An across-the-Arno alternative: easy living in the Santo Spirito neighborhood
The vibrant Santo Spirito neighborhood.
Once considered off-the-beaten-path, the vibrant Santo Spirito neighborhood has picked up significant steam in recent years, becoming a hub for all things leisurely and laid-back.
A quick walk over the Ponte Santa Trinita from the right bank of the Arno River, it’s within a few paces of the sprawling Palazzo Pitti.
Its central piazza is home to the neighborhood’s namesake basilica, famous for its Brunelleschi and Michelangelo associations, but equally beloved by the locals and visitors who linger on its stone steps, chatting and sipping Spritzes on warm nights.
Walkable and with a village feel, the neighborhood is a go-to for groups meeting up on Saturdays, friends catching up over coffee and families walking their dogs - it is warm and familiar, plus packed to the brim with both old-school artisans and boundary-pushing new businesses.
Here are some of the best ways to savor Santo Spirito.
Morning market start
Grab a coffee in one of the charming bars around Sdrucciolo de’ Pitti or Piazza Santo Spirito - in the latter location, you’re likely to find open-air seating in warm weather.
Then hit the square for some market-perusing and Instagram-snapping (tag #DestinationFlorence). On most weekday mornings, with the exception of some holidays, you’ll find a small group of vegetable and cheese vendors touting their products in piazza Santo Spirito, with loyal locals swooping in to score the freshest bits.
If you happen to be in the ‘hood on the second or third Sunday of the month, expect more action: the second typically brings a full-day market of crafts and artisan goods, while the third is a festive occasion known as the Fierucola, featuring mostly food and wine vendors, with some crafts and plants thrown in for good measure.
Lunch and afternoon leisure
When midday hunger strikes, you’ll find no shortage of Florentine trattorie - family-owned, modestly-priced restaurants with quintessentially Tuscan recipes in this area.
Trattoria Sant’Agostino is one of our top picks for its young and dynamic staff and their commitment to hospitality, but you’ll find a host of options on both main drags (borgo San Jacopo, via Santo Spirito, via Romana) and side streets and squares (via Sant’Agostino, via Maffia, piazza della Passera)
Post-lunch, have a wander down the historic via Maggio for a peek inside some of Florence’s top art galleries, antique shops and ateliers.
The street has a dedicated association that frequently hosts events getting all of the area shops and galleries involved, particularly around the holiday season. You’ll also find artisan studios and boutiques for all budgets dotted around the neighborhood on streets like Sdrucciolo de’ Pitti and via dello Sprone.
Wind down with pre-dinner wine
Wine lovers will find the Santo Spirito area teeming with some of the Renaissance city’s top-reputed wine bars.
Craving some pre-dinner nibbles, too?
Our preferred wine bar picks in the area serve made-to-match bites and dishes designed to complement the wine, rather than the reverse. The food is still top-notch, but the wine is what really shines in spots like Il Santino, an intimate hole-in-the-wall on the edge of via Santo Spirito.
In the winter, it’s a warming watering hole; in what locals call the “bella stagione” (the “beautiful season”, usually referring to late spring and summer), lively crowds spill out into the street, friends taking turns at the small tables outside.
Want to sip with a view instead?
Stop by the elegant but homey Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina, where Palazzo Pitti plays backdrop. Whether seated inside or on the terrace, you can’t beat the Medici mood, the knowledgeable staff and the taste of Tuscany in your glass (though you can sample some fantastic small producers from other regions here, too).
If you’re looking for something a little lower-key, find the Buontalenti fountain on the corner where busy Borgo San Jacopo begins. Veer up via dello Sprone and you’ll end up in piazza della Passera, a postcard-perfect square with a local bar, gelateria and several tasty restaurants.
Around the corner from piazza della Passera is via Toscanella, a hidden street that’s nonetheless become a hotbed of street art and contemporary creativity.
The street is home to a secret restaurant that plays host to an unforgettable experience: dinner in a typical Tuscan setting, followed by an opera performance in the nearby St. Mark’s English Church (classics such as La Bohème, La Traviata, Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro and Madama Butterfly are usually in the lineup).
Not up for a night at the opera or a long and leisurely trattoria dinner?
Piazza Santo Spirito and the surrounding streets are some of the city’s prime corners for people watching.
Grab a drink and a bite from one of the many area cafes and bars and watch the theatre of everyday life unfold all around you. For something in-between, try the Florentine take on the tapas tradition. A stone’s throw from piazza Santo Spirito, restaurant-cocktail bar Italian Tapas offers an eclectic menu of bites to try, using Tuscan ingredients but served in the Spanish sample-style, perfect for groups with varying tastes.
Know before you go
Particularly in warm weather, this area gets busy, but you’ll still never find the same congestion seen in neighborhoods with heavier tourist traffic.
Get an early start and you can watch Santo Spirito wake up, with the shopkeepers and bar owners going about their business.
Lunchtime tends to be busier on big market days and weekends.
Finally, if busy but down-to-earth nightlife with a mix of local and international faces is what you want, Santo Spirito is tough to beat.