Walking with the Florentines

By Constance Markey


Piazza della Repubblica


To begin our walk, we stand in Florence’s grand Piazza della Repubblica. Next we exit east on the Corso, also called the Borgo degli Albizi, a traditional walkway for Florentines going home.


We pass the imposing Albizi Palace, named for the renowned Renaissance family that lived there. Now we are greeted by appealing local shops, selling everyday clothing, office supplies, stationery, hardware, toys, and, of course, gelato.


Pietrapiana Farmacia 


Abruptly the Borgo ends, leaving us at Via Verdi and the central post office. Ahead there is crossroad blocked by an imposing farmacia. We choose the street to its left, Pietrapiana, and continue our sightseeing.  


Gelateria Procopio


Piazza dei Ciompi


On Pietrapiana, we stop at Piazza dei Ciompi to admire the breathtaking gallery designed by Renaissance artist Giorgio Vasari. We also spy the market at its back. Though small, it is crammed with fashion merchandise on sale. We linger, mingle with the local bargain hunters, and visit the beckoning coffee bar. Why not?


Piazza Ciompi Market


Piazza Sant’Ambrogio


Reluctantly, we leave Ciompi, to arrive immediately in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, an old quarter dating back to the early twentieth century. In the busy square we visit the eleventh century Sant’Ambrogio church, the oldest in Florence. Inside we discover a lovely medieval altar piece and gracefully faded frescoes. Outside in the piazza we visit a little street market lazily selling castoff merchandise.


Inside Sant’Ambrogio Church


Sant’Ambrogio Market


In two more short blocks, we are in the celebrated Sant’Ambrogio Market, teeming with activity. This is where the average Italian family shops. An abundance of fine last year’s fashions and garden vegetables are sold outside. Fresh meats, fish, wine and carry out delicacies are sold inside. We are hypnotized by its great variety and charmed by the sellers. Each turn is an adventure and time passes.


Sant’Ambrogio Market


Sant’Ambrogio Market


Sant’Ambrogio Market


Sadly, we leave, but not without gazing at the Market’s simple restaurant where everyone is eating and we could too, later. 


Antique Market


Leaving the Market, we lose some of our group at the grand open-air antique market just outside. But others of us march up the enticing Borgo della Croce, to sample the street cuisine and look in every store window. 



Piazza Beccaria


At last, we arrive in majestic Piazza Beccaria. There we admire remnants of the walls of an earlier Florence.


Via Gioberti


 Crossing the piazza, we look wistfully ahead at Via Gioberti, where a world of trendy department stores and boutiques beckons. But sadly, our walk has ended, and we could take a cab back to the Florence center. But will we?