I have a soft spot for the British Institute of Florence, it was one of my favourite places when I first came to stay in the city beyond short holiday trips. For within the walls of Palazzo Lanfredini on Lungarno Guicciardini I’d found a place to spend hours huddled in their library under its wood-beamed roof, surrounded by books and a view overlooking the Arno river towards the statue-topped roof of Palazzo Corsini. Offering mid-week cultural lectures, Thursday afternoon British high tea plus language and art classes, I had found my little Brit heaven in this old Italian city. It would be fair to say Jeremy Boudreau holds a similar love for the Institute. An honourary Florentine for over ten years, since January 2014 Jeremy has been at the helm of the History of Art department, overseeing a team of lecturers who contribute to the Institute’s history of art courses and study abroad programming, plus a wide range of cultural events which take place every month. With a degree in Museum Education (Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston) and an M.A. in Art History (Syracuse University as a Florence Fellow), specialising in Renaissance Italy, he knows a thing or two about Florence. So where does an art historian go when not teaching others the beauty of the city? Here Jeremy shares his NINE.

1. Galleries I Love  

This is a very difficult question for an Art Historian, especially in Florence! Leaving aside for the moment the quality of individual collections, the visitor experience can vary considerably depending on the popularity of the venue. One can’t not visit the Uffizi, Accademia and other top museums of the city, but in the high season, the experience itself can be overwhelming. If you’d like to soak in Florentine art without the crowds I suggest exploring the Museo Horne, the Museo di San Marco, the Museo di Casa Buonarroti, or churches like San Miniato al Monte, Santa Trinita or Santo Spirito. See? I told you this was a difficult question!

2. For A Perfect Dinner 

It may be my Rhode Island upbringing and nostalgia at play, but one of the nicest meals in Florence I can remember was at lo Skipper in via degli Alfani. Apart from the fun old-school nautical motif, unexpected in the Tuscan hills, this hidden gem is serious Sicilian seafood cuisine at its finest. 

3. For A Sweet Treat 

I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but if you’re looking for something sugary and social, try Thursday afternoon tea at the Harold Acton Library at the British Institute! A devoted group of volunteers provides homemade cakes and tea each week for the public in the Sala Ferragamo overlooking the Arno River and Palazzo Corsini.

4. My Florence style

Florence has made me appreciate a higher standard of quality and elegance. Florentines like to look their best and I totally appreciate that. It’s also a haven for stylish menswear and shoes, which can be dangerous for your bank balance! 

5. Favourite Shopping Stores & Streets 

I love poking around the Sant’Ambrogio food market, and its surrounding outdoor tables and neighbouring shops. A perfect Saturday morning for me is an early breakfast in a local bar for coffee and a pastry, then a quick grocery run with lots of sampling (who doesn’t like gorgonzola at 10am?) followed by a meander over to the nearby flea market on the largo Annigoni. 

6. For Sunset Cocktails

I prefer the outdoors, so I’ll go with a view. Check out the tiny tower-top terrace bar of the hotel Torre Guelfa on Borgo Santi Apostoli. Once you catch your breath (lift not included, get ready for a lot of stairs!) you can take in ALL of Florence over a drink and bar snacks. 

7. For Art & Culture {beyond the obvious galleries}

Palazzo Strozzi continues to offer much-needed access to modern and contemporary art through their incredible exhibitions which bring important works to Florence on loan from other parts of the world. They consistently offer truly didactic and well-curated experiences for visitors of all backgrounds and on many levels, including young learners and families.

8. Favourite Green Space In Florence 

Florence has never been described as a green city, but that in part is due to its history. Until the late 19th century Florence remained enclosed in a circuit of medieval defensive walls. While open space is an important feature of the historic city fabric, more often than not it manifests itself in the paved piazza or riverfront. Cloisters and palace gardens can be difficult to access without paying admission fees or requesting special entrance. If you are in the Oltrarno, the Giardino delle Rose (Rose Garden) is now open all year round and offers a great view of the city, but if you are in true need of nature’s refuge, I recommend heading outside the centre.

9. Escape to the countryside {best day trip from Florence} 

Chianti, of course. Nothing beats jumping in the car to visit castles, vineyards and picturesque villages like Greve, Volpaia or Panzano for wine tasting, an all aperto lunch or joining the locals in the piazza for a summer evening sagra. If you’re looking to escape the heat in high summer take a trip up to the Riserva Statale Vallombrosa with a picnic basket or head in the opposite direction and visit the Grotta del Vento near Barga.

Find more of upcoming event programme at britishinstitute.it

Photo credit: Olga Makarova