As is the case for many Florentine families, the origin of the Capponi is a source of debate. In the 19th century it was believed they came from Recco, in Liguria. However, given that the first houses of the Capponi were in the parish of S. Jacopo Soprarno, it is far more probable that they came from the south. Interestingly enough, in a parchment of 1056, found amongst the rolls of the Abbey o... Read more
As is the case for many Florentine families, the origin of the Capponi is a source of debate. In the 19th century it was believed they came from Recco, in Liguria. However, given that the first houses of the Capponi were in the parish of S. Jacopo Soprarno, it is far more probable that they came from the south. Interestingly enough, in a parchment of 1056, found amongst the rolls of the Abbey of Passignano in the State Archives of Florence, there is mention of a certain "Uguccio dicto Capponio". Given that Uguccione is a name found often in the family´s early history, there is some evidence pointing to an origin in the southern Florentine countryside. Whatever the origins, at the beginning of the 13th century the Capponi already enjoyed a position of status within Florence, and in 1248 one Uguccione di Cappone was styled "Ser". This title was the perquisite of knights and notaries, although we do not know which of the two befit Uguccione.
Compagno, Uguccione´s son, had the misfortune of being one of the 2,500 Florentines killed at the battle of Montaperti, fought near Siena on 4 September 1260. Compagno´s sons, Buonamico and Filippo, were more lucky. The former became in 1287 the first of the fifty-six Priors of the Guilds that the family had during the Florentine Republic. The latter for a certain period was one of the most important bankers in northern Italy. With Buonamico´s grandsons, the Capponi family tree divided itself in two main branches: that of Cappone di Recco, known as the branch of the Altopascio; and that of Neri di Recco. Most of the famous men produced by the family come from the latter branch: Gino di Neri (1350-1421), "the conqueror of Pisa"; Neri di Gino (1389-1457), statesman, historian and soldier; Piero di Gino (1446-1496) famous for his spirited reply to the king of France, Charles VIII ("If ye blow thy trumpets, we shall hammer our bells"); Niccolò di Piero, one of the last gonfalonieri, or chief executives, of the Florentine Republic; Lodovico di Gino (1482-1534), papal banker and patron of the painter Jacopo Pontormo; Luigi (+1659), Cardinal and Archbishop of Ravenna, Gino di Pier Roberto (+1876), historian, pedagogue and patriot. But also the Altopascio branch has its glories: Piero, Marquess of Loro (1570-1652), a soldier in the Thirty Years War; Ferrante, "the most Solemn Senator" (1611-1689), for twenty years the de facto Prime Minister of the Granduke of Tuscany Cosimo III.
The Capponi were distinguished in the fields of politics and artistic patronage, but were also famous for being enterprising merchants, being amongst the first to develop the silk trade in Florence. This in turn helped to develop the family´s banking enterprise with branches all over Europe. In the 18th century, the Capponi were in the forefront of agricultural production, owning estates all over Tuscany.
At present, there remains only one branch of the Capponi family left. These Capponi are descendants of Neri di Recco, as the last of the Altopascio branch died in 1933. Members of the family are fond to repeat the saying: "The Capponi are like potatoes: the best is under the earth." Read less