This uplifting 1999 film is a semi-autobiographical work from director and Florentine native Franco Zeffirelli, represented in the character of Luca. With the events of World War II as backdrop, it follows an expatriate group of charismatic British and American women, all involved in varying degrees with Luca’s upbringing.
Although it’s not featured in Tea with Mussolini, the Complex of San Firenze can’t be missed if you’ve seen the movie. In 2017, it was converted into a cultural center celebrating Zeffirelli’s achievements on screen. Aiming to promote interest and investment in film arts for future generations, Zeffirelli donated his body of work to his hometown, and the building therefore hosts an astonishing collection of costumes, scripts, set designs, letter exchanges and other memorabilia related to not just Tea With Mussolini, but his entire catalog of films, television shows and theatrical productions.
Spend the morning wandering through the Zeffirelli museum and then follow the path of the Scorpioni (the real-life nickname of the film’s feisty expat women) to via Tornabuoni. In the movie, they regularly congregate at the Gran Caffé Doney, once a hub for Brits in Florence. Although the café no longer exists, you can still have a wander down the luxe via Tornabuoni, filled with high fashion stores, to see where they took many of their (parasol-sheltered) strolls.
Once you reach the street’s end, if you’re fascinated by the history of Brits flocking to Italy, cross the Ponte Santa Trinita and turn right down the river: just before you reach the next bridge over, you’ll come upon the British Institute’s Harold Acton Library on your left, long a hub for Florence’s large Anglo community, and a beautiful refuge for bibliophiles.
Finally, take the long walk back to a spot you may have skipped on Day 1: piazza Santissima Annunziata. A prominent feature of the square is the 15th century Ospedale degli Innocenti, an orphanage where Luca goes temporarily in the film after his mother’s death, before the Scorpioni intervene. It is now a world-class, modern museum highlighting the Innocenti institute from all angles—architecturally, historically, socially and artistically.
Now that you’ve followed your favorite characters’ pathways, find your own Florentine story!