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Florence skyline

text Francesca Lombardi

January 20, 2023

The Florence of Carlo Francini

The city's Unesco heritage officer takes us to its places in the heart

It’s not easy to summarise everything Carlo Francini does, so we’ll give a simple list: since 2005 he has been head of the Firenze Patrimonio Mondiale and UNESCO relations office, and site manager of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “The Historic Centre of Florence”. Since 2009 he has been a member of the Casa Buonarroti scientific committee and professor of Art History at Florence’s Accademia delle Arti del Disegno; he’s head of FAI Florence…. The list goes on, but we’ll leave it there to make room for the great geniality and empathy of this elegant flâneur of the art world, who gives a simple account of his important role in Florence. Carlo’s work is internationally acclaimed, and he has been one of the Italian expert delegates since 2021, when Italy returned to its place on the World Heritage Committee.

Carlo Francini, in charge of the city’s UNESCO heritage

We met Carlo on the eve of the 40th anniversary celebrations for Florence’s listing as a World Heritage Site on 17 December 1982. When we ask where his passion for art came from, he replies without hesitation: “I grew up in Palazzo Carnielo on Piazza Savonarola, where my father was a caretaker. Apart from the artists’ studios, which aroused my curiosity, I remember very clearly when the Gallery was being restored and refurbished; I spent most of my days there, for whole years of my youth. That was my imprinting”.

And there’s no doubt in his mind when we ask him to sum up what makes Florence exceptional: “I love its unique skyline; it’s a relatively small city that brings together an extraordinary heritage. Just climb a hill and the view is a series of marvellous buildings: the Dome, the Medici Chapels, Palazzo Vecchio, San Miniato…”. All extraordinary sights, which Carlo can enjoy when he leaves his office in Via Garibaldi and follows the Lungarni to Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s historic heart. He never tires of it.

Ponte Vecchio, Firenze


  • La Via del Tè Florence since 1961

“When I have time I love to drop by this boutique in Via Santo Spirito: it’s a special place that gives my mind a break too”. La Via del Tè sells more than 250 different products. There’s a delightful aromateca, with glass bottles where you can see, smell and create a sensory experience while choosing your favourite tea. A samovar is always on, offering a welcome cup to connoisseurs and visitors. 

la via del tè

  • Todo Modo

A bookshop and wine bar in the heart of the Santa Maria Novella district. On the shelves you’ll find over 20,000 titles, including books in foreign languages, illustrated volumes, classics, new publications and non-fiction. There’s a stationery section with selected brands (Midori, YStudio, Kaweco...). The shop also houses the Uqbar wine bar. Every day different wines (mostly natural) are presented, along with dishes featuring local ingredients.

todo modo
  • Paolo Penko

Master goldsmith, designer and sculptor, Florentine by birth and passionate about the Renaissance… Paolo is also a dear friend of Carlo’s. They enjoy experimenting and creating joint projects in Paolo’s workshop in Via delle Oche; like the crown designed to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of Cosimo I de’ Medici.

paolo penko

  • Palazzo Tempi

A very special place for Francini, for several reasons: the terrace overlooking the Arno and the statue of St John the Baptist by the sculptor Giuliano Vangi, whose 1995 exhibition at Forte Belvedere Carlo curated. Also the friendliness and professionalism of Silvano and his family, and the extraordinary views of the Uffizi. A place that’s not just for tourists. Favourite dessert? Caramelised oranges with gelato and cinnamon.

  • Caffè Gamberini

A stone’s throw from Carlo’s office, the former Caffè Curtatone has had a facelift and become Caffè Pasticceria Gamberini: the classical allure, wooden furniture and brass lamps lend charm and sophistication.

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