By Tyler Ostrander, MA 2014-15
When someone mentions Florence, you usually think of the obvious landmarks, like the Duomo, the Uffizi, and Palazzo Vecchio. All of these locations, as with a majority of Florence’s tourist attractions, are located on the northern banks of the Arno River. Despite the more apparent fame of this side of the river, there is still much to be seen in the lesser-known region on the other side of the river, commonly known as the Oltrarno.
One of the main attractions of this area is Palazzo Pitti, a former home of the Medici family which has now become a museum. This UNESCO world heritage site is broken up into multiple museums, such as the Palatine Gallery, home to famous Renaissance paintings, sculptures and intricate pietra dura table tops; the Silver Museum, which contains numerous objects made of silver, gold, ivory, and other precious materials; and the Costume Gallery, which holds a collection of clothing ranging from the 16th century to present times.
The Oltrarno is also for those looking to enjoy the outdoors. Attached to Palazzo Pitti are the Boboli Gardens, a massive garden complex complete with grottos and statues. The hike to Piazzale Michelangelo may be arduous, but is a great destination for those looking for one of the best views of the city. Along the way you can also stop in the Giardino delle Rose, the Rose Garden, which is free to enter and blooms starting in the late spring and into the summer. It is a perfect place to stop for a picnic, read a book, or just enjoy some sunshine.
The Oltarno area is also rich in food selection. One popular place is Gelateria la Carraia, a gelateria located on Piazza Nazario Sauro, just across the Arno river at the end of Ponte alla Carraia. Another location is Gusta Pizza, a small pizzeria on Via Maggio that is almost always crowded due to its widespread fame. Mama’s Bakery, located on Via della Chiesa, serves American-style baked goods, like bagels, brownies, and cupcakes, which are admired by both Americans and Italians alike. For those who prefer to make their own food, Piazza Santo Spirito has a daily market where locals go to shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, and other goods.
Overall, the Oltarno neighborhoods might be lesser-known, but they are a prime location for those looking to escape Florence’s touristy city center for a more authentic, immersive Italian experience.
Photos by Allison Boyd