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Tom Richards, who runs the Florence Academy of Art, feels that the city’s art is ‘absorbed as part of everyday life’, not just something you visit when the museums are open. ‘Students go from drawing the nude in class to sharing a drink in a piazza in front of the statues that inspired the pose,’ he says.

The Academy offers six-week painting and fine art courses throughout the year, with options for beginners through to more experienced painters. They’re so popular that students frequently stay on, enthralled by Florentine life.

Founded 105 years ago, the British Institute of Florence – or ‘il British’ as the Florentines fondly refer to it – offers bespoke courses in history of art, life and cast drawing, and the Italian language. Many students combine them all. Lectures and gatherings are hosted in the stunning 16th-century Palazzo Lanfredini, which houses one of the largest English-language libraries in Europe.

As director Simon Gammell explains, by the end of the 20th- century ‘il British’ had garnered a bohemian crown for its ‘artists, intellectuals [and] renegades’, but now it’s for ‘the discerning visitor – if you like, the new Grand Tourist, who’s coming with a purpose’. The duration of courses varies and students stay in accommodation of their own choosing.

For an alternative exposure to the muses, book an Inksperience with creative wordsmith and calligrapher Betty Soldi in her design studio opposite the Boboli Gardens. Classes are ostensibly to learn calligraphy, but this is simply a by- product of learning how to thrive, create and free up one’s artistic

energy. Betty extols the joy of writ- ing – the connection of head, heart and hand – and with patience and vivacity gently pries away students’ reservations. Soon they are express- ing themselves in giant flourishes. And as Betty says, ‘If you don’t flourish, you die.’


The Uffizi Gallery, former offices of the Medici family and now home to one of the world’s finest collections of Renaissance art, is incredible in variety and scope. Works include Caravaggio’s Medusa, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and the breathtaking Octagonal Room with its shell-covered, domed ceiling. The Palazzo Strozzi, under the direction of Arturo Galansino, has fabulous exhibitions ranging from the Renaissance sculptor Donatello to contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson. At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the newly restored Pietà Bandini sculpture by Michelangelo is not to be missed.