Florence’s most iconic musical moments

The way we were

Michelle Davis
February 4, 2016

Many love stories go unheeded, lost in our everyday Florentine life, in the wonderment of one-off events and greater attractions. But walking along via de’ Bardi, a stone’s throw from the Ponte Vecchio, look out for a seemingly rundown wooden door covered in graffiti. This unique landmark bears a declaration of the city’s love for its contemporary cultural heritage. To find out more, I spoke with Bruno Casini. Writer, event planner, artistic director and former manager of Florence’s top band Litfiba, this authentic troubadour has seen things we’d struggle to imagine back during the golden years of Florence’s music scene. For The Florentine, Casini brewed up a 30-year timeline of ever-changing sounds, international stars, iconic Florentine musicians and venues: nostalgia that, to this day, echoes throughout the city’s culture milieus and events scene.

florence-music The door in via de’ Bardi


The Swinging ‘60s / ‘English Week’


While the USofA was seen as a faraway dreamland, ‘neighboring’ London and its thriving beat scene inspired a wave of new trends. Teaming up with local Brit shops like Old England (still in via dei Vecchietti 28), Florence paid tribute to the swingin’ capital with a full-blown British invasion: in 1967, store windows only displayed English products, double-decker buses careened along the lungarni and red telephone booths were colorfully scattered between via Tornabuoni and piazza della Repubblica. Flashy Buckingham Palace guards tore through the city in daily parades, while elegantly parked Aston Martins and English girls in Mary Quant skirts were the talk of the town. This inspired many to follow in the footsteps of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, sparking successful beat bands like Spettri and I Califfi.


Although the 1966 flood closed down clubs and underground cellars, it didn’t manage to put a stop to the Summer of Love, which culminated in 1969 with the opening of Space Electronic (still in via Palazzuolo 37), considered the ultimate artsy hangout at the time.


The ‘70s / Life in the Piazzas


Florence’s squares were the epicenter of the ‘70s youth culture. Day and night, the loggias of the Accademia di Belle Arti in piazza San Marco were packed with hippies, artists and musicians. This is where artistic collectives were founded, songs written and politics discussed.


In 1977, a group of friends fresh from London decided to open Banana Moon, a freak-rock club in borgo degli Albizi 8, not far from the Bargello Museum. Open until 5am, this was the last station of Florentine nightowls. Although the spot only existed for three years, it is still very much alive in the city’s memory.


In via Zanetti 6/8r, around the corner from via de’ Cerretani, Sala Disco was a popular record store where penniless youngsters crowded the two listening booths in hopes of hearing a few tracks off their favorite albums before the scolding stare of the shop owner forced them to purchase or flee.



On September 10, 1979, a semi-unknown Patti Smith filled up the Artemio Franchi stadium with over 50,000 music-famished people, becoming a generational legend.


The ‘80s Rock Renaissance / Blooming club scene 


Casablanca, Rockoteca Brighton, Tenax, Flog, Manila: these are just a few of the ultra-popular clubs that opened in Florence in the ‘80s, and some are still open to this day. The local arts scene was crawling with life and soundsystems propagated the raw energy of new wave, punk and dark music.



In 1980, Peter Gabriel played (opening act: Simple Minds) at the Cascine Park, and a year later British post-punk band Echo & the Bunnymen filled the piazzale degli Uffizi with their powerful sounds. (Can you imagine?!)




In 1984, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne was in town to present Jonathan Demme’s musical documentary ‘Stop Making Sense’ as part of the then-famed Florence Film Festival, held at the ex-Cinema Apollo (now a four-star hotel in via Nazionale). Byrne was so impressed with the city’s energy that he decided to spend two months in Florence, checking out the local music scene and sporting a jacket designed by provocative Florentine multimedia artist group Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici.


In 1985, labels and promoters flocked to Tenax (via Pratese 46) for Italy’s first independent music gathering. Meanwhile, behind that door in via dei Bardi 32 five young Florentine musicians were preparing to write Italian music history: Litfiba first appeared on stage on December 6, 1980, giving way to Florence’s ‘rock renaissance’.


The new owner of the door in via de’ Bardi has it repainted every year but to no avail: inscriptions flourish overnight, eagerly manifesting the city’s love and dedication to what once was, what is and what will always be.


litfiba Litfiba


On February 17+24 2016, 5.30pm, Bruno Casini and other musical key-figures will be at the Museo del Novecento to discuss Florence’s clubbing scene, rock renaissance and indie history. Free entry, in Italian only.

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