Florence has a timeless beauty that echoes throughout the city walls, providing a panoramic backdrop for its flourishing nightlife. Picture this: it’s an autumn evening in piazza Santo Spirito and the city—crisp, well-lit and spirited (pardon the pun)—looks promising. Spontaneity is in the air. Before you can even say cin-cin, what was initially intended to be a light aperitivo soon turns into a trek across the cobbled streets in search of Florence’s best nighttime hotspots.
I don’t use the word “trek” loosely, either. Despite being a small city, it’s easy to find yourself circling the same stones over and over before finally reaching one of the big bars or clubs. And that’s only half of the story. The queues, especially on weekends, seem only to get longer and never go down. Not that I’m complaining since I’ve actually missed the non-socially distanced queuing-up for things. That’s terribly British of me, I know, but it’s true. I enjoy the illicit thrill of trying to get around them. Sneaking into Babylon with a French couple who coughed up 200 euro for a VIP table is one of my favourite stories to tell.
The concept of it all is somewhat strange, though; people huddling for what seems like hours only to sweat the night away in a basement—what a time to be alive! In Santa Croce, students come out of hibernation to enjoy the trendiness of places like Full Up and Red Garter where, as they wait to go in, they share the sort of deep and meaningful conversations that can only happen after shots of gin mixed with limoncello. Until you get to the door and hold out your Green Pass, the pandemic seems like a thing of the past. Friends and strangers share cigarettes and kisses, while shuffling every so often towards the entrance. From the outside, everything seems just like the good old pre-Covid times. Once inside, however, reality takes on a different hue.
A room permeated with anxiety and nostalgia is the best way I can describe it. Not to be a pessimist, but nightclubs are ill-suited to a global pandemic. Their purpose is literally to fill a ventless room with young, sweaty drunk people, jigging within very close proximity of each other. In fact, I think I prefer the queuing.
That’s just it. Believe it or not, most friendships I’ve made here have been while waiting to get in somewhere, without ever actually getting through the door. Groups branch off, join other groups, and so on. Everyone is just happy to be talking and meeting new people, proving that it doesn’t take a stuffy basement to bring people together.
Clubbing aside, however, the city is also great for showcasing live music. With the closure of places like Flog, which hosted artists as big as Radiohead, it’s safe to say that the pandemic has hit the music scene in Florence pretty hard. Things are looking up though, and the jazz bars and other cosy venues, particularly those in the San Frediano area, allow you to embrace the musical ambience without the added stress of someone breathing down your neck. Sometimes, I even take the long route home through piazza della Repubblica just to catch sight of the ever-changing street singers. Careless Whisper has been stuck in my head since I’ve been here.
As a matter of fact, I’ve found that there’s generally more going on outside than there is indoors. It’s even a thing to just gather in the street, outside Fo Caccia La Notte, for example, and drink wine until you’re suddenly fluent in Italian. That’s another thing I love about this place. No one could bother you during the day, but once night falls and the drinks are flowing, everyone wants to be your best friend.
So for me, it’s not really the clubs or the bars that makes the city’s nightlife scene so enviable, it’s the people. Covid has definitely taken a toll on the party and music scene, with many venues closing down as a result. However, the spirit of young people remains unchanged, which makes exploring the nightlife all the more exciting. From artsy cocktail bars to nightclubs heaving with impressive sound, one night in Florence could never be enough to do it justice.