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In case you haven't noticed, it's about that time of year again in Florence when the city seems to be coming out of hibernation from a long, winter slumber. The certainty that spring is on its way can be felt through the streets: the fashion on via Tournabuoni

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Thu 21 Apr 2011 12:00 AM

In
case you haven’t noticed, it’s about that time of year again in Florence when
the city seems to be coming out of hibernation from a long, winter slumber. The
certainty that spring is on its way can be felt through the streets: the
fashion on via Tournabuoni is a little less bundled; local families are out
trolling in the evening, some even indulging in gelato; and, for better or for
worse, the streets are a bit more congested as Florence’s tourist season gets
underway.

 

Spring seems 
to generate a giddy anticipation of longer days and warmer weather. If
you’re anything like me though, this transitional moment can induce feelings of
anxiety: thoughts of wriggling into last summer’s high-waist shorts or slinking
into a flowing dress make me want to reverse time and retreat into the comforts
of winter sweaters and snow boots.

 

Fortunately, Florence offers many opportunities to get
active and enjoy the spring season outdoors. Those who like jogging can take
advantage of multiple running paths that stretch every which way out of the
city center. With the sun rising earlier and setting later, what better way to
get your heart rate up and work off that winter upholstery than taking in some
new sites around town. With a good pair of running shoes and appropriate
workout gear (see box), you can head in any direction out of the city-north,
south, east and west-and you will find quiet, tree-lined streets void of the
zooming mopeds and the mobs of tourists that buzz about the historic center.

 

Heading south, take the recently repaved scenic route
along viale Michelangelo. The wide sidewalk, divided for walking and biking,
leads up a winding slope where the uphill challenge is sure to get your calves
and hamstrings moving. The best time to make the climb along viale Michelangelo
is in the morning, between 7:30 and 8:30am. Your reward for this early outing
awaits at the top as the views of the city are pretty much for the taking. Tour
buses have yet to fill up the parking lot and with only a few vendors setting
up shop, you can have a quiet moment to look out over the city before you start
your day.

 

Head due north of Campo di Marte to Parco di Villa il
Ventaglio, which also offers a winding paved road that leads up to a high viewing
point. Unlike viale Michelangelo, a busy street, the path here is within the
park and is for pedestrians only. Walking or jogging, you can take in the
tranquil sites and sounds of the natural setting. Along with the manmade lake
at the entrance, a restroom, two drinkable water fountains along the climb up,
the prize for arriving at the top is a unique view of the Tuscan hills. The
park’s hours vary depending on the season. Until June, it is open from 8:15am
to 6:30pm; from June to the end of August, it is open until 7:30pm.

 

The obvious route heading west takes you through the
Cascine. When I moved to Florence last year and inquired about jogging routes
around the city, many people suggested Cascine Park. But after taking a few
runs through it over the last months, I do not suggest young students take this
route during early morning or late evening hours. I stopped heading that way
when, last fall, at the reasonable hour of 8:30am I passed a group of
questionable characters doing, well, questionable things. While the park is
filled with families on the weekends and other joggers utilize the flat, even
path during the afternoons, there are much better options in the city for solo
joggers.

 

There are two possibilities for heading east along the
river: Parco dell’Albereta or Parco dell’Anconella. Both parks have paved,
tree-lined walkways that follow the Arno. Once you are past the Giovanni da
Verrazano bridge, the parks offer a quiet retreat as the only people I’ve
encountered are elderly women taking their daily walks, the occasional jogger
and the many rowers who offer motivation as they push their way along the Arno.
With your back to the city and the trees surrounding you, Parco dell’Albereta
and Parco dell’Anconella are perfect options for those looking for an easy
escape out of the city center.

 

Now, a word about what to wear. I’m not sure if other
foreigners have noticed this, but since arriving last summer, I’ve realized
that Florentines take dressing ‘in season’ very seriously. It seems that
exposed limbs prior to the warmest months have the potential to induce strong
glares of both confusion and intrigue. To avoid this, dress accordingly. If you
are like me and want to stay focused during your workouts, I would suggest
keeping the shorts and tanks in the closet until at least May or June and opt
for full-coverage leggings and a long-sleeved t-shirt.

 

To stay motivated and safe, get out there with friends
and experience together the challenge of an uphill climb or tranquil walk along
the river. The reward is quality time outdoors, some fresh air, a break from
the city and a chance to explore the beautiful landscape that surrounds
Florence. 

 

 

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