The Florentines refer to it as “Diladdarno“, literally “on the other side of the Arno”: it’s the district located on the left side of the river, opposite to the right one that boasts the most famous monuments renowned all over the world, such as the Cathedral, the Uffizi Museum and the Piazza della Signoria.
If after your visit to these famous masterpieces you wish to encounter the authenticity of the city and the popular heart of Florence, you must devote some of your time to the Oltrarno district walking through San Frediano and Santo Spirito neighborhoods: here the last Florentine craftsmen, the market stalls, the gardens and churches, the typical restaurants and café terraces will make you know the city better, if “knowledge” not only refers to the visits to the monuments of a place, but also to the immersion in its the everyday life to grasp some of its spirit.
We went for this walk last Saturday, following the attentive recommendations received by Chiara, a dear friend of mine that studied Architecture in Florence and fell in love with her adoptive city. She planned for us a wonderful loop walk, and since not everybody can count on a friend like her, here’s our walk in details so that you can take advantage of it to make your personal experience in this peculiar part of Florence.
1st stage: from Piazza Santa Trinita to Ponte alla Carraia bridge – the walk starts from the right side of the Arno: if you walk down the elegant Via dei Tornabuoni towards the river you get the triangular beautiful square Piazza Santa Trinita. From the Piazza walk till the river and turn right into the Lungarno Corsini (lungarnos are the street going along the Arno river without crossing it) till the Ponte alla Carraia bridge. During our walk we took several pictures of the left side of the river we were about to visit, and its colourful palaces and buildings.
2nd stage: from Ponte alla Carraia bridge to the Gate of San Frediano – Cross the bridge and, once you get Oltrarno, make a first stop right at the ice cream parlour “Gelateria la Carraia”, just opposite the end of the bridge: ice creams are delicious, the range of flavours extremely wide and prices are fair: it doesn’t even seem to be a tourist in a city like Florence where, as in many other destination bursting with visitors, food is sometimes overpriced and its quality may be questionable…
Exit the ice cream parlour, turn your back to the bridge, make some steps ahead and then turn right into Borgo San Frediano street, going down till the Gate of the same name. This characteristic street hosts many craftsmen, small grocery stores, taverns, bakeries and the typical kiosk of the tripe seller, the Florentine-style street food that represents a tasty experience and a nice solution for travelers on a budget. Once arrived at the Gate, you will admire a part of the city walls, almost completely destroyed by the city planning interventions carried out when Florence was the capital of Italy (1865-1870).
3rd stage: from the Gate of San Frediano to Piazza Santo Spirito– Come back still along Borgo San Frediano, then turn into Via del Leone, the fourth street on the right, and then take the first street on the left to reach the Church of Carmine. Go down Via Sant’Agostino till Piazza Santo Spirito square, the beating heart of the Oltrarno district. The square boasts many nice cafés and taverns, where you can have a drink or taste a delicious aperitivo, in Summertime sitting pleasantly outside on a shady terrace.
From Piazza Santo Spirito, running along the homonymous Church (that is well worth a visit) and going ahead for a few metres, you get Palazzo Pitti, one of the Medici’s treasures, and its big square. Coming back to the right side of the Arno river will be then extremely easy: just cross the famous Ponte Vecchio and follow the Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli till the starting point of this loop.
You won’t be back the same as you were when your walk started: the encounter with the authenticity of the city, the atmosphere you breathed Oltrarno will leave a legacy within you and make you look at the rest of Florence from another, more complete, point of view.
Like Paris has its Rive Gauche, Florence has Diladdarno, the district of the Florentines and Florentinity.