Get fit

Where to jog it out in Florence

Lauren Piccolo
April 21, 2011

In case you haven't noticed, it's about that time of year again in Florence when the city seems to be coming out of hibernation from a long, winter slumber. The certainty that spring is on its way can be felt through the streets: the fashion on via Tournabuoni is a little less bundled; local families are out trolling in the evening, some even indulging in gelato; and, for better or for worse, the streets are a bit more congested as Florence's tourist season gets underway.


Spring seems  to generate a giddy anticipation of longer days and warmer weather. If you're anything like me though, this transitional moment can induce feelings of anxiety: thoughts of wriggling into last summer's high-waist shorts or slinking into a flowing dress make me want to reverse time and retreat into the comforts of winter sweaters and snow boots.


Fortunately, Florence offers many opportunities to get active and enjoy the spring season outdoors. Those who like jogging can take advantage of multiple running paths that stretch every which way out of the city center. With the sun rising earlier and setting later, what better way to get your heart rate up and work off that winter upholstery than taking in some new sites around town. With a good pair of running shoes and appropriate workout gear (see box), you can head in any direction out of the city-north, south, east and west-and you will find quiet, tree-lined streets void of the zooming mopeds and the mobs of tourists that buzz about the historic center.


Heading south, take the recently repaved scenic route along viale Michelangelo. The wide sidewalk, divided for walking and biking, leads up a winding slope where the uphill challenge is sure to get your calves and hamstrings moving. The best time to make the climb along viale Michelangelo is in the morning, between 7:30 and 8:30am. Your reward for this early outing awaits at the top as the views of the city are pretty much for the taking. Tour buses have yet to fill up the parking lot and with only a few vendors setting up shop, you can have a quiet moment to look out over the city before you start your day.


Head due north of Campo di Marte to Parco di Villa il Ventaglio, which also offers a winding paved road that leads up to a high viewing point. Unlike viale Michelangelo, a busy street, the path here is within the park and is for pedestrians only. Walking or jogging, you can take in the tranquil sites and sounds of the natural setting. Along with the manmade lake at the entrance, a restroom, two drinkable water fountains along the climb up, the prize for arriving at the top is a unique view of the Tuscan hills. The park's hours vary depending on the season. Until June, it is open from 8:15am to 6:30pm; from June to the end of August, it is open until 7:30pm.


The obvious route heading west takes you through the Cascine. When I moved to Florence last year and inquired about jogging routes around the city, many people suggested Cascine Park. But after taking a few runs through it over the last months, I do not suggest young students take this route during early morning or late evening hours. I stopped heading that way when, last fall, at the reasonable hour of 8:30am I passed a group of questionable characters doing, well, questionable things. While the park is filled with families on the weekends and other joggers utilize the flat, even path during the afternoons, there are much better options in the city for solo joggers.


There are two possibilities for heading east along the river: Parco dell'Albereta or Parco dell'Anconella. Both parks have paved, tree-lined walkways that follow the Arno. Once you are past the Giovanni da Verrazano bridge, the parks offer a quiet retreat as the only people I've encountered are elderly women taking their daily walks, the occasional jogger and the many rowers who offer motivation as they push their way along the Arno. With your back to the city and the trees surrounding you, Parco dell'Albereta and Parco dell'Anconella are perfect options for those looking for an easy escape out of the city center.


Now, a word about what to wear. I'm not sure if other foreigners have noticed this, but since arriving last summer, I've realized that Florentines take dressing ‘in season' very seriously. It seems that exposed limbs prior to the warmest months have the potential to induce strong glares of both confusion and intrigue. To avoid this, dress accordingly. If you are like me and want to stay focused during your workouts, I would suggest keeping the shorts and tanks in the closet until at least May or June and opt for full-coverage leggings and a long-sleeved t-shirt.


To stay motivated and safe, get out there with friends and experience together the challenge of an uphill climb or tranquil walk along the river. The reward is quality time outdoors, some fresh air, a break from the city and a chance to explore the beautiful landscape that surrounds Florence. 



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