Student-friendly spaces

Where to study and research in Florence

Alexandra Korey
January 17, 2013

If you are used to studying at Starbucks or in other public places in the United States, you are in for an unpleasant surprise in Italy. Bars are not usually places for leisurely reading and computer use, but rather for a quick shot of espresso in two flicks of the wrist. But Florence does offer a few student-friendly spaces where you can sit for hours, with or without purchase, and some of these also have wifi.



Here are some general access libraries and public study spaces in Florence to which undergraduate students may have access.




Via dell'Oriuolo 26,


The Oblate library is the Florence study place par excellence. Always packed with mostly Italian students, there is free wifi for a limited number of hours per day and seating both outside, in a loggia area, as well as inside in various parts of the library. On balmy days, the space under the outdoor loggia is perfect for group study meetings. Take advantage also of the well-priced café, which has good heating in the winter and luxurious air conditioning in the summer, for lunch and coffee breaks with a fantastic view of the Duomo.


Free jazz nights and other events are also held here. Sign up for a library card and wifi access using a photo ID. (The wifi provided at Le Oblate is part of the Firenze Wi-Fi initiative, started by the city and province of Florence in November 2009, which provides free, one-hour Internet access 24/7 in many public spaces; for details, see Best of all, it is open from 9am to midnight Tuesday through Saturday; Mondays 2pm to 10pm; closed Sundays and holidays.




Vicolo di Santa Maria Maggiore 1,


Located right near the Duomo, down a little alley, this building houses the city's student information point (you can pick up a free student discount card here, too). There is a café (with very reasonable prices) and free wifi available. In the summer, it's great to sit out in the courtyard. Open Monday through Saturday, 8:30am to midnight; closed Sundays.




Lungarno Guicciardini 9,


This English-friendly library at the British Institute has a good collection of books on Italy and art, helpful library staff and plenty of study space. Annual student membership costs 55 euros (check with your school, which may offer special rates)-a reasonable investment for the comfort provided-and includes Internet access. Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 6:30pm.




Piazza dei Cavalleggeri 1,


For a very old-school Italian-style experience, the reading room at the Biblioteca Nazionale provides complete silence, an academic atmosphere and grand leather chairs. The library itself is closed stacks and contains a copy of everything ever published since the unification of Italy-in Italian, of course. Wifi is limited to catalogue consultation. Access to the library, including in-library loans, is permitted to anyone aged 18 or over upon signing up for a library card (you'll need to bring your passport to do so). It is open Monday to Friday, 8:15am to 7pm; Saturday, 8:15am to 1:30pm.





There are 13 city-run libraries in Florence's historic centre and residential areas. Most have vast study spaces, limited hours, and some offer wifi and/or computer use. They have very limited hours, but they are often quite nice, host local events and provide a calm atmosphere without disturbances for studying. The website is only in Italian, but there is a map and a list with each library at the bottom of the page.




Beyond general libraries and study spaces, Florence is home to numerous research institutes that usually require a reference letter or credentials for access. This list does not include archives or collections of manuscripts.




Palazzo Strozzi (ground floor),


Founded in the nineteenth century, the collection specializes in European literary magazines, as well as French and English literature of the narrative, travel and biographical genres. Access is given to anyone over age 15 with photo ID. Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9am to 1:30pm; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9am to 6pm.





Loggiato degli Uffizi,


Library of historic art books, journals and historic material; access permitted to university students with a letter of reference specifying need to access these materials. Opening hours vary: see website for details.




Via Giusti 44,


A specialized art history library. Access is granted only to those working on or in possession of a doctoral degree, with letter of reference. Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.




Via Vincigliata, Fiesole,


Harvard's research center for Renaissance studies is in an idyllic setting in the hills of Fiesole. A reference letter and at least a MA degree is required for entrance. Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.

more articles