Florence's Districts

more than a year ago
Over the centuries, districts of Florence have been divided and named in any number of fun and sometimes confusing ways. We like to think of the historic centre as the district surrounding the Piazza del Duomo, with its monumental cathedral and multiple museums, and then a bunch of other other old-school neighbourhoods which take their names after Florence's other main churches. Generally the city is divided by the districts on either side of the Arno River. On the right bank you’ll find the highest concentration of must-see historical sites, the train station and several market places. The right bank tends to be busier in the day time and while the districts of the Oltrarno at the 'other side of the Arno River' move at a slower daytime pace, but offer wonderful bar-life once the sun goes down. You’ll have no problem making your way to the district that surrounds the Duomo, but take a moment to find out which of the others best fit your style.

The Duomo District

Wonderful day at Piazza della Signoria © Wiki Commons / Zolli
Like an 'intro to Western Civilization' textbook come to life, the concentration of great art and architecture is jawdropping in this most central point of the city. Winding streets house museums, hotels, gastronomic delights, fine shopping, and, sadly, a healthy dose of tourist traps. While you'll want to skip those, you won’t want to miss walking by the Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall, to name just a few of the spots that make this a must-see district.

Santo Spirito & San Niccolò

Church Santo Spirito © Wiki Commons / Lucarelli
Wonderful architecture and a zest for life put this most famous of Oltrarno neighbourhoods on the map. Gastronomic and bar life in Santo Spirito mix together beautifully following a visit to the nearby Pitti Palace. If you're just after a stroll, several churches are worth popping into, especially Brunelleschi’s Basilica di Santo Spirito. Hidden in plain sight, San Niccolò is our favourite neighbourhood to spend time in when we're in town. Its mixture of hip and quaint feels perfectly Florentine and offers ample opportunities for little neighbourhood discoveries when on the way to and from more discovered spots like the Boboli gardens and Piazzale Michelangelo.

Santa Croce & Sant’Ambrogio

One of the must see attractions Santa Croce © Wiki Commons / Diana Ringo
Santa Croce is marked by the superlative piazza (our favourite in Florence) and church of Santa Croce, where you can find frescoes by Giotto and the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo! Meanwhile, Sant’Ambrogio is marked by the delectable Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio where we love to dine while soaking in the colours of this splendid and laid-back neighbourhood. These adjacent districts can be grouped together on account of a similar respect they share for neighbourhood traditions that often eludes the town’s most trafficked areas.

San Lorenzo & San Marco

Marvellous Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana © Wiki Commons
No guide would be complete without the inclusion of these ultra important neighbourhoods to the city of Florence. San Lorenzo houses the Cappelle Medicee (Medici Chapels) which is the resting place of several great leaders of the Medici clan. The Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy) was designed by Michelangelo and is also naturally filled with sculptures authored by the Renaissance master. Here is where you will also find the massive Mercato Centrale and nearby leather market of San Lorenzo, which mostly sells mostly dubious goods, but also the occasional gem. Getting stuck in the crowds can be especially exhausting in San Lorenzo and the areas surrounding the nearby Santa Maria Novella train station, which as a rule of thumb should be avoided when possible. San Marco, which is less seedy than San Lorenzo, is best known on account of the Accademia Gallery, where you will find Michelangelo’s original David. However the neighbourhood is in and of itself a pretty charming place, especially in the areas surrounding the University of Florence.


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