How many Florence guides are on the internet? An infinity. So why am I talking to you about this incredible and famous city? Because there is always a new way to discover it and fall in love with it. Away from the crowds and the busy streets of the center, today we start to discover a very different and slower Florence, across and along the Arno river.

Sleep in an ancient mill

View of the Arno River from La Martellina, an old mill converted into eco-friendly B & B
View of the Arno River from La Martellina, an old mill converted into eco-friendly B & B, photo by Silvia Ombellini

Our unusual holiday in Florence begins in an ancient mill on the bank of the river Arno, dating back to the XIII century, transformed into a unique accommodation. La Martellina bed and breakfast, managed by Claudio, is a beautiful ecological house, surrounded by old trees and a large garden with hammocks. Here the sweet sound of the river waters and the chirping of the birds lull you during the night and during the hours spent in the sun, among the fruit trees and the plants.

Cycling along the Arno river

Unusual Florence, seen from the river Arno
Cycling along the river Arno, ph. by Silvia Ombellini

Claudio offers his guests bicycles, perfect for exploring the surrounding area. From the bed&breakfast you can easily reach a beautiful park made of olive trees, often frequented by locals; crossing it you reach the river and the path that runs along it.

The trail along the river takes us, through a romantic and evocative landscape, into an old village of boatmen who welcomes us with many small houses and a small church. It is not uncommon to meet the fishermen who are busy taking mullet and catfish and always ready to chat with tourists.

View of the Arno and fisherman
View of the Arno and fisherman, photo by S. Ombellini

On the other side of the Arno, we can see beautiful Renaissance villas, such as the charming Villa La Massa, the location of David Bowie’s wedding.

Discover Florence by boat

Unusual Florence, seen from the river Arno

6 kilometers in the middle of nature pass quickly, and so we find ourselves in Florence. Here we rely on the historic Renaioli association, which allows us, from May to November, to sail the Arno on ancient and traditional little boats. The tour takes us under the Uffizi and the Vasari corridor, passing under the famous and iconic Ponte Vecchio. Onboard the typical boat, called “barchetto d’Arno“, which is guided with a perch similar to a Venetian gondola, the renaiolo (this is the name of the person who drives this type of boat) tells us the anecdotes of this ancient craft, immense heritage of knowledge related to the Arno and the city. Comfortably seated, we see before our eyes the whole history of Florence: the churches, Ponte S. Trinità, Palazzo Corsini and all the wonder of this city.

Eat local food in Florence and surroundings

Where to eat local food in Florence and surroundings
In the Old Market of San Lorenzo, in Florence, photo by S. Ombellini

Near La Martellina B&B you will find Il Girone, a cultural club and restaurant, where you can eat fantastic local dishes made with organic products. Do not miss it on the autumn weekends during the Truffle Festival.

For a green stop in the heart of Florence, you can choose the Old Market of San Lorenzo, open all day for lunch and dinner.

Are you ready to discover a different Florence?

Cover Image: ph. by Giuseppe Mondì on Unsplash