Elaine Ruffolo

For popular leader Elaine Ruffolo, Florence offers boundless opportunities to study and share the finest artistic achievements of the Renaissance. Having made her home in this splendid city, she serves as Resident Director for the Smithsonian's popular Florence programs. She holds a Master's degree in art history from Syracuse University and serves as a lecturer and field trip coordinator for the Syracuse University's program in Italy.
Nov 8 - 15, 2014
Apr 18 - 25, 2015
Nov 7 - 14, 2015
8 days
Enjoy special access and exclusive tours of Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance
Tour details

Q: Elaine, you have been leading tours for Smithsonian Journeys for nearly 20 years. What has been most exciting to you about being a Study Leader in Florence?
A: Without a doubt, the most exciting thing about being a Study Leader is the challenge of discovering Florence with a new group of interested people. No matter how many times I lead a group through Florence, I never tire of walking into the Uffizi, the Accademia, or the medieval streets of Florence and experiencing those sites through the eyes of the Smithsonian travelers. In addition, the Smithsonian passengers tend to make new observations and connections, which is fantastic as I end up learning as much as they do on a program.
Q: Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, so what do Smithsonian travelers find most astounding about this unique period in history?
A: I have heard the same comments many times over the years: "Why was there a concentration of so much genius in one place at one time?” and “Why in Florence and not some other city?" In fact, it is that very phenomenon that we investigate during the hidden Florence program. We follow themes such as patronage, the economy, politics, the genius of the artist, and the social circumstance that made the Golden age of Florence possible. One of my aims as a teacher of Renaissance art history is to get the student to understand that the art is a reflection of the period in which it was made. The art and architecture of 15th century Florence reflects Florence as the cradle of the Renaissance
Q: Can you describe a few of the special "hidden" visits on the upcoming Insider’s Florence journey?
A: We will have the opportunity to visit the Uffizi Gallery and Vasari corridor during closing hours. There is no better experience than walking through the Uffizi without the throngs of tour groups spoiling the experience. Imagine standing in front of Botticelli's Birth of Venus as long as you like with an unencumbered view. That's what you will experience during the Insider’s Florence program. We will also walk in the footsteps of the Medici Princes when we enter the Vasari Corridor which leads from the Uffizi over the Ponte Vecchio all the way to the Boboli Gardens through the Vasari Corridor. That walk is worth the trip in and of itself.
Q: You have spent a large part of your life living in Italy; what keeps you there?
A: I adore my job—every day I get to teach art history in the very place where the Renaissance was born. I never tire of walking along the streets and imagining Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Masaccio, all who traveled along the same paths. Everywhere one turns in Florence, you can find beauty, whether it be in the face of a Madonna Enthroned, a lovely cloister by Brunelleschi, a shop window, or in a glass of red wine.
Q: What would you like Smithsonian travelers to take away from their time with you on tour?
A: Hopefully the traveler takes away the some of the spirit of Renaissance Florence—that sense that anything is possible and a clear understudying of how and why it all started in this beautiful town along the Arno River.