What it’s like to live in the Santo Spirito Neighborhood

By Allison Moses, Pennsylvania State University | GLP ISI Florence Spring 2024

Arriving in Florence

When I first arrived in Florence, I had no idea what to expect for my living situation. After a long day of travel, I was picked up from the airport, taken to a hotel, then dropped off at an apartment in the Santo Spirito neighborhood. My initial reaction was not very positive. It felt far away from the city center and far from where I thought all of the “action” of study abroad was. It only took me a few days to realize I was completely wrong. 

For more context, the Arno River divides the city in half. On one side, you can find the Duomo, shopping, and many of the bustling tourist attractions and restaurants. The other side of the river, called Oltrarno (meaning “on the other side of the Arno”), is where I am living—a more local and authentic part of the city. After just one month here, I have come to love my neighborhood. If I hadn’t been placed in an apartment in this area, I wouldn’t have explored this side of the city as much as I have so far, and I would have missed out on a lot of the Italian culture that I had hoped to find.

Read about my favorite places and activities in Santo Spirito!

La Cite Cafe 
Super cute cafe with fun, unique interior, and outdoor seating. A great place to grab a coffee or a quick meal, and they are open from 10am to 12am. I go here a lot to get my school work done and sit with my roommates to plan our trips for upcoming weekends. 

Bistrot Degli Artisti
My roommates and I stumbled across this restaurant on our very first night in Florence. We had just gotten done with a long day of travel and went to eat in the first place we found. That is when we met the owner Francesco. He speaks mostly Italian and was very welcoming to us. We have been back quite a few times, always asking him to surprise us with anything off the menu. Going there has been a great way for me to try new foods while practicing my Italian in a place where I feel comfortable. The delicious food is a bonus!

Loggia Rooftop Bar
Cool place right in Piazza Santo Spirito for aperitivos. The bar is on the rooftop of one of the buildings in the piazza and has an amazing view of the city. It is definitely a pricier location, but I recommend checking it out at least once. If you go at the right time you may even catch a beautiful sunset like I did!

Mama’s Bakery
Finally, if you are feeling a little homesick, Mama’s is the perfect place to go. Their menu consists of bagels, sandwiches, bakery items, and even iced coffee. By far the best bagels I have had while in Florence!

Boboli Gardens
This semester we have been blessed with beautiful weather in the winter months. The perfect thing I have found to do on a nice day in Santo Spirito is strolling around the Boboli Gardens. Tickets are only €6 on Sundays to spend as much time as you want in the gardens. Not only are the gardens lovely, but once you reach the top there is a tremendous view of the city. Connected to the gardens is the Pitti Palace which is one of the museums in the city. Inside there are multiple different galleries and exhibitions to visit. You can even get a discounted ticket if you show your student visa!

These are only a few of the many places I have grown to love here. Some other must-dos are visiting the Sunday Market in Piazza Santo Spirito and finding a wine window! My time in Florence so far has been amazing, and I can contribute a lot of that to the location I was placed in. I am excited to continue to explore the hidden gems in Santo Spirito.