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Visitors guide to Florence, Italy neighborhoods.
Florence is famous amongst tourists and scholars for her glorious artwork, cultural heritage, and the major role she played in the Renaissance and Humanist movements. All these facets combine to make this one of the most glorious cities in the world. Florence may be a small city, but she is extremely beautiful and a favorite meeting place for visitors and ex-pats of all ages and nationalities. The city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
San Giovanni (Duomo)
San Giovanni takes its name from San Giovanni Battista (St John the Baptist), patron saint of Florence, in whose honor the Baptistery was built. The historic city center (centro storico) is most representative of Florence. The layout of the district follows a road system created by the Romans (known as the cardus and decumanus system). In the centro storico, you will see the enormous, imposing structure of the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, referred to mostly commonly as the Duomo (from the Latin domus, meaning house of God), with its cupola designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, a beautiful dome that adds splendor to the city skyline. The city has also preserved its medieval network of streets, lined with regular, geometric Renaissance palaces such as the Palazzo Strozzi and Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, which once belonged to Florence's powerful, oligarchic families. Florence is divided into five districts and the center is divided into four sections (San Giovanni, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella and Santo Spirito). The university and the Tribunale di Firenze (which is housed in the Complesso di San Filippo Neri) are also in this district.
Santa Maria Novella
Named after the Santa Maria Novella Basilica - a Dominican basilica and important cultural center during the Middle Ages, the district of Santa Maria Novella covers the area west of the train station where a majority of affordable hotels and the city's largest park is located. The train station of the same name (designed in 1932 by the young architect Giovanni Michelucci) is also situated nearby. Not far from the station is the Fortezza da Basso, a former stronghold of the city which is now used as an important center for conferences, conventions and exhibitions. The zone is also home to the Parco delle Cascine, one of the city's green oases. In this district also lies exclusive boutiques that are concentrated in a few of the most well-known streets, such as via de' Tornabuoni and via della Vigna Nuova. Via de' Tornabuoni is famous for being home to some of Italy's most prestigious designer boutiques e.g. Versace and the Florentine Salvatore Ferragamo.
Santa Croce is named after Santa Croce church, a medieval Franciscan basilica. The National Central Library (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze) is also located here.
Santo Spirito (Oltrarno)
The entire stretch of the side of the river opposite the majority of the city's tourist attractions, the Oltrarno is home to many locals, small eateries and amazing tourist sights such as San Frediano to San Niccolò. At its heart is probably one of the most incredible Renaissance churches and piazzas: the Piazza Santo Spirito, which has retained much of its historic charm and is filled with workshops of the city's traditional artisans. This piazza is the place for parties on summer evenings, bringing together young Florentines and foreigners, many of whom live in this area. The Palazzo Pitti with its old Medicean garden and the Boboli Garden, are both in Oltrarno. The famous Piazzale Michelangelo (with its panoramic view) is also in this district. From here, it is possible to see one of the few remaining stretches of medieval wall around the Belvedere that was spared from demolition in the 19th Century. Included in this is the lovely medieval gate of the Porta Romana.
Campo di Marte & Fiesole
The Campo di Marte is located outside of what used to the be the medieval city wall and is home to many historical buildings dating back to the early 20th Century, as well as to many modern stone and cement apartment blocks which were built after World War Two. There are also numerous sports venues, athletic facilities and the Stadio Artemio Franchi, Fiesole, and the Bellariva zone are close by; these are swathes of Piagentina countryside that always induced feelings of nostalgia in Tuscan painters.
Gavinana & Galluzzo
Gavinana and Galluzzo are south of the Arno and lead to the well-known Chianti wine region. On the southwestern side lies Galluzzo, famous for its Carthusian monastery.
Isolotto & Legnaia
Combining areas of the city that were developed during the 1960s and 1970s (and are still expanding!), Isolotto and Legnaia are home to commuters and enormous American hotel chains. The Isolotto district was once the scene of various clashes and social unrest during the 1960s.
Rifredi in the northwestern part of the city where, by the 15th Century, the Medici had already constructed some of their many country villas, among which Villa di Careggi, the villas of Castello and La Petraia in the Castello. In this district there are also several industrialized, residential zones, such as Novoli, Firenze Nova, Brozzi, Le Piagge and l'Olmatello. Brozzi, the zone is host to many Chinese and African immigrants. The influx of immigrants means that even a city like Florence cannot live forever in the past but must create a new multi-ethnic history.
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