As temperatures soar and the sun beats down, Florentines, DOC or adopted, understandably head for the cool of the coast. For those left baking in the city, however, here are seven of Florence’s hottest cool spots—where entrance is free.
1. Easy Living beach
Located near piazza Poggi, tucked under San Niccolò ramps, the Easy Living Lungarno beach serves as the city’s ‘seaside escape.’ Sand, lounge chairs, spacious cabanas and a beach volleyball court ensure that city dwellers can enjoy all amenities of the shore just passi from home. Though bathing in the Arno is strictly prohibited, showers provide a quick relief from the heat. This year’s newest addition is an environmentally friendly wooden chalet that doubles as the beach’s restaurant, bar and evening spot. Jam to the best local DJs every Friday and Saturday evening starting at 7:30pm or boogie on at the contemporary dance organized each Sunday with project Rive. Finally, tone your beach body with one of the free yoga sessions offered every Tuesday at sunset. For more information, see www.facebook.com/associazionepiazzart.
2. Palazzo Strozzi
Searching for a shady escape in the heart of the city? Head to Palazzo Strozzi, located just off via Tornabuoni. Although it is Florence’s largest temporary exhibition space, visitors don’t have to enter one of the two exhibits—currently Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino, and Family Matters—in order to enjoy the cool shade of the Renaissance palace. Walk through the impressive entryways and rest on one of the many benches in the spacious open courtyard. The building’s height blocks the sun, while the porticos allow for a passing breeze. Take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. If you’re feeling thirsty, order a caffè shakerato—a frozen coffee—at the trendy café. For more information, see www.palazzostrozzi.org.
Although the Biblioteca delle Oblate, on via dell’Oriuolo, 26, offers all the conveniences of a modern library, it attracts visitors long after a day’s study. Head up to the third-floor loggia—the large, breezy terrace—to sip a drink, pore over a book or socialize with friends alfresco. Even in the balmiest weather, a breeze can still be felt on the veranda. In fact, centuries ago, the terrace was constructed for the nuns to dry the adjacent hospital’s freshly washed sheets. If temperatures get too hot, stop at the caffetteria, the luxuriously air-conditioned café. During the day, get your fix of caffeine, while in the evening savor a refreshing cocktail during the aperitivo hour. With the breathtaking view of the nearby Duomo, you may be tempted never to leave. For more information, see www.biblioteche.comune.fi.it/biblioteca_delle_oblate.
4. Church and Museum of Orsanmichele
Take refuge from the heat in one of the buildings that have been keeping Italians cool for centuries: a church. Granted, there may be an abundance to choose from, but Orsanmichele’s central location (off via dei Calzaiuoli) and historical importance make it an enticing stopping place. While the Duomo often has a long queue, you can enter Orsanmichele without waiting and sit inside to admire the Gothic altar. Note the unusual shape of the church. Before its transformation, it was the city’s grain market. Observe the grain shoots in the pillars along the wall, the paved porticos and the large rings on the ceiling used to hoist up products—remnants of the church’s past. Before leaving, pop by the free museum upstairs. For more information, see theflr.net/orsanmichele.
5. Giardino della Gherardesca at the Four Seasons
This summer, enjoy the gardens of the Four Seasons as the hotel, located off borgo Pinti, hosts an outdoor sculpture exhibit. Dialogue, the show organized by eminent artist Ugo Riva, places nearly 30 works from four contemporary artists throughout the historic park. This garden, one of Florence’s largest, has picturesque fountains, statues, pools and even a temple. Get lost along the intertwining paths or cozy up with a book under a tree in this serene sanctuary: you will feel miles away from the hustle of the sweltering city. Take advantage of the free, public entrance throughout the duration of the exhibit (and maybe even the take-away pizza the Four Seasons has on offer this summer). For more information, see www.fourseasons.com/florence.
6. Villa Strozzi
The sixteenth-century Villa Strozzi, off via Pisana in the Oltrarno, is known for its (mostly free) cultural events hosted nightly at the Limonaia, the old greenhouse. The jam-packed 2014 schedule offers an array of music, theater, dance, art and culinary happenings to satisfy all tastes. If jazz or Bach still won’t please your appetite, check out the pizzeria, open every evening at 7pm. For more information, see www.officinecreative.fi.it.
7. Giardino dell’Orticultura
With long days and warm nights, there’s no better time to take advantage of a green space. With the Giardino dell’Orticultura’s new cultural schedule, a slice of earthy paradise is located not far from piazza della Libertà. Early evenings focus on art, music and nature programs for youngsters. Parents take note of the Aperipasseggino, an evening when adults can enjoy an aperitivo as their children take part in organized outdoor activities. As the sun goes down, enjoy live music, screened football matches and theater all’aperto. Check out the weekday apericena and Sunday beer and pizza night. For more information, see www.facebook.com/giardino.dellorticultura.
YOUR COOL SUMMER TIPS
We asked The Florentine readers, fans and followers for their suggestions on how to stay chilled (as much as possible, anyway) on the urban heat island of Florence this summer!
FROM OUR FACEBOOK FANS: www.facebook.com/tfnews
Earl: In the park on Viale Malta near the Stadio and Mandela Forum. I like to curl up on a bench and take a nap in the shade.
Hellen: Giardino Boboli.
Music and Markets Tours: Cloisters! Such as Ognissanti – a favorite cool peaceful spot.
Wendy: Piazza Santa Spirito, under a tree, with a basket of cherries from the market in Castelfiorentino picked up along the way from Certaldo.
Marco: Try the surrounding hills. For example, around Vincigliata, near Fiesole. A nice place for walking, running or biking.
Erin: Easy Living on the River Arno! Very relaxed … Hammocks and chairs set up on the beach. Don’t go in the water! But find a big shade tree to go under and get a drink at the bar.
Malina: The swimming pool in the Cascine!
Giacomo: Take long bike rides around Florence’s neighbourhoods to feel the breeze and find new streets and piazze, little stalls and local markets: that’s what I plan to do this summer. To think that I pass by these places all the time and never explore them! I love to hear the city breathe in its summer slumber.
Helen: I love to take a book and sit by the fountain in piazza Santo Spirito. It might not be cool, but the trickling of the water has a soothing effect on my overheated psyche!
FROM FLORENCE’S BLOGGERS
M. Elizabeth Evans @dirtyfilthyME: Spend the summer pretending to be a vampire. I usually avoid going out during the day unless I have to. Also, find a local pool and make it your best friend. Live in it. Mermaid it up.
Mary Gray @verymarygray: Not really a place, but a practice: substitute your morning macchiato for caffè-flavored gelato instead! If it’s Saturday or Sunday it doesn’t count, right? (Especially if the gelateria is right next door to, or inside, the bar.)
Emiko Davies @emikodavies: Retreat to a cool garden, preferably with a nice icy drink, like a spritz in the garden of the Four Seasons hotel.
Valentina Dainelli @TooMuchTuscany: When it gets far too hot, head for Florence’s Bellariva or Costoli pools. They’re both open every day and are easy to reach by bus, offering discounted prices in the late afternoon.
Nardia Plumridge @_lostinflorence: The crypt in San Miniato al Monte church is a cool, serene space. Yes, you have to get up the hill but once there it’s worth it. The other place is the leafy areas by the old medieval walls at Villa Bardini, in the garden.
Georgette Jupe @girlinflorence: I like to stop for a ‘water break’ at the coolest fountain in the Oltrarno.
Krista Ricchi @allafiorentina: A terrace or balcony is the perfect way to escape the sticky streets below. If your apartment doesn’t have a terrace, head to the rooftop bar of a Nearby hotel! Enjoy a cocktail, cool breeze and, best of all, the spectacular views of Florence.
Alexandra Korey @arttrav: Do like a retiree: hang out at Esselunga!