PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
The café lined Piazza della Signoria sits in front of Palazzo Vecchio and is the city’s most popular square. It’s strewn with statues including a replica of Michelangelo’s David. The piazza is a popular meeting place and is at its liveliest best in the evenings, when the locals, tourists, street performers and musicians throng the piazza. It’s a perfect place for people watching. The area around Piazza della Signoria plays host to the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, two of the city’s top attractions. The district has a maze of cute medieval alleys and thankfully not all of them are overrun with tourists. To the west is Via dei Tornabuoni, a street known for its high end shopping. The Piazza della Signoria neighourhood is central, charming and a good area to rest your head.
Named after the magnificent Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, the Duomo district is a tourist hotspot. Not surprising since it’s the historical centre of Florence and it’s where most of the action is. The streets here are filled with cafes, restaurant, shops and souvenir stores. For more upscale shopping make your way to Via Calzaiuoli which is dotted with high end fashion stores. The Duomo district is also very convenient for visiting the Accademia Gallery (home to Michelangelo’s David) to the north and the Piazza della Signoria and the famed Uffizi Gallery in the south. The district has its share of small streets which are relatively quiet. You’ll be spending a good amount of time in this area, so it makes a lot of sense to stay here. Tip: Pick your restaurants carefully; there are quite a few mediocre ones here.
The vibrant San Lorenzo neighbourhood lies close to the train station and just north of the Duomo. The highlight of this district is the huge indoor food market and the colourful street market where you can buy just about anything, at bargain prices of course. The best time to visit the market is in the morning, when the air is cool, the vendors are more relaxed and the crowds are missing. The neighbourhood is also home to the Medici Chapels, the resting place of the aristocrats. San Lorenzo can be chaotic but its inexpensive eateries and close proximity to the Duomo makes it a reasonable good district to stay in.
Oltrarno sits across the Arno river. It’s quieter, more residential and home to numerous antique stores, small trattorias, local craftsmen and their workshops. The centrepiece of Oltrarno is the lovely Piazza Santo Spirito which is packed with bars and cafes. Also located in this neighbourhood is the grand Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, a sprawling park which sits on a hill close to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. The daily markets in this district are worth a visit, so is Piazzale Michelangelo which has incredible views of the city. Oltrarno is a nice district to stay in if you want to some quaint local atmosphere away from the tourist glare. Tip: Walk up the picturesque lane of Costa di San Giorgio and visit Galileo’s former home near the top (No. 19).