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The Oblate Library

Via dell'Oriuolo 26
50122 Firenze (FI)
Opening hours/day of closure
Monday 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Wednesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Closed on Sunday and Holidays

Opened in May 2007, the Oblate Library is a small treasure in the heart of Florence. Located in the former Convent of the Oblate between Via dell'Oriuolo and Via Sant'Egidio, it is a cultural and multimedia center that fuses the antique and modern soul of the city. The Municipality of Florence took inspiration from the famous Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, both for the contemporary furnishing and modern services for visitors that the library offers.

A Brief History

The Convent of the Oblate, where the library is located, was built upon commission of Folco Portinari, an illustrious figure in medieval Florence. Father of the famous Beatrice loved by Dante Alighieri, Folco built the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital in 1288, and thus the oldest hospital in Florence, as expiation for his sins. A few years later, the convent of the Oblate was built in order to assist sick women.

Legend has it that it was Donna Tessa, maidservant of Folco, that suggested he build the convent where she retired in her old age. The Oblate were in fact a secular order of devoted women that lived a cloistered life voluntarily taking care of the ill. The Oblate word comes from Latin and means "one that offers oneself to the other". They were in charge of taking care of sick women, cooking for them and washing their sheets. The order lived there until 1936.

Since it was a cloistered convent, the building wasn't transformed and modernized over the centuries. It was built at the end of the 14th century, at about the same time of the hospital, and it was enlarged several times. The main cloister still preserves its genuine look with original flowered capitals that were typical of Florentine Gothic architecture. Where today is the library's section of Conservation and Local History, was in the past the women's wards and kitchens. The other parts of the convent were built over the centuries in order to meet the growing demands of the hospital.

The complex of the Oblate is an important artistic and architectural time capsule for Florence because it has maintained its original look. The antique cloister with its Gothic capitals, the wash terraces on the second floor and the other cloisters are original.

The Library today

The Oblate Library extends along the the section of the main cloister and has three different levels connected with stairs and elevators. The main entrance is on Via dell'Oriuolo overlooking a small cloister, today perfectly restored.

The whole complex measures about 10.000 square meters and the Section of Conservation and Local History is on the ground floor. It displays many antique documents that show the ancient history of Florence and Tuscany.

On the first floor you'll find 3 large reading rooms with modern workspaces equipped with computers, TVs with satellite connections and DVD players and open bookshelves for visitors' free use. The Museum of Prehistory is also on the first floow, displaying the precious collection donated by Paolo Graziosi, Florentine anthropologist and paleontologist, but this museums holds separate hours from the library.

On the second floor is a beautiful large washing terrace, the children's section, a newspaper library and café. The open-space dedicated to children and young readers has plenty of space and organizes workshops all year round for children.

The Oblate library is completely accessible for visitors with special needs.


Besides consultation and loan of books, the Library offers various services for its visitors from 0 years and up. Membership is free and can either be easily done online or directly at the info point on the first floor with a valid ID. Anyone can join in including foreigners from all over the world that stay in Florence. For example foreign students can join for the duration of their courses.

The main facilities at the Oblate Library are:

  • Consultation: free consultation of books, DVD, newspapers and music CDs within the library. For the section of conservation and local history, you need to request assistance to access and view materials.
  • Loans: you can borrow up to 8 books (4 books from the section of conservation and local history), 2 music CDs and 2 DVDs. Loan lasts for 30 days for books and comics and 7 days for CDs and DVDs. You can also request books from other libraries.
  • Internet connection: you can connect to the Internet for free by subscribing to the Pass service with a valid ID. You can use one of the 35 internet stations inside the library for 1 hour per day, or use your laptop and the wi-fi connection for 3 hours per day.
  • Playstation: you can use one of the 2 playstations and games for 1 hour per day
  • Multimedia stations: there are 3 multimediali stations for watching movies, documentaries or Satellite TV. There are also portable DVD and music players available.
  • Events: the Library organizes many different events all year round such as workshops for children, reading sessions, guided tours and so on.

The Oblate Library is an important cultural center for Florence. Unique for its size and services, it has quickly become a meeting point for Florentines and visitors alike. Inside, you can meet people from all nationalities and different ages.

If this is not enough, the café on the second floor has a spectacular view over the Duomo and Brunelleschi's Cupola.

Author: Discover Tuscany Team


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