Via dei Calzuioli is one of the most elegant streets in the historic centre of Florence: 400 metres long and lined with shops, it connects piazza del Duomo to piazza della Signoria.
Before the 15th century, the street was divided into different sections that were named after their relative professions or noble families that lived there, such as via dei Cacioli (cheesemongers), via de’ Bonaguisi (former merchant family whose palace occupies the corner shared with via Condotta) or corso dei Pittori.
It was also here that artists like Donatello and Michelozzo had their workshops.
More or less halfway down the street you’ll find the beautiful Orsanmichele church that in the 8th century housed a convent with vast gardens (orto), from which came the name San Michele in orto and, consequently, Orsanmichele. Halfway through the 13th century the church was supposed to become a grain market, but in 1304 a fire destroyed it and it was restored throughout the century with a rectangular plan and two floors.
Atop the pillars outside you can admire the copies of the fourteen patron saints of the Florentine guilds commissioned by the Signoria and sculpted by the hands of Donatello, Verrocchio, Ghiberti, Giambologna and Nanni di Banco. The original sculptures have been moved to the Orsanmichele museum, on the upper floors of the building.
Facing Orsanmichele is another important church, this one dedicated to San Carlo dei Lombardi and commissioned by the Signoria; its construction began in 1349. In 1616 ownership shifted to the Lombard nation guild, hence its name. The original structure is almost unchanged: it has a single nave that ends with a presbytery divided by three pillars.
Lastly, it was in this street that the first emporium in Firenze, the Bazar Bonajuti, was founded almost two centuries ago, superseded however at the beginning of the 20th century by "Duilio 48", the famous precursor to department stores, in business in this location until 1988.