A Local’s Guide to Florence, Italy
Florence is a culturally rich city with an array of famous attractions reeling in thousands of tourists each year. Oltrarno, the other side of the Arno, is less touristy and full of artisan shops and is the locals' side of Florence. This is by far my favorite neighborhood and a perfect place to explore, especially if you are a repeat visitor and want to go deeper.
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Where to stay
Bags of style and personality make this Oltrarno boutique an insider’s favorite, with just 13 rooms kitted out with vintage finds, enormous beds and original artwork.
A tranquil Oltrarno hideaway with an in-the-know vibe, 14 antique-filled rooms and a gorgeous wraparound terrace overlooking Europe’s largest private garden.
Complimentary bottle of wine in room on arrival.
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In the hills just outside the center, a 19th-century landmark building turned opulent hotel with a rare gem outdoor swimming pool—perfect after a day of sightseeing.
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Things to do
Piazza Santo Spirito is a sunny square where locals come to meet up. It is very lively in the evenings with people spilling out onto the square from the surrounding bars and restaurants. The Chiesa de Santo Spirito church is a beautiful example of pre-Renaissance architecture, definitely worth a visit.
While visiting this side of town, pop over to the Boboli Gardens located directly behind the Pitti Palace. This location is more than just a park but a combination of nature and art. The gardens are also adorned with grottos, the most important of which is the famous grotto created by Bernardo Buontalenti, as well as large fountains such as the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Ocean. It is also a nice break from the bustle of the city.
For those looking for some spirited activity, the Italian Wine Institute, located on Via Dei Renai 19, has classes every Sunday and offers a delicious way to learn more about Tuscan wines.
As for shopping, in the Oltrarno neighborhoods, you can find lots of handmade treasures and even possibly meet the artisan who created them. The Castorina, located via Santo Spirito, is a special place full of items handcrafted from wood. From furniture to frames, they even make custom pieces. Bernardo Antichita, located at Ponte Vecchio 44r, is a tiny shop with antique jewelry on the famous Ponte Vecchio and has been in the same family since the end of the 19th century. A signet ring makes a great souvenir. Francesco, located via Santo Spirito 62, is a tiny shop where you can get custom made shoes. Sandals are a good bet and they can usually be ready before you head back home. Il Bronzetto, located via Romana 151 rosso is a lighting shop full of artisan-made lighting and other objects made from brass. The bottega is just a quick Vespa ride away if you want to see how everything is made or have something special custom designed. Pro tip: ask for Simone.
Finally, to wrap up the day, the Piazzale Michelangelo is a magical spot in the city that is especially magical at sunset.
Eat & drink
Caffe degli Artigiani: Great place to sit outside with a cafe and cornetto for breakfast.
il Santino: Cozy spot housed in a former wine cellar. Great for when you want something delicious but don't want to commit to a two hour Italian style lunch.
Le Volpe e l'uva: Go before dinner for an extraordinary wine pairing and a proper aperitivo.
All'Antico Ristoro di' Cambi: Dine at this 65 year old rustic Tuscan trattoria. Get the steak!
Gelateria della Passera: Gelato made with local ingredients in the kitchen behind the shop. Located near Santo Spirito so you can find a bench and savor it as you people watch.
Bar d'Angolo: A quintessential local spot on a sunny corner in Porta Romana. Order a spritz and sit outside and mingle with the locals.
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