TF has decided to republish the following articles from our online archive to help you enjoy the best of summer in the city and beyond. Back by popular demand, these articles highlight the best places to cool down in the city and environs, where to find a traditional meal alfresco and a guide to explore the Tuscan coast and its beautiful beaches. All of these articles continue online and can be found in the ‘Summer in Florence’ section (left sidebar) at www.theflorentine.net.
Long summer days are perfect for excursions by bike or horseback, or for outdoor sports like golf, tennis, or boating. Florence offers a wealth of summer fun and activities to help both residents and visitors beat the heat. Below is a selection of activities for children and adults available through July and August in the city and environs.
Bicycling around the city is a unique experience that will allow you to discover Renaissance Florence from a different perspective and help you keep fit and have fun at the same time. Single and multi-day guided bike rides for small groups are offered in and around Florence and Tuscany. Bikes and insurance are provided.
Try this English-speaking, expert cycling tour guide: Tuscany Bike Tours, via Ghibellina 34r, tel. 055/3860253.
The countryside and rolling hills surrounding Florence offer a wealth of equestrian fun for the whole family, as well as charming accommodations, local Tuscan fare and stunning city views. Adults and children can take horseback riding lessons (usually about 15 euro per hour). Try these horse ranches: Centro Ippico la Baita, Cascine Park, Florence, tel. 055/307305, www.clubippicolabaita.it; La Calvana Reining Horses, via di Vezzano 24, Loc. Carraia, Calenzano, tel. 055/8819722, www.calvanareininghorses.com; Agriturismo Podere le Pialle, via di Galiga 20, Doccia, Pontassieve, tel. 055/8361265, www.poderelepialle.it.
Florence and its surrounding areas offer some of the best golf greens in the country. Tee off in any one of these prime courses:
The Golf Club Montelupo at Fattoria di Fibbiana (Loc. Fattoria di Fibbiana, via Le Piagge 4, Montelupo Fiorentino, tel. 0571/541004, www.golfmontelupo.it), on via Le Piagge, offers a good game with splendid views of the city and surrounding countryside.
Wondering how to stay cool while enjoying a great Florentine dinner? There is only one answer: stay outside and away from the steaming indoor ovens. There are plenty of options for dining alfresco-we’ve included our favorites here.
Via dei Vellutini, 1r, Piazza della Passera – 055/218562
Tucked into a tiny Oltrarno piazza, Trattoria 4 Leoni offers the perfect mix of locals and tourists heartily enjoying their Tuscan specialties. Big, white umbrellas provide the right amount of shade for diners sitting in the piazza.
Piazza S.Spirito 6r – 055/210437
Restaurant/pizzeria with tables facing the facade of Santo Spirito. It may not be the coolest place temperature-wise to eat in August, but the generous portions and quality pizzas at a fair price make it a good place to go.
Via Monte Alle Croci 10r (outside of the san Niccolo’ gate) – 055/2342483
Huge crostoni and yellow paper on the tables make this a classic for good eats with friends in the open Florentine air.
Villa Bardini, Costa San Giorgio 6 – 055/2008444
Enjoy Florence from a different perspective at this terrace café connected to the contemporary art museum at Villa Bardini. Boasting innovative dishes and fashionable cocktails, it is the perfect place for a light meal or an aperitivo on a warm summer evening.
Borgo San Jacopo (BSJ)
Borgo San Jacopo 62r – 055/281661
The Oscar for the best tables in all of Florence go to the beautiful Hotel Lungarno restaurant: the two tables on the mini-terrace facing the Ponte Vecchio are so dramatic they could be the stage for an opera.
One of the best things about Florence in August is its proximity to Tuscany’s beaches, which offer a unique and varied combination of sandy beaches and shaded alpine woods, as well as venues for sport and fun in the sun and a roaring party scene that can easily rival that of Spain’s Ibiza or Greece’s Mykonos. Looking for a low-key stroll down a palm-lined promenade? Almost every town boasts a lungomare perfect for people watching and catching a breeze. Savour a multi-flavoured gelato, take a leisurely bike ride or nature excursion through the woods just minutes from the seaside action. The seaside in Tuscany is all this and much more!
Swim in the Mediterranean Sea against the magnificent backdrop of Tuscany’s imposing Apuan Alps. The area has much to offer in terms of enogastronomy, art and history, in addition to pristine waters and a wealth of sandy beaches. Situated in northern Tuscany, just under Liguria’s famed Cinque Terre, the Apuan Riviera extends south to the Versilia.
Locals like to divide the ‘trendy’ Versilia coast into two categories: the ‘historic’ Versilia, which is composed of Pietrasanta, Forte dei Marmi, Seravezza and Stazzema; and the ‘tourist’ Versilia, which includes the municipalities of Camaiore, Massarosa and Viareggio. The area has much to offer both in terms of seaside fun and in-land artistic and historical treasures.
Costa degli Etruschi
This 90-kilometer stretch of coastline begins just north of Livorno and extends south to port city of Piombino. Beaches are characterized by both fine sand and rocks; the coastline is marked by inlets and some of Tuscany’s most charming Etruscan ruins and hamlets, like Bolgheri (home of one of Italy’s most prized and expensive wines, the Sassicaia), Populonia, Castagneto Carducci, Bibbona, Suvereto and Campiglia Marittima.
Parks & Gardens
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.
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.
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, 7am to 2pm) or Sunday, when it’s packed with people.
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.