For the past two years, we’ve stayed busy getting Streetsmart in our monthly column of the same name, exploring a mix of under-the-radar and locally legendary spots in central Florence. This month, we stepped outside the walls for Off-centre, a new feature exploring more residential zones of the Renaissance city.
A loose definition of the lengthy via Marconi might be “the border between Campo di Marte and Le Cure.” But this quiet stretch of Quartiere 2 merits more attention than your average boundary marker. Sprinkled with bistros, bakeries and boutiques, the street has a memorable mix of Parisian flair and suburban friendliness. The next time you’re biking near the stadium or dining da un amico in the area, carve out time for this chic street with an Art Nouveau streak.
Bottega di Sguardi
via Marconi 19r
The artful, always-changing window display at this statement eyewear shop is the first clue that this is no Sunglass Hut. Founded two years ago in Florence, Bottega di Sguardi is a haven for anyone serious about their specs or sunnies—from lenses and looks down to the last detail. The selection of brands is carefully curated, with men’s and women’s models from Japan, Italy, France and beyond. Before leaving with a lovingly packaged new pair, take a peek at the hidden patio behind the shop curtain, where the staff regularly hosts brand parties. Raise your glasses!
via Marconi 24r
Favored by Fiesole-dwellers for its French bistro feel, the family-run Mago Balducci has a long history. In its first incarnation in 1974, this lively, whimsical, open-late wine bar was a no-fuss fiaschetteria on the corner of via de’ Benci and via de’ Neri. Today, the vibe is candlelit-cool, with an almost beachy color palette and chic customers spilling onto the streets long after aperitivo hour. Grab a prosecco and gossip on the benches or pop in for a quick and inexpensive primo at lunchtime.
via Marconi 120r and 122-123r
Feel the need for speed? Whether you’re looking for wheels to get you to work or training for L’Eroica, this family-run cycling shop and repair center has something to offer you. Steered by a chatty couple, Cicli Conti runs five generations deep. Lean on the family’s expertise when shopping for anything from a modestly priced road bike to a vintage Bianchi model. Give your bike tires a breath of fresh air with their free Fai da te pump service, score deals on gear or snag a new seat for your fixer-upper.
piazza Nobili Leopoldo 12
A hybrid bistro, coffee bar and tea room, Café Aiem instantly charms with its checkerboard floors, Art Deco aesthetic and rustic wall hangings. But despite the inherent Instagram-ability of it all, you never get the sense that this place is trying to be trendy. The coffee and cornetti, daily lunch menu, free WiFi and afternoon tea—complete with cakes—all make the humble spot well worth a daytime stop. Neighborhood residents have also reserved the homey space for aperitivi and special dinners toasting to birthdays and graduations.
MORE IN & AROUND VIA MARCONI
Fu Qui. Greasy Chinese for when the mood strikes – via Marconi 11
Pasticceria Stefania. Parisian-style bakery – via Marconi 26
Livio Lepri Butchers. Neighborhood meat masters – via Marconi 24r
La Salmoneria. Salmon-based aperitivo spot – piazza Nobili Leopoldo 15