If we’re going to be picky, San Niccolò isn’t really a neighbourhood, or rather it’s not one of the four quartieri - Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni, Santa Croce and Santo Spirito - into which the historic centre is split. But San Niccolò is a neighbourhood in the modern meaning of the word and it’s a clearly defined area of the Oltrarno, in the southeast corner of the city.
San Niccolò is a jewel nestled between the Arno river and the evocative hill slopes that lead up to Piazzale Michelangelo and Forte Belvedere, between the riverside roads that run as far as the Ponte Vecchio and the wide open space of piazza Ferrucci, by Ponte San Niccolò, where scenic tree-lined avenues sweep up towards the Piazzale.
An eclectic neighbourhood
San Niccolò is a maze of narrow little streets where wandering from atelier to local eatery is pure pleasure. Charming thoroughfares like via de’ Bardi and via de’ Renai, the impressive steps of Monte alle Croci and art studios off via San Niccolò make this medieval corner of Florence a joy to visit. It’s also a place where you can still see the ancient city walls, in the main destroyed around Florence during the 19th-century urban renewal project by architect Giuseppe Poggi. It’s also home to two fantastic museums, Museo Bardini and Museo Casa Siviero, as well as countless historic buildings, like Palazzo Serristori, situated along the riverside road of the same time, the former home of philanthropist Nicola Demidoff, who gave his name to the adjacent piazza.
On the subject of piazza Demidoff, check out Bar Necchi. This is where six times-Oscar nominated Italian director Mario Monicelli decided to set the bar owned by one of the lead characters of his film Amici Miei. (Negroni is its name today.)
San Niccolò boasts a happening nightlife with its many restaurants, bars and pubs, where you can eat dinner, enjoy an aperitivo, grab a pint or have a drink with friends. At sunset the neighbourhood comes alive, letting go of its more traditional side that’s prevails during daylight hours. San Niccolò is one of the few areas of the city that exudes the true spirit of Florence with its down-to-earth and vaguely folksy atmosphere. You can feel it from behind the characteristic shutters, but the evening gives way to a dynamic and upbeat ambience, a gathering place for young locals and outsiders alike.
Check it out in the summer when the riverside lets rip with the city’s only urban beach known as Easy Living.
San Niccolò Tower
One of the neighbourhood’s main attractions is the tower – or rather the gate. We say that because although knows it as San Niccolò Tower, it’s only because of its present-day setup. Erected in 1324, originally it was one of the gates providing access to Florence, just like other city gates Porta al Prato and Porta alla Croce. In the summer, it can be visited on a guided tour.