If you are anything like me you will have taken a look through your Florence guidebook on the flight over. Trying to be ‘good,’ I start with the section about the history of the city, but eventually the temptation to skip straight to the section on shopping or nightlife overwhelms me, and I start to make notes about the best restaurants, where one can find good Italian shoes, and more to the point, where I can go out at night.
Those arriving in Florence in the summer will be shocked and dismayed to find that many of the places that you have highlighted are closed. Often there is not even a sign on the door to indicate if the club or disco is closed just for that night, for the week, or in fact for the rest of the summer.
This is a strange, but an annual phenomenon that occurs in Florence every May. All the clubs in the centre of the city close their doors and simultaneously a whole host of new clubs, or Summer Clubs, open theirs. The Summer Clubs are bigger and offer one essential ingredient – outdoor, open-air nightlife. In the ever-growing summer heat that doesn’t desist until the wee hours of the morning, it is important to locate places where one can dance outside.
What these clubs lack in intimacy they make up for with their summery, outdoorsy atmosphere, as well as a wide choice of music proffered by numerous dance floors.
They do, however, also come with a catch. Their drink prices are a little higher than the standard winter drink price, and almost without fail you will be presented with a strange- looking ‘Drink Card’ at the entrance.
In Florence it is rare to go out and not find this system inside clubs and discos. Every person who enters the club receives a special card that must be used to buy drinks. It is a little like running a tab at a bar, but you don’t get the choice whether to do so or not. You use the card to pay for your drinks during the night and then when you leave, you pay out the card.
The unfortunate downside to this system is that it is a big responsibility to place on inebriated partiers. First, for people whose limit is usually dictated by the cash they have in their wallet: if you’re the type to max your credit cards and then have to pay them off for months, remember to keep track of the tab you’re racking up. Drink Card does not equal Credit Card. It does have to be paid off when the clock strikes midnight (well, more like 4am, but you get the point). Second, don’t lose it! Each club allocates the card a euro value, sometimes up to 60 euro, which needs to be paid in full should you misplace yours. There will always be somebody who speaks English, so if you’ve lost your card and don’t get what’s going on, make sure you ask how much you are paying and what is the value of the card.
So next time you’re flipping through your guidebook for summer fun, be sure to highlight the places with the key word ‘outdoor’ and I’ll see you on the dance floor.
Hot Outdoor Picks for this Summer
Viale degli Olmi 1, Florence
(at the start of Parco delle Cascine, near Ponte della Vittoria)
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11.30pm till late
With three dance floors, musically speaking there is something for everyone.
Free entrance for International Students with a student card
(euro 10 with one drink included for foreigners without a student card) before 12.30am.
English speaking staff at the door.
c/o Colle Bereto in Piazza Strozzi 5r, Florence
(between Cinema Odeon and Louis Vuitton)
Hottest new cocktail bar, loved by young fashionable Florentines.
Watch this space because there are rumours out that there will be a Sushi aperitivo on Thursday nights. Free buffet every night between 7pm and 10pm when you buy a drink.
It will be one of the most frequented bars this summer with outdoor seating for up to 80 people, lounge and chill-out vibes, with a great piazza aspect.
Michael Collins Irish Pub
Location Location Location
Piazza della Signoria, behind the horse statue.
This piazza is one of the most amazing in Florence and what could be better than relaxing with a drink and watching the world go by? Compared to the other restaurants and bars on the Piazza, the prices here are reasonable, however a word of warning is in order: the staff is not very friendly and the food is all made in the morning and heated SUBWAY-style (with microwaves!) when you place your order. In sum: Go for the view not for the soggy hamburgers!