Florence is a city that’s easily explored on foot and, in fact, it’s really the only way to do it as the historic centre is closed to all traffic but residents, buses and taxis. It’s absolutely no hardship, however, because there are just so many delightful secrets to uncover as you wander around. For first-timers to the city, it’s a great idea to get an orientation by either taking a walking tour with a local guide, or hiring a digital guide that you can listen to through a smartphone. As well as giving you the lay of the land it’s a good way to learn some of the history in a fun and friendly way. |
One of the best Florence tours you can do on foot is to cross the river and venture into the lovely traditional Oltrano area. Here’s what you will find…
The ‘Other Side’ of the Arno
The city is sliced in half by the River Arno and if you cross over the famous Ponte Vecchio, you’ll be in Oltrano – a name that translates to ‘the other side of the Arno’. It is, in turn, divided into three areas: San Frediano, San Niccolò and Santo Spirito.
This wonderfully eclectic part of the city is renowned as being particularly authentic and artistic. It’s filled to the brim with artisan studios, galleries and hole-in-the-wall shops and cafes – although you wouldn’t always know it, because so many of them are truly hidden away. On the other hand, it’s also home to two of the most high profile attractions that the best Florence tours will never omit from the itinerary: the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens.
As you wander the ancient streets and poke your nose down tiny alleys and dead-ends, you’ll make your own marvellous discoveries – and that’s really the best way to do it in Oltrano. But aside from your own personal favourites that you’ll no doubt find, there are certain things you shouldn’t miss.
Palazzo Pitti: This former home to royalty and aristocracy is now a collection of galleries and museums filled with priceless treasures – with everything from Renaissance paintings to exquisite porcelain and fashion.
The Boboli Gardens: Located adjacent to the Pitti Palace, even though as one of the largest green spaces in the city these stunning gardens can get quite busy, they’re sprawling enough to provide a welcome haven of tranquillity. With a meticulous layout designed by the Medicis, there are sculptures and fountains that date back centuries, and wandering around it is like being in a huge open-air art gallery.
The Church of Santa Felicita: This is the oldest church in Oltrano and home to the fifteenth century Deposition of Christ altarpiece, by Pontormo. The most fascinating thing about this ancient church is the hidden viewing vantage that connects to the infamous Vassari Corridor, so the nobles of Florence could attend mass without having to mix with the commoners.
Museo Bardini: Located in Piazza de Mozzi, this museum houses an important collection of artworks and artefacts dating back to Etruscan and Roman times. These include bronze sculptures, paintings, pottery, marble statues, paintings and more.
The Best Florence Tours Include Oltrano
There’s so much art, culture and history to enjoy in this magnificent Renaissance city, but just make sure you don’t get caught up with all the higher profile attractions and miss out on immersing in a lovely slice of local life in Oltrano. The best Florence tours on foot should always look outside the square and venture to the ‘other side’ of the Arno.
Mauro Bramante is the Director of WalkAbout Florence, an independent business offering unforgettable tours and excursions around Italy including the best Florence tours. Whether you want to ride a Vintage Vespa, try the famous Chianti wine or get cooking with fresh local ingredients, Mauro's company promises excitement, adventure and above all, fun. If you're keen to experience the magic of Italy with the help of some passionate and knowledgeable tour guides, look no further than WalkAbout Florence for your next getaway.
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