Updated: Sep 8, 2022
I like to focus the neighborhoods in Florence. Above is a Florentia, what Florence was called in Roman times. This map shows the first walls of Florence when the Romans lived here.
Above is a map of Florence showing the city walls from Roman times (brown), Dante’s time (yellow) and from 1400 century and later (blue).
The map above shows the quartiere (quarters, neighborhoods) of Florence. There are four official neighborhoods. The red is Santa Maria Novella. The green is San Giovanni. The blue is Santa Croce and the white is Santo Spirito. These are the teams of the Calcio storico, which takes place on June 24th in Piazza Santa Croce. It’s a mix of soccer and really violent rugby.
If you follow the walls along the blue circle in the previous map, you'll see P. or Porta and a name like Porta San Gallo, Porta Croce, Porta San Niccolo, Porta San Miniato, Porta San Giorgio, Porta Romana, Porta San Frediano and finally Porta al Prato. They all connect to Fortezza da Basso which is on the other side of the train station. The Viale, or avenue around these piazze and porte are where the walls once stood. All those Porte (doors) above are the original doors to the city.
When the walls were torn down all that was left were the doors (le porte) to the city. Similarly to Castiglion Fiorentino, they have doors to the city and some towns still have the walls around it, like Castiglion. They have doors that point in the direction of the cities. In Castiglion Fiorentino, there is Porta Fiorentino which points in the direction of Florence and Porta Romana which points in the direction to Rome. Just like in Florence, there's Porta Romana, it's facing towards Rome. Porta al Prato is facing towards Prato.
Near Porta Romana, you can see the massive doors that are still intact to this day. There are two doors, one way traffic into the city and one way traffic out. It's a one way street because the streets are small in Italy and the cars are small, however the buses are much bigger.
What’s amazing about Florence is that even if there are traditionally 4 neighborhoods, there are many smaller neighborhoods within them. On my podcast I talked about a few, I won’t rehash them all, I’ll just mention the 4 main ones.
San Giovanni is where the Duomo and baptistery are located. That is the green section on the map above. Inside this neighborhood are a lot of museums like the Galleria dell'Accademia. There’s Mercato Centrale, one of the oldest open air markets in Italy. They sell daily groceries on the bottom floor and on the newly renovated top floor, there are many diverse restaurants and bars to enjoy the Tuscan delicacies for lunch & dinner. Other smaller neighborhoods inside San Giovanni are San Marco which is a huge bus stop piazza. If you are visiting Fiesole, bus number 7 leaves from this piazza. Piazza Annunziata is next to San Marco, they have markets and a festival called Rificolona every September 7th. It is the festival of paper lanterns where the pilgrimage starts at Piazza Santa Felicita and ends in this piazza.
Santa Croce is the blue neighborhood. Santa Croce is known for the leather shops around the piazza. There are plenty of boutique shops and delicious restaurants around this famous piazza. Santa Croce church has tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Dante. Some of them are not actually buried in this church, it is just a memorial. Other neighborhoods in Santa Croce are Sant'Ambrogio. This is one of my favorite areas. There is Mercato Sant'Ambrogio where they sell fruits and vegetables outside the market and inside there are restaurants and other goodies. I like this area because it is unique and has a great vibe about it. Piazza D'Azeglio is a residential area near Sant'Ambrogio. This piazza has a park in it where I used to take the girls I babysat after school. It's peaceful here.
Santa Maria Novella neighborhood is probably the busiest neighborhood. The train station is located here and also the buses and trams all meet up near the station. Porta al Prato is in this neighborhood. I would refer to this area Porta al Prato even though zone isn't considered that on the map. What's famous about this neighborhood is Piazza della Repubblica. This piazza is the most elegant piazza in Florence, in my opinion. With the 4 historic cafes that line the piazza and the high end shops and hotel that line the other side, like the Savoy Hotel, Hugo Boss, Guess and the 4 story department store La Rinascente. My favorite church, Santi Apostoli is along Borgo Santi Apostoli. The oldest pharmacy and herbalist shop, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, is along Via della Scala. They can trace their roots back to 1221 when Dominican friars founded the convent of Santa Maria Novella, and began to cultivate - among other things - a garden.
The final neighborhood, Santo Spirito is the white quarter on the other side of the Arno River. This area has amazing and peaceful piazzas. Piazza Pitti is where Palazzo Pitti resides. This piazza is basically the Palazzo however when the palazzo is behind you, there are some great shops and wine bars to visit after you see Boboli Gardens. Then there is Piazza Santo Spirito which is where I used to hang out in my 20s and 30s living in Florence. This was and still is a happening piazza with bars, wine bars and restaurants. Piazza del Carmine is another piazza that showcases the gorgeous church of Santa Maria del Carmine where there is the famous Brancacci chapel started by Masolino, taken over by Masaccio and then finished by Filippino Lippi when Masaccio suddenly died.
When I lived in Florence, I explored all parts of the city especially in the lesser known neighborhoods where I lived, Statuto and Pertola. My retreats and trip consulting have these bespoke experiences included in each itinerary I create.
I've created five neighborhood guides in my shop to purchase who are visiting Florence for the first time. I share what to see, do and where to eat in each neighborhood. It's an automatic PDF download that you can easily upload to your devices. I enjoy sharing the secrets I've learned while living in my beloved Florence.
Map photos are from the book Strolling through Florence by Franco Ciarleglio