Florence is a small city, sitting on the Arno River and petering out to olive tree-planted hills rather quickly to the north and south, but extending farther west and east along the Arno valley to suburbs and light industry.
As the birthplace of the Renaissance, millions of visitors from around the globe arrive in Florence each year to explore its churches and museums and taste its wines and food. Aside from tourists, thousands of students, both young and old, come to participate in study-abroad arts programs and short-term courses exploring Italian language, art, history, and fashion.
Florence is a city “a misura d’uomo”, meaning its manageable size makes it easy to navigate on foot: no two major sights are more than a 25-minute walk apart. With a number of private and public green spaces dotting Florence, bicycles are a popular mode of transportation and a great way to take in the picturesque city.
Alchimia is situated in Oltrarno, literally translated as “over there from the Arno.” Still a lively old artisans’ neighborhood, the area is hemmed in between the river and the hills on the south side. Many coming to live in Florence settle in Oltrarno to avoid the bustling tourists and shoppers who come to visit the fashionable museums, monuments, and shops on the other side of the Arno. Oltrarno is the warm, family-focused residential area in the historical city center, with a strong sense of multi-generational community. Shopkeepers will often welcome you by name upon entering your local greengrocer, bakery, or cafè.
For some years now, Florence has intensified its attention to the contemporary, with foundations, museums, festivals and small non-profit spaces proposing mainstream and more research-based programs in contemporary art and culture, evidence of a vibrant and dynamic city.
Oltrarno is home to many bottegas, workshops of craftsmen, artist studios, and galleries that keep storefronts interesting and colorful and make strolling a pleasure. Materials, from various metals and papers to wood, fabric, leather, and resins are readily available wholesale. Craftsmen of different disciplines working side by side nurtures creativity and collaborative experimentation.
Oltrarno also offers great nightlife and entertainment, ranging from wine and cocktail bars to live music and nightclubs. During the summer, open-air concerts as well as theater and modern dance performances take over its Piazza Santo Spirito.