This is a brief description of the main sites in the neighborhood. I am working to provide more detailed information and pictures. 

 

The Old Bridge Apartment is in the best location to explore the city.

Firenze can be divided in two main areas: Diquaddarno -the right bank of the river-, and Diladdarno -the left bank of the river-, also known as the Oltrarno neighborhood.

My apartment is located in the Oltrarno neighborhood (Diladdarno), just steps from the Ponte Vecchio, one of the bridges connecting the two main areas of the city. This is why I consider it useful to describe the area surrounding the apartment by following this main division.

Let's get started with the Oltrarno neighborhood!

 

Two are the places in Firenze deeply rooted in my heart: Ponte Vecchio and Boboli Gardens.

I had the privilege to grow up in this area, in the Oltrarno neighborhood. Boboli Gardens were the large playground where all the kids of the neighborhood flocked in the afternoon to play, running in the alleys and around the fountains. The entrance to the garden was free, and we played totally unaware of the historic importance of the spot.

Ponte Vecchio was always before my eyes: I have countless memories of afternoons spent doing my homework in the actual living area of the apartment – the former briefing room of my father's law firm. My father used to work next room. Gazing at the bridge while writing my Italian papers was not an option!

This was my privilege: the magnificence of these two special places was part of my everyday life. 

 

 

PONTE VECCHIO

 

It's my first special place! Built in the 1st century b.C. it was the first bridge to cross the Arno in Florence. Damaged and repaired several times, in 1345 its distinctive shape with 3 ample arches and tiny shops lining its sides was finally set.

Its location made it the perfect place where butchers, fishmongers and tanners had their shops: they could throw their waste in the river without polluting the city.

When the Medici moved from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti in 1550, the Grandduke Cosimo I decided they needed a private route that connected their new Palazzo with the Uffizi - the government's headquarters. He called Giorgio Vasari to built an elevated enclosed passageway over the Ponte Vecchio, the Vasari Corridor, and a few years later Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers were allowed to have their shops on the bridge.

In modern times the Ponte Vecchio brilliantly survived the bombing of World War II and the flood of 1966.

This is why as a reminder of the strength of our city and a witness of our history, the Ponte Vecchio has become the iconic symbol of Florence.

 

 

 

 

 BOBOLI GARDENS AND PITTI PALACE

 

 

The Boboli Gardens aren't simply my childhood playground and my second favourite place, they are a superb exemple of classic Italian garden that extends from the Pitti Palace to Porta Romana.

Their original nucleus dates back to 1418, when Luca Pitti bought some land in the Oltrarno to build a magnificent palace. He thought he could compete with the Medici. A century later the whole property was purchased by the grandduke Cosimo I, was enlarged and changed to become the official residence of the Medicis'.

Created and developed along 400 years, from the 15th to the 19th century, Boboli Gardens are a magnificent example of “green architecture”, with symmetrically trimmed hedges, meadows, gravel paths, fountains, ponds, statues, grottos and an amphiteatre.

These artworks are a joint moment of art, symbolism and hidden meanings; they are both celebrative and evocative. Paying a visit to these gardens requires not less than three hours. To view a map of the Gardens click here.

 

 

The Pitti Palace was built in the second half of the 15th century probably on a project of Filippo Brunelleschi for Luca Pitti. When the grandduke Cosimo I purchased it in 1550, he chose it as the new official Grand Ducal residence, and for two centuries the Palazzo was the symbol of the Medicis' well established power over Tuscany.

The Grand Ducal dynasty was estinguished in 1737; the Palazzo was then the residence of two more important dynasties: the Lorraine Habsburg, and the Savoy (our monarchy).

Today Palazzo Pitti houses several important museums: the Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, the Porcelain Museum and the Museum of Carriages.

Click here for the official website of Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, Uffizi Gallery.

 

 

Let's cross the Ponte Vecchio and reach the Diquaddarno area, the right bank of the river.

 

PALAZZO VECCHIO

 

 

A place where history and art are bound together. Built between the end of the 13° century/ beginning of the 14° on top of a Roman theatre, Palazzo Vecchio hio was originally conceived as a fortress to house the city governing body, and since then it has always been the symbol of civil power. In 1540 Cosimo I chose it as the new official residence of the Medicis': the Palazzo della Signoria. The palazzo underwent massive works of renovation: important artists such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Vasari and Leonardo da Vinci were called to decorate its majestic rooms, the “Quartieri Monumentali”. When 10 years later Cosimo moved to the new residence, Palazzo Pitti, he officially renamed it Palazzo Vecchio, the Old Palace.

Visiting Palazzo Vecchio it's like time travelling: from the Archaeological site that hosts the remains of the Roman theatre in the underground level, to the Renaissance beauty of the upper levels: the salone dei Cinquecento, the Apartments of Eleonora of Toledo, the Hall of Priors, the Studiolo of Francesco I, and the magnificent tower, the Torre di Arnolfo.

 

 

 

 

THE UFFIZI GALLERY

Among the most important museums in the world, Cosimo I had the Uffizi built by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 to host the government headquarters under his direct supervision. That strip of land was then known as Rione della Baldracca: a slum of run-down buildings, brothels and tavernsalways busy with tramps, drunkards and prostitutes. Cosimo had it demolished and replaced it with the new center of the political and administrative life of the city. The Rione della Baldracca moved across the river, in the Oltrarno neighborhood. In 1581 Francesco I, son of Cosimo, decided to close the loggia on the last floor to use it as a personal gallery for his collection of 15th century paintings, ancient and modern statues. Over the years, more sections of the palace were employed to exhibit paintings and sculptures collected or commissioned by the Medici. Nowadays the Uffizi host a collection of works by artists such as Raffaello, Botticelli, Giotto, Tiziano, Cimabue, Leonardo da Vinci, and many more, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance.  Click here for the official website of Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, the Uffizi Gallery.

 

 

THE VASARI CORRIDOR

 

 It's a half-mile-long passageway that connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti.

Built in 1565 by order of Cosimo I to the design of Giorgio Vasari it is now a small museum displaying a unique collection of paintings dating back from the 16th and 17th centuries onward, as well as modern artists' self-portraits.

Its privileged position that begins in the Palazzo Vecchio, snaking along the river bank, across the Ponte Vecchio and over the houses in the Oltrarno district to finally join the Palazzo Pitti, allows its visitors to enjoy particular views of some of the most beautiful areas of the city centre from its small round windows.