They spoke a funny Florentine vernacular with a strong English accent. For this they were nicknamed “anglobeceri”.
“Becero” in Florence is someone who turns out to be coarse, noisy … anything but “English”. It was just irony, the Anglobecero is a stylish Englishman who lives in Florence, preferably in a villa outside the city.
Like Henry James, writer and critic, who lives in Bellosguardo, and there he writes The Aspern Paper. Or in Fiesole Villa Medici, in Settignano Villa Gamberaia or Villa I Tatti; at Villa La Pietra as Sir Harold Acton; at Villa I Cedri as Mary of Teck, an English noble from a German family, who, by marrying George V, would later become Queen of England. Queen Victoria moved between Villa Palmieri and Villa Stibbert. In some of these villas you could sip tea with Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and exponent of decadence.
John Ruskin, writer, painter, poet and art critic, who exalted the thirteenth-fourteenth century art of Giotto and Masaccio with his Mornings in Florence. The writer David H. Lawrence from Florence moved to Scandicci, to Villa Mirenda, where he wrote drawing inspiration from the Tuscan countryside Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which he then printed at the Giuntina typography. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the poetess, who considered Florence “The most beautiful city conceived by Man”, she chose to stay there forever (she is buried in the English Cemetery in Piazza Donatello). On the day of her funeral, the antique dealers in Via Maggio pulled down her shop door as a sign of respect.
And how can we forget Henry Roberts, chemist and pharmacist, who moved to Florence and in 1843 opened the English Pharmacy in via Tornabuoni at 17.
For his refined female customers, he created “Rose distilled water”, a refreshing tonic, with the scent of three roses: damask, gallica and centifolia. But the real success of Roberts was the invention of a perfumed and impalpable white powder, “Boro Talcum”: Borotalco (Talcum Powder) was born in Florence, in the classic green box, in 1878.
The pharmacy headquarters moved to via de ‘Ginori, but in the original location it is still possible to observe the charm of the mahogany furnishings, the alabaster and wrought iron lamps, and the gilded inscriptions on the windows unaltered.
The Municipality of Florence ranks it among the 57 historic shops considered “untouchable” and protected by the Ministry of Fine Arts.