The hidden city

Robert Nordvall
April 5, 2007

After you've seen the world-famous sites in Florence, how do you gain access to artistic treasures closed to the public? Città Nascosta has the answer.


Italy’s artistic patrimony is the world’s largest, but not all of it is on display. In 1994 three Florentine women — Marcella Cangioli, Maria de Peverelli, and Tiziana Frescobaldi — decided to establish an organization in Florence based upon recently formed models in Rome and Verona. Their goal was to gain access to lovely places closed to the public, through small tours led by art experts. Thus, Città Nascosta was born.


At first tours were held exclusively in private sites such as palazzi (Palazzo Corsini, Palazzo Peruzzi, and Palazzo Capponi) and other places, such as the Cloister of Santo Spirito del Carmine and the Rucellai Chapel. These early ventures emphasized the art of the 15th and 16th centuries.


From this modest beginning, today Città Nascosta sponsors about 100 visits a year in and around Florence that explore art through the Baroque period and even later. In addition to palazzi and closed spaces in churches, members travel to villas (such as Mondeggi, Ceretto Guidi, and Lilliano) and art exhibits in Florence and elsewhere. They venture to studios belonging to master craftsmen and contemporary artists, and seek out smaller museums off the beaten track of tourists. The excursions to Italy’s lesser-known smaller cities such as Ferrara, Bergamo, Treviso, and Foligno are especially noteworthy for those who are already familiar with Italy’s major urban centers.  In the past, such towns were dominated by wealthy families who constructed magnificent buildings and were major patrons of the arts. Visits to cities beyond Florence, both large and small, are often made in conjunction with a significant art exhibition being hosted by the city.


The group’s first event outside Florence was a trip to Rome in 1995. Excursions out of Italy began in the late 1990s, with a tour to Syria. Many of association’s early foreign adventures focused on the cradle of western civilization in the Near East. Today, it organizes multi-day tours to major cities such as Paris, Prague, Budapest, and Berlin—all conducted by art experts hired by Città Nascosta, with the help of local art historians specializing in these foreign areas.


The group’s 800 members pay an annual fee of 12 euro. For this contribution, they receive separate schedules of tours for winter, spring, and autumn each year. The fees for individual trips, of course, vary.  Città Nascosta cooperates with Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane, a group similar to the National Trust in Great Britain and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the USA. Each year, the Tuscan section of the association sponsors a garden day (Toscana Esclusiva) in major Tuscan cities, in which private courtyards and gardens are opened to the public. Entrance is free.


Under the sponsorship of the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, Città Nascosta provides about 40 free tours each year for Italian school students. As is often the case in cultural ventures, young adults are the most difficult group to reach. Tours are conducted in Italian, but most guides speak English well enough to clarify points for English- speakers with limited skills in Italian.  By special arrangement, members can request visits in English, French, Spanish, or German. The group has branched into the tourist business by offering planning assistance and personalized itineraries for Florence that include access to residences, gardens and other locations not open to the general public.


Today a staff of five continues the work of the founders of this dedicated organization.


Città Nascosta is located at Lungarno Cellini 25.

The telephone number is 055.68 02 590

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