Suggestive views, villas and historical palaces, splendid landscapes, are what we find on this route that, although rough at spots, is particularly interesting, uniting both the art and history that characterizes it and that has inspired both Tuscan and international artists. The stretch down the Lungarni is the easiest and possible however, to return by bus from Piazza Poggi to Piazzale Michelangelo and Viale Galileo.
Length of route: approx. 4.5 km on foot.
Time needed: because it is a particularly demanding route rich with interesting stops, it is suggested to do it, if on foot, in two stages throughout the day; 2 and a half hours in the morning and the remainder in the afternoon.
Leave the Park Palace hotel and turn left on Viale Galileo where at the traffic light you'll turn left again, getting on to the suggestiveVia San Leonardo. The street owes its name to the church named after the French saint and protector of prisoners who lived at the turn of the 5th century, and resembles a corridor, closed in by low walls where, among and between the olive trees that line it, we find splendid private dwellings. Right on the corner of this strip of road, to your left, you will notice a villa where the great Russian musician Peter Iliych Chaikovsky lived and composed in 1878. He started a platonic, but above all epistolary, relationship with the very rich widow Nadezda von Meck who was renting the Villa Oppenheim and who was passionate about music. The composer even dedicated a symphony to her. Now, note Villa Lauder , characterized for its red brick color and lovely Renaissance style loggia on the first floor. Continue on and at no. 49 you can see a plaque on the face of a modest house indicating the place where Ottone Rosai lived from 1933 to 1957. The Florentine painter represented this same via, and the more characteristical corners of the street and the piazza of the Oltrarno quarters, in his paintings. Next door, at no. 41, lived Mario Pratesi , tuscan writer from the 1800's. You arrive now to the Church of San Leonardo from thr XI° or XII° century, and restored many times over. Inside, find the splendid 13th century Pergamo, originating from the Church of San Pier Scheriggio, where famous personages like Giano della Bella, Dino Compagni and Giovanni Boccaccio, are portrayed giving speeches. You have almost reached the end of via San Leonardo, near the 14th century Porta San Giorgio , belonging to the sixth circle of the urban wall and attributed to Orcagna, above which you will notice a copy of San Giorgio killing the dragon, by Andrea da Pontedera. On occasion of the siege of Florence in 1529, Michelangelo, responsible for the fortifications, suggested to lower the door in order to be less vulnerable to canon fire.
But before passing through it, we suggest a visit to Fort di Belvedere that you find on your left. The Fortezza (fort) of Santa Maria, called so by Belvedere because of the spectacular panorama one enjoys, was constructed by the wishes of Ferdinand I with the aim of endowing Florence with a fort that could defend the city from on high, but above all, to conserve the treasures of the Medici family. The convenient access from the Boboli Gardens consented the members of the Medicean family a safe refuge in case of attack. Today, numerous open air sculptural exhibits are held here. Surpass the arch, and get on to the steep Costa San Giorgio, named after the antique Church of San Giorgio and Spirito Santo . The church, dating back to the year 1000, was one of the main priories of Medieval Florence and it was here that the young Giotto executed work on the tabletop of the altar with the Madonna col Bambino in trono e due Angeli (Madonna and Child on the throne with two angels) that today is found in the diocesan Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte. Between 1705 and 1708, the interiors of the church were decorated in rococo style, but with the Neapolitan reform, the edifice and the connecting convent were taken over to host the military headquarters of Caserma Vittorio Veneto, that trained military medical and chemistry students for the Military School of Sanità. Today, the building is seat to the Orthodox Romanian Church. The first part of this street is framed with villas with gardens that are more often substituted with medieval edifices. On your right, at no.2 is the entrance to Villa Bardini built in 1641 on a pre-existing medieval structure. For its splendid panoramic position it was also called Villa Belvedere (belvedere meaning lovely view) and it was part of the so-called "Casini di Delizia" (pleasure houses) widespread in Florence between the end of the 1500's and the first half of the 1600's, created for the pleasures of the high-class and surrounded by agricultural cultivations, not only for a productive income but ornamental, as well. Its Garden is characterized by a large Baroque stairway, English lawns, rich with medicinal and ornamental plants, ground floor terraces, occupied by olive and fruit trees, beautiful dense wooded areas and an agricultural park. Villa Bardini organizes numerous exhibitions. At no. 17 you find the house di Galileo Galilei where, from the tower of the house, he performed his astronomical research. Now, turn right and get on to yet a steeper but delightful street, Costa Scarpuccia, up until reaching Via de' Bardi, first called Borgo Pidiglioso or "pidocchioso" (lice ridden) because of the destitution of the population that lived here. With the arrival of the Bardi's, who began to build houses and towers, the street took on the same name of the powerful and rich Florentine family. At no. 12, in front of the famous cypress, you find house where Giovanni Papini , famous Florentine writer once lived; followed by the 11th century Church of Santa Lucia dei Magnoli , restored more times over and holds a precious Table (slab) by Pietro Lorenzetti, and other palaces of celebrated families, like the Tower of the Bardi at no. 44. You have now reached Piazza Santa Maria Soprarno (above the Arno) where one of the most antique parish churches of the city once stood. Erected in 1210 and called so because it was constructed on the banks of the Arno. Unfortunately, the building disappeared in 1869 concomitant with the systemization of the lungarni (along the river bank).
Now, go to your right for Lungarno Torrigiani. The name derives from an important Florentine family who originally possessed a tower-house in the city center, relocating later to the oltrarno (other side of the Arno) where they had various palaces built, among which including the magnificent Palazzo Torrigiani that you will encounter farther ahead. Go through the public park that the Lutheran Church faces, leaving behind you the Ponte alle Grazie . At one time, this bridge was called Ponte di Rubaconte after the name of Podestà who had it built in 1237, later named "delle Grazie" because of the presence of a 14th century tabernacle that contained a Giottesque "Madonna delle Grazie" much adored by the Florentines. Many crossed the bridge; ambassadors, princes, cardinals, who, transiting Florence, were guests in the Mozzi houses, a little farther ahead. Go now to Piazza de' Mozzi, name of powerful banker who, in 1300, managed the Papal Treasury. In this little 15th century piazza you will admire a series of splendid palaces; at no. 2 Palazzo Mozzi belonging to the family of the same name, with typical 11th -12th century characteristics, at no.5 Palazzo Torrigiani , most likely built on a project by Baccio d'Agnolo, at no.4, Palazzo Torrigiani-Nasi, decorated in graffito, the 13th century , at no.3, and at no.1, the palace where the Museo Bardini is found. The building derives from the transformation of the 13th century Church of San Ghirigoro della Pace. The antique dealer, Stefano Bardini, collected a rich private collection at turn of the 18th century, later leaving it all to the Municipal of Florence. The collection included; sculptures, paintings, ceramic pieces, medals, small bronzes, oriental rugs, musical instruments and other findings that Bardini looked for personally through remains and debris. The palace too presents itself as an original construction in fact, antique pieces were used on some doors, windows, architraves and elsewhere. The masterpiece of the museum is the 15th century San Michele Arcangelo (Archangel Saint Michaal) slab by Antonio del Pollaiolo.
Follow along now for Via de'Renai and at the corner with Lungarno Serristori, you can admire the Palace of the same name from the celebrated family coming from Ser Ristoro who originally bought a house in the quarters of Santa Croce, when later their descendents transferred to the Oltrarno, to the quarters of San Niccolò. Palazzo Serristori, restructured in 1873, hosted illustrious personages like Gioacchino Murat, the Russian prince Nicola Demidoff, ,and Girolamo and Giuseppe Bonaparte. Arrive now in Piazza Poggi, whose scenery is underlined by a series of staircases and terraces set in green nature and decorated with water basins and grottoes. They are the Rampe di San Niccolò , designed by the architect Poggi concluding on the panoramic terrace in Piazzale Michelangelo. On the right of the piazza stands Porta S. Niccolò . Constructed in 1324, it is the only one of all doors that "survived" in Florence and that has preserved its original height. Now, get on to the characteristic Via San Nicolò, that is part of the antique, Medieval, popular, artisan and borgo. Here you can find antique shops and specialty artisan shops like that of wrought iron. At no. 60/r, you could take a break at the Antica Mescita San Niccolò, ex customs station for wine coming from Chianti to Porta San Nicolò, transformed at the beginning of 1800 into a " grocer's and wine tavern". After the flood of 1966, during restorations, the Roman crypt in the church of San Nicola re-emerged, where in its suggestive environment, one might want to stop for lunch to savour a typical Tuscan cuisine. Follow on until you reach Porta S. Miniato , pass it and get on to Via San Miniato. At this point you can choose between two itineraries to go back to you hotel; the first "more difficult" and the other easy. The first leads you on the steep flight of stairs of Via del Monte alle Croci, characterized by Via Crucis" (stations of the cross) where at the end you arrive to the Church of San Salvatore al Monte. This important Renaissance edifice, simple but rigorous structure, was built between 1499 and 1504 by Cronaca. The window on the lateral entrance of the church was done by a design of Pietro Perugino and depicts God the Father Benedictory surrounded by cherubs and seated on a throne of clouds; the windows with Le stimmate (stigmates) of S. Francesco, Giovanni Battista, S. Antonio of Padova, S. Giovanni Evangelista are also attributed to Perugino.
Exiting the church and heading towards you left, you can go up to the 11th century Roman Basilica of San Miniato al Monte placed where a paleo- Christian church once stood. Like the Baptistery, it is covered with white and green marble and inside holds valuable works of art like, the Chapel of Crucifix done by Michelozzo with barrel vaults, enamelled by Luca della Robbia, and the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal in a Greek cross design with cloister vaults constructed by Antonio Manetti. Outside, you find the cemetery where the remains of many celebrities including Papini a Montale Stibbert, Carlo Lorenzini and others. Leaving the Church, return to Viale Galileo and turn right in the direction of Piazzale Michelangelo .The incomparable view of what you will see from the "terrace" will have made the fatiguing walk up worthwhile. Note the Loggia, behind the statue of David, where the architect Poggi intended to exhibit the masterpieces of Michelangelo. Today the edifice is used as a restaurant bar; you could have a coffee or an aperitif "with a view"!. . Finally, to return to your hotel, follow Viale Galileo or if you are too tired you could catch the bus no. 13 that will take you to the front of the Park Palace hotel. If instead you do not want to take the same fatiguing walk back, you could take the easy route from Via San Miniato to Via di Belvedere, following a stretch of wall remains, saved from the demolition of architect Poggi, and go on to Fort Belvedere. From there, retracing the street you came on, go back up Via San Leonardo and cut on to Viale Galileo Go to your right and you will arrive in Piazza Galileo.
Along the way.
Historical buildings and monuments
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 open from 9 am to 2 pm. Closed on Fridays and on Sundays.
(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.
Basilica di S. Miniato al Monte
Weekdays open from 8 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 7 pm. Weekends open from 8 am to 7 pm. Closed on Fridays and on Sundays.
Chiesa di San Salvatore al Monte
Weekdays open from 7 am to 6 pm . Closed on Sundays.
Chiesa di S. Leonardo
Open from 8 am to 12 midday and from 4 pm to 6 pm. Chiesa Luterana Masses for parishioners twice a month on the first and third Sunday at 10 am. Concerti: In the months of April and October, every Wednesday at 9 pm, concerts of classical and organ music, chamber music and choir are held. The German made organ was constructed particularly for Baroque music concerts. Office hours: Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to 12 midday.