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Florence, Italy: 4 Contemporary Galleries to Visit in the Oltrarno

Updated on July 17, 2016

Sonia Zampini, Curator of ZETAEFFE Galleria

Possibly the most unique and exciting sci-fi you will ever read.

The Vibrant Art of Francesca Pasquali


Bernard Aubertini's "Fire Art"


Alfredo Pirri's Nostalgic Paper Landscapes

A Templar must choose between the woman he loves and God.

La Reina by Flavia Robalo

What is Contemporary Art?

According to NYU (New York University) it is "the art of today, produced by artists who are living in the twenty-first century. Contemporary art provides an opportunity to reflect on contemporary society and the issues relevant to ourselves, and the world around us."

A few nights ago I had the pleasure of attending the annual "Live It Local" event in the Oltrarno at the beautiful Palazzo Belfiore, which is a historical edifice that offers period apartments for long or short stays in Florence. It's a wonderful and unique alternative to a common hotel. The brother and sister (Federico and Francesca) who kindly hosted this gathering invited many local professionals, thus allowing us the opportunity to network in an enjoyable atmosphere.

Molly McIlwrath, who was just featured in The Guardian as one of the world's Top Ten Tour Guides, was also present at this event. She offered a Contemporary Gallery Tour that was both fun and insightful. I have always wanted to go inside those posh, ultra-modern galleries on Via Maggio, yet (despite having worked in high-end galleries prior to moving to Italy), I admit that even I felt a bit intimidated to do so. Imagine my delight at being received warmly at each and every one by the friendly and knowledgeable gallery personnel.

Our first stop was TOURNABUONI ARTE (Via Maggio 58 R) where the vibrant artwork of Francesca Pasquali is currently being featured. This imaginative artist creates textured pieces and interesting large-scale compositions using colorful plastic straws. The light plays a tremendous role in creating an atmospheric quality in her work.

Our second stop was ZETAEFFE GALLERIA (Via Maggio 47 R) where Sonia Zampini welcomed us graciously in her beautiful space, and then explained deceased artist Bernard Aubertin's poetic link with fire, and the extensive use of this natural element in his compelling artwork.

Next was EDUARDO SECCI (Via Maggio 51 R), which featured Alfredo Pirri's paper artwork, which I found to be rather nostalgic since they resembled dreamy landscapes.

Finally, we went to RUVIDEZZE (Via Maggio 64 R), which featured a lovely wooden queen by sculptor Flavia Robalo and whimsical illustrations by Arianna Papini.

What struck me most about the tour was the innovation and vibrancy of the artwork on display. The concepts were exciting and inspiring; as was the juxtaposition of these modern pieces against historical spaces with 13th century groin vaulting or 15th century pietra serena cornices.

As much as I adore historical art, it was refreshing to see something new. I highly recommend that you do the same the next time you are in the Oltrarno. The galleries are very close to each other and near the famous palazzo of Bianca Cappello (who was the second wife of Grand Duke Francesco de' Medici- but we shall leave that scandalous affair for another article).

NOTE: When visiting these galleries, you may notice that some of them keep their doors locked. This does not mean that visits are "by appointment only" (as I had erroneously assumed). Just ring the bell and someone will welcome you inside. Also, keep in mind that many of these galleries have exhibition spaces located downstairs.




4. RUVIDEZZE: has a Facebook Page in conjunction with Carta Vetra, which offers classes:

To learn more about Molly McIlwrath and her fabulous tours:

To check out Palazzo Belfiore's lovely residence apartments:

As always, thank you for reading!

C. De Melo
Author & Artist

Whimsical Illustrations on Wood by Adrianna Papini


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