The home of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The suite of rooms on the first floor of the palazzo Guidi was, for many years, the home of poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. They lived here from 1847 until 1861 and in these rooms they wrote some of their finest poetry. “Casa Guidi” was the name given to the apartment by Elizabeth Browning herself. The palazzo Guidi, at the southern end of Via Maggio, dates from the fifteenth century.
It was built for a prominent Florentine family, the Ridolfi di Piazza, whose coat of arms - a coronet and crossed palms - can be seen on the corner house of the Palazzo. In the 1840s the palazzo Guidi was divided into apartments and in July 1847, one of the two furnished apartments on the piano nobile was rented by the Brownings, initially for three months, with all its splendid Guidi furniture. A year later, in May, the Brownings rented the same rooms, unfurnished, at 25 guineas a year and spent some time buying furniture, having curtains made and generally setting up home. Their son, Pen, was born in 1849 and grew up here, learning to play the piano which was moved into the dining room, and keeping rabbits on the terrace outside.
Although the Brownings spent some time away from Casa Guidi, when they visited England, Paris, Siena or Rome, this was undoubtedly their happy family home. When Elizabeth Browning died in 1861, Robert commissioned a painting of the drawing room by George Mignaty, as the literary sanctum in which she worked. After Elizabeth’s death, Robert left Casa Guidi and eventually died in Venice in 1889.
It was Pen Browning’s greatest wish that Casa Guidi should be recreated in his parents’ memory but this did not begin to happen until 1971, when most of the apartment was purchased by the Browning Institute of New York. The Institute, which was founded to “encourage and develop the study of literature and the liberal arts, with particular emphasis on the writings and lives of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning”, began the restoration process, opening it to visitors and arranging lectures and exhibitions. The Institute also restored the decoration of the drawing room and the bedroom as closely as possible to that which existed during the Browning’s occupation.
For a short history of Casa Guidi please click here.
To read and download the full history album click here.