The English Cemetery in Florence also known as the “Isle of the dead”
This is a monumental cemetery perched on a small hill located immediately outside of the historical centre of Florence.
Because of its oval shape, the cemetery is also known as the “island of the dead“. It seems also to have inspired the Isle of the dead, by the swiss painter Arnold Böcklin.
The history of the cemetery
The English cemetery was built by members of the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church in 1828. Until then Protestant citizens did not have a graveyard in the city and were forced to use a graveyard in Livorno. Because of its nature, the site was located outside the city walls of Florence, near Porta a Pinti (current piazzale Donatello). In 1858 it was raised by Frederick William IV of Prussia a column on top of the cemetery just at the junction of the two main internal paths.
The cemetery, which originally had a polygonal shape, acquired the current oval shape in the years ’60 of 1800s, when Florence became capital of Italy. The new shape was a consequence of the project by Giuseppe Poggi which led to the demolition of the city walls and thecreation of the ring roads.
Since 1877, new burials were forbidden because the English Cemetery were within the city; Since then in its place was used the cemetary of Allori.
In 1996 the municipality authorized again the uso of this cemetery for the burial of the Russian dancer and choreographer Poliakov. Subsequently, there have been about 500 new burials.
Why is it called the English Cemetery?
In the cemetery, which holds the remains of many famous people like Giovan Pietro Vieusseux and Elizabeth Barret Browning, there are just over 1400 burials. More than half of these graves are occupied by British citizens and that is why it is called “English cemetery”.
Piazzale Donatello 38, Florence
Usually the cemetery can be visited in the afternoon onweekdays from 15 to 18. On monday is also open in the morning from 9 to 12.
Admission is free, although a donation is requested for the maintenance of the site.