Oltrarno is Located on the South Side of the River Arno:
The historic centre of Florence has plenty to keep visitors occupied. Just in the main squares such as Piazza del Duomo, the Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria and Piazza di Santa Croce there are art galleries, palaces, churches, museums and shops that would require more than a couple of visits to see them all. It’s little wonder then that not many people venture to the area south of the River Arno. Oltrarno, which literally means beyond the Arno, is still a part of the historic centre of Florence.
Beyond the Arno
If you walk across the Ponte Vecchio or the next bridge up, the Ponte Santa Trinita, you’ll arrive in Oltrano. Although this area of Florence is less visited, there are monuments, medieval towers, museums, churches, palaces and parks which are well worth visiting, such as the Palazzo Pitti with its outstanding collection of paintings, the Santo Spirito, the Gardens of Boboli – just to name a few.
Of special interest in the Oltrarno area are the many artisan workshops that exist here. Craftsmen such as the mosaic-maker, antique furniture restorers, wood carvers, gilders, and goldsmiths still follow century-old traditions in the creation of their craft.
Piazza Santo Spirito
At Piazza Santo Spirito we came across a huge outdoor market with stallholders selling anything from secondhand books and DVDs, foodstuff, bric-a-brac and antique wares. A stroll around the market stalls solved a long-running mystery for us. At an antique stall we saw an implement that was similar to one that we have at home. We’ve puzzled as to its usage and, in sign language, the stallholder was able to explain to us that the scissor-like implement with a stamp-size box on it was used to trim the wicks of candles.
Piazza Santo Spirito is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, and this is a great place to enjoy a coffee break or meal and take in the lively ambience of the market in the square.
In the area framed by Via Maggio, the busy Oltrarno thoroughfare, Borgo San Jacopo and via de Guicciardini, we came across a mask and mural shop, beads and designer jewelry, a leather and embroidery workshop and others. If you want to have a better appreciation of Oltrarno and its Renaissance architecture, see its old ateliers and meet with local artists and craftsmen, you can join a three-hour walking tour of the area. For more information of this Oltrarno Art and Crafts tour, see Here.