The Pearl of Oltrarno
Borgo Antico is located in one of the most privileged corners of Florence: the splendid Piazza Santo Spirito, the Pearl of Oltrarno, fascinating for its history, its restaurants, its nightspots and its outdoor events.
In and Around Santo Spirito
Our piazza boasts some of Florence’s most well-known attractions:
The Basilica of Santo Spirito, which gives the piazza its name, a Renaissance church, the last masterpiece of Filippo Brunelleschi (architect of the magnificent dome atop the Cathedral of Florence). Unfortunately, not all the architectural innovations that Brunelleschi envisioned for the church only two years before his death were faithfully executed by those who followed the construction after the architect’s death.
For centuries, the church belonged to the Augustinian order of monks. To the left of the facade is the entrance to the Salvatore Romano Foundation Museum, a small museum inside the cenacolo (or old refectory). Part of the original monastery, at the northwest corner of the square, now belongs to the Military District of Florence. As early as the 13th Century, the importance of church was growing, so the city razed the buildings opposite it in order to create a piazza that was the largest in Florence for many years.
Palazzo Guadagni: Among the many 15th C. houses that surround the piazza, Palazzo Guadagni (on the southeast corner) stands out. It was built for the Dei family around 1505 by the Florentine architect known as Il Cronaca (real name Simone del Pollaiolo). The upper storey loggia, then an architectural innovation, was copied for many other aristocratic palaces. The windows are distinctive for their pointed keystones. At one time the facade of the second and third floors was decorated with white graffitti on a black background, the work of Andrea del Sarto, but all traces of this decoration have since been lost. In 1914 the first public library in the city of Florence opened its doors on the ground floor, and it is still in operation there today.
Tabernacles: At the corner of Via del Presto di San Martino, you’ll find a small baroque tabernacle, restored in 1998, housing a plaster Madonna framed by putti. The coat of arms of the Vettori-Capponi family, once owners of the building on which the tabernacle is found, is at her feet. A second tabernacle can be found at the corner of Via delle Caldaie on a building belonging to the Dati family. The Virgin and Child in the tabernacle is a 19th C. copy of an original Perugino canvas in the Pitti Palace. It was placed here in 1909 to replace a 15th C. bas relief, similar in theme, that occupied the tabernacle until it disappeared just a few years earlier.