OLTRARNO, THE LEFT BANK OF THE ARNO

9 February 2016
The tour...
Finding out more…
Useful notes...

The tour...

  • We start on the Vespucci Bridge where the view of the right bank and the palazzos that surround Piazza Ognissanti is incomparable.
  • In the adjacent area, in Via Sant’Onofrio (patron saint of weavers), there are workshops restoring furniture, working silk according to the 14th-century tradition, and one with silverware, worked solely by hand in the old traditions of the little hammer and chisel used by Cellini and the goldsmiths in the Renaissance period.
  • We’ll have a glimpse of the medieval walls, the San Frediano gate and a tabernacle attributed to Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio.
  • The streets around Piazza de’ Nerli still have the names of the old weavers, where now there are second-hand shops, little antique shops, bronze-workers and smiths.
  • We walk along Via dell’Orto, where many artists of the calibre of Bicci di Lorenzo and Gozzoli lived, and come to Piazza del Carmine, its church and the beautiful Bancacci chapel. We must see the baroque Corsini chapel and the famous Brancacci Chapel, a Renaissance masterpiece with frescos by Masaccio, Masolino and Filippino Lippi.
  • We then set off in the direction of Santo Spirito, pass a tabernacle with frescoes by Lorenzo de’ Bicci, and come to the delightful tree-lined piazza where the Santo Spirito church stands, a typical Renaissance building by Brunelleschi. Inside there is a veritable art gallery in the apse and, above all, a crucifix attributed to the young Michelangelo. We next turn into Via del Presto di San Martino, on the right side of the church, where we’ll encounter some of the most skilful craftsmen in restoring wood and the technique of embossing copper.
  • At the end of the street, we come to Piazza Frescobaldi with the decorated façade of Palazzo della Missione and the Santa Trinità bridge, faithful to the original of 1557, with two statues by Landini which were recovered from the river after the Second World War.
  • We now walk through a part of Via Maggio, see the graffito façade of Palazzo Bianca Cappello and then turn into Borgo San Jacopo, one of the oldest streets on the Oltrarno. Halfway down there’s a little piazza which has the best view of the Ponte Vecchio.
  • Next we come to Ponte Vecchio, famous for its numerous goldsmiths, with its Vasari corridor surrounding the Torre dei Mannelli.
  • After a short visit to the Deposition of the Pontormo in Santa Felicita, one of the oldest churches in Florence, we come to Piazza della Passera, across Via dello Sperone. Here we are in the heart of the old streets where Florence’s tradition of hand-crafted artisan work is preserved by people who gild frames, restore metal objects, smiths, people who forge wrought iron, and wood carvers.
  • We next walk down a street where the charm of the people’s Florence, the Florence of Giovanni Boccaccio and Ottone Rosai, is intact, and pass by the Sdrucciolo de’ Pitti.
  • We then come to Palazzo Pitti, the enormous mansion of the Medici family, later of the Lorenese, then Napoleon and lastly the royal family. Behind its plain ashlar façade is an art gallery and museum which has, amongst other things, the Palatine Gallery with works by Raphael and Titian and also the Boboli Gardens.
  • We follow the road to Piazza di San Felice then turn towards the church of Santo Spirito, along narrow streets where we’ll see two tabernacles. In Via dei Preti and Via della Chiesa we’ll find the Renaissance palazzo which was the property of the Guadagni family and is now a hotel. Lastly, we’ll have a well-deserved ice cream or a glass of Chianti in Piazza San Spirito.

Finding out more…

To turn this half day into a pleasant whole day, we can go to one or two galleries in Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens, the Palatine Gallery with frescos by Pietro da Cortona, the royal apartments… or go up to San Miniato al Monte to see one of the oldest and most important churches in Florence.
In the cenacle of the Santo Spirito, we’ll see an exhibition of a little foundation, with valuable medieval pieces and the remains of a fresco by Orcagna.
There is a charge for access to the Brancacci Chapel, the Romano di Santo Spirito foundation and the galleries in Palazzo Pitti. Booking is required for the Brancacci Chapel.

Useful notes...

  • There is now a bike hire service in Florence as well as pedal rickshaws. Ideal for getting from one piazza to another.
  • Florence is easily reached by train. If you would like a car with a driver, call me, without commitment, for a quotation.

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