Much of Florence’s nightlife, especially now that Spring has settled, is to be found outdoors, and not just as a result of the anti-smoking laws implemented earlier this year. Indeed, the open areas of Italian piazze are perfect for evening and late-night hanging out, the cobbled streets perfect for leisurely strolls, or passeggiate. With no laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in outdoor, public spaces, as there are in the States, a balmy evening listening to street musicians and watching (read: checking out) all the pretty people passing by can be complemented by a couple of cold beers without fear of a police crackdown. Great places to have a drink that offer open-air seating in piazze are the quaint and ever-popular among foreign students Irish Pub JJ Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo; the chill and intimate with a jazzy flair Cabiria Cafe in Piazza Santo Spirito; and, although this piazza seems to have become little more than a glorified parking lot, the more Italian-frequented swanky, funky, and tropical Dolce Vita in Piazza delle Carmine. Of course, different piazze cater to different crowds; while Piazza della Repubblica is charming and harmless – a staple both for tourists and natives, Piazza Santa Croce is known to be less safe, as well as a hub for drug dealers.
As anyone will notice on a first evening walk about the city, Florence does not lack for layed-back Irish-style pubs, complete with, although certainly not limited to, other English-speaking patrons. Among the lesser well-known are The William, tucked to the right of Santa Croce; The Friends’ Pub on Borgo Santo Spirito; and the easy-access James Joyce in Piazza Ferrucci. The pub establishments tend to air both local and foreign football (soccer) games and generate a good-fun sports-fan atmosphere. If you’re looking for a big-screen sporting experience, however, Astor Cafe, though dull in decor, is the place.
A delightful and uniquely Italian component of Florentine nightlife is the Aperitivo, known to us as the nibbles that accompany pre-dinner cocktails free of charge. Some bars and lounges offer such an extensive aperitivo, moving beyond crisps and schiacciata to pastas and salads, that for the price of a €5-8 drink, you can also just about have a meal. (It is perfectly acceptable to go back for seconds.) For hearty aperitivos, try the rather alternative, dimly-lit Kitsch in Piazza Beccaria; the breezy and freshly remodeled Rifrullo on Via San Miniato; the chill and artsy Caffelatorre on the Lungarno just below Piazzale Michelangelo; and, if you fancy mixing with the upper crust of Replay and Dolce & Gabbana outfitted, hip, and somewhat pretentious Italians, Capocaccia by Piazza Tornabuoni. Just watch the time because aperitivos start between 5 and 6 and are finished by 8 or 9.
Post-aperitivo Florence sparkles with centrally located contemporary-chic cocktail lounges: open late, ideal for a little dressing up, and yet still relaxed. Go glam and catch that Italian’s eye over a mojito at Slowly or a cucumber daquiri at Angels. For the clubbing scene, one generally has to trek a little farther, and because Italian teenagers start going to discoteche at the age of thirteen or fourteen, it’s possible to stumble upon a rather pubescent crowd while out for a night of dancing. The best bet for hot DJs is Florence’s internationally recognized club Tenax on Via Pratese. Easier to hit up if you’re living in the centre are the trendily furnished Full Up on Via della Vigna Vecchia; the American student favourite Yab by the Odeon Theatre; and for Latin dancing (with a nightly lesson at 21.30), Jaragua on Via dell’Erta Canina.
While live music beyond that of street performers can seem a little tricky to find, it certainly is not absent, though not always accessible from the centre by foot. Foreign as well as Italian bands and performers come to the Saschall Theatre on the Lungarno A. Moro, the Palasport Mandela Forum on Viale Paoli, and the Auditorium Flog W. Live on Via M. Mercati. The Jazz Club, a cosy place virtually hidden in a basement on Via Nuova de Caccini boasts live jazz every night of the week bar Sundays.