Out of the public eye

Discovering Campo di Marte

Noelia de la Cruz
November 5, 2009

I almost don't want to write about this interesting 22-square-kilometer quartiere composed of six small neighborhoods, located to the east of Florence's historic center: despite Campo di Marte's proximity to the city center and its attributes, it has managed to remain relatively inconspicuous to the tourist's eye. Perhaps that's part of its charm.

 

 

Campo di Marte (literally Camp of Mars), in Florence's quartiere due (neighborhood 2), is a modern neighborhood that has expanded in recent years. It is also a typical one: it is just close enough to easily access the historic center but far away from the hustle and bustle of it. It contains all the elements necessary to provide its 88,000 residents with a calm, comfortable lifestyle. If one day you want a change of pace and want to experience what everyday life is like for the Florentines, Campo di Marte is a great place to explore.

 

On occasion, the Red Bus City Tour passes through the neighborhood, undoubtedly to point out one of Campo Di Marte's biggest landmarks: Stadio Artemio Franchi, home of the ACF Fiorentina soccer team. Attend a game! It will be an unforgettable experience to witness firsthand the passion and excitement that exudes from both the players and the fans. Whether the Viola win or lose, you will have a great time participating in a sport that is so important to the Italians. There is no excuse. Even if you're coming from out of town, you can easily take the train to the Campo di Marte station, which is less than five minutes away from the stadium on foot.

 

If soccer doesn't interest you, the stadium itself is reason enough to go. It is a classic example of modern twentieth-century architecture-a contrast from the Renaissance architecture that draws most people to this city-and was designed by renowned engineer and architect Pier Luigi Nervi in 1931. The stadium was built entirely with reinforced concrete. Nervi later used the same technique to design the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican City in Rome.

 

Another important landmark nearby is the Nelson Mandela Forum, 15,000 square meters ideal for concerts, sports meetings, exhibitions, shows and parties. It's another place to visit to experience a cultural event with locals.

 

Nearby, Pizzeria Stadio Da Graziano has long been a popular spot for Fiorentina players and fans, who go there for authentic brick oven pizza or delicious pasta.

 

The historical center now incorporates modern-day stores and restaurants among its cobblestone city streets and marble monuments, but Campo di Marte has always been a relatively modern neighborhood, having been reconstructed and renovated shortly after World War II. The streets are wide and Viale dei Mille is one of Campo di Marte's main streets. There are a variety of businesses, ranging from major department stores and supermarkets, Oviesse and Esselunga, respectively, to smaller mom-and-pop restaurants, repair shops, electronic stores, hair salons and pastry shops. Every day locals visit the nearby stores to purchase their daily fresh fruit and fresh bread. 

 

Badiani gelateria, has been a staple of the community for 40 years. Badiani is best known for ‘Buontalenti,' its specialty cream flavor dedicated to renowned Florentine architect Bernardo Buontalenti. Across the street find one of many seafood restaurants located in the area, Piatto Stregato (‘Bewitched Plate'). As does Badiani, this small and friendly spot offers an outside seating area for its customers.

 

Though not many tourists stay in this part of town, there are places that willingly house them for as long as they'd like. Hostel 7 Santi (Seven Saints) is located on Viale dei Mille and accommodates visitors for relatively low prices. The hostel occupies a former convent built in the 1800s and is next door to the Church of Sette Santi, the local parish church that was built shortly after the convent, in the early 1900s. Designed in the neo-gothic style, it is one of the few of this style in Florence.

 

To get there, take the 10, 17, or 20 Ataf bus (only 10 to 15 minutes from the Santa Maria Novella train station).Better yet, walk there, ride your bike (there are separate lanes), take your children to the park, explore the piazzas. Visit the modest Campo di Marte morning market (located in the gardens behind the stadium): stop by Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to find a good deal on a sweater or pair of shoes. The vendors vary from day to day and if you search thoroughly, you can find a bargain.

 

Afterwards, if you're feeling especially ambitious, keep walking away from the stadium to reach the end of Campo di Marte. From there, you can hike up (or take Ataf bus 7) to Fiesole, where you can explore ancient Roman ruins and get a beautiful view of Florence.

 

 

 

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