Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Don’t be a bischero

Don’t be a bischero
If you’re ever in Tuscany and someone calls you a bischero, feel free to be offended. Yet while many believe it’s a vulgar word, referring to male anatomy shaped like a violin peg or rolling pin, it in fact has a much more palatable origin. It comes from a local family name.

The wealthy Bischeri family lived in Tuscany. Landowners and merchants, they’d been successful in establishing a name for themselves and becoming powerful fourteenth century figures in Florence. But when the Florentine Republic outlined plans to build the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, their troubles began. The plans involved demolishing several houses owned by the Bischeris. And while the government had offered them fair compensation for their land, the Bischeri’s refused to sell, even when the offer was increased to a very large sum of money. In the end the government lost patience and seized the land for the state, paying the Bischeris a very small amount of compensation, instead of the initially generous offers made. As a result the family suffered a huge financial loss, from which they took many years to recover from.

The Bischeri’s stubbornness and greed had almost ruined them and they had to live with the notoriety for generations. So when someone tells you not to be a bischero, what they really mean is ‘don’t be stupid - think before you act’.