You can get off the beaten track in Florence without ever leaving the historic centre! The Oltrarno is one of our favourite neighborhoods in Florence. It can be reached by walking across the River Arno. The name “beyond Arno” means “beyond Florence”. Here are six places you must see in Florence, all of which can be found in the Oltrarno.
The Palazzo Pitti
You thought the Uffizi or Accademia were the only art museums you “had to” see? You might be wrong! The Pitti Palace is a must-see for anyone who loves art. The Renaissance-era palace is located just above the Ponte Vecchio in the heart of Florence. It belonged to Luca Pitti (a Florentine banker); the Medici bought it in 1549 and made it the main residence of the ruling family.
Today, the Palatine Gallery is located in the palace. It houses more than 500 paintings most of them from the Renaissance. Many of the paintings in the Palatine Gallery are familiar to those who have seen it on History Channel’s documentary about the Renaissance. The collection includes works from Raphael and Titian as well as Raphael, Correggio and Raphael. Pietro da Cortona, a Baroque artist, frescoed some of the rooms. There are also museums that focus on silver, modern art, and fashion at Palazzo Pitti.
Are you looking for some greenery during your Florence vacation? The Boboli Gardens, which cover 11 acres, is central Florence’s largest public park. The Boboli Gardens, which are attached to Palazzo Pitti, were originally laid out in the 16th Century. They are formal gardens with a twist. They include outdoor sculptures, including Roman statues, and most famously, Mannerist works. One grotto was designed to look like it was dripping in stalactites. It also houses copies of important Renaissance or Baroque works.
Although it may not be a “sight”, we believe it is worth visiting! Florence is famous for its artisans, but unfortunately, many of the ones in the centre have been replaced by touristy trattorias and souvenir shops. Even artisans that appear “artisanal” often import goods. Be wary if you don’t see a work bench in the back of the shop. You can still go across the Arno and visit a time when chain stores were not common. The entire area surrounding the Piazza di Santo Spirito is still alive with artisanal traditions. We love La Carta di Omero for bookbinding and handmade marbling paper, Filippini e Pauletti for mosaics made from Murano Glass, Mara Broccardi for handmade and bespoke women’s shoes and Ugobellini for handcrafted jewellery. Even if you don’t plan to buy, it’s worth stopping by.
The Brancacci Chapel is located in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. It offers a stunning opportunity to see the evolution of the Renaissance with your own eyes. This is because Masaccio (often called the father of Renaissance) began frescoing this chapel at 21 years old. He had taken over from Masolino, his master who went on to paint for the Hungarian king. Masaccio, however, died at 27. His frescoes remained unfinished until the 1480s. Filippino Lippi finished the frescoes 60 years after they were started.
What is the result? It is fascinating to see how Renaissance art evolved from its beginnings to the present day through frescoes. The frescoes are stunning. Masaccio’s “Tribute Money”, one of the most well-known pieces of early Renaissance art, is a fresco. Michelangelo learned to copy them.
Basilica of S. Maria del Santo Spirito
Although it is often called “Santo Spirito”, may be quite unassuming from the outside. Brunelleschi designed it. The man behind the dome. The interior of the basilica, which features a Latin cross and 40 side chapels is very faithful to the original design, was not completed by his facade. Filippino Lippi’s frescoes in the transept are worth a look, especially after you have seen his work at Brancacci Chapel.
Piazzale Michelangelo et the Church of San Miniato al Monte
For the best view of Florence, stretch your legs or take a bus. Here are the postcard photographers’ favorite spots. It’s all there: the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio as well as the Uffizi. And you can even see the distant mountains. Even if you think you won’t be able to visit another church, you should still pay a visit the Church of San Miniato al Monte. The basilica is a true gem. It dates back to 11th century, and it is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Italy. Pinocchio’s creator, however, is buried in the nearby cemetery. You don’t have to walk the 20-minutes up to PiazzaleMichelangelo or San Minato al Monte. Buses 12 and 13 can be taken from Ponte alle Grazie directly to the piazza.