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Oltrarno: Throught Art And Bottegas

The first part of this trip presents suggestive glimpses of the splendid landscape of the hills south of the Arno River. During the Medieval, the lower part was the place of typical bottegas where handcrafters and artisans created real works of art; goldsmiths, leather and wood crafters, wrought iron makers, mosaics and gold gilders. You will find, in the alleyways and little squares that characterize the area, the most genuine Florentine artisan tradition together with the refinedness of historical palaces, that in the 1400's, rich Florentine families began to built, keeping this area more salubrious in respect to the more trafficked north part.

Route info

  • Length of route on foot:

- 4 kilometers From Piazzale Galilei to Piazza Santo Felicita: approx. 1.5 km. 
- From Piazza Santa Felicita and back: approx. 2.5 km.

  • Time needed: This is a route rich with interesting stops and somewhat long. It is therefore necessary to take the entire day taking into consideration eventual visits at the suggested historical stops.

Leave your hotel and turn left on Viale Galilei and at the traffic light turn left again, getting on to the suggestive Via San Leonardo. This street owes its name to the church dedicated to the French Saint, and protector of prisoners, who lived at the end of the 5th century. It is almost like a corridor, closed in by low walls, olive trees and splendid private dwellings like Villa Lauder. You will arrive at the Church of San Leonardo dating back to the XI or XII century, more than once restored. Inside, you'll find the splendid 13th century Pergamo (pulpit) where famous personages like Giano della Bella, Dino Compagni and Giovanni Boccaccio gave speeches. You are nearing the end of via S. Leonardo, close to the 14th century Porta San Giorgio, belonging to the sixth circle of urban walls and attributed to Orcagna, above which you will note a copy of Saint George killing a dragon, done by Andrea da Pontedera. Il Fort di Belvedere. on your left, was constructed in 1590, by the wishes of Ferdinand I, with the aim of giving Florence a fort that could defend the city from high, but above all, to conserve the treasures of the Medici Family.

The convenient access from the Boboli Gardens consented members of the Medicean family a safe refuge in case of revolt. Today, many sculptural exhibits are hosted here in the open. Surpassing the arch, get on to the steep Costa S. Giorgio, named after the ancient Church of San Giorgio and Spirito Santo, one of the main priories of medieval Florence where the young Giotto created the table top of the altar with the Madonna and Child on the throne with two angles that today is found in the Diocesan Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte. The first part of the street is framed with villas with gardens which were substituted always more often with medieval constructions. On your right, at no.2, is the entrance to Villa Bardini, built in 1641 on a pre-existing medieval installation.

Its Garden is characterized by a large Baroque stairway, English lawns rich with medicinal plants and ornaments, ground floor terraces occupied with olive and fruit trees, beautiful woods with tall trunks and an agricultural park. At no.17, find the house of Galileo Galilei who did his astronomical research from the little tower located in the residence. At the end of Costa S. Giorgio you will have arrived in Piazza Felicita, the part of the Oltrarno (the other side of the river) rich with monuments, gardens, museums and monumental palaces together with artisan bottegas, goldsmiths and antique restorers that make this zone unique in the real Renaissance spirit that is still felt there. The Church of Santa Felicita with its 18th century façade, rises in the place of an antique Romanesque church erected on a paleo-Christian temple. In front of the church you will see the Vasari Corridor, an elevated passageway that unites Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti built by the wishes of Cosimo I of the Medici's also giving the Medicaen princes the possibility to go to mass inside the church. Enter the church to admire one of the best masterpieces of mannerism; La Deposizione (the Deposition) by Pontormo and the Barbadori Chapel designed by Brunelleschi and frescoed by Pontormo. Once outside again in the piazza, get on to Via Guicciardini to the right, and cross over Piazzetta dei Rossi entering Borgo S. Iacopo on the left. One of the oldest streets of the Oltrarno corresponding to the start of via Pisana, ancient artery of communication between Florence and Pisa. Borgo San Iacopo is historically the first of the three borgos (suburbs) that began from Ponte Vecchio and it is also the only one that conserves the name "borgo" while Borgo Pitiglioso became via de' Bardi and Borgo di Piazza (Santa Felicita) became via de' Guicciardini. Along this route you can notice ruins from some tower houses like those of the 13th century Rossi Cerchi and the Fontana del Bacchino, attributed to Giambologna.

Further ahead you will encounter another three towers; the Tower of Ramagliati, overed with ivy and at the intersection with via Toscanelli, the Tower of Belfedrelli, the tower of Barbadori the Tower of Marsili whose façade has a copy of the Annunciation done in glazed terracotta done by the Robbia school. You have by now entered in the antique street with boutiques and artisans that produce objects in paper, leather, ceramics and more. This tract holds numerous antique shops like that of Luzzetti at no.28/r, located in an antique Anigolieri family tower holding works of art from the 1300 to 1600's among which stupendous "fondi d'oro". Also the silversmith Paolo Pagliai, at no.41/r, has his laboratory in a tower house perhaps belonging to the Sapiti family. Inside, besides the interesting vestiges of this medieval construction, is a series of antique instruments used to work on designs on the objects commissioned. Although it may not yet be lunchtime, have a stop at Trattoria Cammillo at no.57/r tucked inside a building dating back to the 15th century and a place that originated as a wine tavern still conserving the original furnishings. On the walls find pieces by different young artists who in the mid century used their art as way of paying the bill. If you are a book and prints lover go to no.26, Cerdini where in the shop you can find an antique Cecco Angiolieri tower while at no.70/r, the antique shop Bongini, in fact, has its restoring atelier in the ex-sacristy of the Church of San Iacopo Sop'Arno.

The church, erected in the 12th century, is bestowed with a splendid three arched white and green marble portico (XII-XIII century) and holds six 17th century paintings from the Florentine school and a 15th century wooden crucifix inside the church. Now you have arrived in Piazza Frescobaldi. where on the right sits the 13th century Palazzo Frescobaldi restored in 1900 and on the corner on the river, the Palazzo della Missione where you can see, on its 17th century façade, portrayals of the Medicean Grand Dukes. The Ponte Santa Trinità, was constructed in 1557 by Ammannati where at the entrance you can find four statues portraying the four seasons. Blown up by the Germans in 1944, it was reconstructed after accurate studies to rediscover the original curvatures of the arches that still characterize its elegance today. Surpass the piazza and get on to Via di Santo Spirito. A series of palaces are aligned on this street; at no.4 see the lovely rear façade of Palazzo Capponi, at no's. 5 and 7 see the 15th century Palazzo Machiavelli with characteristics on the left side, at no.32 a plaque on this building reminds us of where the most fierce supporter and defender of the Florentine Republic, Francesco Ferrucci, once lived. In the adjacent via you can explore the world of the gold gilders, metal objects restorers, blacksmiths, and iron forgers. Marchiani, at no.16/r follows the antique trade of frame maker, a trade passed down from father to son for nearly a hundred years. This street too, does not lack an historical trattoria; Trattoria Angiolino at no.33 characterized for its high quality, typically, Tuscan cuisine and visited frequently by Pietro Annigoni. At the intersection with Via dei Serragli turn left into a street where you can admire the lovely palaces of Mazzei, Pallavicini and Rosselli del Turco along with numerous historical second-hand and bronze shops and bottegas. At no.10 you'll find the laboratory of Lamberto Bianchi that practices a trade passed down from maestro to pupil; metal works. Now, go right into Borgo della stella and enter into Piazza del Carmine.

In 1268, the Carmelites built a monasterial complex here Chiesa del Carmine. The fire of 1771, miraculously spared the two lateral chapels; the Baroque Chapel Corsini , with masterpieces by Foggini and Luca Giordano, and the Chapel Brancacci where the renown frescoes of Masaccio, Masolino and Filippino Lippi are found. Turn now in the direction of Borgo San Frediano, one of the most popoular zones of the Oltrarno characterized by the presence of artisans and antiquers. In fact, at no.65/r you will find the laboratory of restoration and polishing of antique furnisher, "Il Piumaccio d'oro", (golden buffer) named after the buffers for polishing. The bottega is set in a 13th century palace whose old horse stall is today used to display the furniture. Turn to your right and enter into Piazza del Cestello dominated by the massive Church of San Frediano in Cestello. The Piazza gets its name from the Cistercian monks, so called "frati del cestello" (brothers of cestello), who settled here in 1628 and founded the church and convent. The west side of the piazza is closed off by the massive "Granaio" (granary) di Cosimo III, belonging to Cosimo III of the Medici's, built in 1695. Go down Via del Piaggione, an accretion of the word "piaggia" or rather spiaggia (beach) in reference to the terrain leaning slightly towards the Arno River. Now you will reach the Via and Piazza del Tiratoio where the wool workers hung the wet material for stretching to the desired measurements while drying.

Going on to Via Lorenzo Bartolini find the Antico Setaficio Florentino (antique Florentine Silk mill)where inside you can discover all the phases of processing, from the skein to the final material. Turn left now and enter into the stretch of Piazza Verazaia, called so for the very old and numerous vegetable gardens and orchards growing near the walls, and where the stately Porta di San Frediano stands. The door, attributed to Andrea Pisano, was constructed between 1332 and 1334 to garrison the old via Pisano. Its dimensions make you imagine that it was to be the grandest of the wall beltline, but whose height was left unfinished. One can still notice the antique nailed battens, the iron rings and on the summit, the lily, symbol of the city.

Get back into Borgo S. Frediano and then to your right, go towards Piazza de' Nerli, getting its name from the family, originating from the region of Lazio, who owned tower houses here. Follow on to Via dell'Orto and, after having passed Piazza Piatellina, whose name derives from the ancient "cocci" market, you arrive in via Santa Monaca, saint who the convent of the Augustinian Sisters, built here in 1440 and today occupied by the "Ostello della Gioventù (youth hostel), was dedicated to. After having reached the intersection of Via de' Serragli, if you like you could stop at 47/r, an antique wine bar to purchase or taste the best Tuscan and national wines. Follow on to Via Sant'Agostino and arrive in Piazza Santo Spirito. The Piazza is one of most famous in Florence and virtual center of the Oltrarno.

During Medieval times the area was called "le caselline" (little houses) because of the presence of scanty and sparse habitations intervening between open spaces and vegetable gardens. Numerous restoring studios and artisan bottegas like Bini, specializing in hats, are found in the piazza. Contributing to the beauty of the piazza are numerous edifices of remarkable architectural value among which Palazzo Guadagni, at the corner of via Mazzetta, where on whose beautiful loggia, find the fountain in two cups with octoganal basin , and the statue of Cosimo Ridolfi. The Church of Santo Spirito, designed by Brunelleschi, whose internals reproduce the fundamental motifs of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, has become more beautiful over the years, with priceless works of art which has made it a real museum. To the left of the church at no.29, you will find the entrance to the Cenacle of the Santo Spirito, frescoed by Orcagna. Going down a short stretch of Via Mazzetta, you will arrive in Piazza San Felice. The column, brought here by the wishes of Cosimo I after the victory over the Senesi in 1572, was a symbol of the Medicean power. The Church of San Felice, with its Renaissance façade attributed to Michelozzo and documented to date back to 1066, also faces the Piazza. Now, go into Via Maggio, (maggio meaning major) called so because it was the most beautiful, longest and spacious street, where the noble families of Florence had their palaces built.

Today it is the street of antiques Among these, at no.18/r, Bartolozzi whose antique business dates back to 1887, at no.28/r, the Chelini Antiquarian Gallery set in the splendid Palazzo Peruzzi and specialized in epochal objects. Now you are in front of the sumptuously decorated grotesque graffito palace of the noble Venetian woman, Bianca Cappello who Francesco de' Medici was infatuated with. Inside, among the original finishings and the splendid frescoed ceilings, you'll find the shop of "oggetti antichi Turchi" (Turkish antiques). Before getting on Via de' Vellutini stop off at no.13/r to admire Bartolozzi and Maioli bottega of art and their storehouse on the corner; it's like you're entering a real museum! Cross over Via de' Vellutini and you have arrived in Piazza de' Pitti dominated by the bulk of the grandiose Florentine palace, n stone. The 15th century residence built by Luca Pitti was enlarged in successive centuries to become the palace of the Medici's, Lorena of Savoia, and today one of the most important exhibition points in the city.

Find here numerous museums of world fame like the Palatine Gallery connected to the Monumental Apartments, the Silver Museum with jewellery, gems, and ivory from the Medicean and Lorenesi collections, the prestigious Gallery of Modern Art, the Museum of Carriages, the Contini Bonacossi Collection, and the Costume Museum. Along the street where Palazzo Pitti is found, find numerous boutiques, some of antique Florentine fashion; workshops for the production of handmade marbled and mosaicked paper, precious gem shops, book shops, cafés, etc. Get back on via Guicciardini to go to Piazza Santa Felicita and back track the itinerary you have just done to return to your hotel.


Along the way
Fort Belvedere
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm.
Closed on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

Bardini Museum and Corsi Gallery
Weekdays open from 9 am to 5 pm; Weekends and Holidays open from 9 am to 2 pm. Closed on Fridays and on Sundays.

Giardino Bardini
November, December, January and February
open from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 4:30 pm.
March: from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 5:30 pm.
April, May, September and October from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:30 pm.
June, July and August: from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 7:30 pm.
Closed the first and last Monday of each month, New Year's Day, May 1st and Christmas.

Palazzo Pitti:

Palatina Gallery
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm.
Closed on Mondays, Christmas, New year's Day and May 1st.

Silver Museum
First and Last Monday of the month.

Gallery of Modern Art
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm.
Closed on Mondays, Christmas, New year's Day and May 1st.

Gallery of Costumes/ Boboli Gardens/ Porcelain Museum
November, December, January and February
open from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 4:30 pm.
March: from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 5:30 pm.
April, May, September and October from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:30 pm. *In the later part of October when daylight savings time changes, closing time is at 5:30 pm.
June, July and August: from Monday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 7:30 pm.
Closed the first and last Monday of each month, New Year's Day, May 1st and Christmas.

Church of San Leonardo
Open from 8 am to 12 midday and from 4 pm to 6 pm.

Antique Florentine Silk factory
Via L. Bartolini, 4 50124 Firenze Tel +39 055 213861 - E-mail:

Church of Santo Spirito
Open Monday, Tuesday and Saturday from 9 am to 12 midday
Closed on all other days including Christmas, New Year's Day and May 1st.

Cenacle of Santo Spirito
Open on Saturdays from 9am to 5 pm.

Brancacci Chapel
Open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.
On Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm
Closed on Tuesdays, Christmas, New Year's Day, Easter, May 1st and August 15th and 16th.