During her BA+MA studies at the universities of Florence and East Anglia (Erasmus Free Mover scheme), Francesca collaborated with the British School at Rome’s archaeological mission at the early medieval monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno. As a consequence, she focussed her “tesi di laurea” (BA+MA research thesis), her PhD thesis at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, her first edited book (2001), and her first monograph (2003) to the employment of glazed windows and the theology of light in late antique and early medieval architecture, in the West and in the Mediterranean basin. A Summer Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks-Harvard University (2002) was followed by the participation in the archaeological investigations of the Byzantine site of Amorium, Turkey (2002, 2005, 2006), and by an academic year (2002–03) as post-doc Stipendiatin at the Bibliotheca Hertziana/Max-Planck-Institut in Rome.
Between 2003–04, she workde as Research Assistant to Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut/Max-Planck-Institut in Florence, and contributed to the exhibition on the Holy Face of Christ or Edessan acheiropoieiton. In this phase, she came across early eighth-century iconophile literature which adopted the Holy Face or Mandylion as one of its main arguments, and got interested in the iconoclastic debate.
Between 2005–15, as Assistant Professor, Francesca taught History of Medieval Art at the Cultural Heritage Department, Università di Salerno, Italy. There, she was responsible for the Erasmus/Internationalisation programmes.
In 2006 at Villa Medici, Rome, she has been awarded the Hahn Prize for art history.
Between 2009–16 she lead an international research group on the Salerno ivories (eleventh-twelfth century) in the context of the medieval Mediterranean, involving scholars in humanities as well as in applied sciences.
Between 2010–11 she has been a member of the research group “The Material Life of Things” coordinated by Dr. Francesco Lucchini at the Courtauld Institute, London.
She held numerous residential fellowships (Dumbarton Oaks; Bibliotheca Hertziana; American Academy in Rome; École Française de Rome; École du Louvre of Paris and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti of Venice; Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Greek Studies in Birmingham), and has a large record of research funding (European Commission; Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa; British Academy/Leverhulme Trust; International Center of Medieval Art/Kress Foundation; Corning Museum of Glass).
In 2014 she was habilitated to Associate Professorship.