Vernon Lee and the efforts to preserve old Florence

A lecture by Mark Roberts



The destruction of the old centre of Florence, which took place after the city became the capital of the new kingdom of Italy in 1865, was a monstrous act of self-mutilation that saw the total demolition of the Mercato Vecchio and the old Jewish Ghetto, together with much of the circuit of medieval walls. The architect who presided over all this destruction, Giuseppe Poggi, at least had the good sense to leave the city gates standing. Mark Roberts tells the story of the ‘Associazione per la difesa di Firenze antica’ founded in May 1898, and of how it was supported and promoted by foreign intellectuals and scholars. Most prominent among these latter was Violet Paget, who wrote under the name of Vernon Lee (1856-1935). Her famous letter to The Times of London on 15 December 1898 created a climate of opinion that prevented further destruction before it was too late.  


If you are in Florence and would like to attend the lecture in person at the British Institute Library, please register here or send an email to

The registration fee is 12 Euro per person. 


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The virtual doors will open at 18:00 Italian time on Wednesday 17th April.  


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This lecture is sponsored by Penny Howard