Florence’s San Niccolo Neighborhood
There are many things we love about a trip to Florence, in particular our good friends and partners who are our representatives in Tuscany! And we’ve written before about some of the best things to see in Florence and also about the beautiful Galleria degli Uffizi. But one of our favorite places to visit in Florence is the San Niccolò neighborhood, a wonderfully winding, hilly part of town that is less touristy than the more crowded parts on the north bank of the Arno River.
Now let’s be clear: Florence is a small town and one of the most popular international destinations in the world, so there is no part of Florence that is not in party aimed at tourists, no corner where you won’t hear English spoken, no restaurant that won’t have foreign language versions of its menu. But San Niccolò remains one of the most “Florentine” of neighborhoods.
It doesn’t hurt that it is nestled between two of my favorite outdoor destinations in Florence, the Giardino di Boboli (part of the Museo del Palazzo Pitti) and the Giardino delle Rose (“Rose Garden”), a beautiful terraced garden overlooking the city, partway up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo. The Giardino delle Rose has the feel of a secret garden, complete with a “secret” door.
In addition to the Rose Garden, if you keep going up past the Porta San Miniato you will arrive at the stunning Piazzale Michelangelo, with its amazing views of the city, and farther up at the sublime basilica of San Miniato al Monte (technically no longer in the San Niccolò neighborhood but on the Monte San Miniato), a serene and contemplative Romanesque work worth of the long climb up.
Of course, shopping is one of the things the San Niccolò neighborhood is known for, in particular the cluster of artisanal workshops fanning out from the area’s most noticeable landmark, the large 14th-century Torre di San Niccolò. This has long been the area for artists, jewelry makers, potters, and tailors.
But we wouldn’t be The International Kitchen if it weren’t also about the food! One of my favorite gelaterias in Florence is in San Niccolò, “Il Gelato di Filo,” which crafts small batches of a limited number of ever-changing seasonal flavors. This is not the place to go to find 50 different varieties, but a dozen truly sublime home-made flavors.
More charming (and more hearty) are the offerings at Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò, right on the main square. It offers traditional Florentine fare that is authentic today as it was one hundred years ago. And finally, our favorite bakery is also in San Niccolò, where you can find out favorite young bakers carrying out the traditions and practices that have been passed down through generations.
What is your favorite part of Florence? Do you like to stick to the main sites, or venture over the river to one of the “Oltr’Arno” neighborhoods? Let us know in the comments or on social media.
Of course, you can enjoy all of Florence’s neighborhoods during either our Florence for the Food Lover cooking vacation or A Classic Tuscan Table at Villa Casagrande, which also features 2 nights in Florence.
If you’re enjoying a longer stay in Florence, it’s also a great starting point for exploring other towns such as on a day trip to Pisa!
By Peg Kern
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