The lively neighborhood of Santo Spirito located in the Florentine’s Oltrarno, that is, “beyond the Arno “, is perhaps the only neighborhood where you can still find the authentic soul, popular and artisan, of Florence’s workshops and trattorias, markets and festivals, pleasant walks with fun meetings.
Its center comprises the peculiar, and unchanged over time, tree-lined square, which characterized by the sober facade of the historic Basilica of Santo Spirito, one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture, designed by Brunelleschi. The sacristy of the basilica is of particular interest, designed by Giuliano da Sangallo. The Cenacle of Santo Spirito, which is open next to the church, has a fragment of the Last Supper by Andrea Orcagna.
In the near Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, the Brancacci Chapel retains the most famous cycle of frescoes by Masaccio – a masterpiece of Renaissance painting – alongside to those begun by Masolino in 1424 and finished by Filippino Lippi in 1480.
The Natural Hystory Museum “La Specola” comprises a rich collection of existing animals and a large number of extinct animals. Particularly, it is famous for its collection of wax anatomical models from the seventeenth-century by G. Zumbo, unique in the world for quality and beauty.
Very close to the museum, Palazzo Pitti opens its wings to show the robust and rustic façade. The palace was commissioned by Luca Pitti in 1448. The original project, attributed to Brunelleschi, called for a much smaller building than the one we see now. In 1549 the building was enlarged as its ownership passed to the Medici family. The beautiful courtyard designed by Ammannati dates back to that time. Palazzo Pitti experienced numerous additions and renovations over the centuries: it was place of residence of both the reigning Lorraine family and, when Florence was the capital of Italy, the Savoy Court. Today it houses several museums and galleries, among these the most important is the Palatine Gallery, containing the private collections of the Grand Dukes, with masterpieces dating from the XV to the XVII centuries, including paintings by Titian, Giorgione, Raphael, and Rubens, and many other Italian and foreign masters of painting.
The other museums are the Gallery of Modern Art, the Silver Museum, the Costume Gallery, the Carriage Museum, the Porcelain Museum, the Royal Apartments and the Apartment of the Duchess of Aosta.
On Boboli Hill, Boboli Gardens expand between Palazzo Pitti and Forte Belvedere. It is one of the most beautiful Italian gardens, designed by Tribolo in 1549 and subsequently by Ammannati and Buontalenti. The Fortezza di Belvedere, a beautiful sixteenth-century fort, overlooks the garden and the whole city. It was designed by Buontalenti for Grand Duke Ferdinand I. The ramparts of the Forte offer one of the most beautiful views of the city.
Still on Oltrarno’s rive gauche it is possible to visit Giardino Bardini’s spectacular terracing, which was recently renovated and opened to visitors.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a must-see for tourists. It is the wide panoramic terrace with a view over Florence, realized by Giuseppe Poggi in 1869. In the middle of this plaza bronze copies of Michelangelo’s “David”, and of the four statues of Aurora, Giorno (day), Tramonto (sunset) and Notte (night), stand here, such as on the tombs in the Medici Chapels.
The brilliant Basilica of San Miniato al Monte is located just above this plaza, and it is considered one of the finest examples of Florentine Romanesque. Built between the XI and XIII centuries, it preserves works of great value such as the chapel of the Crucifix by Michelozzo, and the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal, surrounded by decorations by Luca della Robbia. The frescoes by Spinello Aretino, representing stories of St. Benedict, are magnificent.