Home » Historical Libraries in Florence

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Florence is always a good idea- even during a rainy week. Regardless of the weather, walking along the Arno doesn’t lose its charm. When you’re in this city, you cannot help but realize that you are witnessing centuries of history; you are in the cradle of the Renaissance strolling among Dante, the Medici, Michelangelo, and all the artists of every era who enjoyed this magnificent city.

I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty . . . I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations . . . Everything spoke so vividly to my soul.
(Stendhal, Rome, Naples et Florence, 1817)

The capital of Tuscany, like other Italian cities, screams Stendhal Syndrome on every corner and, the first few times you visit Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi, Santa Maria del Fiore, Palazzo Pitti, and so many more, you will begin to understand the strange phenomenon.
If you look further, however, you will discover that in Florence there are magnificent historical libraries. I had the opportunity to see some of them when I was in Tuscany for work, from one schiacciata and a lampredotto sandwich lunch break to the next and between a stop at the Museo del Bargello and the Medici Chapels.


I wholeheartedly invite you to experience the sensation of studying and working in prestigious places, of approaching the same manuscripts and printed books, even rare ones, that the greatest intellectuals of Italian and European culture have studied and used.

In some instances, special permission is required in order to gain access, especially in the case of valuable, historical texts that are centuries old; while in other cases, the Reading Room is open to the public. It’s always wise to check the official website first for opening hours and rules about access to the public.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale

It was founded at the beginning of the eighteenth century with the book collections of Antonio Magliabechi (librarian of Francesco Maria and Leopoldo de’ Medici) and opened to the public in 1747 as Magliabechiana. Initially located under the Uffizi loggia, it then took the name of the National Central Library and today is located in Piazza Cavalleggeri, near Santa Croce on the Lungarno. It is the largest library in Italy.

Biblioteca Riccardiana

Housed in Palazzo Medici Riccardi, this library holds valuable manuscripts and rare printed works from precious Florentine collections. An example is the sixteenth-century texts owned by Riccardo Romolo which represent the first nucleus of this Library in via de’ Ginori.

firenze-biblioteca riccardiana
firenze-biblioteca medicee

Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

This library is known for its vestibule and the Monumental Hall designed by Michelangelo. It is located inside the cloister of the Basilica of San Lorenzo and preserves the manuscripts of the Medici family- in particular, those belonging to Cosimo the Elder and his sons, Pietro and Giovanni di Cosimo de’ Medici, as well as his nephews, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giuliano.

Biblioteca Marucelliana

This library was built from scratch and inaugurated in 1752 with books donated from the personal library of Abbot Francesco Marucelli. It was also Florence’s first true cultural site open to the general public on via Cavour.

Other Libraries

Pages could be written about Florence, its hidden gems, and its many libraries with frescoed ceilings. In addition to those already described, it is also known for the Uffizi Library, archiving the Gallery’s history and collections.
Then there is the Gabinetto Vieusseux in Palazzo Strozzi, frequented by writers such as Manzoni and Leopardi; the Library of San Marco, the oldest in the city and the idea of Cosimo the Elder; and above all, the Library of
, home of the Italian Language Academy and general linguistics.

Public Libraries With Spectacular Views

If you are looking for a public reading library, in the center of Florence and with a view of Brunelleschi’s dome, then you cannot miss the one housed in the ancient convent of the Oblates. Founded by Folco Portinari (as in, the actual father of Dante’s beloved Beatrice), today it is a three-story space open from Monday to Saturday, perfect for reading, studying, or passing time on the covered terraces overlooking the Duomo!

Continue reading about other historical libraries in Italy.

About the Author

Aurora Giribuola

Born in 1997, I am a girl who lives and works between Vercelli and Turin but as soon as I can, I leave for the weekend. There is never enough time to see this immense world full of adventures just waiting to be experienced!

Following the Covid epidemic restrictions and the limitations I experienced while traveling in France, my passion for travel grew immensely.

I’m a fairly calm person but I have never been able to stay in one place for very long. Rather than sitting under a beach umbrella, I’d much prefer exploring different beaches, art cities, and small villages. Volunteering for the FAI organization, I am also constantly finding out about new places for my next adventure.

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