How? How? A nice meeting, that of a passionate person, inhabited by a love of art and history, is perhaps the beginning of the answer. The one in a district too, the Oltrarno district.
Why did we arrive in Florence?
But before I tell you about this meeting, let me tell you how we ended up in Florence. By a happy coincidence and Seb’s insight, we had entered a photo contest on a famous social network and we won it. Yes, you heard right, we won a weekend in Florence! The round trip flight and 2 nights in a hotel, class!
Not liking weekend express, we kindly negotiated with the organizers of the contest so that the flight ticket covers not 2 but 4 days, the extra nights remaining at our expense, of course.
So here we are in Florence, Italy with our lemur. This is not a first for us, a few years ago we had spent a summer in Tuscany between Florence, Siena and Pisa with a friend.
Passionate meeting and artistic itinerary
We quickly find our marks, the dome of the duomo serves as a lighthouse in the city and offers us an effective landmark. The advantage of returning to a well-known city is that the stress of the “must-do” checklist is far behind us. Strolling, strolling, hanging out in cafés, looking with a different eye will be our program.
Let us return to this meeting that I mentioned in the preamble. Laurence, a guide in Florence, kindly offered to accompany us for a walk of a few hours. Immediately, his enthusiasm for every detail, stone, alley of the city transported us. We drank his words, and we are nourished by his knowledge of art history. His passion is matched only by the talent of the artists who made the city.
Unfortunately, I would be unable to capture all the richness of what she told us. One thing is certain, we have seen sculptures, works and places from a completely different angle. What seemed ordinary or simply beautiful to us was sublimated and elevated to the rank of a masterpiece. I am thinking in particular of a painting in a church that without Laurence we might have just caught a glimpse of. Thanks to Laurence’s expertise, her explanation of the exceptional nature of the work, as well as its avant-garde aspect for the time, we were able to appreciate it at its true value.
Stroll along the Vasari corridor
The itinerary we are following has a particularity. Beyond being punctuated by monuments and works (difficult to do otherwise in Florence), it is the discovery of craftsmen that will mark our journey. All the details of this route on the map at the end of the article.
In the beginning, to detect our common thread, we will have to look up a little and follow the “Vasari Corridor”. This one, located in height, connects the gallery of offices to the Pitti Palace. It allowed the Medicis to connect these two points without mixing with the populus! Its construction was particularly grandiose for the time and the views it offers over the Arno and the city must be breathtaking. Its visit is possible but very expensive. The number of admissions is very small and the agencies trust a large part of the places. Laurence can help you organize this visit if you are interested.
Visit of a goldsmith’s workshop
Before crossing the famous Ponte Vecchio, its crowd and its countless shops overflowing with gold jewellery, Laurence points to a discreet, almost anonymous door that we would never have pushed. Behind it is a jewellery designer workshop. A few square metres of disarmingly simple simplicity that contrasts with the sublime beauty of the jewellery made there.
This workshop restores antique jewellery and can also create the ring, bracelet or necklace of your dreams. I am always fascinated by the creative process in general, what a joy it was to see the sketches, the sketches of Daniela and Luca and to exchange with them about their know-how. They chisel finely, cleverly crimp to make jewellery of high quality. If you want to give a second life to a family jewel, Daniela will give it a modern touch. Daniela and Luca also offer simpler and more affordable jewellery.
This meeting gave a different taste to our crossing of the Vecchio bridge. Stuffed with jewellery, flashy and confused, its windows do not have the finesse of what we have just seen.
In the heart of Florence’s craftsmanship
Our itinerary continues to run along the Vasari corridor, which, with all its nerve, does not hesitate to pass in front of the façade of the church of Santa Felicita and cross it rather than bypassing it. These rich Medicis are making themselves comfortable. It is here that Laurence will fascinate us in her description of the painting at the entrance.
Then we take the rue de Barbadori, an ordinary street but which hosts two curiosities. The first is Mannina’s boutique workshop, which skillfully works with leather to make custom-made shoes. As you walk past, you may see some trainees learning this skill. This workshop makes you want to explore the various leather cuts with surprising textures and smell the tannic scents of the skins.
A few cables later, it is a hard stone workshop that attracts our attention. This technique consists of creating paintings by assembling cut-outs of fine stones in a marble slab dug according to a defined drawing. This technique is comparable to inlaying.
The craftsman works from a drawing. A marble slab is dug according to the lines of the latter. In the excavated areas, the craftsman will place fine stone cuts (carnelian, lapis lazuli, agate, malachite…) carefully chosen according to the colour, texture and effect desired. At first glance, it is so misleading that it does not occur to anyone that it could be stone. There are so many details in the textures that it looks like a painting.
In the San Marco district, at the “Scarpelli Mosaici” workshop, we can explain in detail the different stages of the project.
The other discoveries of Oltrarno
Our discovery of Oltrarno continues in the rue des Juifs and the rue de Sapitti. Here, a blacksmith makes very beautiful pieces that can be seen even if the workshop is closed. A little further on, it is the leatherwork that is still carried out in a different form. Another craft speciality of Florence that we will not have the opportunity to observe is the marbling on paper, a workshop nearby allows you to see beautiful examples and we have added it to the itinerary so that you do not miss it. This technique consists, thanks to a play of colour, in reproducing different shades similar to that of marble.
But this incursion awakened our appetite. Would it not be possible to find here a craft that can be eaten (finally a food artisan!)? It’s a good thing, the Sapiti street ends in the Plaza Della Passera where a very cute artisanal gelateria awaits you. I might as well tell you that we did not resist the temptation, especially since the prices are very reasonable.
Once satisfied, we finish this traditional walk in the Volturno by walking down the main street where many antique dealers have taken up residence. We advise you to arrive there at sunset and land in Piazza Santa Spirito or on the banks of the Arno to fully enjoy it.