Charles and Camilla of England in Florence to celebrate 100 years of the British Institute
A romantic sunset stroll marked the start of the royal visit to Italy
The United Kingdom and the whole world bid farewell in deep emotion to Queen Elizabeth II, who died at the age of 96 in her beloved Scottish residence of Balmoral, with her children and closest family members around her: starting with her eldest son and heir to the throne Charles, who at 73 became King Charles III with his second wife Camilla at his side, elevated to Queen Consort.
Below we replay Charles and Camilla's last visit to Florence in 2017, on the occasion of the British Institute of Florence's 100th anniversary celebrations.
On the left bank of the Arno, along Lungarno Guicciardini, one of the loveliest riverside avenues in Florence, stands TheBritish Institute of Florence. Established in 1917 by English and Italian scholars, it was the first British institute outside the United Kingdom. A beautiful building, permeated by a rarefied air of A Room with a View, open to all, where you peruse a book seated on one of the magnificent vintage settees while the ample windows afford exemplary vistas over the river. Members can borrow from the library’s 50,000-strong collection, also available to the Institute’s 2,000 students. All these books, in their diversity, make this English-language borrowing service one of the most numerous in Continental Europe.
Prince Charles is the British patron, who with the Duchess of Cornwall by his side took part in the British Institute’s centenary celebrations a few months ago, welcomed by the director Julia Race. Florence was at its most wonderful, cloaked in an almost made to measure sunset, the royal couple were accompanied by Jill Morris, the British Ambassador to Italy. “We decided not to stop any of our usual afternoon activities,” commented Julia Race. “The Duchess was entertained by our students listening to stories in English during our weekly Story Time. When one girl asked the Duchess to draw an animal, she took a pencil and within seconds had drawn a lovely outline of a horse on the sheet of paper.” Prince Charles, meanwhile, was having fun with some students from Cambridge who performed a sketch about Italian gestures. Together, the royal couple admired the library’s literary treasures, including a 1904 Florence guidebook, the time in which A Room with a View was set.
This was Prince Charles’ third visit to Florence (following 1985 and 2002), while it was the first official visit for Camilla. A four-day stay that seemed tailored to their tastes and personal pursuits. The love that Charles has always professed for art and painting; the prince paints watercolors. San Miniato al Monte, Santa Croce, Santa Maria del Fiore, Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi had impressed the royal on his previous two visits to the city, as too had the Chianti countryside, which he depicted with his brushes, guided by the prince’s dear friend Bona Frescobaldi. Charles and Camilla also share a love of wine, organic farming and food.
Together they attended a dinner at Villa San Michele in Fiesole, where Charles chose to stay in 2002, captivated by the hotel’s enviable position and the very British guarantee of privacy. Here a meeting was arranged with some of Tuscany’s most prestigious wine producers: Frescobaldi, Antinori, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Biondi Santi from Montalcino, and Petra from Suvereto. The following day, the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Vasari Corridor before attending Mass by the Reverend William Lister at St. Mark’s English Church in via Maggio.
Between one appointment and another during their four days in Florence, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall took a walk in piazza del Duomo, around the Baptistry and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, before resuming the official schedule. The next morning, Carlo and Camilla walked around the stalls of Sant’Ambrogio Market, enjoyed a couple of cappuccinos at Caffé Vecchio Mercato and some chat with butcher Luca Menoni. The prince even did some shopping at Bottega dell’Augusta: Maremma cave-aged pecorino cheese, San Casciano prosciutto and Tuscan cured meats. This was followed by a visit to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, where masterpieces are restored hailing from leading museums and noble houses around the world, as well as the opportunity to meet Italian fashion designers with a focus on wool in the Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti.
Then more art at Palazzo Strozzi, where the Prince of Wales inaugurated the temporary placement of the Warrior with Shieldsculpture by the Brit Henry Moore, the bronze statue from Santa Croce, which was donated to the British Institute by the artist in 1986. The royal visit came to a close with a gala dinner at the Palazzo Vecchio, at which the Prince was presented with the Renaissance Man 2017 award by Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi.