A Visit to Oltrarno, Beyond the Arno

Oltrarno is Located on the South Side of the River Arno:

Piazza Santo Spirito Follow Me on Pinterest

Basilica Santo Spirito on Piazza Santo Spirito

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 ArnoOltrarno, 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.

Oltrarno market Follow Me on Pinterest

Piazza Santo Spirito Market

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.

Palazzo in Oltrarno Follow Me on Pinterest

Palazzo di Bianca Cappello

Florentine Craftshops

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.

See more of Oltrarno at Travelsignposts Oltrarno photo gallery Here.

Do YOU have any ideas on this? Please comment.


  1. avatar says

    Thank you for your kind words about our “quartiere”.
    However, keeping it this way is an uphill struggle.
    The rest of the old town of Florence, though outwardly beautiful, has largely became a wasteland of banks, big shop windows, fast foods and noisy night life.
    And we are next on the list :-( They are planning to rip up the historic Piazza del Carmine to make an underground parking lot to bring in quick-turnover traffic, and are designing a gigantic fitness-and-restaurant complex; 900 buses a day roar up and down the narrow Via Romana and Via de’ Serragli, while shops serving residents are closing down, school budgets are being cut and a real estate speculator has taken over the only public garden for children, to turn it into a private garage.
    Here is a more detailed look at what is happening http://oltrarno-florence.blogspot.it/2012/12/the-oltrarno-of-florence-disneyland-of.html

    We hope those who love Florence all around the world, will take note of our cry for help.

    Miguel Martinez

    • avatar says

      Hi Miguel,
      Thank you for your information about the horrific development plans for Oltrarno. When we last visited Florence in September, we thought that the Old Town was like a tourist superhighway and it was a pleasure to escape to Oltrarno for a quieter time.
      Thank you for your offer to show us some less well known corners of your quartiere. It’s a shame that we didn’t know you before we visited Florence as it would have been great to enjoy all your insights on your quartiere. Next time maybe?
      All the best with your struggle to preserve Oltrarno Maybe the gigantic fitness complex will shrink when they find that visitors don’t go to Florence on a fitness pilgrimage.
      Best wishes,

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