FLORENCE — Oltrarno

This quarter is known as ‘on the other side’ of the Arno. It is regarded by many as one of the most beautiful parts of Florence. It is full of monuments, churches, palaces and parks. It is an area where the history of Florence can still be seen in the artisan workshops carrying on the old traditions and in the bars and restaurants with their traditional character.

The sights to visit in this area are:
Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine
Basilica di Santo Spirito
Cenacolo di Santo Spirito
Borgo San Frediano
Casa Guidi
Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte
Chiesa di Santa Felicita
Forte di Belvedere
Giardino delle Rose
Giardino di Boboli
Museo Zoologico la Specola
Palazzo Pitti
Piazzale Michelangelo
Ponte Vecchio
Porta Romana
Via Maggio

Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine

Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine
This church was originally built in the 2nd century but was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 18th century by Ruggieri and then Mannaioni. The highlight of this church is the Cappella Brancacci with its paintings by Masolino da Panicale, Masaccio and Filippino Lippi. The frescoes in particular are magnificent especially Masaccio’s Cacciata dei Progenitori (Expulsion of Adam and Eve) found on the left side of the chapel. There is an admission charge for the chapel and it has a separate entrance from the church.
For further information visit the website at: http://www.piccoligrandimusei.it/CappellaBrancacciScheE.phtml

Traveller's Tip

To visit the Brancacci Chapel you must have a reservation which can be confirmed in two days. The chapel allows reserved entrances every 60 minutes from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The museum officially closes at 5:00 pm. You are allowed to stay in the chapel only 15 minutes and before you go in you view a 40-minute film in English called The Eye of Masaccio.
Basilica di Santo Spirito

Basilica di Santo Spirito
This building was started in 1444 by one of the greatest creators of the Renaissance in Florence,Filippo Brunelleschi. One of the main features of this church are the 40 semicircular chapels that line the entire length of the church. Another striking feature are the columns built in grey stone. Some of the oustanding works found here are the decorations of the Corbinelli Chapel by Andrea Sansovino (1492) in the left transept and in the right transept there is the Altar piece of the Madonna on the Throne with Saints by Filippino Lippi. On the altar there is the wooden crucifix which is attributed to Michelangelo.

Cenacolo di Santo Spirito
This huge fresco of the Last Supper and Crucifixion by Andrea Orcagna is found in the refectory next door to the church. There is a small charge to enter.

Museo di San Marco

Borgo San Frediano
Not far from Piazza del Carmine is a street where you will find many artisans working on their crafts just as they have done for many centuries. At the western end of the street is the Porta San Frediano, one of the most ancient gates of Florence. Nearby in the Piazza di Cestello is the Chiesa di San Frediano in Cestello with its plain and unadorned walls and some barns dating back to the time of Cosimo III dè Medici.

Casa Guidi
This was the home of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Browning from 1847 and it is where they wrote many of their famous works.
For more information see the website at: http://www.browningsociety.org/casaguidi.shtml

Traveller's Tip

You can stay in the Casa Guidi if you wish. For information on how you can do this visit the website at:
http://bookings.landmarktrust.org.uk/
BuildingDetails/Overview/146/Casa_Guidi
Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte

Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte
This church has a magnificent facade and is probably the best example of Romanesque style still surviving in Florence. On the right side of the Church there is the Palace of the Bishops and on the left side there are the ruins of the old walls of the city. Inside the church are 13th to 15th century frescoes and wonderfully intricate inlaid marble designs. The church is dedicated to San Miniato who was an eastern Christian who settled in Florence and was martyred during Emperor Decius’s persecutions in A.D. 250. Legend says that the beheaded saint picked up his head, walked across the river, climbed up the hillside, and then lay down to die when he reached this spot.

Traveller's Tip

You will have quite a steep climb up to this church from Piazzale Michelangelo but it is well worth the effort.

Chiesa di Santa Felicita
The facade of this church is a 18th century remake of what had been Florence’s oldest church from the 4th century. Inside you will find the Cappella Barbadori on the right with its garish paintings,Annunciazione (Annunciation) and Deposizione (Deposition) by Pontormo. The Vasari Corridor (an enclosed and elevated passageway used by the Medici so they could move around without having to go out in public) passes right across this church. The passageway here had a balcony protected by a thick railing and looked into the interior of the church to allow the Medici family to follow services without mixing with the public.

Museo di San Marco

Forte di Belvedere
This huge fortress was the work of the architect Buontalenti and was commissioned by Grand Duke Ferdinando I who intended it to serve as a stronghold where he could safeguard his family and their fortune. Inside is a small palace, Palazzina di Belvedere which was also designed by Buontalenti and today is used for temporary exhibitions. It is found on the left bank of the Arno and the best way to get to it is to walk through the Giardino di Boboli.

Traveller's Tip

If you walk along the ramparts surrounding the fort you can enjoy a magnificent close-up view of Florence, the Arno valley and the surroundings hills.

Giardino delle Rose
The Rose Garden designed in 1865 by Giuseppe Poggi is found on the left bank of the Arno River half way up the hillside to the Piazzale Michelangelo. The terraces of the garden offer quiet seating and great views over the rooftops of the city below. It was inspired by French gardens of the time and the layout displays many rose varieties both modern and ancient. Towards the bottom of the rose terraces is the Japanese garden where you will find designs by the Koadai-Ji Temple in Kyoto. It is only open for 6 weeks in May or June.

Giardino di Boboli

Giardino di Boboli
These gardens adjoin the Palazzo Pitti. They were laid out in the 16th century and are Florence’s largest and most famous gardens. In this garden you will find paths covered with latticed arbors, sculptures and an amphitheatre where in summer you can experience some of the best musical and theatrical performances in the world. Don't miss visiting the famous Buontalenti grotto with various works of art inside including copies of Michelangelo’s famous Slave series, the originals of which were transferred to the Galleria dell'Accademia.
For further information visit the website at: http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/musei/boboli/Default.asp?

Museo Zoologico la Specola
This is a fascinating gallery of several rooms filled with collections of insects and stuffed animals including monkeys, birds and even a rhinoceros. The last set of rooms includes wax models showing different parts of the human anatomy.
For further information visit the website at: http://www.msn.unifi.it/mdswitch.html?newlang=eng

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti
The Pitti Palace was first built in 1458 by the Pitti family, wealthy merchants and rivals of the Medici family. It was originally smaller than the palace you see today and was extended when it was sold to the Medici family. It later became the home of the King of Italy. It now houses several important collections of paintings, sculpture, porcelain and costumes. The five museums found here are: The Galleria Palatina with its 16th to 18th century paintings by Fra Filippo Lippi, Boticelli, Andrea del Sarto, Giorgi Vasari, Raphael, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Peter Paul Rubens and Van Dyke; Museo degli Argent housing a collection of glassware, silver, ivory and amber objects; Galleria d’Arte Moderna with mostly Tuscan works from the 18th to the mid-20th century; Galleria del Costume — note the outfits worn by Audrey Hepburn and Jacqui Onassis as well as ball gowns from the 19th century; Museo delle Porcellane housing beautiful European porcelain bought by Pietro Leopoldo and Ferdinand III.
For further information visit the website at: http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/musei/palazzopitti/

Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo
This is a very poular spot both for locals and tourists because of the fantastic views over Florence and the Arno valley.It was built as part of a major restructure of the city walls in the 19th century. Here you will find a bronze statue of Michelangelo’s David as well as snack bars and cafes.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio
This is the oldest of Florence’s six bridges and is one of the city’s best known sights. The original bridge probably dates back to Roman times with its stone pillars and wooden planks. It was destroyed by floods in 1177 and 1333 and the bridge you see today was rebuilt in 1345. During World War II it was the only bridge in Florence not to be blown up allegedly at the express orders of Hitler but access to it was obstructed by the destruction of the buildings at both ends, which have since been rebuilt using a combination of original and modern design.
Originally there were five arches but these became three and the main part was widened. The row of shops is interrupted in the centre by terraces with a panoramic view over the Arno. There have always been shops on the bridge and up to the 15th century these shops were mostly butchers but in 1593 the Medici Grand Dukes prohibited butchers from selling there and their place was taken by several gold merchants.
In 1565, Cosimo I dè Medici, Duke of Florence, had the famous Corridor built by Vasari on the upper side passing over the shops to connect the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. The Mannelli family who owned a medieval tower at the southern end, towards Pitti Palace, did not want to give the Duke right of passage so the corridor had to be deviated, as we can still see today, around the tower.

Porto Romana

Porta Romana
This gate is found at the end of Via Romana which was used by pilgrims on their way to Rome. The Porta Romana with its solid wooden bolted doors is part of the outer circle of the city walls which were knocked down in the 19th century. The two walls spread out from the gate towards Piazza Tasso to the east and to the north-west along the Viali dei Colli.

Traveller's Tip

Just north of the gate is part of the former city wall and if you head along the inside which is a car park you will find an entrance to get to the top of the gate.

Via Maggio
This street was once called Via Maggiore (Main Street) and is now the home of several important Italian antique dealers and art galleries. Some of them specialise in antique furniture which is often restored by the skilled artisans working in their studios in the nearby streets. Via Maggio was once a very desirable place to live and you will find lots of beautiful Renaissance mansions such as the Palazzo di Bianca Cappello at no 26 which looks as if it is covered in graffitti.

Traveller's Tip

If you enjoy shopping for antiques and love to look at impressive mansions then Via Maggio is well worth a visit.