culture, italy, life, nature, take out, tips, travel, tuscany, uncategorised

Urban Trekking in The Oltrarno

Despite the fact that summer seems to be somewhat debatable in Florence these days, I thought about how much I miss using my own city as a sort of ‘urban playground’ during the summer. It’s really just too easy to lock yourself in your house, especially if you happen to be a freelancer like myself. We are all guilty of it, shuttering our windows like an old Italian nonna and hiding out until the weather gets less muggy. Since I am far too lazy and cheap to join a gym in Florence (they also happen to be really expensive), this just proves as more motivation to embark on the phenomenon that is ‘urban trekking’ right in my own backyard, the oltrarno or ‘other side of the river’ in Florence.

Think of this side as the ‘Palazzo Pitti’ side of the Ponte Vecchio bridge for Florence newbies. The cool thing about this kind of tourism is that you tend to do things a little slower, it’s not about finishing a marathon but rather seeing the sites with some exercise in between. Plus to keep yourself motivated, I encourage frequent stops for coffee and the occasional spritz.

There are so many cool paths and routes you can take to not only discover the city, but also get moving and work off some of the delicious food you (hopefully) will be having. These itineraries are just a few of my favorites, so strap on your cool converse sneakers and start walking. You might need to because the ATAF bus service tends to cut their service in half during the summer months.

San Niccolo – I Love You

Personally I like to start from the gorgeous San Niccolo area of Florence, home to so many things that I love about this city. You have cute coffee and cocktails bars like Rifrullo, wine bars galore (Bevo Vino, Enoteca Fuori Porta), great lunch spots like Zeb (really a must-try!) and Clet’s workshop – all in the same vicinity. Honestly who wouldn’t want to base their trip from this very Florentine neighborhood, here you can soak in true Italian atmosphere. If you are looking for the perfect place to stay, closer to the artisan district,  check out Palazzo Belfiore which is an amazing spot from which to explore the city!

It also happens to be one of my favorite places in town to get a tagliere (cheese and cured Tuscan salami board), either at Fuori Porta restaurant or  Il Beppe Fioraia, which is a little higher up. There is no secret than many of us are in love with this charming part of Florence, it captures the true essence of Florence, away from the suffocating crowds by Piazza del Duomo.

trekking3Start at the Torre di San Niccolo and buy a ticket to walk all 160 steps of this masterpiece with an awesome view over the city. Once part of the city walls and built in 1324, this one of the best preserved towers in town and one of my favorite places. Open this summer until September 20th, from 5pm – 8pm with guided tours in both Italian & English. Tickets: 4 € –   phone +39 055 2768224 – +39 0552768558, info@muse.comune.fi.it.

After you’re done, head over the area of Rifrullo and get a coffee (or a glass of wine, we won’t tell) while you take a break to check out Clet’s studio on via dell’olmo,8 (the modified street sign depicted on the left is by the famous artist himself). Make your way back to via san minato and head towards the best panorama in town (see featured photo) Piazzale Michelangelo. But first! Stop at the Rose Garden which is on the way, a place that is growing in fame but you can find your inner oasis in the Japanese corner towards the back. ( I also added a google map with pins below).

urbanmap

A final recommended stop after you’re done taking 3,453,958 million photos from Piazzale Michelangelo is the church of San Miniato al Monte, my favorite escape in the city. Over 1,000 years old and it definitely feels like it, the cloisters inside hold a certain slight creepy majestic vibe that I can’t get enough of.

On yet an even creepier note, the cemetery is pretty incredible. Buried here is the creator of our favorite wooden puppet Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi. The views from here are probably even better than Piazzale Michelangelo, I love coming up here when I need to clear my mind and I think you would too! They also have a cool gift shop for herbal liquors and different interesting knickknacks.

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Feeling Like Rocky? Check out the Rampa dei Bastioni

Another perfect place for urban trekking enthusiasts are the stairs near via dei bastioni close to Piazza Ferrucci in Florence. One of my bus stops used to be over here so I would often walk up and down these ancient steps for a little before-work routine. Combine this with a walk on the charming and steep viale michelangelo {around 3 kilometers} and you have yourself a pretty awesome workout! I usually refer to this area of town as the ‘Hollywood Hills’ of Florence with villas and beautiful houses tucked along the leafy streets that head towards piazzale Michelangelo and Poggio Imperiale. A girl can dream, can’t she?
trekking7

Other recommended routes include heading along the pretty Costa di San Giorgio towards the Forte del Belvedere which feels more like the countryside, or embarking on an art walk along the streets between Palazzo Pitti & Santo Spirito, home to many of the most famous artisan shops in Florence (will touch on that on a later post). A very underrated place to visit in the oltrarno is the Santa Maria del Carmine in Piazza del Carmine,  known for the Cappella Brancacci and Masaccio which are pretty spectacular to see in person. I did a fresco workshop and we visited the chapel after recreating a piece ourselves and I can’t believe it took me that long to see this place in person!

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 Brancacci Chapel in all of its glory!

Something worth remembering is that everything in Florence has a story, every street, palazzo, and cafe is brimming with hidden secrets that people like me can’t wait to discover. One of the many reasons that many of us chose Florence as our home, a city that continues to surprise and delight which is why I never get tired of writing about it.

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15 Comment

  1. Reply
    Zoe
    22.07.2014 at 11:29

    Hello, Georgette! You have one of the most awesome blogs I have ever read with secret and not so well known places in Florence that amaze me every time. I’m Greek and I plan on visiting Firenze this August. What a citta’ bellissima! But why do tickets get raised every single year? I had read an article from last year about San Niccolo’s Tower and it was 3€ :/

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      22.07.2014 at 11:41

      Thank you so much Zoe, your compliments mean the world to me (blushes) :). I am sure you will have a wonderful time in Florence, even in August! I will make sure and write a great events list for the month so you don’t miss anything. I don’t really get the ticket prices as well, you are 100% right, it was 3 euros last year but perhaps in order to keep it open they had to raise the prices? No one really knows.. 😮

  2. Reply
    Lisa Condie
    22.07.2014 at 12:01

    This article is a thing of beauty! Well, perhaps it’s because San Niccolo` is my home and I love this area of Florence. I can concur on all the spots you mentioned to stop for food. Also, I think Gelato di Filo is the best in town…and they have the decency to not reveal how often I stop there! Great post, Georgette!

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      22.07.2014 at 15:15

      Lisa I had no idea you live in the San Niccolo area of Florence, how cool is that? We have to meet up for a coffee sometime, I’d love to meet in person! I will absolutely have to check out that geleteria, I have a few on tap that are definitely my second best friend ;-). Thanks so much for reading my post!

  3. Reply
    Charles Dusenbury
    22.07.2014 at 18:32

    The Oltrano/San Niccolo post is very nicely written and quite inspiring. I might suggest that for those of mature years (my wife and I included), let gravity be your friend and reverse this itenerary by taking the number 12 or 13 bus to Piazzale Michelangelo or San Mineato. Your posts are geat and remind us how living here keeps us interested and young, at least at heart.

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      22.07.2014 at 22:54

      Hello Charles, I agree regarding taking number 12 or 13 bus to check out that amazing panorama at Piazzale Michelangelo. Sometimes I like to take the bus up there and just walk down for a little stroll after lunch. Thank you so much for reading my blog – I really appreciate it! Georgette 🙂

  4. Reply
    Alexandra Lawrence
    02.08.2014 at 13:28

    Absolutely fabulous post, Georgette! Adore your urban trekking attitude! xo

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      03.08.2014 at 11:23

      Thanks Alexandra, planning on doing this a lot more myself (and visiting the San Niccolo tower if the weather this summer can behave a little bit..)

  5. Reply
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    19.08.2014 at 8:42

    I didn’t even know much about San Nicollo but somehow felt drawn to it after eating the queens gelato over there (and stumbled upon Clets studio). Now glad I came across all of this info! Thank you thank you!!!

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      25.08.2014 at 15:23

      My pleasure! I fell in love with this place a few years ago when I started to realize that ‘the other side of the river’ was the place to be in Florence, if authentic culture and beautiful sites mean anything to you 😉

  6. Reply
    Amber
    25.08.2014 at 21:00

    Hi Georgette! I have been scouring your blog while I plan my seven day trip to Florence in the last week of September. Thanks to your “do it yourself wine tour” post we have a fabulous girls’ night out planned for the Friday. Turns out we will be staying in your ‘hood on Via dei Vellutini near your beloved piazza della passera! My question is — I am an early (early) riser and always looking for a great cup of coffee as early as possible. Is there anywhere in the neighbourhood (sorry, Canadian spelling, can’t help myself) to get a coffee at 6am (ish)? Hope to see you in the piazza!

    1. Reply
      GirlInFlorence
      25.08.2014 at 21:52

      Hello Amber, how awesome is that? You will love this area, are you at Palazzo Belfiore by chance? There is a chance that Cafe Degli Artigiani (in nearby piazza della passera) might be open or you can try Open Bar by the Ponte Vecchio, 6am — wow! If you see me and Ginger in the piazza, say hi!

      1. Reply
        Amber
        01.09.2014 at 19:23

        Thanks Georgette! I know, I know – 6am is crazy. It happens as you get older. You want to sleep in, but no dice. I’ll check your blog in 10 years and see if you concur! I found http://www.ristorantericchi.com/caffericchi/eng/ online – they open at 7am and I think that’s the best I can hope for.
        Also I wanted to say that based on your hilarious profile of Coral from http://www.thecuriousappetite.com – I wrote to her about foodie and aperitivo tours. Thanks for sharing all your insights! Hope to see you and Ginger in the piazza.
        -Amber

        1. Reply
          GirlInFlorence
          01.09.2014 at 22:58

          I hope you do get your AM coffee, I know the feeling ;-). You’ll have to keep me updated on your trip and I’m sure you will eat & drink your way through the city as it should be done. Enjoy!

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