Florence, Italy Itinerary: Exploring The Other Side Of The Arno

If you look at a map of Florence, Italy, you'll see that it's split in two by the Arno River, which is crossed by numerous bridges like the famous Ponte Vecchio. Other than the Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, and Piazza Michelangelo, the southern side of the Arno is much less crowded with tourists, making it a great place to go if you need an escape. Plus, there are some really cool places to explore.

Over the past month, my in-laws have been visiting, so we've had ample opportunity to explore this side of the river with them. And, we live on the southern side of the Arno, so it's our stomping ground and I'm sure we'll become intimately familiar with it in time.

If you feel like getting out of the crowds, but still exploring some amazing sites, head on over to a few of the quarters on the southern side of the Arno: San Niccolo and Santo Spirito (we'll talk about other quarters another time). But don't forget to wear comfortable shoes, because I've got quite a bit of hiking on the suggested agenda!


Things to do:

Bardini Museum:

J and I were far overdue for a date, so we took advantage of the free babysitters (my in-laws) and went out to the Stefano Bardini Museum, which my MIL had recommended. The Bardini Museum is a small museum named after Stefano Bardini, a famous Italian antiques dealer and collector, who owned and updated this building in the late 1800s. Bardini was famous for his arrangements of antiques, based not on age, but on the aesthetics of the pieces together. And in these arrangements, he was a master -- the layout, architecture, and overall impression of the museum was breathtaking.

Until October 23, the Bardini is exhibiting a collection by Glen Brown entitled "Unknown Pleasure." This exhibit was intermixed with other paintings, sculptures, and artifacts collected by Bardini himself, and the curator of the exhibit has done an amazing job in adhering to what must be Bardini's unique style. I especially love the statue of the Virgin Mary directly facing a nude woman painted by Brown. Whoever curated the exhibit certainly has a sense of humor!

The Bardini Museum is not crowded at all, giving you ample space and time to wander around. Also, it is air conditioned -- a major bonus for this really hot summer.

If you are visiting Florence, you obviously must visit the Accademia, but don't pass on visiting the Bardini Museum either -- it is a real stunner. And if you are visiting, I hope you arrive before the 23rd to catch the amazing "Unknown Pleasure" collection by Glen Brown.

You can find the Bardini Museum at Via dei Renai, 37

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The Virgin Mary enjoys front-row seating for a view of this attractive woman's behind.

The Virgin Mary enjoys front-row seating for a view of this attractive woman's behind.

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Now, that is what I call a gallery wall!

Now, that is what I call a gallery wall!

San Miniato al Monte

It might be wise to save a hike up to San Miniato al Monte for a not super hot day, since you'll be climbing up one of the tallest hills in Florence. But, the views from the top are worth the extra sweat from the hike -- trust me. Once at the top, you'll see the stunning marble exterior of the basilica, on which the top features some interesting symbols in green and white marble. San Miniato al Monte is free to visit, and the inside is just as colorful and intricate as the outside. Looking at my photos, I still can't get over how impressive San Miniato al Monte is.

Around San Miniato al Monte is a grove of old cedar trees that feels like a perfect place for a silent reflection. There is also a grassy picnic area, scenic overlook, graveyard, and gift store.

When planning your visit to San Miniato al Monte, keep in mind that it closes for a few hours at lunch time. You can find San Miniato al Monte at Via delle Porte Sante, 34

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Forte di Belvedere

I had been stalking Forte di Belvedere on Instagram prior to our move, because I was really intrigued by the Ytalia exhibit that had been popping up when I searched "Florence." And this was one of the first spots we visited while my sister was here, so I could ogle the contemporary artwork for myself. Though the hike to Forte di Belvedere was really challenging with a stroller, views like this and the incredible artwork were worth it. If you'd like to catch the Ytalia exhibit on display at Forte di Belvedere, visit before October 1.

Forte di Belvedere is also not very crowded even though it is very near the Boboli Gardens. Though this suggested itinerary already includes some serious hikes, do take the time to hike up to Forte di Belvedere for the stunning views and great artwork.

You can find Forte di Belvedere at Via di S. Leonardo, 1. If you are visiting with a stroller, there is an elevator to take you up to the outdoor exhibits such as the ones in the photos above. There is also some parking if you are arriving by car.

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Where to eat:

Bottega de Pasticceria

Oh, how I love Bottega de Pasticceria! I have a more detailed post coming soon about restaurants and cafes in Florence, but Bottega is near enough to Bardini Museum that I have to mention it here. Set in a two storey home, this patisserie is decked out with high ceilings, dark green accents, and a glass pastry counter that is full of memorable sweets and savories. Though Bottega looks as though it might hurt the budget, the prices are actually very reasonable. Plus, those croissants are awesome. They also offer lunch, wine, and sandwiches.

Do note that like many businesses, Bottega de Pasticceria is closed for the month of August. You can find Bottega on Lungarno Francesco Ferrucci, 9C Rosso and you can see more tasty images on their website.

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Zoe

If you are hangry after your visit to the Bardini or one of the other spots on this list, Zoe is a nice bar with ample indoor and outdoor seating just a few doors down from the Bardini. The menu is packed with a surprising choice of salads and sandwiches, and the ones we tried were really tasty. The chicken and bacon salad I had was massive and not the kind of salad you eat and feel hungry 10 minutes later; it was a solid meal that had me feeling full for quite awhile.

Zoe also serves breakfast, dinner, and drinks. You can find Zoe at Via dei Renai, 13.

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Maybe you are visiting Florence and you're looking for a day away from the crowds. Or maybe you are in search of amazing views of the city as well as historical architecture. If so, the southern side of the Arno is the place for you to go. What do you think? Have you visited any of these places?

I'm linking up with the wonderful ladies from the Faraway Files linkup. Come join the fun!

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