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Cross the Arno


Dince the Quattrocento, water has flowed under the bridges of the Arno. And if the city resonates forever with Renaissance; if its intrinsic beauty remains so miraculous that one envisions it at the golden hour in the reflections of the river or in a panorama from the terraces of San Miniato; if its museums are still the most beautiful in the world, lining up on their picture rails and in their courtyards Botticelli and Lippi, Raphaël and Michelangelo, Donatello and Titian, Fra Angelico and Leonardo da Vinci; if everything was written and said from here, from Machiavelli to Dante via EM Forster and his room with a view; if humanism was born in this city and nowhere else; if the memory of the Medici, of their aesthetics, of their intrigues is still vivid; if the Italian spoken there is the purest on the peninsula… Florence has never been content to be just an essential stop on the Grand Tour or a tourist destination. She never gave up living, laughing, creating, rustling.

All in all, all you need to do is step aside to rediscover it: cross the Oltrarno, get lost towards Santo Spirito, push towards San Niccolò, listen to craftsmen, shoemakers, restorers, cabinetmakers, discover a bookshop, a Natural History Museum, Brancacci Chapel and Michelangelo’s First Christ. Decide to stay on this shore. Do not leave. GD

The Torrigiani garden, secret of the “residenza d’epoca” Ad Astra.

Secret garden Ad Astra

On the edge of the Santo Spirito and San Frediano districts, the Torrigiani garden, on the Oltrarno side, is one of those well-kept secrets of Florence. Seven hectares invisible from the outside… except for this Florentine family who still lives there, and for the lucky customers of this bed and breakfast. In this opulent 16th century houseand century, the artist Betty Soldi, her husband, Matteo Perduca, interior designer, and the architect Francesco Maestrelli opened in 2015 this “residenza d’epoca”, a term that includes accommodation in listed buildings. Here, no room service or gym, but 14 bedrooms, all different, and a cozy living room with a 270 square meter terrace, sunny most of the day, which overlooks the deserted garden. If the volumes, the chandeliers and the frescoes on the ceilings are original, the decoration rather plays the (relatively) modern card. Like a Florentine apartment, it tastefully mixes vintage furniture from the 1950s and 1960s, old posters and pieces designed by the owners. The breakfast, like theappetizer, is taken in the living room by the large fireplace, with its neatly stocked library and yellow velvet sofa. The rooms display the same skilfully orchestrated eclecticism: first-rate bedding, stately bathtub, air conditioning and bedside lamps designed by local artisan Il Bronzetto. Each of them reveals vintage pieces, such as framed Pucci silk squares or a magazine rack with old issues of the New Yorker. The best rooms? Those overlooking the garden, including number 3, with a large balcony and its aluminum seats, but also numbers 8 and 9, installed in the garden outbuilding, with deckchairs in the shade of the trees. Difficult to motivate yourself to find the crowd…

Double room from €130 with breakfast. Via del Campuccio, 53. www.adastraflorence.it

Beach on the Arno near the San Niccolò tower.

Glamorous plate Atelier dei Nerli

Following in the footsteps of his father, the designer Roberto Cavalli, Daniele Cavalli has become one of the figures of the city. Artist and designer, the young thirty-year-old opened this place between a glamorous restaurant and an art gallery. Games of mirrors, burgundy tiles, yellow velvet echo the modernity of chef Gianluca Camilotto’s proposal, which plays with local classics. A place to see and be seen.

From €16 to €34 per dish. Piazza dei Nerli, 8-9/R. Such. : +39 055 760 2982. http://atelierdenerli.it

At the Green light Torrigiani greenhouse

In the Santo Spirito neighborhood, it’s a refreshing spot to go green. A bistro open on sunny days, set in a historic garden between statues, fountains and pergolas, where you come to drink a ambrato and tonic, with Martini, lime and garden sage. A bucolic atmosphere that can be found in the annex, Serre Torrigiani in Piazzetta, in the heart of the historic town. We nibble there crostini and paninis on a small tree-lined square.

From 7 to 10 € the dish. Via Gusciana, 21. Tel. : +39 328 966 6268. https://serretorrigiani.it

Sweet Pasticceria Giorgio

Here is an excellent reason to move a little away from the center to get lost in the quiet streets of the Soffiano district. Considered one of the best pastry shops in Florence since it opened in 1972, Giorgio is particularly renowned for its crostata alla frutta and its schiacciata alla fiorentinafilled with Chantilly cream.

Via Duccio di Buoninsegna, 36. Tel. : +39 055 710 849. www.pasticceriagiorgio.it

At the Palazzo Pitti, the center of Italian couture in the 1950s and 1980s.

At the bakery S. Forno

This is one of the best bakeries in town, renowned for its selection of breads. In the morning, Florentines line up for pastries, at lunchtime for sandwiches and quiches, which can be enjoyed on site.

Via Santa Monaca, 3/R. Such. : +39 055 239 8580

In perfume Sileno Cheloni

He is one of the masters of perfume, who is favored by Gucci and Richard Ginori. Sileno Cheloni works to compose tailor-made juices in his workshop-boudoir nestled in the heart of the city. In addition to his collection, and his floral bestseller Reginella, he also develops fragrant jewelry inspired by medieval amulets. You can treat yourself to a session at the “profumoir”, an olfactory library, to compose your own fragrance.

Via San Niccolò, 72/R. Such. : +39 375 584 8649. www.silenocheloni.com

Engrave The ippogrifo

In this shop-workshop, Gianni Raffaelli, accompanied by his wife Francesca and his son Duccio, engraves his drawings by hand on a copper plate then prints them on paper, which he then colors himself, before to number and sign them. His themes range from architectural details of Florence to Italian coffee pots, parrots and botany.

Via Santo Spirito, 5/R. Such. : +39 055 213 255. www.ippogrifostampedarte.com

The Rose Garden extends in terraces in the Oltrarno.

masculine plural Santo Spirito 9

The artisanal men’s fashion boutique imagined by the Florentine designer Federico Curradi, who worked for Roberto Cavalli and Iceberg. His tie-dye signature, its gold-dipped ceramic jewelry buttons as well as the jewelry made from Richard Ginori porcelain, everything is made locally.

Via Santo Spirito, 9. Tel. : +39 055 012 8273. https://federicocurradi.com

Curiosities Studio Puck

This artisanal studio plays delicious cabinets of curiosities. From his hand-painted serigraphs inspired by old books, he has created a whole range of tableware: crockery, vases, furniture entirely made in the Florentine workshop. His favorite motives? The fauna and flora, with flamingos, palm trees, corals, parrots…

Via Santo Spirito, 28/R. Such. : +39 055 280 954. www.studiopuck.art

At the eye WooClass

He’s an unexpected craftsman around San Frediano. Opened by the German designer Jochen Andreas Zeh and his wife, Lisa Gabellini, this workshop offers spectacle frames made with several layers of natural wood. Character models that are as light as they are durable (in every sense of the word). Each pair, made in Florence, including the best-selling Pietro, with its two wood colors, follows a meticulous process that includes some 80 steps. The scraps are now used for a line of upcycled jewelry.

Via dell’Orto, 23/R. Such. : +39 055 051 7397. https://wooclass.it

Traditional shoemaker in the Oltrarno.

put on shoes Stefano Bemer

Legend has it that Daniel Day-Lewis, trained by this Florentine shoemaker, almost quit his acting career to get into shoes. The anecdote tells how fascinating it is to watch the artisans working in the middle of the shop. Derbys, ankle boots, moccasins in the best leathers are always handmade and delivered in wooden boxes. Like good wine.

Via San Niccolò, 2. Tel. : +39 055 046 0476. https://stefanobemer.com

Miscellaneous Albrici

The family shop originally only offered antiques including apothecary vases and Murano glass candlesticks. Since then, fashion has colonized this row of spaces laden with paintings, armchairs and trinkets with a high-end vintage selection, from Pucci to Prada, via local craftsmen, such as the shoemaker Mannina.

Via dei Serragli, 20/R. Such. : +39 055 211 095. http://albrici.com

Relate Giannini & Kuwata Workshop

Lapo Giannini was born in Florence into a family of bookbinders, Michiko Kuwata grew up in Tokyo and settled here in 2002. Together, they opened this bookbinding workshop which strives to preserve Florentine craftsmanship while bringing the meticulousness and Japanese aesthetics. Their creative duo are among the best craftsmen in Europe, according to Homo Faber, the showcase for fine craftsmanship.

Borgo San Frediano, 133/R. Such. : +39 055 532 1525

Living room of the Casa Guidi, where the poets Robert and Elizabeth Browning lived from 1847 to 1861.

Sleep at the museum Casa Guidi

It is the former apartment of the poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who settled there after their secret marriage from 1847 to 1861. The 15th century buildingand century, former residence of the Ridolfis, whose coat of arms still adorns the door, has not changed much, neither has the interior. Following the wishes of their son, Pen Browning, the successive owners – The Browning Society, then Eton College – carried out extensive research work, drawing inspiration in particular from a painting in the living room painted by George Mignaty in 1861, to recreate the atmosphere of the residence of these English globetrotters who fell in love with the city. Today, between April and November, the place is available on certain days for visits, others for rental. It offers a moment suspended in time, in an opulent and uncluttered chic, with floor tiles and carpets on the floor, paintings on the walls and a library of choice.

From €1,122 for three nights. Piazza San Felice, 8. www.landmarktrust.org.uk

Grand Tour in Florence

Mixologist or newspaper editor, perfumer or bookseller, museum owner or chef, the real Florentines deliver their addresses for this new stage of the Grand Tour du Point while feathers of the newspaper and art historian guide you in the footsteps of the Medici and their favorite artists, explore the last refuges of the Bonapartes on the banks of the Arno, open the gates of secret gardens. Style and culture itineraries with 150 haunts. The taste of Florence has never been so vivid.

100 pages, 8.90 euros.

Robert HAIDINGER/LAIF-REA – SP/AD ASTRA – TONDINI Domenico / hemis.fr – Gilles Denis – The Landmark TRUST – Alamy Stock Photo