Oltrarno Neighborhood

Florence is one of the most visited cities in the world and yet many visitors leave the birthplace of the Renaissance without ever having explored one of its most interesting and well-preserved neighborhoods, Oltrarno. Its name in Italian means “beyond the Arno River” and the neighborhood is just that— the only of Florence’s four historic quarters (quartieri) located completely on the “other” side of the Arno. Since the spring of 2011, Palazzo Guadagni in Piazza Santo Spirito, at the heart of Oltrarno, has been the home of the ACCENT Florence Study Center.
 
Wandering the Oltrarno neighborhood there is no need to jockey with massive tour groups for sidewalk space. It is an authentic Florentine neighborhood only a 5-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio and a 15-minute walk from the Duomo, yet worlds away from the chaos. The area traditionally hosted artisans’ workshops, which are still very much present in a higher concentration than anywhere else in the city.
 
While physically removed from the main tourist routes, the area is far from peripheral and is home to a number of significant artistic and historic landmarks. Palazzo Pitti, with its world-famous museums and impressive Boboli gardens is just steps from the Study Center, as is the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Carmine, with early-Renaissance frescoes by Masolino and Masaccio.
 
In Oltrarno, UCEAP students interact with locals as they shop side-by-side at the daily market held at the Study Center’s front door in Piazza Santo Spirito. They visit artisan workshops as part of their classes and spend their spare hours volunteering with community groups based in the neighborhood. Each semester, members of a nearby senior citizen association visit Italian classes for a language exchange, speaking about local traditions, family histories, and the changes they have witnessed in the city over the years.