This neighbourhood is still considered very Florentine, where local life and rhythms prevail over the flow of toursits. During a stay with us you will inevitably visit the local shopkeeper (“bottegaio”), well known in the area, who will happily spend time chatting with you and offer advice on the best produce to buy.
Along from the bakery, the delicatessen and the greengrocers you will discover charming artisan workshops and art studios where you can take part in painting or printing courses. In the evenings the Florentine nightlife buzzes around the numerous restaurants and bars in the area, considered some of the best in the city. During the summer, locals are quick to fill the outdoor tables offering ‘apericena’ or happily stroll along the banks of the river Arno and down to Florence’s beach below, to cool off or ‘frescheggiare’.
Right next to us you will find Piazza Poggi with the beautiful Porta San Niccolò, offering breathtaking views over the city (open from May to October – visits by appointment only). The entire restoration of the terracing in Piazza Poggi (originally designed by Architect Poggi to support the panoramic terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo) was completed in July 2019 and now offers a beautiful platform from where you can admire the restored glory of the fountains, grottoes and waterfalls on the ‘Rampe del Poggi’. Indeed the walk that leads up from Piazza Poggi to Piazzale Michelangelo is one not to be missed. Once at the piazzale we always advise to continue a little further to reach the stunning Abbazia di San Minianto al Monte, one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany.
From there you can take another route back down to our Residence through Florence’s colourful Rose Garden ‘Il Giardino delle Rose’ (home to a selection of Folon’s bronze statues), leading you under the Porta San Miniato into via San Niccolò.
This classic route leads you first to the Ponte Vecchio, crossing over the river Arno, and down along via Por Santa Maria to reach the Piazza Duomo (stop on the way at the bustling market Mercato del Porcellino; if you touch the nose of the boar it brings good luck!). The Piazza Duomo, at the heart of the city, offers much to be admired; the Duomo itself, the Battistero and Giotto’s magnificent Bell Tower ‘Campanile di Giotto’. (Tickets to visit the Duomo, Battistero and Campanile are available from the ‘Museo dell’Opera del Duomo’ behind the cathedral at Piazza Duomo, 9. When purchasing tickets you can also book to climb up to the cupola. This way you don’t need to queue, either that or you can book an official guided tour via one of the numerous travel agencies).
Continuing along via dei Calzaioli you arrive in the spendid Piazza della Signoria (where you will find the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery). From here via Condotta (lined with historic stores) leads into Piazza San Firenze (where you will find the Museum of Cinema “Fondazione Franco Zeffirelli”). Following along via Anguillara you are lead into Piazza Santa Croce (inside the Basilica lies the famous Crucifix of Cimabue, Giotto’s master, whose frescoes, cenotaphs and sculptures in memory of many important figures, such as Dante and G. Galilei, can be admired).
Returning towards via Dè Benci take a recommended detour via Borgo Santa Croce, to step inside one of the most beautiful and ancient stores in Florence, ACQUAFLOR. In this artisan perfumery you can purchase incredible scents, soaps and room fragrances created by their master perfumier, and even book a workshop to create a personalized fragrance. Crossing back over the river at the Ponte alle Grazie bridge you must stop for a magical, sunset photograph of the Ponte Vecchio if the hour is right! Finally, continue onto Lungarno Serristori, which takes you directly back to our Residnece and ‘La Rive Gauche’... our Oltrarno.
Head towards the Ponte Vecchio but rather than cross over it continue round to the left where you will arrive at the majestic Pitti Palace ‘Palazzo Pitti’.
My personal recommendation is the Museum of Costume and Fashion ‘Museo della Moda e del Costume’ also a favourite with children; In the Palatine Gallery, at the entrance, ask to visit the ancient kitchen, only available by reservation Gallery of Modern Art; Treasury of the Grand Dukes; The Royal Apartments. Continue through to the extensive Boboli Gardens and up to the Giardino Bardini, offering a unique viewpoint over the city, which you can visit on the same ticket. The descent towards the river brings you down to the Ponte alle Grazie bridge and hence very close to ‘home’.
The Oltrarno is famous for its crafstmen workshops and you can still find several beautiful examples along via Santo Spirito (picture frames, antique books, prints…). Inside the Basilica di Santo Spirito Michelangelo’s ’Cristo’ in the Sacrestry is not to be missed. Via Maggio delights passers by with famous stores of antiques (furniture, carpets, jewellery…). Via Tornabuoni, know as ‘il salotto buono di Firenze’, is one of the most elegant streets, home to the top fashion labels. Piazza della Repubblica opens the centre of the city; a traditional meeting place where the four historical cafés still excell at charming all who enter.
Areas surrounding rail stations are rarely known for their works of art. In Florence however, just across from the main station building, lies the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella and its beautiful piazza. The Basilica is one of the city’s most important Gothic sites and inside you will find famous works of art such as Masaccio’s Trinità, Giotto’s crucifix and Brunelleschi’s crucifix alongside frescoes by Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi and Botticelli.
On the other side of the piazza is the fascinating Museo del Novecento and just along from here in via della Scala, 16 is the Museum of Perfume ‘Museo del Profumo’ situated inside the famous historic perfumery l’Antica Officina profumo-farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Heading in the other direction, the Marino Marini museum offers a surprise discovery, located inside the ex-curch of San Pancrazio and displaying the Sacellum of the Holy Sepulchre.
If you are in Florence at the end of April you must visit the prestigious Craft Trade Fair ‘Mostra dell’Artigianato’ held at the Fortezza da Basso where, not only do master craftsmen sell their creations, but often handmake products during the open hours of the fair, demonstrating their incredible skills.
Galleria degli Uffizi, The Uffizi Gallery (where you will need to book in advance to avoid the long queues) and the Galleria dell’Accademia (where you will find the original David by Michelangelo) .
At the Uffizi Gallery you can admire the famous ‘Birth of Venus and ‘Primavera’ by Botticelli alongside works from Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Tiziano… and hundreds of Renaissance paintings and many other incredible works of art.
Inside the Accademia, after admiring the statue of David, take a look at the unfinished ‘Prisoners’ also sculpted by Michelangelo and the Gipsoteca (or ‘Hall of Models’) displaying a selection of the plaster casts by the great sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini. Nearby the Accademia, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (which literally translates as the ‘Workshop for Semi-Precious Stones’) is considered one of the premier restoration workshops in the world for a vast range of works of art and materials. It was established originally by the Medici Family as a laboratory for semi-precious mosaics and inlays.
The San Lorenzo Basilica and the Medici Chapels form part of the same monumental complex, a hugely important architectural pillar of Florence.
The bustling Mercato Centrale is a top spot for lunch, dinner or just a stroll through to taste the samples on offer. The ground floor market stalls offer every Italian (or Tuscan) delicacy imaginable and the first floor is filled with eateries, bistrots, wine bars, restaurants and food stalls of every kind. Definitely worth a visit!
Not far away is the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, where inside you will find the unique and incredible Chapel of the Magi. This jewel alone makes a trip to this ‘home-museum’ worthwhile.