Rocky Ruggiero

Sharing the art history of Florence with tourists and locals

Melinda Gallo
February 11, 2010

Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance' for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.



Rocky Ruggiero has always lived among Italians. He grew up in an Italian-American community in Providence, Rhode Island. When he moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, to study at Holy Cross College, he was unable to choose between art history and medicine, so he studied both. But the opportunity to study in Florence for his junior year tilted the scale: he ended up majoring in art history and taking a minor in pre-med. After graduating, he attended Syracuse University's graduate program in Florence to study fine art. He studied Renaissance art, his first love, as well as Italian metaphysical art. Art history came very naturally to Rocky, who claimed, ‘It didn't seem like work; it was all pleasure.'


After completing his thesis, Rocky stayed on at Syracuse University as a teaching assistant for two years. While living in Florence, he found jobs at Kent State University, Boston College, Accademia Italiana as well as a few other American universities in Florence, where he continues to work today.


Although a degree in art history opens doors to many professions, Rocky wanted to continue teaching. He loves sharing his knowledge about art history and believes that one of his skills is making it interesting for everyone. His favorite subjects are medieval and Renaissance art as well as that of ancient Rome.


‘There's no other place better in the world than this city,' Rocky said about studying art history in Florence. A course in medieval and Renaissance art essentially encompasses the works of Giotto to those of Michelangelo. Because, as Rocky stated, ‘The city is a classroom,' art history in Florence could start in the Baptistery to look at the Byzantine art, then Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella to examine the paintings from the fourteenth century. After studying renaissance art in Florence students can then go to Rome to study high Renaissance and baroque. Through his classroom lectures, Rocky prepares the students for the visits to the city's museums to see the actual works of art.


Although he spends much of his time teaching students in programs at Florence's American universities, Rocky has also decided to share his knowledge of art history with adults. Besides juggling numerous classes, he also organizes specialized private tours for small groups of people who are interested in a particular aspect of Florence's art history. In addition, he has recently developed cultural programs for the arts (, which are one- to two-week courses akin to intensive study abroad programs for adults. Students take Italian, art history, and studio art courses taught by university instructors. Travel seminars are also in the works for those who want to learn more about art history by visiting Venice, Florence and Rome.


Rocky also took part of the History Channel's series Engineering an Empire ( and was in the ‘Da Vinci's World' episode. His passion for Florence's wealth of art and his love for sharing his knowledge are both gifts that he shares with anyone, not only university students, who comes to the city.



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