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Explore Florence's under-the-radar Oltrarno neighborhood.
In heavily touristed Florence, the Oltrarno ("beyond the Arno"), on the Tuscan capital’s south bank, might just be the last neighborhood in the city that remains under-the-radar. Here, artisan workshops, intimate cafés and boutiques thrive even without the foot traffic of Florence’s thousands of visitors. Although it’s been a center for creative makers since the Renaissance, it’s only recently attracted the attention of fashion and style world insiders. And the neighborhood is responding to the increased popularity—the local government recently made over the once traffic-clogged Piazza del Carmine (Oltrarno’s main square) and boutique hotels and innovative eateries have also opened, making it more appealing to visitors than ever before.
Begin a visit to Oltrarno by checking into Soprarno Suites, a small, charming hotel housed in a 16th-century palazzo. The decor reflects the owner’s expert eye for flea market and salvage yard finds, and the majority of guest rooms feature frescoed ceilings and large windows that let in plenty of natural light.
For a caffeine fix, head to Ditta Artigianale Coffee, a modern café where, American-style, you can feel free to linger, rather than gulping down an espresso while standing as the Italians do. The menu includes Aeropress, siphon and pour-over brews. If you prefer a drink of a different sort, Vivanda is a homey, warm wine bar that focuses on organic and biodynamic wines, with over 100 bottles on offer.
Next, check out the artisan workshops for which Oltrarno is known, including Stefano Berner, which makes handmade shoes in a variety of materials like vintage 18th-century reindeer skin.
Campuccio, meanwhile, sells one-of-a-kind jewelry and leather goods designed by Florence’s young creatives, and the wood-carving workshop Castorina is worth a stop for its huge selection of over 5,000 objects, including picture frames and carved figurines—the ideal place to find a gift or memento from your time in Oltrarno.