Having art for dinner

The pleasure of Dante’s company

Sir Brian Tovey
November 3, 2005

A few metres from the Bargello – to be precise, at Via del Proconsolo 16r – stands a fine building, once the home of the Guild of Judges and Notaries, and now the property of an art-loving enthusiast who is also a gastronomic entrepreneur. The result is that a number of priceless frescoes dating variously from the 13th and 15th centuries have now been revealed in much of their original splendour. There is a ceiling bearing a circular representation of mediaeval Florence, complete with walls, gates, and the shields of the 21 Guilds (7 major and 14 minor) that provided Florence with its system of government at that time. There is a delightful fresco showing two ladies who represent two of the oratorical disciplines for which the Guild of Judges and Notaries was renowned. Last but certainly not least, there is another fresco depicting the great Dante in a guise that, whether authentic or not, was accepted as accurate well into the 16th century. Also, for good measure, there is a fresco of that other famous Florentine writer, Boccaccio. All this you can see for no more than the cost of a phone call to 055-240618, for which you will not only be admitted to this treasure-house, but will also be equipped with an audio handset that will guide you amongst the items described above and several more besides.  

A final delicious surprise is that every evening (Mondays excepted), this same building, frescoes and all, becomes an excellent restaurant. So why not book a table from which you can view Dante and Boccaccio or – if you prefer – the charming ladies who personify the oratorical skills of mediaeval Florence?


Another discovery is the resplendently named ‘Educatorio di Fuligno’ at Via Faenza 48. The breadth of this outwardly unassuming building’s artistic content is amazing: 15th century frescoes by Bicci di Lorenzo and Neri di Bicci, an early 16th century Last Supper by the Perugino workshop, and a deeply moving Crucifixion by Alessandro Allori, the artist who effectively personifies the process of transition from the so-called ‘Mannerist’ style of Bronzino (of whom Allori was a pupil and protégé) to the more realistic style that came into favour in the aftermath of the Counter-Reformation. No dining out in the gastronomic sense but, for sure, an artistic banquet well worth a call to 055-210232.


And do not on any account miss the collection of Roman sculpture assembled by the Riccardi family who, in the 18th century, bought the one-time Medici palace in what is now Via Cavour. The score of busts now displayed in the basement of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi is accompanied by a number of portraits, many of which, no doubt, bear titles that are less than authentic. But the portraits are beautiful nonetheless and, above all, wonderfully lifelike. See in particular the ‘Greek Poet,’ the ‘Athlete’ – named after Riccardi himself, and the heart-stopping portrait of a young child. You can view all these, and others equally moving, in the ‘Museo dei Marmi’ within the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, and the cost of your ticket also admits you to the Magi Procession of Bennozzo Gozzoli and Luca Giordano’s ceiling, celebrating the Apotheosis of the Medici. Very good value!

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