The Scorpioni

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The Scorpioni was a small group of elderly English ladies who lived in Florence in the 1930s and 1940s. They were given the name "Scorpioni" because they were known for their arch humour. One of them was an English governess called Mary O'Neill. When World War II began, the ladies were put under arrest in San Gimignano.

Exterior of the former Gran Caffé Doney in Florence, where the Scorpioni would meet

The ladies spent their days in Gran Caffé Doney which was a very English cafeteria on Via Tornabuoni. They also liked visiting the Uffizi Gallery and English Cemetery of Florence.

This group of women is mentioned in the memoirs of writer Violet Trefusis and also in those of director Franco Zeffirelli. Zeffirelli describes the Scorpioni looking after him as a young orphan in Florence. The ladies were subsequently taken to an internment camp by Italian forces, and Zeffirelli never saw them again.

Zeffirelli recalled that the leader of this colony was an old dowager who often acted selfishly, but was so rich and powerful that nobody ever dared to complain.

The film Tea with Mussolini was based on this group of ladies.

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