The English Cemetary in Florence

31 May 2019

The “Cimitero dei Inglesi” (English cemetary) is a living witness to the Florentine 19th century. For the sake of truth, what is known and called “English cemetary” is in fact the property of the Swiss Reformed Church to which it still belongs today.

Its denomination is due to the prestige of Victorian England, and to the fact that for many Florentine, a foreigner, no matter its origins was always an English citizen. The cemetery houses more than 1409 people , painters, sculptors, poets and philosophers from 16 different countries: English, Swiss , North Americans, Italians, Russians…but and more than half of the graves are occupied by subjects of her Gracious Majesty. And what subjects: from Elizabeth Barrett Browning  to the last known descendants of William Shakespeare, Beatrice Shakespeare and Edward Claude Shakespeare Clench, without forgetting Fanny Trollope and many more art and literature lovers. Looking well one can discover a few “intruders” from the other side of the pond, but to Florentines, the cemetery belongs to “gli Inglesi” and that’s that!

The presence of tombs crowned with statues or other carved elements, the irregular arrangement of the burials, the path that rise to the small hill, the presence of trees and shrubs, roses and iris, make the Cimitero degli Inglesi a suggestive place, typical of that early 19th century picturesque dimension of Florentine life linked with the medieval and Renaissance history of the city.

The cemetery, today, has been surrounded by car traffic and is located in what is known today as Piazzale Donatello at the end of Borgo Pinti and is a special landmark to visit… If you can, go in May, when the irises are in bloom, but the cemetery is captivating in all seasons!

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