Sofia’s street life

Street Levels Gallery owner Sofia Bonacchi takes us on a tour of her favourite Florentine hangouts

Todo Modo

You can’t help but love Todo Modo, an independent bookshop that’s just a stone’s throw from Santa Maria Novella. The place is packed with books in foreign languages, great classics, essays, novels, illustrated books, local and international magazines, and much more. On entering, you are embraced by more than 20,000 titles arranged on the pretty wooden shelves and furnishings. The passion and experience of the booksellers guide each curious reader in this warm place dedicated to literature. However, Todo Modo is not just a library. The Uqbar wine bar/cafe, inspired by the famous J.L. Borges story, offers an excellent selection of wines that match the dishes from Hiroko’s cuisine, a Japanese chef who’s in charge of the preparation of home-cooked meals and original combinations. My favourite is a potato and carrot terrine, covered with a soft layer of feta cheese and a sprinkle of curry, so yummy! The large room that serves as a dining area is often transformed into a place of meeting and culture, thanks to the events taking place at the library from time to time: book presentations, screenings, workshops, seminars and readings. Todo Modo is an intimate and welcoming place, where you can stop for breakfast, lunch or an aperitif with friends, as well as an afternoon of study, or simply to browse and get lost among the shelves of the library.
Novecento Museum

Florence is the city of the Renaissance, that’s true, but some cultural institutes also open a window on the contemporary art scene. The Novecento Museum is one of them. It opened in 2014 inside the ancient Leopoldine Hospital in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, and currently houses a permanent collection dedicated to artists of the 20th and 21st centuries such as Giorgio De Chirico, Filippo De Pisis, Giorgio Morandi, Mario Mafai, Renato Guttuso and many others. There’s also a big focus on temporary exhibitions, installations and various activities that are organised throughout the year, such as the outdoor cinema in the museum’s inner courtyard. One of the exhibitions that I most appreciated was the personal show of Albanian artist Adrian Paci in 2017, but more recently Jenny Saville, Henry Moore, Allan Kaprow, Rä di Martino and many other artists of the current scene have also passed through the Novecento Museum. ‘Paradigm. The architect’s table’ is the space within the museum that’s dedicated to architecture: a wing of the loggia is set up every two months with projects, drawings, scale models and images that tell the public about the dialogue between content and artistic 'container'.
Cascine Park & Market

Cascine Park, a public garden that extends for about 3.5km on the banks of the Arno River, is the green lung of Florence. Large meadows, a 35-hectare forest and a long walking track crossing it make this area a perfect place to spend a Sunday dedicated to sport, yoga and physical activity, where you can meet for a picnic with friends or relax a little under the shade of lime trees and holm oaks. The park is also home to some monuments and works of art: the largest and most mysterious one is the pyramid built by architect Giuseppe Manetti in 1796, which at the time was used for food storage. Tuesday is market day, the largest in the city. The stalls of the Cascine Market are known by all locals as the place where you can find anything at very cheap prices. Clothes, shoes, bags, household items, trinkets, flowers, fruit and vegetables, street food and much more: from 7am until 2pm the road that runs along the river turns into a large bazaar that extends for over 1km. The Cascine Park is connected to the historic center by the tram line and can therefore be reached from Santa Maria Novella railway station in just a couple of stops.
S. Forno

A bakery that’s more than just a bakery! The vintage furniture, the shelves heaving with local goodies and the counters full of delicacies, all make S. Forno such a loving and familiar place. The shop is a landmark of the San Frediano district, open daily from 7.30am until late in the afternoon. All products are carefully selected and they all come with beautiful packaging, which makes them great presents for relatives and friends. The pastry lab at the back of the store continuously delivers excellent treats for breakfast, both sweet and savoury, that you can enjoy with a good coffee, tea or fresh juice. Lunch, too, is excellent, but try to get in early. There are just a few seats and they’re usually taken, but thankfully the district offers many nearby public spaces where you can stop, such as Piazza del Carmine or Santo Spirito. S. Forno is a sincere and delightful place in the heart of Oltrarno, the most fascinating walking area of the city.
La Compagnia Cinema

La Compagnia is a movie theatre that’s also an intercultural hub. Despite being located in one of the most touristy areas of the city (so close to the Duomo), inside this place the atmosphere is totally local! In addition to the programming of films and titles of the moment, La Compagnia offers documentary-type screenings and retrospectives on famous and rediscovered directors from Woody Allen to Pasolini, and from Hitchcock to Truffaut. It is also the home of film festivals, special events, meetings, conferences and book presentations. Some of the most exciting festivals during the year are the Middle East Now, the Korea Film Fest, the Florence Queer Festival, the feminist dialogues of Cinematografica and the Firenze Archeofilm focusing on the correlations between archeology, art and the social environment. La Compagnia has got a nice little restaurant and collaborates with the Twist Bistrot, a vintage bar right next to the cinema entrance that’s open every day from 7am to midnight, with a particularly kitsch aesthetic where most of the furniture items are on sale.
Vintage Melrose

If you’re looking for an original, old-fashioned piece of clothing, then Vintage Melrose is the place to find it. Its collection of clothes and accessories is huge and great value for money. The furniture reflects the style of the garments, making Melrose a nostalgic place, a corner of the city dedicated to unique, fancy pieces of clothing that hang there, begging for you to find them. Melrose Vintage has two locations, one just outside the Santa Maria Novella station and another near the Piazza San Lorenzo, in Via Dei Ginori. The first is open only in the afternoon while the second is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm and Sunday from 2pm to 8pm. Check out its Instagram page.

Street Levels Gallery

Our place, Street Levels Gallery, is the first international, urban art gallery in Florence, a reference point for the city and its citizens. Over time, we have transformed an old call centre into a contemporary exhibition space that routinely hosts exhibitions, events, talks and book presentations, all to investigate the different levels of interaction between urban space, artistic practices and the public. We want to educate and raise awareness. We want to export the culture of the longest-lived art movement of the contemporary scene, that of Street Art. We want to bring our local artists out of Florence and introduce our city to the best-known and most emerging names from the international scene. We want to stimulate the active participation of the community, take care of it and participate in the cultural life of Florence, in order to renew it. We are located in the heart of Via Palazzuolo, a multi-ethnic and densely populated area just behind the Santa Maria Novella railway station. Our neighbourhood also speaks of us, of our energy, of the desire to establish ourselves in a context that is sometimes hostile to urban art. Street Levels Gallery is a junction between artists, operators and citizens, an open and familiar place, the route you take when you want to return home. Come and visit us on site or online!

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