A Message from the Director

Welcome to Villa I Tatti. Our roots as a center for advanced research go back to the late 1950s when the art historian and connoisseur Bernard Berenson left his villa and extensive collections of books, photographs, and works of art to his alma mater Harvard. The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies opened its doors to the first scholars in 1961, and the villa which had hitherto been home to Berenson and his wife Mary was transformed into a center where gifted scholars could exchange ideas, find tranquillity, and be physically close to the many sites of historical importance in Florence and beyond. Berenson took a broad geographic view of the Renaissance, urging scholars to travel and gather knowledge beyond European boundaries, and while he held Harvard in great esteem he also expressed the hope that scholars coming to I Tatti would originate not only from the United States but from many countries, bringing with them their own approaches and viewpoints. These notions of collaboration, exploration and fellowship remain central to I Tatti’s mission to this day.

Currently, the Center offers fifteen full-year post-doctoral fellowships and several shorter fellowships annually. The Berenson Library, with holdings of nearly 185,000 volumes and subscriptions to over 600 scholarly journals, includes an extensive and historically important photograph collection, an archive that documents the lives and work of Bernard and Mary Berenson, and the Morrill Music Library, considered one of the finest in the world for medieval and Renaissance music. The historic house contains a unique collection of Renaissance and Asian art, while I Tatti’s grounds include a working farm and a historic Italianate garden designed in 1909 by Cecil Pinsent with the collaboration of Geoffrey Scott. 

By now I Tatti has welcomed over one thousand appointees working in the fields of Italian Renaissance art, history, literature, philosophy, history of science, and music. The center's location near central Florence provides a stimulating and intellectually vibrant setting where scholars can benefit from our resources, carry out their research, and interact with their peers and the wider academic community.

“nothing opens mind and heart like the free discussion of gifted maturing individuals, coming together with their own national traditions and differing attitudes and approaches.” Bernard Berenson, 1959

The most important goals of I Tatti are to advance our understanding of the Italian Renaissance, to encourage the fruitful interchange of ideas, and to create an atmosphere conducive to research and writing. I Tatti is a financially independent institution and we are able to pursue our goals thanks to the generous support of enlightened individuals and institutions whose belief in the future of the humanities leads them to foster Renaissance scholarship at our center. Having been personally involved with I Tatti in various ways over the years, including two appointments as Visiting Professor during the last decade, it is now a great privilege to serve as Director of the world’s foremost institution for excellence in Italian Renaissance Studies. 

Alina Payne

Paul E. Geier Director
Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies

Alexander P. Misheff Professor of History of Art and Architecture
Harvard University