For those inspired by the Florence
marathon on November 25, there are ample opportunities to get running. With one
of Europe’s milder winters, the Tuscan countryside on the doorstep and a
stunning cityscape, Florence is the perfect place for amateurs to begin. In the
first of a two-part series, Rosie Scammell will outline two short runs from the
Duomo, 3km and 5km, repectively, to get you jogging in and around the historic
centre. The longer runs described in the next issue (TF 174) will take you
further afield, exploring green city spaces and neighbourhoods beyond the
city’s medieval walls and up to Fiesole.
3km through the historical centre
Stretch outside the doors of the Duomo as the bells
strike 7am and the street cleaners wash the piazza before the tourists arrive.
In November the sun will just be rising at this time and catch the Cupola as
Set off west, passing the cathedral to your left, and
turn right at the end of the square, down via del Proconsolo. Within
seconds you’ll tread over an old city wall, marked in the street with a golden
line, and pass the imposing Bargello, formerly a law court, palace and prison
and now a museum. Continue down the street as it becomes via dei Castellani,
and have a rest by the Galileo Museum’s sundial.
Now on the Arno, turn right towards the Ponte
Vecchio and pass the prestigious rowing club, Cannottieri Firenze, on the
river bank with a view onto the Ponte Vecchio-where it seems that lounging
rather than rowing is the primary occupation-and the great arches of the Uffizi
Gallery to the right. Dash over the ageing bridge; a joy at dawn but an
impossibility at any other time of day due to the aimless crowds.
Safely al di là d’Arno, turn right onto borgo
San Jacopo for a few hundred metres before taking a left onto via
Toscanella. This narrow street opens out onto the delightful piazza
della Passera, where there are benches for the weary, while others can
carry straight on.
A dead end and a turn left brings you out onto piazza
Pitti, where you are confronted with the grand Pitti Palace. When open, 10
euro will afford you a run around the Boboli Gardens, which are only accessible
through the palace. On this occasion, however, turn right, passing the palace,
until you see a hard right down via Mazzetta.
Piazza Santo Spirito opens on the right,
quiet at dawn yet filled with bustling bars or market stalls at other times.
Head through the square towards the plain-faced church, an understated anomaly
in Florence, and to its right down via del Presto di San Martino.
Take a right at the end, followed by a swift left, and
you are out onto the Arno again, over Ponte Santa Trinita and at present
into a mesh of road works which blight piazza Santa Trinita up ahead.
Struggle through and up via dei Tornabuoni until you pass Palazzo Strozzi.
If the weighty wooden doors are shut, head around the corner of the palace or
run through the courtyard and carry onwards along via degli Strozzi.
Through the arch of piazza della Repubblica,
past the merry-go-round and eighteen-century Caffè Gilli, before turning left
up via Roma for a sprint finish back to the Duomo.
5km to piazzale Michelangelo
From the front of the Duomo, head south down via
dei Calzaiuoli, past the shops before quickly turning at the second right
down via del Corso. This street, turning into borgo degli Albizi, via
Pietrapiana and finally, borgo la Croce, houses an eclectic mix of
windows peddling everything from pastries to cheap plastic shoes. In the early
morning there are few signs of life aside from the newspaper stand by via
del Proconsolo, although just off piazza Sant’Ambrogio the market is
a hive of activity.
Arrival at piazza Cesare Beccaria puts you onto
the city’s edge; run under the central arch and take the second of the two
larger streets to the left: viale Giovanni Amendola. This leads down to
the Arno. On the other side, you’ll see the Torre di San Niccolò: head
towards it. Once you reach the tower, run behind it and begin the ascent to piazzale
Michelangelo without stopping.
After the formal steps, cross the street and continue
up a smaller path within the trees, taking the left option. Another street to
cross before the square becomes visible above and within a few weary strides
you’ll reach the top. The views will make you forget the arduous climb.
The refreshment truck appears to be always open;
welcome on the run (or walk) around the edge of the square. The journey down moves
pressure from the heart to knees; you’ll find the path between the two bars on
the edge of the square.
The downward path opens out onto familiar Florentine
streets; it’s straight on down via del Monte alle Croci, which winds to
the left as it joins via di San Niccolò. Jump two streets over by taking
the first right, a short left and another right. This takes you back to the
Arno, east from the tower and by the river’s designated but not desirable
beach. Rest not; turn left and then north over Ponte alle Grazie.
Back in the heart of the historic city, run straight
ahead down via dei Benci before turning on the third left and joining
the charming via dei Neri. It’s best to jog down this street before the
doors open, as they offer some of Florence’s best gelato, meats and wines.
Now over to via dei Castellani and along narrow
via della Ninna to find yourself among the statues of piazza della Signoria.
For thirsty runners a quick detour around the side of Palazzo Vecchio, behind
the fountain of Neptune, will reveal a water fountain in the side of the
building offering still and sparkling water. Others should cut straight across
the square, taking the final stretch along via dei Calzaiuoli, which opens onto
piazza del Duomo.
To view maps of these jogging routes, click
http://bit.ly/S1zBig (3km) and http://bit.ly/T2JBWb (5km). Next up: 7km to 21km
routes that can be completed in full or in part.
To take part in the Florence marathon, whether the whole 42+ kilometres,
or one of the shorter walks or jogs, see www.firenzemarathon.it