirteenth century, when construction was beginning on Florence's duomo. The Bischeri were a noble Florentine family with residences in via dell'Oriuolo (look for the marble plaque that reads ‘Canto de' Bischeri' for the exact location). Many houses and buildings in the area were to be torn down to make room for the massive cathedral, and among the buildings set for demolition was a palazzo that belonged to the Bischeri family. In an effort to oppose the destruction and obtain a higher price for the expropriation of their residence, the Bischeri staunchly refused to sell. Immediately following their refusal, their house caught fire and was completely destroyed. The Bischeri lost their house and lost out on the opportunity to make money on the sale of their property to the city.

Soon after, Florentines began referring to inept or foolish people with the epithet bischero. You will often hear the phrase ‘I' se e i' ma a Firenze l'è i' patrimonio de' bischeri' (‘If and but are the patrimony of the Bischeri').

The word bischerata can also be used to describe a situation gone bad, in which someone did not think something all the way through.



‘Ho chiuso le chiavi dentro la macchina'.

(I locked my keys in the car.)

‘Bravo, bischero'! (Good one, stupid!)




adjective. Indicates, with certain admiration, something capable of inspiring awe; cool.  Used as a noun, it can also refer to a husband's mistress or a wife's lover.



Guarda ganza questa macchina! (Look how cool this car is!)

Quella l'è la ganza del macellaio! (That's the butcher's mistress!)




noun. (1) An unkempt or sloppy person.(2) Tall, big, clumsy, uncoordinated person. According to tradition, a few days before the celebration of San Giovanni, the city's patron saint, a decorative float called the Carro della Zecca would make its way through Florence's winding, uneven, medieval streets. The float carried a man dressed in rags and covered in fur who represented Saint John the Baptist. Thanks to his position on the top of an iron rod, he was able to accept food and drink from the first floors of the palazzi the float passed on its route. It didn't take long for the man to get roaring drunk and begin acting scandalously-cussing up a storm and generally misbehaving-much to the delight of the locals taking part in the festival.

Brindellone subsequently gave its name to the massive cart that trundles through Florence each Easter morning, escorted by musicians, flag throwers and Renaissance soldiers and pulled by two white, flower-laden bulls, for the traditional Scoppio del Carro in Piazza del Duomo.



Guarda che brindellone l'è il ragazzo della mi' figliola! (Look at the slob my daughter is dating!)


Guarda che brindellone l'è il ragazzo della mi' figliola! (Look at the slob my daughter is dating!)

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