The refrain is becoming increasingly familiar: ‘We’re
staying in Florence
during August this year; it’s like having two vacations!’ There is no
doubt that more and more residents are choosing to go on holiday in June, July
or even September, rather than August, as tradition has typically dictated. But
what’s with the two vacations thing? Can experiencing August in Florence really be that tranquillo? Take it from someone who has done it before: it really does
become a completely different town during the dog days.
While things are changing, the majority of
people still take off, meaning that the city slowly empties out, starting the
last weekend in July, and reaches its lowest population point during the week
of Ferragosto (August 15). With the exodus, the days take on an easy rhythm
different from the usual bustle of the city center. Sure, your favorite shop,
market or restaurant might be shut tight, but why not take advantage of the
change in routine and explore the parts of the city still unfamiliar to you (no
matter how long you have lived here)? As the city’s pace slows and you relish
in a calmer, lazier Florence,
try ‘pretending’ you are on vacation in one of the world’s most loved cities.
Below is a guide for making the most of your Florentine holiday.
Plan as if you were leaving town.
Even if you are working during August, it is likely
that your other commitments-clubs, groups, even your gym-will be on hold for
the month. That makes it easier to clear your schedule and live more like a
vacationer, ready to experience new things as you step out of your routine.
Grab a guidebook and a map.
If you are anything like me, then you have a shelf
packed with guidebooks left by visitors over the years. Even if you are well
past the guidebook phase of living in Florence,
they can often be sources of interesting trivia and little-known facts. Take a
moment to flip through them and pick the one that seems most suited to your
style of travel and has the most information about the area of town you are
interested in exploring. This is a great way to get to know the neighborhoods
you still feel unfamiliar with.
is small, most of us tend to stick to our well-known areas and rarely venture
out into unknown territory. For example, if you live in the Oltrarno, head over
to the via Bolognese or the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood. Live and work in Santa
Croce? Cross the river and check out what San Niccolò and San Frediano have to
If you want a more in-depth look at Florence,
try a book that explores a specific aspect of the city, such as To Florence, Con Amore: 77 Ways to Love Florence by Jane Fortune, Piazzas of
Florence by Lisa McGarry and Literary Florence, by Elisabetta Properzi
Nelsen and Christopher Concolino (all available at local bookstores). This is
the perfect opportunity to learn more about the city you call home.
Get to know the parks and gardens.
is not known for its abundance of green space, there are several parks
and public gardens that provide respite from the summertime heat. Grab a book
or newspaper and stretch out on a patch of grass to while away a couple of
hours in the morning sun. We offer many suggestions for green excursions in our
features on pages 17 and 18.
Take in a museum or two.
Don’t wait for visitors to come to town before booking
a visit to some of Florence’s
most popular museums. Skip the lines at the ‘biggies’ like the Uffizi,
Accademia and Palazzo Pitti by booking online at www.theflorentine.net.
(click on Florence
tickets). Try for an early morning visit and avoid the massive crowds that show
up around midday. Not free in the mornings? Then check the summer museum
schedule available at the Florence Tourism Office (via Cavour 1r)-you may be
surprised to find some museums stay open into the evenings this time of year.
The Accademia, for example, extends its hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays until
9pm (with free entrance on Thursdays from 7pm to 9pm).
If you want to avoid the crowds, then this is the
perfect time to take in museums like San Marco (only four euro!), the Stibbert Museum
and gardens, the Horne
Museum, the Davanzati, or
even the Bargello, which tends to be less crowded than the others.
August is also the perfect time to check out the
Galileo exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi you have been meaning to see. Take advantage
of the spacious rooms (and air conditioning!) to bone up on your astronomical
knowledge. See our Top Picks section on pages 8 and 9 for more museum and
Listen to the music.
Nothing beats an outdoor concert or show on a warm
summer evening. See our Music and Festivals feature on page 20 for upcoming
Take a day trip.
One of the best things about Florence is its central location-you can be
out of the city and at the beach, in the mountains, countryside or tiny Tuscan
hamlet in no time flat. Save gas by logging on to www.trenitalia.it for a timetable of trains that will take you anywhere you want to go. You’ll
also find a variety of unique sagre and other festivals around Tuscany in August, which
make getting out of town even more fun (see Top Picks for suggestions).
Splurge on good food.
Think of all the money you are saving by not paying
exorbitant rates for that ombrellone in Sardegna! Take your savings and
try a new restaurant in town (be sure to call ahead as many places still take
holidays for a least a week or two in August). For ideas, check out The Food
Lover’s Guide to Florence by Emily Wise Miller or Pappa e Ciccia by
Leonardo Romanelli. The new website Dining in Florence (www.dininginflorence.com)
is an excellent resource for finding just the right restaurant, gelateria or
cafè. For suggestions on outdoor dining, have a look at our Dining Alfresco
feature on page 21.
Have a great terrace at home and want to put it to
use? Stop at your local market or grocery for some fresh summer delicacies and
a nice bottle of wine and invite your friends for an aperi-cena at your
And finally…act like a tourist, it’s ok!
The best part about being on vacation is opening
yourself up to new experiences and letting go of your routine. As you explore
your own town, try to put yourself in holiday-mode: take pictures, ask for
directions, smile at passersby. Catch up on your correspondence with a stack of
postcards or your trusty laptop during a leisurely morning at an outdoor cafè.
Take a moment to enjoy the city. But most of all . . . have fun!