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Oltrarno artisan walk — Experience the local, the authentic and the hidden Florence with Maria B.

Oltrarno artisan walk — Experience the local, the authentic and the hidden Florence with Maria B.

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Maria B. — half Italian, half Swedish — is a graphic designer with great sensitivity and passion for any form of aesthetics and beauty. Florentine Experience Shopping was created by Maria in 2015 to spread her love for authentic and incomparable Florentine craftsmanship. She spent months hunting handicraft workshops interacting with the artisans and designers, where she gained knowledge of what is behind a genuine artisan piece. Her private and customized ‘Oltrarno Artisan Walk’ — among other exciting and recommendable tours she also organizes — offers a unique visit to some arresting and extraordinary working spaces. There one can observe closely artisans creating the most delightful and outstanding handmade products, for instance: leather bags and shoes, gold and silversmiths, Florentine mosaic, wood art, and much more.…

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Shoe master Roberto Ugolini and his traditional atelier in Santo Spirito

Shoe master Roberto Ugolini and his traditional atelier in Santo Spirito

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Roberto Ugolini is one of the most prestigious shoemakers in Florence. His workshop is located right at street level, in Via dei Michelozzi 17, in front of the basilica of Santo Spirito, in Oltrarno, as if in old times, when medieval guilds were so present in cities. The business opened twenty-two years ago just like a repair shop, but he soon began to make shoes too, always in Italian and English leather tanned in Italy. It takes thirty hours of work to create a pair of handmade shoes; thus there´s a waiting list over six months to acquire any. Above and below, photos show one of the craftsmen, probably the sexiest shoemaker in the old continent.

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Brands made in Florence #3: Angela Caputi Giuggiù, unique and inimitable jewellery

Brands made in Florence #3: Angela Caputi Giuggiù, unique and inimitable jewellery

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Angela Caputi started her costume jewellery business in Florence in the 1970s taking classic Hollywood cinema as inspiration. For almost half a century and although she has achieved international recognition, Caputi has managed to stay faithful to her original craft principles, continuing to use resins made in Italy, and setting up the pieces in her Santo Spirito shop-workshop. Caputi has stores in Milan and Paris, and nowadays she is immersed in the launch of her new shop in Rome.

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Rasputin, a secret cocktail bar in Florence

Rasputin, a secret cocktail bar in Florence

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There is no doubt that prohibition awakens desire. Rasputin stands as a speakeasy: an exclusive bar behind closed doors, to which only a few are granted access. Indeed, all cities in the world have their secret bar. The speakeasy concept emerged in the first decades of the twentieth century in New York, in full swing of Prohibition. I’m not very fond of cocktails, as seeing a beautiful glass with just capacity for a cappuccino, priced 10 or 15 euros, from which one could only drink a sip almost as fast as a shot, makes me feel terribly upset. I prefer a jar of beer or a generous glass of wine, which despite the anxiety for drinking guarantees a prolonged delight. …

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Cappella Brancacci, the Sistine Chapel of Florence

Cappella Brancacci, the Sistine Chapel of Florence

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Beyond the streets crowded by the omnipresent tourists looking for Florentine gems from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, there are less exploited corners of great historical and artistic richness as the Brancacci Chapel, also known as the «Sistine Chapel of the first Renaissance». The paintings on the walls are among the most popular and influential frescoes at the time. They are distributed in two horizontal levels along the chapel, which is part of the Carmine church and convent, founded in Florence in the mid-thirteenth century by a group of Carmelite monks from Pisa. Located in Piazza del Carmine (Florence-Oltrarno), the Cappella Brancacci is one of the oldest monumental buildings in Florence. The frescoes illustrating the life of Saint Peter are masterpieces by Masaccio and Masolino, painted between 1425 and 1427, just in the early years of the Florentine Renaissance. Later on, Filippino Lippi was called to complete Masaccio’s chapel decoration, which had been left unfinished due to Masaccio’s death in 1428.

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Tabernacles: religious street art in Florence

Tabernacles: religious street art in Florence

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There is no doubt that the tabernacles are a key element of the oldest streets of Florence. More than a religious character, it seems to me that they have quite an exquisite kitsch appearance. The city currently houses around 1200 tabernacles, of different styles and periods — some are true masterpieces. Catholics fought against heresy not only with preaching, but also by placing sacred images on the streets, houses, shops and public buildings which endure today. In Oltrarno there is still a large number of these particular street sanctuaries, available for a worldly prayer at any time of the day or night. The ancient Romans were already devotees of this form of religious architecture, for they built small temples in the streets with sacred images that protected both the house and the travelers.

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Florence literary walk

Florence literary walk

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Searching for the ideal of beauty in all its artistic manifestations or for an oasis to feel safe from hostility, artists, writers, architects, filmmakers, designers, historians and intellectuals, in general, had historically made of Florence their home. In just one hour, it is possible to discover all the places where some of the most outstanding writers of recent times lived.…

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La Via del Tè: it’s tea time in Florence!

La Via del Tè: it’s tea time in Florence!

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During my daily walks around Oltrarno, I had always noticed this tearoom in Via Santo Spirito. It is undoubtedly the typical place that catches your attention and makes you stop until the curiosity is satisfied. La Via del Tè (The Way of Tea) was founded in 1961 by Alfredo Carrai who, fascinated by the world of tea, took the personal challenge of introducing the tea culture in Italy, by then almost unknown. La Via del Tè conceptual stores sell more than 250 products, including whole-leaf tea from China, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Japan and Africa; scented blends; fruit infusions; herbal teas and all La Via del Tè own brand products: from classic cans, single-dose filters in transparent cloth or cotton muslin, to gift boxes, along with a selection of teapots, cups and accessories brought to the stores from all over the world. La Via del Tè has two other branches in Florence: one in Piazza Ghiberti and the other in Via della Condotta. They not only serve tea in its exquisite rooms, but also sell teapots, ad hoc utensils and homemade pastries.
La Via del Tè – Via di Santo Spirito 11, 50125 Florence

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La Cité: books, music, coffee and wine in the heart of San Frediano

La Cité: books, music, coffee and wine in the heart of San Frediano

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Books, art, wine and music. La Cité is defined as a polyvalent cultural space, responding to demands for the eclectic interacting of today. Since 2007, this two-storey café-bookshop of Borgo San Frediano (Oltrarno, Florence) has become a small cultural island, a city within the city itself. La Cité is just the antithesis of the classic bookstore-supermarket franchise and is described as a place of research and meeting, as well as a reading room, where cultural diversity and languages ​​are mixed. Their selection of texts is preferably of critical, independent and creative publications. Over the 5000 titles included in its catalogue one can find new and used books, newspapers and editorial oddities. Before sale browsing and reading books is allowed. In addition, each week, book presentations are organized with the presence of authors, critics, musicians and artists, as well as public debates on current affairs. Ideal spot for blind dates, too.
La Cité – Borgo San Frediano 20R, Florence. Open every day, from 9 to 2 a.m. On Sunday it opens at 3 p.m. – WIFI connection

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Gardens of Florence #8: giardino dell’Orticultura, a locals’ garden in the city centre

Gardens of Florence #8: giardino dell’Orticultura, a locals’ garden in the city centre

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Born as an ‘experimental garden’ in the middle of the 19th century, the Via Bolognese park in northern Florence is today one of the most beloved and quiet places to visit during spring and summer. In addition to the renaissance Loggetta Bondi, in the giardino dell’Orticultura there is also a large glass and iron greenhouse, considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, as well as the rarest when built following design of Giacomo Roster. The greenhouse is used today for celebrating events, parties, food and cultural activities, while the garden houses the Municipal Library of Horticulture, hosting since 1862 horticultural exhibitions in order to promote the ‘knowledge of good horticultural practices.’ The feeling here is that of a ‘neighbourhood park,’ despite located not far from the tourist hustle in the historic centre. It has a bar with terrace which is frequented mostly by university students.

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