Pigeons in Italy: Entertainment, Menace, and Food

In my Italian language course, I learned the word for pigeon on a field trip to the food market in Florence. We were asked to write down all the names of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats that we saw at the market. And there they were next to the chickens and ducks – several plucked pigeons otherwise still completely intact with feet and opened beaks (I am not including a photo). The Italian word for pigeon is “piccione” in case you are wondering. You may come across it on a Tuscan traditional menu.

Pigeons have fascinated and entertained me ever since I have come to Italy as they are everywhere and seem to annoy and destroy based on the many signs as well as spikes and nets to keep pigeons off buildings and art work. The efforts are not always successful as pigeons have recently closed down a part of the Uffizi in Florence because of a tick infestation that was believed to have been brought in by pigeons (see the article here). And they can still be found on ledges, overhangs, and more importantly statues.


A Pigeon at the Entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence


Pigeons on Statue

Pigeons on the Statues of the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence

Sometimes it is difficult to get a picture without a pigeon on the sculpture since they are not really fazed by people. They also feel comfortable flying or wandering through open doors and windows to hang out in indoor cafes and restaurants.

Pigeon Sign

A Sign Warning of Pigeons in an Interior Room in a Hotel in Venice

However, pigeons also seem to be appreciated. Even though I was told it is illegal to feed the pigeons on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, I still saw plenty of tourists attracting the birds with seeds and taking the obligatory photo of themselves with pigeons on their shoulders, head, and arms in the famous square. Artists also pay attention to pigeons. This street art about a pigeon in Venice made me smile:

Street Art Pigeon

Street Art of a Pigeon Wearing a Mask in Venice

But pigeons are also the subject of more traditional art forms:

I am not sure why pigeons seem to have such a bad reputation in towns. Are they really the only birds that create havoc in cities? After all, seagulls dominate the landscape in the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum in Rome and herons can be found in the Giardino di Boboli in the city center of Florence:

Pigeons in Italy come in a variety of shapes (missing foot, broken wing, missing eye for example) and colors (pigeon blue, steel grey, cream white, cappuccino brown, and white-and-brown “cow pattern”).

Venice Pigeons

Pigeons Resting on a Streetlight in Venice

I watch them while I wait in lines to get into a museum or for a friend to show up for a dinner date. And over the last few days I have watched a couple of pigeons trying to decide whether to nest in a spot on the glass roof of my apartment where I can here the clicking of their peaks against the glass as soon as the sun rises. So pigeons have been a little menace and plenty of entertainment but not yet food for me.