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Palace Women: Oltrarno and Beyond, event series at various locations from Sept. to Dec.

In Florence, numerous notable women working in government, the arts, patronage, literature and

philanthropy lived and worked in the Oltrarno and beyond, over the course of centuries. From

September to December 2023, lectures, tours, original artisanship, music, an exhibition and an original

video and photography catalogue form part of an events series, organised by The British Institute of

Florence, Il Palmerino Cultural Association and Calliope Arts, which spotlights past excellence and

modern-day creativity from a female perspective.


September 29, 2023 at 6pm

Lecture / Violin and piano recital – Claudia Tobin, Ruth Palmer, Alessio Enea

Lyceum Club Internazionale di Firenze. Palazzo Adami Lami, Lungarno Guicciardini 17 – Florence

How did music score and underscore the swell of women’s increasing liberties at the turn of the

twentieth century? Writer and curator Claudia Tobin, with violinist Ruth Palmer and pianist Alessio

Enea, set out to uncover the musical sisterhood between a network of European women artists, writers

and music critics who took inspiration from Florence, including suffragette composer Dame Ethel

Smyth, her friend the writer and activist Vernon Lee frequented Villa San Francesco di Paola. Presented

at the Lyceum in Florence, of which these women were members, this event is part of a research grant

that connects archives in the UK and Florence, including at the Villa I Tatti Harvard Centre for

Renaissance Studies, Lyceum Club archive, the British Institute of Florence, Somerville College Oxford

and the British Library in the UK. Reservations required, seating limited:


October 18, 2023 at 6pm

Lecture by Linda Falcone (online and on site)

British Institute of Florence, Wednesday Lecture Series. Lungarno Guicciardini 9 – Florence

Lecture admission: 12 euro, reservations recommended

Eleonora de Toledo’s purchase of the Pitti Palace – a sixteenth-century decision that triggered the

emergence of the Oltrarno artisan district – Vittoria della Rovere’s role in inspiring and supporting art

and craftsmanship at the Poggio Imperiale, Violante di Baviera’s cultural salon at Villa Lampeggi and

even Bianca Cappello’s unique palace on via Maggio. This talk explores the role of noblewomen and

how they were ‘influencers’ in their day. The ‘palazzo’ idea is not limited to aristocratic women involved

in governance, however. Felicie de Fauveau’s art atelier in via degli Serragli is a case in point. Details of

how to attend in person or online at Special Events - The British Institute of Florence


October 21 (in English) at 4pm

Tour with Freya’s Florence Admission: 25 euro per person

Explore a female-run artisan workshop specialised in egg-yolk tempera and gold foil, courtesy of

Veronica Balzani in via Pandolfini, before crossing to the ‘other side of the river’, for a walk along via

Maggio, past the Palazzo di Bianca Cappello to Elizabeth Browning’s home, Casa Guidi. Visit the Boboli

Gardens inspired by Eleonora di Toledo and see the evocative grotta di Madama and the grotta di

Buontalenti, focusing on their connection to Bianca Cappello and Francesco I. To conclude, participants

will exit at the Annalena entrance of via Romana, for a quick trek through the Annalena Garden, linked

to the history of Domenican nuns. Reservations required:

Curator-led visit


October 24, 2023 at 10.30am (in Italian)

Hosted by Villa La Petraia curator Giulia Coco. Admission free

Once a Medici hunting lodge, the villa was designed by Buontalenti by order of Cosimo I. It hosts

artworks by Lavinia Fontana and Angelica Kaufmann, but it is most famous for being gifted to

Cosimo I’s favourite daughter Isabella de’ Medici... it would ultimately become the site of her

murder, by husband Paolo Giordano I Orsini. Centuries later, in the 1900s, the villa became home

to the paintings of Emma Bardini. This collection of portraiture and still-life works reveal a lesser

known side of the woman who helped famed Oltrarno ‘antiques’ dealer Stefano Bardini make

international connections in the ‘Oltrarno ed oltre’. Reservations required:


October 30 to December 15, 2023

Gruppo Fotografico Il Cupolone

Il Palmerino Cultural Association. Via del Palmerino 6 – Florence

Exhibition open Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until December 15, from 3.30pm to 6.30pm

and by appointment

Ten women photographers from the award-winning Florentine cultural association Gruppo Fotografico

Il Cupolone capture the essence of the project ‘Palace Women: Oltrarno and Beyond’. Via photo

reportage or artistic images, the team is committed to the creation of a photographic archive spotlighting the modern-day creativity of artisans and art students who find inspiration in the Florence

palazzi (and gardens!) that female pioneers designed, developed and ‘populated’. From riverside to

countryside, they will start with Oltrarno sites and female-run workshops, before moving on to explore

villas in other districts, once home and haunt to powerful or creative women.

Participating artisans inspired by Vittoria della Rovere, Elizabeth Browning and the women of Villa

Petraia include Ilaria Ceccarelli and Ayako Nakamori (fabrics and natural chord), Kristie Mathieson

(grès) Jane Harman (wood), Andrew Stone (watercolor woodblock prints), Negar Azhar Azari and

Brenda Luize Roepke (jewelry). The exhibition will include a series of works inspired by Medici women

patrons, crafted during the Palace Women student grant programme at the Liceo Artistico Statale di

Porta Romana e Sesto Fiorentino, focused on papermaking, serigraphs and printing on textiles. The

exhibition opening includes the premiere of ‘Artisans and Palace Women’, a video by Florence-based

Russian video-maker Olga Makarova. Photographers: Alessandra Barrucchieri, Valentina Bellini, Sabina

Bernacchini, Cinzia Carmen Cardellicchio, Paola Curradi, Maria Grazia Dainelli, Cristina Garzone, Cecilia Franchi, Maria Laura Fineschi, Daniela Giampà, Sandra Lumini, Viola Parretti and Antonella Tomassi, curated by Simone Sabatini. Inauguration reservations for 6pm on October 30. For more

information and reservations:

Curator-led visit


November 21, 2023 (in Eglish), 4pm

Hosted by Raffaele Niccoli Vallesi Villa la Quiete curator for Sistema Musei Ateneo . Admission free

Villa La Quiete – a favourite site of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (1667-1743), the last Medici heir – which also provided education opportunities for secular and religious women for centuries, including the Montalve congregation and their order’s founder Eleonora Ramirez de Montalvo (1602-1659).

Curator-led visit


November 28, 2023 (in Italian), 3pm

Hosted by Villa La Petraia curator Giulia Coco. Admission free

Villa La Petraia, one of Tuscany’s most celebrated Medici villas, seen from the perspective of the many

women whose presence can be felt there, starting with Christina of Lorraine, to whom the villa was

given after her marriage to Grand Duke Ferdinando I in 1589. A glimpse of Medici women can be found

in the villa’s fresco cycle The Glories of the Medici, featuring notable figures like Catherine de’ Medici

(with daughters on her left) and Maria de’ Medici. In the 1800s, during Florence’s stint as capital, the

villa became a favourite of Rosa Vercellana, King Vittorio Emanuele’s morganatic wife, known as ‘La

Bella Rosina’. In her boudoir, expect rare pastels by 18th-century female artists, including Giovanna

Fratellini and Violante Siries Cerroti. For more information and reservations:


November 29 2023 at 6pm

Lecture by Francesca Baldry (online and on site)

British Institute of Florence, Wednesday Lecture Series. Lungarno Guicciardini 9 – Florence

Lecture admission: 12 euro, reservations recommended

Elizabeth Boott, whose alter ego Henry James captured in Portrait of a Lady, lived in Florence’s Villa

Castellani at Bellosguardo and her experience shines a light on the pre-Raphaelite ‘brotherhood’s’ female

perspective, as she and other ‘muses’ carved their space as painters in their own right when they sojourned

on the hills of Florence. Mary Spartali Stillman’s over 170 works illustrate how romanticizing ‘the

Renaissance’ was a marketable genre. Painter Evelyn De Morgan, also a Bellosguardo aficionado, was a

rebellious suffragette and spiritualist who produced some of the turn-of-the century’s most evocative angel images, while in Florence from 1895 to 1914. Their presence in the city and its outskirts in the second

half of the Nineteenth century, shaped the image of contemporary Florence. Details of how to attend in

person or online at Special Events - The British Institute of Florence

Participating institutions: Lyceum Club Internazionale di Firenze, Gruppo Fotografico Il Cupolone,

Intreccio Creativo, Liceo Artistico Statale di Porta Romana e Sesto Fiorentino, Villa Medicea La Petraia,

Villa Medicea Cerreto Guidi, Palazzo Spinelli.


December 4 , 2023, 6pm

Palace Women: Where Florence’s Women Made History

Il Palmerino Cultural Association. Via del Palmerino 6 – Florence

Family palaces, spiritual retreats, cultural salons, hunting lodges and garden oases – native and

adoptive Florentine women carved their place in history inside the venues they frequented: Villa La

Petraia, San Francesco di Paola, the Medici Villa of Poggio Imperiale, Villa di Cerreto Giudi, Casa Guidi

and Palazzo di Bianca Cappello. Join us for the presentation of an evocative photography book

featuring the collective works of 10 female photographers from Gruppo Fotografico Il Cupolone,

enhanced by the shared stories of scholars, artisans, musicians, historians and curators who give a

voice to pioneering women of the past (The Florentine Press, 2023). Free admission, reservations

Project Coordinator: Linda Falcone, Restoration Conversations

Special thanks to donors Alice Vogler, Donna Malin, Margie MacKinnon and Wayne McArdle

This project is made possible thanks to the support of Enjoy, Respect and Feel Florence, funded by

Italy’s Ministry of Tourism, the Fund for Development and Cohesion, the Municipality of Florence and

Feel Florence.

Palace Women image: Virginie Houdet, Oltrarno Gaze, 2022


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