As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
[align=justify]When asked about some hidden secrets about Florence we can come up with two suggestions about places in town that, although located in the heart of Florence, are rarely, if ever, noticed by passers by or tourists. Both are surrounded by a mix of legend and truth and here are their stories. The first is the "reversed balcony", located in Borgo Ognissanti, 12. The building goes back to the 16th century and it seems to have been built by the owner of the house out of spite with the Duke Alessandro de' Medici. The initial project of the balcony was rejected by the Duke as, for some law of the time, it was too prominent. The owner of the building presented a second project, with little changes, and even this time it was rejected. At the third attempt, the Duke, trying to be irreverent or just fed up with the continuous requests, wrote on his response: " Yes, on the contrary". The owner of the house, expressing a true Florentine spirit and applying the answer to the letter, ordered his architect to build the balcony upside-down....... The second hidden secret is about a "petrified woman" whose head comes out in a disquieting way from the stones of the walls of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, visible while walking along Via Cerretani. The legend says that during September 1327 guards went there bringing in chain Cecco d'Ascoli, a necromancer the Inquisition wanted to judge for heresy in Piazza Santa Croce. A woman appeared at the window of the church and railed at the sorcerer who reacted and petrified her. In reality the statue is probably what is left of a temple of the Roman period and Francesco Stabili (1269-1327 - known as Cecco d'Ascoli) was a clever man of science, little understood by his contemporaries and condemned by the Inquisition.[/align]