Located in the Palazzo Bargagli facility, the ISI Florence Library offers students access to books, journals, newspapers, and magazines covering a wide range of subjects. The library collection includes over 2000 selected holdings, as well as a number of feature films and documentaries. New materials are added regularly for new course offerings.
Beyond the extensive ISI Florence resources, students have access to a number of Florentine libraries nearby which maintain large historical collections in Italian and English. Institute students are welcome to use the library as a quiet place to work and study, research, and borrow books.
Biblioteca delle Oblate
Via dell’Oriuolo 26
The Oblate library is the Florence study place par excellence. Always packed with Italian students, there is free Wi-Fi for a limited number of hours per day and seating both outside and in various parts of the library. On humid days, the space under the outdoor loggia (gallery) is perfect for study groups. Students can take advantage of low-priced snacks in the library café, which has good heating in the winter and luxurious air conditioning in summer. The café is ideal for lunch and coffee breaks and offers a fantastic view of the Duomo.
Free jazz nights and other events are also held at the Oblate library. Sign up for a library card and Wi-Fi access using a photo ID. The Wi-Fi provided at the Oblate is part of the Firenze Wi-Fi initiative, started by the city and province of Florence in November 2009 to provide free, one-hour Internet access 24/7 in many public spaces. For details, see http://tinyurl.com/b28eo6z9. Best of all, it is open from 9am to midnight Tuesday through Saturday; Mondays 2pm to 10pm; closed Sundays and holidays.
Vicolo di Santa Maria Maggiore 1
Located down a tiny alley next to the Duomo, this building houses the city’s student information point (you can pick up a free student discount card here, too). There is a café with very reasonable prices and free Wi-Fi available. In the summer, it’s great to sit out in the courtyard. Open Monday through Saturday, 8:30am to midnight; closed Sundays.
Harold Acton Library, British Institute
Lungarno Guicciardini 9
This English-friendly library at the British Institute has a good collection of books on Italy and art, helpful library staff, and plenty of study space. Annual student membership costs 55 euros—a reasonable investment for the comforts provided—and includes Internet access. Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 6:30pm.
Piazza dei Cavalleggeri 1
For a very old-school Italian-style experience, the reading room at the Biblioteca Nazionale provides complete silence, a somber academic atmosphere, and grand leather chairs. The library itself is closed stacks and contains copies of just about everything ever published since the unification of Italy—in Italian, of course. Wi-Fi is limited to catalogue consultation. Access to the library, including in-library loans, is permitted to anyone age eighteen or older upon signing up for a library card (you’ll need to bring your passport to do so). It is open Monday to Friday, 8:15am to 7pm; Saturday, 8:15am to 1:30pm.
There are thirteen city-run libraries in Florence’s historic center and residential areas. Most have vast study spaces; some offer Wi-Fi and/or computer use. These libraries tend to have very limited hours, but they are often quite nice, many hosting local events and providing a calm, quiet, disturbance-free atmosphere for studying.
Beyond general libraries and study spaces, Florence is home to numerous research institutes that usually require a reference letter or credentials for access. This list does not include archives or manuscript collections.
Palazzo Strozzi (ground floor)
Founded in the nineteenth century, the collection specializes in European literary magazines, as well as French and English literature of the narrative, travel, and biographical genres. Access is given to anyone over age fifteen with a photo ID. Open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9am to 1:30pm; Tuesday and Thursday, 9am to 6pm.
Loggiato degli Uffizi
Library of historic art books, journals, and historic material; access permitted to university students with a reference letter specifying need to access these materials. Opening hours vary: see website for details.
Via Giusti 44
A specialized art history library. Access is granted only to those working on or in possession of a doctoral degree, with a reference letter. Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.
Berenson Library, Villa I Tatti
Via Vincigliata, Fiesole
Harvard’s research center for Italian Renaissance studies is in an idyllic setting in the hills of Fiesole. A reference letter and at least a MA degree is required for entrance. Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.
The Dutch Institute
The Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence, founded in 1958, promotes research on Italian art, Dutch and Flemish art and artists in Italy, and the rich tradition of artistic exchange and mutual influence between Italy and the North. Admittance by invitation only.