We’ve always been fans of picking up a panino and chowing down on the nearest panchina (bench). Now our need for nature is stronger than ever as spring fills the air and we can’t resist a leisurely afternoon spent picnicking in one of Florence’s green spaces. We’re all aware of the allure of Le Cascine, the largest public park in the city. Here, we’ll take you through a few where you may not yet have laid out your picnic blanket, as well as the popular spots that are firm favourites for Florentines and Florence aficionados. Parks and gardens may be closed in the case of rising infection levels and overcrowded, so it’s advised to check current measures before filling up your flasks.
First, let’s check out the picnic rating of Parco Albereta-Anconella on via Villamagna. At 30 acres, the park comes second to Cascine in terms of size. With volleyball, soccer fields and climbing structures, there’s ample space for sports enthusiasts. We’re here for a more leisurely affair, however, and there are certainly plenty of spots for your feast, whether you’re a feet-in-the-grass type, or more inclined to set out cutlery on a picnic table. You won’t be short of space for a stroll post-meal either, with lakes, fountains and sculptures all to be admired.
The exquisite and eclectic gardens of Villa Stibbert (via Federico Stibbert 26) are well worth an afternoon spent wandering and relaxing, as is its neighbouring Villa Fabbricotti (via Vittorio Emanuele II) and Giardino Baden Powell. These three connecting parks have a secret garden feel as you stroll about, not quite sure what you’ll come across next. Whether it’s the Egyptian temple, with its little turtle families contentedly wading in the artificial pond, or the impressive villas atop carefully curated gardens, this is a place you’ll return to again and again. Picnic benches are scattered about with a café onsite if you fancy purchasing rather than packing your own.
Villa Vogel in Isolotto is a vast park that’s accessible through via delle Torri 23 or via Canova. Ducks compete for your scraps and well-paved paths means bikes are welcome. Put together your treats and embrace the simple pleasure of good food in tranquil surroundings.
Giardino dell’Orticoltura (via Vittorio Emanuele II, 4 or via Bolognese 17) is another one you’ll always see mentioned in round ups of the best green spaces in the city, and for good reason. Home to the impressive Tepidarium designed by the engineer and architect Giacomo Roster in 1880 and a few steps away from the equally idyllic Orti del Parnaso, these gardens are not necessarily perfect for picnics given there isn’t an abundance of tables or benches at your disposal, but feel free to join the locals lolling on the grass, with snacks in hand.
The Oltrarno is home to Villa Strozzi and its 90,000 square metres of surrounding parklands, otherwise known as Parco del Boschetto and once the private residence of one of the most important families in Florence. Nestled in the hills, it can be accessed from via Pisana, via di Monte Oliveto and via di Soffiano for picturesque picnics in the holm oak woods equipped with benches. Kids can run off their gelato-induced sugar spike in the play area and it’s advised to load up on mosquito repellent to ward off unwelcome picnickers!
Bobolino Park (not to be confused with Boboli!) on Florence’s south side is an English-style park made up of three gardens looping from viale Machiavelli towards piazzale Galileo. A large oval flowerbed and rock pool serve as Instagrammable photo points, with a dramatic circular pool spouting jets of water if you need to stand in the cool of the spray.
For a more contemporary choice, see San Donato beside the still controversial and imposing courthouse building: it’s a love it or hate it situation. The landscaped gardens feature carefully curated tree-lined paths, with a children’s playground and circular flowerbeds for a slightly more unusual site for your sandwich.
Beyond the places mentioned above, you’ll find young Florentines and students all over the city scrambling for space to eat lunch along the lungarno to enjoy a panino with a view. Piazza Santa Croce has also become hot property for munching. Be warned: the glower of Enrico Pazzi’s Dante may put you off your pranzo.