Our New ‘Hood: San Lorenzo

(September 2008)

After five weeks at our old apartment, we have moved. Via Alfani, where our old apartment was, is a major east-west corridor in downtown Florence. We discovered this early on by the amount of noise coming through the windows of our apartment. For those of you interested in maps, if you follow Via Alfani west it turns into Via Guelfa (like any street in Florence longer than one block, it changes its name.) About eight blocks east of our old apartment (Via Alfani, 7), you will find yourself on Via San Zanobi. Go north, and we are about halfway up the block on the west side, at Via San Zanobi, 33.

Despite the constant noise coming from motorini (scooters), bambini (the children of the owners of the Indian market were constantly crying about something), and ubriaconi (our drunk neighbor was either playing music at 100 decibels or in shouting matches every night), we liked our old place. It was a great introduction to the vibrant energy of a city and it was close to many of the historic sites. That said, we absolutely love our new place.

Da Crib: You walk through the front door of the building into a wide foyer, then through an iron gate to get to our front door. The building has a cool, quiet feel that is in stark contrast to our old building’s dark, narrow entry corridor that smelled of cigarettes. Enter our apartment through a large double door and you find your eyes moving up, and up and up. The ceilings are high, my guess is about thirteen feet. In this part of the apartment they are made of dark wooden planks supported by wooden beams. They remind me of the ceilings we saw in the Palazzo Davanzati, one of the first palaces we visited in Florence.

The floor is old cotto tile, and it takes you past not one but two bathrooms on the left, and two desks and a bookshelf on the right. Keep going, and on the left is the bedroom, again with high wooden ceilings. There is even a mosquito net above the beds. Melanie loves the peace of mind that comes from draping it over us every night.

Past the bedroom is the main living area. Just when you thought the place couldn’t get any cooler than wooden ceilings, you are greeted with something that makes you feel like you are really in Italy: arched ceilings. The arches are as high as the wooden ceilings, and made of brick. This room stretches the length of the apartment and has a small living room, dining area and (IKEA) kitchen. Windows throughout the whole apartment brighten the yellow walls decorated with eclectic artwork.

As if all this wasn’t enough, our favorite part may be what those windows show us. After all my whining about no vegetation, guess what we have: a garden! There is a back porch, a small storage room, and a gravel walkway with geraniums, an oleander, and several other unidentified plants all in clay pots. I get to water the plants every morning, and we can sit and drink wine among the plants. We share a fence with the trattoria next door, where two cats (one black, one white) hang out waiting for scraps. The people who run the trattoria seem very friendly, and we hope to have a meal there soon.

Da Hood: When we first started looking at this apartment, Melanie was worried about the noise because she lived in this neighborhood before. Since the Mercato di San Lorenzo and Mercato Centrale are so close, many of the vendors keep their carts close by. At the indecent hour of 5:30 am, the sound of roll doors opening and carts being wheeled down cobbled streets wakes even the soundest sleeper. Still the apartment looked very nice from the website, so we decided to risk it. To our delight, the apartment is very quiet. The first night my ears were ringing from the absence of sound.

Being in an apartment removed from the street helps a lot, but that street is also quieter. The old city walls, now a ring of boulevards (viale) that border the city, are generally considered where downtown ends and the more “suburban” Florence, with wider, quieter streets begins. In many ways, Via Alfani/Via Guelfa is the dividing line. As soon as you are north of it, even half a block as we are now, the city changes. The high density of businesses and narrow streets gives way to slighter wider, quieter, more residential areas. There is mixed zoning throughout the city, so there are no truly commercial or residential zones, but the concentration of businesses decreases just north of Via Alfani/Via Guelfa.

We are still close to the Duomo and everything downtown, but are enjoying more tranquility in our new neighborhood. Also, I am really excited since I discovered an actual supermarket north of us during a recent run, with much more selection and cheaper prices than the cheapest market downtown, so I am excited to show it to Melanie.

We love our new place, our new neighborhood, and love being in Florence.


Copyright Axel Schwarz


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