Any time of the year but especially during the sultry days of summer, parks are a place to step away from the city streets and the tyranny of schedules to connect with nature. Florence has a variety of parks, from the city’s vast ‘green lung,’ the Cascine, to tiny ‘pocket parks’ in the neighbourhoods.
PARKS AND COMMUNITY GARDENS
Near Porta al Prato, alongside the Arno, on the west side of Florence.
Not to be confused with small neighborhood parks is the roughly 280-acre park along the Arno by the name of Le Cascine. Once a private hunting reserve for the Medici dukes, Le Cascine has been the green refuge for the city of Florence for centuries. Even in the hottest point of the day, you are bound to find cooler temperatures in this woody, green island. A bike path meanders through the entire park, with plenty of space for rollerblading as well. Find a shady spot on the grass and spread your picnic blanket under this canopy of green. Just don’t stay after dark, and avoid going on Tuesday (market day) or Sunday, when it’s packed with people.
Giardino Comunale di Borgo Allegri
Borgo Allegri 18, in the Santa Croce neighborhood; open daily 9:30am to12:30pm, 3pm to 6pm. Dogs not allowed.
This neighborhood ‘people’s’ park has plenty of benches in the shade among the trees. It is nestled between two residential, historic buildings of Borgo Allegri and is a favorite place for young mothers and grandmothers pushing strollers. There are children at play, elderly men reading their newspapers, middle-aged women catching up on the neighborhood pettegolezzi (gossip). The park is good place to take a picnic and partake, at least as a spectator, in the lively interaction of the residents of the neighborhood.
Giardino Alessandro Chelazzi
Via dell’Agnolo, between Borgo Allegri and via M. Buonarroti in the Santa Croce/Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood;
open daily 9am to 7:30pm.
Near the Piazza dei Ciompi, just a block away from the Loggia del Pesce is another neighborhood park: Giardino Alessandro Chelazzi. There are plenty of benches in the shade where the locals hang out. In the late afternoon, it fills up with all ages, and attracts dog owners as well, who can let their pets loose in this small iron-gated park surrounded with lavender-colored flowering hedges. Since the park lies in the heart of the Ciompi antiques area, browse among the antiques you’ll see propped outside of these small storefronts. When you’ve had enough, pick up a panino from a nearby baker, a cold bottle of frizzante and enjoy the afternoon in this delightful little garden.
Entrance off via dell’Erta Canina in San Niccolò (Ataf bus #23)
One of Florence’s most well-hidden gems, this little-known park is just a stroll up from Porta San Miniato but feels miles away from the city. Take the kids to play on the swings or enjoy a picnic in the sprawling green space.
via della Colonna between via degli Alfani and via della Mattonaia
This large piazza is actually a small garden park in the heart of central Florence. Situated in one of the city’s more elegant neighborhoods, it is equipped with a mini soccer field, a big children’s playground, merry-go-round and plenty of benches where visitors can rest under the shady trees.
Giardino dell’orticultura and the orti di parnaso
Entrances on via Bolognese 17 or
via Vittorio Emanuele 4; open 8:30am-8pm
These two sprawling neighborhood parks offer some of the most surprising and beautiful views in the whole city. Located near the Stibbert Museum, the parks are great for families thanks to the play areas, wide lawn with Renaissance ‘loggetta’ perfect for picnicking, and the wildly colorful Fontana del Serpente mosaic snake fountain. This neighborhood clears out in August, so don’t be surprised if you have the whole place to yourself!
(on the way up to) Piazzale Michelangelo
If green spaces combined with a panoramic view is what does it for you, go up to the Piazzale Michelangelo from the Torre di San Niccolò. Before reaching the top, you will find scattered along the curving road benches half-hidden among the trees and a magnificent view of the skyline of Florence. The dazzling view of the Duomo, the diverse trademark bell towers of Florence, and the Arno with its graceful bridges is breathtaking.
Japanese Rose Garden
Open daily 8am to 8pm
Before reaching the Piazzale, you come upon an iron gate entrance, which seems like the entrance to a private villa, but upon closer examination of the worn-out sign, reading Giardino Giapponese, you will discover what lies beyond. The view of Florence and the hills beyond will simply take your breath away. This is one of the most panoramic gardens in Florence. The carefully mowed prato inglese gives a bucolic feeling to this terraced garden with over 1,000 varieties of roses. The Japanese Rose Garden can be reached by following the curving road up to the Piazzale Michelangelo from the Torre di San Niccolò; it lies just below the Piazzale. There are plenty of shady benches where you can spend a few hours away from the broiling stones of Florence.
VILLAS ANDFORMAL GARDENS
Giardino del Palazzo Vivarelli Colonna
Via delle Conce 28, between via Ghibellina and via dell’Agnolo in the Santa Croce neighborhood; open Tuesday to Thursday 10am to 6pm. Entrance is free.
This elegant, traditional Italianate garden, an oasis of tall, leafy linden trees, azaleas, magnolias and lemon trees, dates back to the fifteenth century and belonged to the Granacci family. It has a melancholy air, and its aging splendor, plus the fact that there are only a few stone benches, probably discourages many a visitor. If the quietude doesn’t break your concentration, it is the perfect place to sit in the cool shade of one of the trees with a good book and escape the August heat.
Giardino dei Semplici
Via Micheli 3; call for opening hours.
Entrance fee: €3
Piazza Pitti; open daily 9am-7:30pm (closed first and fourth Monday of the month). Entrance fee (€6) includes admission to the Bardini Gardens.
Via dei Bardi
1r; open daily 8:15am-7:30pm.
Entrance fee (€6) includes admission to the Boboli.
Since its reopening in 2005 following 50 years of neglect, the 10-acre Gardens of the Villa Bardini in the Oltrarno have become a favorite with Florentines seeking a moment’s repose in the heart of the city. It is full of unexpected and wonderful surprises, like a sweeping baroque stairway, hidden statues, fountains, grottoes, a small amphitheatre and breathtaking views shaded by oak and cypress trees. Dating back to medieval times, it was originally two gardens, one belonging to the Mozzi family, whose property stretched between Costa San Giorgio, Piazza de’Mozzi and Via San Niccolò, while the other half was attached to seventeenth century Villa Manadora, built on Costa San Giorgio by Gherardo Silvani. Get your history and your green in one stop.