The Novoli district in Florence, modern and historic buildings in the warm lights of the sunset.

Beyond UNESCO: modern Novoli

Stroll to discover Florence’s fifth district, with its many university students, former industrial areas and ethnic restaurants.

To visit a city of art like Florence sustainably means alternating time spent in the historic centre and the popular points of interest with the discovery of lesser-known places (that are no less interesting!). So, let's allow David and Venus to breathe a little and head to one of Florence's most populated and lively neighbourhoods, Novoli.

Parco San Donato

Things to see in Novoli!

The university campus, San Donato Park and the courthouse

When we imagine Florence, we think of the Renaissance. Yet, Novoli embodies something entirely different: a modern and industrial soul. Since 2002, all those studying social sciences (economics, law and political sciences) at the University of Florence have set up camp in the Novoli University complex. Three faculties, numerous study rooms, a canteen, and an enormous library have revolutionized student life in Florence and rejuvenated the neighbourhood.

You'll find a green and futuristic vision behind the university complex. Your eyes are first cast towards San Donato Park, eight hectares created following the environmental and urban redevelopment of the disused Fiat Auto industrial settlement of Novoli. Then there's the iconic Palazzo di Giustizia, or the Tribunale Nuovo, the second-largest courthouse after that of Turin, which has been here since 2012. The controversial architecture has its haters (in 2011, VirtualTourist placed it fifth in its list of the ten ugliest buildings in the world!), and then some love it! What are your thoughts?

A few meters from the courthouse, you can find Novoli's ample fruit and vegetable market that dates to the 1920s, created due to the historic Sant'Ambrogio Market's inability to meet the significant demand. It can be accessed on Tuesdays and Fridays from 12.30 pm to 7 pm, with thousands of fruits and vegetables and a lively cross-section of the city.

Polo Universitario di Novoli

Manifattura Tabacchi, ethnic restaurants and Stazione Leopolda

Returning towards Cascine Park and passing Piazza Puccini, the heart of the Novoli district, you come across one of the largest regeneration projects carried out in Florence over the last ten years: Manifattura Tabacchi. The vast space covers an entire block. Formerly a tobacco factory, it closed in 2001. It has since become a contemporary and multifunctional centre where you can find events, bars, art, fashion, design, shopping and even apartments!

Finally, returning towards Porta al Prato, you can stop to eat in Via Ponte alle Mosse, choosing from the numerous ethnic restaurants, many of which are Peruvian, which is unsurprising given that it's the third-largest foreign community in Florence. Finish your neighbourhood discovery with Stazione Leopolda, the first station in Florence, which was inaugurated in 1848. The railway ran towards Livorno and was decommissioned in 1860. Today, it's a multipurpose space and home to Fabbrica Europa (a contemporary art centre), political conferences, congresses and events.

Manifattura Tabacchi

Where is the Novoli area?

Novoli is in the northwest of Florence, between Peretola airport and the beginning of the historic centre outlined by Porta al Prato, one of the oldest surviving gates to the city that dates back to 1285. It forms part of District 5, where the Rifredi station is located (many people arrive in Florence right here!), and the big Careggi hospital. If we were to start from Santa Maria Novella station, we would find ourselves in Novoli after about a forty-minute walk or by travelling just a few stops on the T2 tram, which reaches the airport.

Novoli is also the ideal starting point for exploring the surroundings of north Florence, such as Calenzano, Vaglia and Sesto Fiorentino at the foot of Monte Morello, Campi Bisenzio and the Florentine industrial area.

Photo credits:

Parco San Donato:

Polo Universitario di Novoli:

Manifattura Tabacchi: