Florence is flooded by visitors year after year and during all seasons, so you might think it is a big city as Rome or Milan. Well, Florence is actually a fairly small town, with around 380,000 inhabitants. Despite its size, its city centre has so much to offer, with a variety of neighborhoods ranging from bohemian and quirky to traditional and old-fashioned. So what are Florence's neighborhoods, and what's in them? The secret to avoiding touristy areas and finding local, authentic spots is to go and look for hidden cafés, independent shops and ateliers, and of course, to read our advice.
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Located at the top of Florence’s historic bridges and close to Piazzale Michelangelo, San Niccolò is an untouched neighbourhood characterized by romantic cobblestone streets, artisan ateliers, and cool aperitif bars where Florentines gather on the weekend. In the summer and spring, you can have a family picnic in the garden Giardino di Carraia, enjoy a fresh gelato, or sip a Spritz and have nibbles whilst gazing at the medieval Porta San Niccolò.
The neighbourhood of Sant’Ambrogio stands east to the Duomo and offers some authentic, local markets. It also features some restaurants and cafés, effectively combining the Florentine charm with a buzzing nightlife. You can visit Piazza Ghiberti’s antique market and purchase some old-fashioned souvenirs, or even make friends with some of the stall owners, as it can get quite empty in off-peak hours. This is a unique market with a niche clientele.
If you want to go grocery shopping instead, you can visit Piazza Ghiberti’s local food market, which opens at 7am from Monday to Saturday. You can find colourful fruit and vegetables outside, as well as cheese, meats, fish and more products inside the wrought iron and glass structure. It’s worth visiting Piazza Sant’Ambrogio for an outdoor aperitif, especially in the summer, and the well-known literary café Le Murate for a snack and to take part in an event, such as a book presentation or a jazz concert.
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Hidden behind Piazza Pitti and Santa Trinita Bridge, Santo Spirito is especially known for its bohemian vibes and it’s full of artisan shops such as antique dealers’, art collectors’ and jewelers’. The main square hosts local, buzzing cafés and restaurants where you can have your aperitivo with a group of friends and gaze at the neat façade of the Basilica of Santo Spirito, which beautifully frames the piazza. Besides being one of Florence’s main social spots, Santo Spirito offers a remarkable artistic heritage, including the baroque interior of the Basilica and the gates to the Boboli Gardens.
While San Frediano used to be a poor neighborhood, today it is a quirky, unique area. It offers authentic bars and restaurants, where you can try Florentine food and cocktails. San Frediano’s hot spots are Piazza Tasso and Piazza del Carmine. Not only can you enjoy the district’s social life, but also its artistic heritage. Visit the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine and its Renaissance frescos by Masaccio and Filippino Lippi.
Located right next to the Duomo, San Lorenzo is perhaps Florence’s most visited area due to its historic central market, which has been recently renovated. In the exterior part, you’ll be able to purchase leather goods and souvenirs of various kinds. The best bit, however, is the interior food hall on the ground floor, displaying a series of impressive stalls with pasta, meats, cheeses, fish and more, as well as the top floor where you can taste typical foods from all parts of Italy. Take a walk along Via de’ Ginori and you’ll come across a variety of local cafés, a flower shop, gelato shops and more.
Though Fiesole is not exactly in Florence’s city centre, as it stands on a hill in the north-east of the town, it’s one of the city’s most impressive areas to visit. This picturesque neighborhood with Roman roots overlooks the skyline of the town and its surrounding hills and is wrapped in a magical atmosphere. You can go for a hike up to the Monastery of San Francesco and take some stunning landscape pictures. Locals like to sit down for a Sunday picnic or to enjoy lunch or dinner with a view from one of Fiesole’s fancy restaurants.
Every Sunday, the main square features an antique market. In the summer, you can find classical and jazz music concerts playing in the Roman Theatre for Estate Fiesolana.
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Photo Credits: Florence Neighborhood (Photo by Mike Nguyen); Heart sign (Photo by Nick Fewings); Street Art (Photo by Simone Pellegrini); Aerial view (Photo by Louis Charron)