Lonely Planet Writer

A museum dedicated to acclaimed director Franco Zeffirelli opens in Florence

In a city famed for its collection of fine museums and galleries, the addition of Fondazione Zeffirelli in Florence to honour the internationally renowned director, Franco Zeffirelli, has only added to the city’s travel appeal. Celebrating over seven decades of work by the 94-year-old Maestro, it’s a must see for any film lover visiting the Renaissance capital.

Costume Don Carlo from La Scala.
Image by Fondazione Zeffirelli/PRESSPHOTO Foto Moggi/New Press Photo

Having produced 18 films, staged 31 theatre performances and brought to life more than 100 operatic works, this celebrated writer, scenographer, costume designer and director now has his own museum in the heart of his hometown. Housed in the Saint Firenze Complex, a former monastery of the Filippini Fathers and today the seat of the city Court, the exhibition begins in 1953 at the start of Zeffirelli’s career and is divided into 20 ‘chapters’ by room. Almost 300 scenes and costume sketches are on display, along with posters, flyers, and costumes from performances, set design models, original drawings, and photographs taken behind-the-scenes on-set.

Sala della Musica. Image by Museo Franco Zeffirelli STUDIO ASSOCIATO CGE FOTOGIORNALISMO

Hosting both permanent and temporary exhibitions, the space also boasts a music hall with regular live performances, plus a library, archive, and classrooms for educational sessions. On the ground floor a quaint tearoom extends into the palazzo courtyard and a bookstore sells not just Zeffirelli books and merchandise, but other film paraphernalia.

Sala Museo. Image by Museo Franco Zeffirelli STUDIO ASSOCIATO CGE FOTOGIORNALISMO

Zeffirelli is known for films including Tea with Mussolini, Hamlet, Jane Eyre and The Taming of the Shrew working with Hollywood greats such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Mel Gibson. His 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet won him an Oscar nomination. In his opera career he most notably worked with Maria Callas on stage, first directing the singer in 1955 at Milan’s famed La Scala, going on to perform masterpieces by Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti.

By Nardia Plumridge