7 years, 30 days ago
Famous for its museums, late medieval buildings and Renaissance churches, Florence has got it all. But if you stick around for a week or so, you’ll also discover a rich contemporary culture compiling many factors like language, gestures and food – simple, daily elements that are not in any museum. In this post, Florence based art historian and blogger Alexandra Korey of Art Trav shines a light on the green spaces of Florence, and how to get to know the city like a local.
Duomo di Firenze – Image © Martin Sojka
The secret to learning and living like a local is to get out and observe the city’s residents, and the best place to do so is in the parks of residential areas like the Oltrarno, Campo di Marte, and Ponte Rosso.
Campo di Marte – Image © Yahti
Especially in the summer, life in Italy takes place very much out of doors. In the evenings, windows and balcony doors are thrown open and the sounds of televisions, clinking plates and animated conversation fill residential areas. You will see neighbours conversing over balconies and greeting each other on the street. In the evenings, people go out for strolls and sit around in the nearest neighbourhood park, while kids run around with a ball or play on swings. Locate the park closest to you and do a little hanging around. Engage with people through their dogs or children and you’re likely to pick up some colourful local language or make some new friends!
Image © Matt Morrison
This is an almost French style garden in the Ponte Rosso / Piazza della Libertà area, developed in the late 19th century when Florence looked to international examples, and is thus worth visiting for its aesthetic value. Nicely cared for squares of lawn and flowers can be observed from crunchy gravel paths. A children’s play area is at one end, with a fountain, while at the other side of the park is a beautiful late 19th century glass and iron greenhouse (currently closed for restoration).
Giardino dell’Orticoltura – Image © Aldo Cavini Benedetti.
(Address: via Bolognese 7, entrance from the piazza on the other side)
Image © Matteo123
Twice a year, from April 25 to May 1 and during the first week of October, the garden hosts an historic plant show and sale (since 1855), making it particularly picturesque, colourful and crowded at that time. During the rest of the year, the best time to visit is late afternoon, since this park closes its gates at 8pm in the summer, and earlier in the winter months.
Image © Matteo123
Villa il Ventaglio
Tucked down a side street between the Campo di Marte and Le Cure residential areas, this is a very large terraced park that was developed in the 1850s to lead up to a villa at its highest point. The park is the work of Giuseppe Poggi, the architect responsible for much of Florence’s modernization at that period, including the creation of the dreaded, highly trafficked “viali” (ring roads). The park consists of wide open lawn, a winding uphill path often used by joggers, and large shady trees under which you will always find people reading. Its distinguishing feature is the duck pond near the entrance, a rare glimpse of nature in the city.
Parco di Villa Ventaglio – Image © Numb
(Address: via Aldini 12)
Come here for a breath of fresh air and some quiet, as well as for an excellent vista of the city from the top. Sneak up to the windows of the villa and pretend you have discovered something new – chances are you will be the only person there. The park gates close at 7:30pm in the summer, earlier during the winter.
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo – Image © Erik Drost
In probably the most vibrant part of the Oltrarno, the area in Florence known for its high population of artisans and what they say are “real Florentines”, this large and shady piazza is the only free green space. Open at night (it has no gates), the park fills up during and after dinner time.
View of Oltrarno from the top of Brunelleschi’s dome of the Duomo – Image © Laura Padgett
Florentine hills of Oltrarno – Image © Laura Padgett
When the weather is nice this piazza’s benches are filled with residents that mix the new immigrant population with the Florentine elderly. A “calcetto” (5 on 5 football) court in the centre provides entertainment, while picnic tables are usually occupied by Filipino families. Go here to see the melting pot the city is becoming. At one side of the park is the Circolo Aurora, a members-only bar tucked into the medieval city’s walls, with outdoor seating and funky clientele. It is worth paying the 5 euro membership card just to hang out and sip a cocktail in this highly local atmosphere.