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Founded in 1978 by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in San Francisco celebrated its 35-year anniversary in 2013.

Originally established as a remote branch of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in New York, the Istituto became operative in San Francisco in 1979 and it became autonomous in 1983.

After its first three locations on Charlton Court, Bush Street, and Washington Street, the Istituto moved in 2010 to a historic red-brick building on Montgomery Street, dating back to 1910, located in the historic Jackson Square design district, nestled between the Financial District and the Italian neighbourhood of North Beach.

In September 2015 the IIC moved to its current location at 601 Van Ness Avenue, Suite F, inside the Opera Plaza complex, which offers various leisure and cultural amenities including a cinema, a bookshop, a florist, a restaurant and a café.