Borgo Ognissanti history

The Florence Institute of Design International is located on the historical street of Borgo Ognissanti which runs between Piazza Goldoni to Via il Prato. The ‘borgo’ indicates that at one time the street was outside the city walls. Borgo Ognissanti is named after the Church of Ognissanti, which is a Franciscan church founded by the lay order of the Umiliati, and is dedicated to all the saints and martyrs, known and unknown.

The Church of Ognissanti was completed during the 1250’s, but almost completely rebuilt on Baroque designs around 1627. It was among the first examples of Baroque architecture within Florence. The Umiliati specialized in working with wool, and so their church was in the perfect location, close to the river. They gained a good reputation throughout Florence and started to accumulate works of art, such as the Madonna and Child with Angels by Giotto, which is now housed in the Uffizi. In the interior, there are also frescoes by Ghirlandaio and Botticelli, including the famous Last Supper in the refectory. During the sixteenth century the Umiliati declined and the Franciscan order took over the running of the church.

Opposite the Florence Institute of Design International is the House of Vespucci, where Amerigo Vespucci was born. Vespucci demonstrated that North and South America were a separate continent to Asia, and it is after him that the America’s are named.

Further along the street it is possible to find two of the most famous hotels in Florence – the Grand and the Westin Excelsior in Piazza d'Ognissanti. The Grand Hotel was originally home to the noble Guintini family. Recorded by Giorgio Vasari in “Lives of the Best Italian Architects, Painters and Sculptors,” the Giuntini family palace was designed by the famous Florentine architect, Filippo Brunelleschi around 1400. In the second half of the 1800s, the palace was given over to the Popoleschi family. Towards the end of the century, Florence underwent a period of architectural renewal, at which time the former palace was converted into what was initially named the Grand Hotel Royal de la Paix .It has since been host to a huge number of renowned guests, and continues to be a favourite haunt of celebrities and international figures.

In the centre of Piazza Ognissanti stands the statue of ‘Ercole e il Leone’ by Romano Romanelli.  This replaced an earlier statue of Daniele Manin, after whom the Piazza was named between 1860 and 1930, until it was changed back to its’ original name of Piazza Ognissanti.  The piazza is also home to the French Institute of Florence, housed in the beautiful palazzo Lenzi which dates from around 1460, and was constructed by two brothers, Lorenzo and Pietro Lenzi.  According to Vasari, the architect for this palazzo was probably Filippo Brunelleschi, and the graffiti on the outside can be attributed to Andrea Feltrini. At the end of the nineteenth century the palazzo passed into the hands of Luigi Pisani who was instrumental in a lot of its’ restoration, and it was then bought by the French government in the 1950’s who created the French Institute and French library.

Borgo Ognissanti today is the home of many interiors stores and showrooms across the entire spectrum of design – from antique to contemporary. Stores such as Le Stanze offer furniture and design objects in a modern style, in contrast to their neighbours who offer antique furniture and furnishings from Italy and around the world. Piazza Ognissanti hosts the annual Antique Fair where dealers come from around the globe to display and sell their goods. Furniture, furnishings and paintings are available to the public at this event. There are also a number of cafes and restaurants along Borgo Ognissanti, ranging from places to stop and enjoy a coffee and pastry to those for an elaborate dinner, including Sei Divino, with its unique interior design, close to the Institute, Café San Carlo for breakfast or lunch, and a number of restaurants including Trattoria One Rosso. In addition the bustling street also has several hair salons, including BH Hair Salon, as well as beauticians and a number of different clothes and accessories stores.