Run the Renaissance

Jogging routes through Florence

Rosie Scammell
November 22, 2012

For those inspired by the Florence marathon on November 25, there are ample opportunities to get running. With one of Europe's milder winters, the Tuscan countryside on the doorstep and a stunning cityscape, Florence is the perfect place for amateurs to begin. In the first of a two-part series, Rosie Scammell will outline two short runs from the Duomo, 3km and 5km, repectively, to get you jogging in and around the historic centre. The longer runs described in the next issue (TF 174) will take you further afield, exploring green city spaces and neighbourhoods beyond the city's medieval walls and up to Fiesole.

 

3km through the historical centre

Stretch outside the doors of the Duomo as the bells strike 7am and the street cleaners wash the piazza before the tourists arrive. In November the sun will just be rising at this time and catch the Cupola as you begin.

 

Set off west, passing the cathedral to your left, and turn right at the end of the square, down via del Proconsolo. Within seconds you'll tread over an old city wall, marked in the street with a golden line, and pass the imposing Bargello, formerly a law court, palace and prison and now a museum. Continue down the street as it becomes via dei Castellani, and have a rest by the Galileo Museum's sundial.

 

Now on the Arno, turn right towards the Ponte Vecchio and pass the prestigious rowing club, Cannottieri Firenze, on the river bank with a view onto the Ponte Vecchio-where it seems that lounging rather than rowing is the primary occupation-and the great arches of the Uffizi Gallery to the right. Dash over the ageing bridge; a joy at dawn but an impossibility at any other time of day due to the aimless crowds.

 

Safely al di là d'Arno, turn right onto borgo San Jacopo for a few hundred metres before taking a left onto via Toscanella. This narrow street opens out onto the delightful piazza della Passera, where there are benches for the weary, while others can carry straight on.

 

A dead end and a turn left brings you out onto piazza Pitti, where you are confronted with the grand Pitti Palace. When open, 10 euro will afford you a run around the Boboli Gardens, which are only accessible through the palace. On this occasion, however, turn right, passing the palace, until you see a hard right down via Mazzetta.

 

Piazza Santo Spirito opens on the right, quiet at dawn yet filled with bustling bars or market stalls at other times. Head through the square towards the plain-faced church, an understated anomaly in Florence, and to its right down via del Presto di San Martino.

 

Take a right at the end, followed by a swift left, and you are out onto the Arno again, over Ponte Santa Trinita and at present into a mesh of road works which blight piazza Santa Trinita up ahead. Struggle through and up via dei Tornabuoni until you pass Palazzo Strozzi. If the weighty wooden doors are shut, head around the corner of the palace or run through the courtyard and carry onwards along via degli Strozzi.

 

Through the arch of piazza della Repubblica, past the merry-go-round and eighteen-century Caffè Gilli, before turning left up via Roma for a sprint finish back to the Duomo.

 

5km to piazzale Michelangelo

From the front of the Duomo, head south down via dei Calzaiuoli, past the shops before quickly turning at the second right down via del Corso. This street, turning into borgo degli Albizi, via Pietrapiana and finally, borgo la Croce, houses an eclectic mix of windows peddling everything from pastries to cheap plastic shoes. In the early morning there are few signs of life aside from the newspaper stand by via del Proconsolo, although just off piazza Sant'Ambrogio the market is a hive of activity.

 

Arrival at piazza Cesare Beccaria puts you onto the city's edge; run under the central arch and take the second of the two larger streets to the left: viale Giovanni Amendola. This leads down to the Arno. On the other side, you'll see the Torre di San Niccolò: head towards it. Once you reach the tower, run behind it and begin the ascent to piazzale Michelangelo without stopping.

 

After the formal steps, cross the street and continue up a smaller path within the trees, taking the left option. Another street to cross before the square becomes visible above and within a few weary strides you'll reach the top. The views will make you forget the arduous climb.

The refreshment truck appears to be always open; welcome on the run (or walk) around the edge of the square. The journey down moves pressure from the heart to knees; you'll find the path between the two bars on the edge of the square.

 

The downward path opens out onto familiar Florentine streets; it's straight on down via del Monte alle Croci, which winds to the left as it joins via di San Niccolò. Jump two streets over by taking the first right, a short left and another right. This takes you back to the Arno, east from the tower and by the river's designated but not desirable beach. Rest not; turn left and then north over Ponte alle Grazie.

 

Back in the heart of the historic city, run straight ahead down via dei Benci before turning on the third left and joining the charming via dei Neri. It's best to jog down this street before the doors open, as they offer some of Florence's best gelato, meats and wines.

 

Now over to via dei Castellani and along narrow via della Ninna to find yourself among the statues of piazza della Signoria. For thirsty runners a quick detour around the side of Palazzo Vecchio, behind the fountain of Neptune, will reveal a water fountain in the side of the building offering still and sparkling water. Others should cut straight across the square, taking the final stretch along via dei Calzaiuoli, which opens onto piazza del Duomo.

 

To view maps of these jogging routes, click http://bit.ly/S1zBig (3km) and http://bit.ly/T2JBWb (5km). Next up: 7km to 21km routes that can be completed in full or in part.

 

 

To take part in the Florence marathon, whether the whole 42+ kilometres, or one of the shorter walks or jogs, see www.firenzemarathon.it

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