Best events in Florence in May 2018

Our top picks

Mary Gray
May 3, 2018 - 12:29

MOVIES/Dragon Film Festival

May 3-8

La Compagnia, Florence + Centro Pecci, Prato

The Chinese world is the centerpiece of the fifth Dragon Film Festival, the grand finale of the Primavera Orientale film festival series. Conceived and directed by Riccardo Galli of the Florence Eurasia Association, the 2018 edition of the festival features 14 titles representing the best recent cinema of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with several movies making their Italian premieres. Kicking off the festival is Pang Ho-cheung’s Love off the Cuff, a Hong Kong rom-com and the final installment in the Love in a Puff trilogy (8.30pm, May 3). Movies from mainland China were selected in collaboration with the Beijing International Film Festival, while the Taiwan contenders include a crime thriller (Who Killed Cock Robin) and a tale of overlapping lives (Missing Johnny) (both May 4). All films are subtitled in Italian and English. For the full program, see
the website.


SPRING/Artigianato e Palazzo

May 17-20

Giardino Corsini, via della Scala 115, Florence

Artigianato e Palazzo is one of the “musts” of Florentine May. Roughly 100 Italian and international artisans and designers will be spread throughout the orangerie, the greenery-lined pathways, and the “Nuns’ Garden” of the spectacular Giardino Corsini, a private garden open only on rare occasions. Live demonstrations play a big part in the program, and this year brings a hodgepodge of out-of-the-box handiwork worth watching (a typewriter restorer and a feather ornament-maker will join the more traditional lineup of ceramicists, mosaic artists and others). But the biggest development for 2018 is the involvement of historic porcelain manufactory Richard Ginori: its artisans will recreate steps in the creative process against the backdrop of the 17th-century Limonaia Piccola, and funds raised from entry donations will go toward the reopening of the Doccia Museum. For more information, see the website.


Ongoing; current exhibition until July 12
Museo Novecento, piazza Santa Maria Novella 10, Florence

Outside that Santa Maria Novella stronghold, the former Leopoldine complex turned 20th-century museum, you may have noticed a colorful new installation of block letters announcing matter-of-factly what awaits you inside: M U S E O. The reiteration isn't just a reminder of where you are. It's a mark of the full metamorphosis of the Museo Novecento currently underway, guided by Sergio Risaliti, the museum's new director, whose appointment was announced in January. Numerous plans are in the works for the reorganization of the permanent collections and progressive exhibition programming in soon-to-be-opened spaces. Get an early taste of the space's new artistic direction with the spring-summer exhibition Il disegno dello scultore. Conceived by Risaliti and curated by Eva Francioli, Francesca Neri and Stefania Rispoli of MUS.E Firenze, the show is the first in a series that will focus on drawing as a creative fundamental, “the mother of all arts.” For more information, see the museum website.


May 31
Around town + piazza Madonna della Neve (Le Murate), Florence

Runners, take your marks. Drinkers, grab your glasses. On the eve of June, toast to the start of summer at the third edition of non-competitive sporting event Run&Wine, a “fun run” (10 km) and walk (5 km) winding its way through the most scenic stretches of the city. Your motive for making it to the finish line? A generous tasting of red and white Tuscan wines from event sponsor Santa Cristina awaits runners and walkers in the airy, warm weather-proof setting of piazza della Madonna della Neve (Le Murate complex). You’ll glimpse major monuments and panoramic views throughout the route, which moves from the Le Murate “tasting village” through viale Machiavelli, via Romana, piazza Pitti, Lungarno Torrigiani, Ponte alle Grazie and the Santa Croce area before slinking back to Le Murate. Advance registration is required; see the website or email [email protected] for more information.

FASHION/Italy in Hollywood

May 25-March 10, 2019

Ferragamo Museum, piazza Santa Trinita 5r, Florence

With its next exhibition, the Ferragamo Museum will take visitors on a “well-heeled” stroll down Hollywood Boulevard right here in Florence. Italy in Hollywood is inspired by the years that the shoe giant Salvatore Ferragamo spent in the United States—specifically, his stint in Santa Barbara from 1915 to 1927, during which he worked with top film directors (including Cecil B. DeMille) and screen sirens. Rather than focusing on blockbuster names, however, this exhibition highlights Italian migration to California and the influence the pre-Fellini dolce vita had on the Golden State, through the lens of Ferragamo’s autobiography. The show doesn’t shy away from the era’s uncomfortable themes, including the disconnect between the WASP world’s reverence for Italian culture and customs, juxtaposed with its stereotype-driven disdain for Italo-Americans. Film buffs will enjoy the clips throughout the exhibition, many of which explore Italy’s role in the creation of the modern “diva” and the birth of silent film. For more information, call 055 3562846.

LUSH/ADSI National Day

May 27

Various venues in Florence, Tuscany and Italy

High tourist time has only just begun, but we’d bet you could already use a break from the unseasonably scorching streets, instead exploring some of Tuscany’s most tranquil spaces. May 27 brings the chance to fulfill all your real estate fantasies when the regional chapter of the Associazione Dimore Storiche Italiane (ADSI) opens up normally-cordoned—or just privately owned—castles, villas, courtyards, gardens and farmhouses to the public. This year the ADSI National Day is also part of larger European event Private Heritage Week (May 24-27), celebrating the continent’s truly hidden treasures. At press time, not all participating venues have been announced, but here’s a small teaser of some Tuscan highlights: Palazzo Magnoni Feroni, Palazzo Gondi and Giardino Corsini in Florence, La Foce in Chianciano Terme, and Villa Grabau in Marlia, near Lucca. To view the up-to-date program, see the website.

PONTORMO/Miraculous Encounters: the Albardiere returns to Florence

May 8-July 29

Sala delle Nicchie, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Pontormo's Visitation, which will also be on display at the exhibition

Just a few short weeks after the inauguration of the newly restored Capponi Chapel, the unassuming corner of Santa Felicita home to several Pontormo masterpieces, including his monumental Deposition from the Cross, the nearby Palazzo Pitti is opening a Pontormo-themed exhibition in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. After two decades, Pontormo’s striking Alabardiere portrait will return to Florence, where it once belonged to the Riccardi family before passing through numerous private collections and ending up at its current home in the Getty. Set to take place in the Sala delle Nicchie, the exhibition will feature a substantial selection of other 16th century works, with the Alabardiere centerpiece displayed alongside its preparatory sketch. Another highlight to look for: the beloved Visitation from Carmignano (pictured), most recently in Florence for Palazzo Strozzi’s 2017 Bill Viola exhibition. For more information, see the Uffizi website.


EU/State of the Union off-circuit
May 10-12
European University Institute, Villa Salviati, Florence

Villa Salviati

High-profile European leaders (Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission; Sergio Mattarella, President of Italy; Prokopios Pavlopoulos, President of Greece, to name a few) will gather in Florence for the eighth edition of State of the Union, an annual EU-focused conference organized by the EUI, with “Solidarity in Europe” as this year’s theme. Although the main discussions and events with leaders are off limits to the general public, a wide-ranging program of related public events will run. Fulcrum of the festivities is the free-admission Open Day of the Historical Archives of the European Union at Villa Salviati (10am-5.30pm, May 12). The full program of family-friendly events will include a 4.30pm concert from the Academy of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, an all-day sculpture exhibition from Roberto Coccolini, kid-centered circus workshops with Blanca Teatro, and guided visits of the grottoes, chapel, main villa and gardens (email [email protected] to book). For more information, head here.

STUDENTS/Art is in the Square
May 12
Piazza San Lorenzo, Florence

Students at Florence’s always-busy Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici will showcase their end-of-semester achievements to the public with the return of Art is in the Square, the annual springtime event spotlighting artwork, photography and design produced in LdM courses. The day traditionally kicks off with a pop-up, open-air exhibition in piazza San Lorenzo, a stone’s throw from the school’s main campus in via Faenza. Setting up shop on major Medici territory such as San Lorenzo is perfectly aligned with the day’s mission: to celebrate Florence’s—not to mention the institute’s—heritage and still-active status as a hub of creativity and production, cross-cultural contact and dialogue. Following the exhibition, dance students will give a performance in the Church of San Jacopo in Campo Corbolini (5pm, via Faenza 43), one of those hidden-in-plain-sight Florentine gems. Entrance is free; rain locations are the nearby via dell’Alloro 13 and 14. For more information, follow LdM on Facebook.

CULTURE/Fabbrica Europa
May 4-June 10
Stazione Leopolda + various venues in Florence

Celebrating all things contemporary, Fabbrica Europa is a sparkling spring-and-early-summer showcase bringing together dancers, performance artists, musicians and other creatives from around the world. Now entering its 25th edition, Fabbrica Europa will use its “silver” year as a fresh start rather than a self-referential tribute to past editions. Organizers are billing it as “Year Zero”, inviting performers and audience members to bring a new and distinctly 2018-type energy to the proceedings. To that end, although most of the events remain anchored in the festival’s standard location of Stazione Leopolda, this year brings the unconventional addition of the Cascine’s Ex-Scuderie Granducali to the venue lineup. In the opening weekend alone, shows span dance, multimedia performance art, music and theatre. For the full program, see the website.

WORDS/Festival degli Scrittori
May 3-5
Various venues in Florence

Margaret Atwood / Ph. via FdS

Marking the 20th anniversary of polyglot novelist and screenwriter Gregor von Rezzori’s death is a particularly prestigious edition of the annual Festival degli Scrittori, Florence’s first literary festival, a platform for the finest contemporary writing and the conferring of the Premio Gregor von Rezzori, awarded to the best work of foreign fiction published in Italy within the last year. Opening the festivities is a lectio magistralis by Canadian poet-writer-activist Margaret Atwood, recently returned to the limelight following the Netflix success of The Handmaid’s Tale, a small-screen adaptation of her 1985 novel (6.30pm, May 4, Cenacolo of Santa Croce). Other esteemed wordsmiths among the special guests are recent Pulitzer Prize winner Andrew Sean Greer and the festival’s translation prize recipient Claudio Groff. The Florentine’s bilingual literary magazine The FLR. The Florentine Literary Review is also a proud partner of the Premio Gregor von Rezzori. For more information, see the website.


May 28, 9pm

Teatro Verdi, via Ghibellina 99, Florence


After last year’s sprawling mega-show in the Visarno Arena, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke returns to Florence for a more intimate concert in the historic Teatro Verdi. Best known for his genre-defying work as the lead singer, pianist and guitarist of Radiohead, Yorke launched a solo career in 2006 with The Eraser. In Florence, he’ll be joined onstage by Nigel Godrich, a Radiohead producer and part of the supergroup Atoms for Peace, of which Yorke is also a member. Multimedia visuals from acclaimed audiovisual artist-computer programmer Tarik Barri will add to the headiness of it all, but count on fewer glowsticks and Coachella crowd vibes compared to last year’s Cascine show. At press time, tickets are still available starting at around 45 euro. For more information, see music promoters  Le Nozze di Figaro's website.

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