Reformed minister, author, and translator Michelangelo Florio was born in Tuscany (most likely in Florence; the date is not known) into a family of converted Jews. He joined the Franciscan Order under the name Paolo Antonio, but in about 1541 he converted to the reform movement and started wandering as a preacher. In 1548 he was arrested and detained in Rome for twenty-seven months. He escaped in May 1550, reaching England in November.
Under the protection of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and William Cecil, Florio was accepted into the ministry of the stranger church, Austin Friars, preaching in Italian (‘stranger church’ was the term used for independent Protestant houses of worship established by foreigners during the Reformation; the first such church in London was led by Bernardino Ochino in 1547 and served the Italian community, but also welcomed Protestants of other nationalities). Florio taught Italian to Lady Jane Grey and described her fate in Historia de la vita e de la morte … Signora Giovanna Graia, written in 1561 and published in 1607 in Middelburg by the Dutch merchant and scholar Johan Radermacher.
Under Mary Tudor he was forced to leave England for Strasbourg. There he wrote his Apologia, published in 1557, which is the main source of data about his early life and career. In 1563 Florio produced an Italian translation of George Agricola’s De re metallica and dedicated it to Queen Elizabeth. The last written reference to him dates from 1566 and he probably died soon after that. His son John Florio was born in London in 1553. He continued in his father’s footsteps and became an outstanding linguist and lexicographer at the court of James I. Referring to himself as an ‘Englishman in Italiane’, he was the first to translate Montaigne into English.