On the other side of the river Arno in Florence, lies the vibrant Otrarno quarter.
If you want to get away from the tourist traps and experience Florence like a local, Oltrarno is the right place to go. This part of Florence includes panoramic terraces like the Piazzale Michelangelo to beautiful gardens such as the Boboli Gardens. Not to mention the artisanal boutiques, and contemporary art galleries.
Things to see and do?
One of the most famous museums in Florence after the Uffizi is the Palazzo Pitti. Located as soon as you cross the Ponte Vecchio, the Renaissance palace dates back to 1458.
It inhabited three dynasties: the Medici, the Habsburg-Lorraine, and the Savoy, for four centuries. However, the palace was named after its first resident, Florentine banker, Luca Pitti. In the 18th century, the Palazzo was used as a base for Napolean. In 1919, the Palazzo was donated to the Italian State by King Vittorio Emanuele III along with the Boboli’s Gardens.
Now, the Palazzo is the seat of the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Imperial Apartments, the Palatine Gallery, and the Gallery of Modern Art and Museum of Fashion and Costume. The Palatine Gallery includes over 500 paintings including works from Raphael, Correggio, Titian, and Perugino. Ph: T photography / Shutterstock.com
Behind the Palazzo Pitti is the Boboli Gardens. It was opened to the public in 1766 and designed for the Medici family. The garden is filled with sculptures, fountains such as the fountain of Neptune, and an amphitheater that overviews the garden. There is also a small Rose Garden that includes 400 varieties of roses.
The Bardini Villa
Another way to see the panoramic views of Florence is the 17th-century Bardini Villa. Located between Costa San Borgo and Borgo San Nicccolò. The villa host two museums such as the Roberto Capucci Museum and the Annigoni Museums, which includes artworks by painter Pietro Annigoni. The villa also has a restaurant that offers a panoramic view of Florence. Ph. Marina J / Shutterstock.com
Forte di Belvedere
If you’re more of a contemporary art enthusiast, then Forte di Belverede is the way to go. Located on the Boboli hill, It was founded in the 16th as a fortress and was used to protect the city if it came under attack. Galileo Galilei would come to the Forte for his astronomical observations.
Now the Forte hosts contemporary art exhibitions and cultural events.
Church of Santa Felicita
Located north of Piazza Pitti, lies the oldest church of Oltrarno, Church of Santa Felicita. It houses the Pontormo’s Deposition altarpiece, which illustrates the Deposition of Christ.
“The Cool Neighborhood”
On the Southwest part of the Oltrarno district, is the San Frediano neighborhood. Last year, Lonely Planet named this area as one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world or the “hip strip.” Known for its modern and hip restaurants and bars, this area brings out the lively local, spirit of Oltrarno.
Filled with many Piazzas, such as the Piazza Tasso where most of the restaurants are located is a common meeting point of Florentines.Also the triangular-shaped Piazza Piattellina.
Another must-see attraction is the Basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine. It conserves the spectacular, Renaissance frescoes by Masaccio and Masolino. They are found in the Cappella Brancacci.
Places to eat
A perfect way to end the day in this neighborhood is at the GESTO restaurant. Known for its “Tuscan-style tapas” and other Tuscan specialties.
If you want to have a glass of wine or an aperitivo, Le Volpi e l’Uva is known to be a local favorite. Any choice of drink is accompanied by tagliere that includes a variety of cheeses and cold-cuts.
Where and how to get to Oltrarno?
You can reach Oltrarno by foot which takes about 10-15 minutes from the Piazza del Duomo, where the famous Florence Cathedral is located. It’s simply across the well-known Ponte Vecchio.
Next time you in Florence, make sure to check out the Oltrarno district to get an authentic local experience and away from the tourist’s traps.