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“THE BRILLIANT FRIEND” IN FLORENCE. ALL THE LOCATIONS OF THE TV SERIES

The brilliant friend” is Elena Ferrante‘s masterpiece novel. Published in 2011, it was followed by three volumes: “Story of a new name” in 2012, “Those who leave and those who stay” in 2013 and finally “The story of the lost child” in 2014.

Elena Ferrante’s tetralogy tells the life of Elena Greco and Raffaella Cerullo, respectively Lenù and Lila, born in the Rione, a district of Naples, from the 1950s to the 21st century. Their friendship is indissoluble: Elena and Lila blend and confuse with each other, complete and annihilate each other in a visceral bond of deep intelligence and intense feeling. The story would not be the same without its backdrop: Naples is the third protagonist of the novel, with its fresco of voices, breathless contradictions and emotions.

In 2017, the first TV series was created by Saverio Costanzo and co-produced by Rai Fiction, TimVision, Wildside and Fandango, taken from the novel, released on Italian and US screens in 2018 with Margherita Mazzucco in the role of Elena and Gaia Girace in the role of Lila. The novel and the TV series have had a tremendous success in Italy and around the world, so much so that we have reached the third TV series, which was diplayed in Italy in February 2022.

But why does My Flora Guide tell you about a novel? The third volume “Story of those who leave and those who stay” is mainly set in Florence. Without any literary or cinematic pretensions, it is my intention to present the places where the third series was filmed. Nothing on the plot, I promise! Just a little bit of healthy film tourism.

In fact, I believe that Florence was portrayed in her best dress: of course, she is a very virtuous model, with her bright squares dressed in the flaming 70s protests, in a torrid summer of passion.

Ready to discover all the locations of the third TV series in Florence? Action!

Piazza SS Annunziata

Piazza Santissima Annunziata

It is one of the spots that mostly appear in the filming of the third TV season of “The brilliant friend“. Piazza Santissima Annunziata is the only true Renaissance square in Florence. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi as an ancient Roman forum, it is crowned by the colonnade of the Spedale degli Innocenti, the Basilica of SS. Annunziata and the Loggia dei Servi di Maria.

The Spedale degli Innocenti was the first orphanage in Europe. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1419 on commission from the Silk Guild, it went into operation in 1445. The first child was welcomed on February 5th , 1445, the day of Saint Agatha. She was therefore called Agata Smeralda Innocenti. Since 2016, the Spedale degli Innocenti has been a museum dedicated purely to the history of childhood in Florence. It also features a splendid panoramic terrace with bar service and an enchanting view of Brunelleschi’s Dome and the Synagogue.

The Basilica of SS. Annunziata was built by the order of the Servi di Maria, around 1250, in a wooded area, called Cafaggio, located outside the city walls. It houses the famous Cloister of the Vows, testimony of the Mannerist style, with frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, Franciabigio, Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino.

“The wedding of the Virgin Mary”, Franciabigio, 1513, Cloister of the Vows

The National Archaeological Museum houses an extraordinary collection of Greek, Roman, Etruscan and Egyptian archeology.

In the middle of Piazza Santissima Annunziata stands the equestrian statue of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici, accompanied by his enterprise with bees and the motto “Majestate tantum“, while on the sides stand out the fountains of sea monsters by Pietro Tacca, better known as the “Fontane del Caciucco”. Supposed to be placed on the “Monument of the Four Moors” in Livorno, they never reached the port city. Instead they were held in Florence, where they later took on the funny culinary nickname (the Caciucco is a typical fish recipe from Livorno).

Piazza SS Annunziata

Palazzo Budini Gattai

Splendid, elegant building in brick, with fine external decorations and a romantic legend of love and waiting, linked to a window that is always open …

They could not have chosen a better location for Elena and Pietro’s home in Florence. Look carefully at the scenes of the TV series: you will notice Elena hanging the clothes in the banana grove, having a very pleasant family picnic in the garden, opening doors with curvilinear shapes, crossing refreshing luminous loggias …

Palazzo Budini Gattai dates back to 1549, when Ugolino di Jacopo Grifoni, secretary of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, commissioned its construction to Giuliano di Baccio d’Agnolo and, after his death, to Bartolomeo Ammannati. The latter took care of the garden, where a monumental fountain was built and adorned with the statues of Jason, Venus and sea monsters, probably the work of Giovanni Bandini, modified in the 18th century. In the same century, the Grifoni family became extinct and the property passed first to the Riccardi, and then to the Budini Gattai, who are still the owners today.

Palazzo Budini Gattai

The rare banana grove and the collection of camellias in front of the loggia date back to the 19th century, when the garden was layed out in the romantic style. Other decorative elements of the garden are the exquisite greenhouse in iron and glass dating back to around 1892, the aviary, the lemon house, and the so-called “Monument to the disappeared tree” created in 1908 by Roberto Maestro in memory of a specimen secular of Laurus camphora, dried up during the winter.

The original colour of the building was intense ocher. It was restored in the 19th century with the verdaccio colour. The building is currently in gray stone and pietra serena; the interiors offer Arts&Crafts style furnishings and ceilings with refined floral decorations.

Palazzo Budini Gattai was personally visited by me in 2016, as part of the research for my thesis “Flora: painted gardens and hidden gardens” for the exam as a Tourist Guide in Florence. On that occasion, I met the Architect Roberto Budini Gattai – whom I take the opportunity to greet and thank again for his availability – and who acted as my guide in the prestigious setting of the garden, revealing me his secret beauty.

Stibbert Museum

Museo Stibbert

Elena and Pietro admire the Stibbert Museum in the company of their friends Nino and Eleonora, on a visit to Florence. The two couples slowly take a stroll in the Sala della Cavalcata, pushing strollers. It is the heart of the Stibbert Museum, loved by children for its versatile and curious artistic heritage.

Founded on the Montughi hill by Frederik Stibbert in a secluded position with respect to the historic center, it boasts various collections of European, Islamic and Japanese armory, a section dedicated to porcelain and costumes and finally the “Quadreria”, provided with a work by Sandro Botticelli, for a total of 50,000 objects.

Frederik Stibbert (1838-1906), son of Thomas Stibbert, originally from Norfolk, and Giulia Cafaggi, of Tuscan origin, was born in Florence, studied in Cambridge and in 1866 fought with Garibaldi in Trentino. Relentless collector, for all his life he undertook to keep the patrimony of his “Museum”, which, on his death, he left to the city of Florence.

The Stibbert Museum is a precious treasure chest, surrounded by a romantic garden with a Hellenistic temple, an Egyptian temple, a lake, caves and an initiatory-alchemical path. Designed by Giuseppe Poggi, architect during the age of Florence as the capital of Italy, the garden is open to the public free of charge.

Giardino Stibbert

Stibbert Garden

Egyptian Temple

Porta San Miniato, Via dei Bastioni and Via di Belvedere

Friend and journalist Nino invites Elena, Pietro and their children at “da Luciano” restaurant for lunch. The restaurant is located in the lively and picturesque district of San Niccolò, in Oltrarno. The company escapes from the Florentine summer heat and takes shelter under a shady pergola, a few steps from Porta San Miniato, one of the medieval gates of the last city wall of Florence.

Elena and Pietro parked nearby, in Via dei Bastioni. In the scene, you can sense the proximity to the Roses Garden, which has an entrance right next to it.

In the following scenes, Nino will drive Elena along Via di Belvedere: you can clearly see the Arnolfian walls, which border the Bardini Garden.

We are in the area of ​​the “Firenze Greenway“, a cultural association founded in Florence in 2020 by the architect Maria Chiara Pozzana and whose mission is the enhancement of the Oltarno district with its architecture, gardens and biographies of men and women who lived in this fascinating part of Florence, forging it and letting itself be shaped by its beauty in an exchange between man-made art and flashes of bucolic countryside, dotted with olive trees.

Porta San Miniato

Via di Belvedere

Elena, Pietro, Nino and the girls arrive to the restaurant.  On the right, a glimpse of Porta San Miniato

Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria

The marriage between Elena and Pietro breaks the traditional mold and takes place in the city hall, at Palazzo Vecchio, under the banner of sobriety.

During filming, which took place in Florence in February 2021, a subdued drizzle enveloped Piazza della Signoria. That veil of rain made Elena’s young beauty sparkle, as she walks alongside her husband Pietro in  Piazza della Signoria, suddenly back to the 1970s.

Filming taking place at Piazza della Signoria (February 2021)

The wedding at Palazzo Vecchio

After the wedding

Orsanmichele

Elena passes by the church-granary of Orsanmichele. Built several times in the 14th century by Arnolfo di Cambio, Simone Talenti, Neri di Fioravanti and Benci di Cione, it is the church of the Arts, that is, of the guilds that ruled during the age of the Republic in Florence. The Guilds are represented by their patron saints. The most famous is undoubtedly the “San Giorgio” sculpted by Donatello in 1417 for the Art of Swordsmen and Armorers. All the works exhibited in the niches are copies, the originals are found inside the Orsanmichele Museum, except for Donatello’s masterpiece, which is housed in the Bargello Museum. Inside, do not miss the marble group of “Sant’Anna and Madonna with Child” by Francesco da Sangallo (1526), ​​the Tabernacle of the Orcagna (about 1350) and the painting of the “Virgin and Child” by Bernardo Daddi ( 1347).

“St George killing the dragon”, detail of the predella, Donatello, 1417, Bargello Museum

Piazza Santa Croce

Elena goes to visit a friend who is lucky enough to boast the office overlooking Piazza Santa Croce, precisely at number 19.

This is the building immediately next to the Palazzo dell’Antella, attributed around 1562 to Baccio d’Agnolo, unified by Giulio Parigi in 1619. It owes its fame to the external paintings that were made in just 20 days by the artists Giovanni da San Giovanni, Ottavio Vannini, Michelangelo Cinganelli, Matteo Rosselli. In the fourth box from the left, the “Sleeping Cupid” is recognizable, a copy of the original by Caravaggio commissioned by the Antella family, currently housed in the Palatine Gallery of Palazzo Pitti.

 

Visit the locations of “The brilliant friend” in Florence with My Flora Guide

If you are a passionate reader of Elena Ferrante and want to relive the locations of the TV series, in search of the emotions felt by Elena Greco in her experience in Florence, contact My Flora Guide: I will be happy to customize your guided tour in the locations of “The brilliant friend “!

Visit the places of the TV series: guided tours in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, Piazza Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria, Spedale degli Innocenti, Archaeological Museum, Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Budini Gattai, Orsanmichele, Bargello Museum, and San Niccolò district.

Info and bookings: info@myfloraguide.com

Useful links: 

https://www.raiplay.it/fiction 

https://www.istitutodeglinnocenti.it/it

http://www.polomusealetoscana.beniculturali.it/index.php?it/198/firenze-maf-museo-archeologico-nazionale

http://www.museostibbert.it/frontend/index.php

http://bigliettimusei.comune.fi.it/1_museo-di-palazzo-vecchio/?ref=portale

https://www.firenzegreenway.com/

https://www.bargellomusei.beniculturali.it/musei/3/orsanmichele/

https://www.santacroceopera.it/

 

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