Travel /
Toscana

The Enchanting Allure of Florence’s Piazza Santo Spirito

“Piazza Santo Spirito is a magnet, a reliable space, a place where one can fulfill all desires.”

You can spend the beginning, middle and end of your day here. You can have your morning coffee here. You can visit the market here. You can enter the iconic church here. You can eat a plate of pasta here. You can drink the night away here. You can sit at a bar, in a restaurant, by a fountain, on church steps here. You can buy antiques, medicine or cigarettes here. You can do anything or nothing in Florence’s Piazza Santo Spirito.  

Piazza Santo Spirito is a place where everyone fits in: tourists and locals, young and old, the calm and the crazy. The undeniable allure of the square lies in its relaxed authenticity, exactly what makes Italy and the Italian way of life so appealing.  

It’s easy to stumble into Santo Spirito multiple times a day–sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. Every time you enter through one of its five entry points, you’ll notice a slight shift in the piazza’s atmosphere. Before noon, it’s a sleepy square–more akin to those in small, diffident towns than in bustling metropolitan cities. The piazza takes its time in the morning, yawning and stretching itself awake as the market opens and waiters set tables along its edges. 

And so the day at Piazza Santo Spirito begins.  

Some sit at Bar Ricchi, Volume or Pitta M’Ingolli for breakfasts of a perfect pastry, washed down with a coffee. Others buy their groceries from the market stalls nearby. Enthusiastic tourists head into the Church of Santo Spirito at the top of the square, while placid locals lean against the fountain at the piazza’s heart, enjoying a cigarette while the morning rays stream into the surrounding air.  

At lunchtime, the pace of the piazza begins to quicken. Coffee cups that have been sitting on empty tables for hours are now whisked away to seat new customers who eagerly await plates piled high with Tuscan delicacies. The aroma of truffle gnocchi and the sound of high-spirited conversation emanate from Osteria Santo Spirito on the far side of the piazza. Others forgo restaurants and sit on the piazza’s benches to munch on sandwiches from one of the many delicious panini bars around the city. Drinking commences at this hour and wine glasses can be found next to plates of pasta and antipasti. From now on, people will be dipping in and out of the square for drinks–in the late afternoon, in the early evening or even past bed-time. 

After lunch, the piazza experiences another lull as satisfied diners disperse to other  corners of the city in search of further cultural and edible delights. The market stalls are taken down, their vendors off to recharge before another early start the following morning. But when the first glimmer of evening light coats the city in its warm, orange glow, the Piazza Santo Spirito fills up once more. The savvy Florentines have booked ahead at the splendid loggia Palazzo Guadagni for aperitivo with one of the best views of the city. Others sit below at the bars, content to have grabbed one of few empty tables. The drinks never stop flowing–tray after tray of glasses, usually filled to the brim with Aperol Spritz, are brought out onto the square. The drink’s bright orange liquid perfectly matches the intensifying hues of the sunset.  

Finally, the sun disappears, but the buzz in the piazza does not. Fueled by good food and drinks, the throngs enjoy the evening with electric fervour. Someone strums a guitar; another cries in joy; beautiful singles, in search of romance, exchange furtive and flirty glances across tables. The few remaining diners polish off the last of their dinners before quickly joining the crowd of drinkers. Suddenly, the entire piazza has turned into one gigantic bar, happily chaotic and kinetic, a far cry from the lethargic ambience of the morning hours. As you sit, stand or perch with your drinks and your friends, you’ll recognize the faces of those who have also visited and re-visited the square throughout the day. Piazza Santo Spirito is a magnet, a reliable space, a place where one can fulfill all desires. 

It’s impossible to be the last one in Piazza Santo Spirito. Even if it’s past midnight and you’re desperate for sleep, the piazza is wide awake. It’s quite normal to head to bed while the square is still in full swing. When you wake up the next day and head back for your morning coffee, the peaceful languor of the piazza will have returned. Santo Spirito is still tired from the previous night’s jubilant antics.

Bar Ricchi

Volume

Pitta M’Ingolli

Osteria Santo Spirito

Palazzo Guadagni

Chiesa di Santo Spirito