New books about Florence

New books about Florence

These new books take an academic approach to Florence and Italy’s history, art and international presence.

Thu 28 Mar 2024 10:43 AM

When it comes to books, Italy has long been the gift that keeps on giving. Every year, volumes are born from the seemingly limitless fount of Italian culture with newly uncovered curiosities and fresh perspectives. Recently, writers from a range of disciplines have chosen issues important to Florence’s past and present, and the following new releases take an academic approach to Italy’s history, art and international presence.

Palazzo Vecchio

Internationally renowned photographer Massimo Listri presents a 256-page coffee table book about the Palazzo Vecchio, showing its most exquisite artistic and architectural features in the best light. Both the world-famous and the lesser known corners are flaunted in vibrant colour and refined detail in the first photographic volume dedicated solely to the centre of civic power. Edited by Sergio Risaliti, essays by Serena Pini, Musei Civici Fiorentini curator, Carlo Francini, UNESCO head of the Centro Storico, and Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence accompany the glossy photography. Published by Forma Edizioni, the book is available in separate English and Italian editions.


This short and accessible volume by respected Florence resident Jonathan Nelson looks at the much-studied history of Renaissance art from a behind-the-scenes perspective. Interweaving art, money and public perception, Risks in Renaissance Art (Cambridge University Press) traces the inner workings of the culture that resulted in some of the world’s most adored art. Relationships between patrons, artists, purchasers and dealers made each painting and sculpture a gamble, with material problems, payment and final reception among the factors leading to major losses, which many historical accounts prefer to omit. Nelson examines the nature of those risks and how they could be assayed, if at all, exemplified with high-profile case studies.


Embarking on a new series of women’s history books for Routledge, University of Delaware professor Meredith Ray approaches Renaissance history from the female angle, countering the assumption that the period was built by the male polymath-heroes that have too often defined it in the public imagination. Ray argues that women had a much greater impact than they have been credited with and were intentionally removed from the record to preserve a male-centric story of the Renaissance. Through focused analyses of 25 leading names, Ray addresses the power that women had in every field, ranging from politics to poetry. Twenty-Five Women Who Shaped the Italian Renaissance (Routledge) restores women to the narrative.


It is no secret that Italy is loved all over the globe, particularly on the other side of the Atlantic. Through examinations of American history, from its foundation to the late 20th century, Ian J. Bickerton, a professor at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, guides readers through the ways in which Italy has been imagined in the United States and its reflections in American mass culture, from art and architecture to music and cinema. In doing so, Italy in the American Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan) strives to fill the gaps in previous scholarship about Italy’s place in American identities, real or imagined. Inspired by Bickerton’s time in Florence and his experience teaching American study abroad students, this new volume connects historical analysis to one of Florence’s most relevant current realities.


Visual reminders of the Medici family’s legacy can be found in every corner of Florence, but what if we could be walked through them by a member of the family herself ? Annaluisa Bianchi’s History of Florence: The Precious Legacy of the Last Medici Princess who Shaped the City’s Destiny (Mandragora) puts a twist on the usual academic approach as it is delivered by the final member of the Medici dynasty herself, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici. Framed as a first-person account, the book details the city’s history from its origins to October 31, 1737, when Anna Maria Luisa legally bound the entire Medici art collection to the Tuscan capital. This move, known as the Family Pact, officially carved Florence’s identity as a city of art.

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