Florence's loveliest square lies at the heart of a Bohemian neighbourhood rich with artisans.
Focal point of the ‘Oltrarno’ (the word literally means ‘beyond the Arno’), Florence’s Bohemian left bank, lovely Piazza Santo Spirito is close to my heart; after all, I’ve lived with it on my doorstep for nearly 30 years. It hosts a daily morning market and is a delightful, low-key place to hang out and watch the local world go by. Evenings, when the bars and restaurants fill up from aperitivo time onwards, see a change of gear, especially in summer when the whole piazza becomes an al fresco venue that stays lively well into the night.
The church of Santo Spirito, its plain façade something of an icon of the Oltrarno, was Brunelleschi’s last (unfinished) work and is well worth a visit for its magnificent, serene grey and white interior (open Tue-Sun 9.30am-12.30pm and 4-5.30pm). This area of the city is famous for its artisan and restoration workshops, and if you wander around the network of narrow streets that surround the square itself and lead off nearby Via Maggio towards the Ponte Vecchio to the east, you will come across shoemakers, book binders, ironmongers, furniture painters, bead makers, glass blowers, upholsterers, violin makers and furniture and carpet restorers. Take time to watch and learn; sadly, they are a dying breed.