When it comes to winter nightlife, Florence has enough to offer: a plethora of bars to enjoy an aperitivo, people-watch and engage in conversations. The city’s bars are a place for community, a lively scene to make new friends and pre-game before a night of dancing.
Just getting started
Piazza Santo Spirito is her liveliest around 9pm as a place to see and be seen. Check out the aperitivo at Café Volume (piazza Santo Spirito 3). If you’re not in the mood for alcohol, grab a fresh-pressed juice. Most notable is the generous tray of nuts, spreads and breads, which comes with your beverage. PopCafé (piazza Santo Spirito 18R) is affordable and laidback as well as having the understated and chill atmosphere of the piazza.
Over at via delle Caldaie 8R, Langolino is super cute. With Dusan to take care of you, a bicycle to sit in and roast beef sandwiches, this bar is just as good for a cappuccino in the morning as it is for aperitivo in the evening. On occasion, two retired opera singers like to belt out a few songs, living out their glory days. Along the same street, Caffè Notte (via delle Caldaie 18) boasts a very local, younger hip crowd, serving crowd-pleasing pizzas made by my friend’s Italian lover.
A real hit is Il Santino (via Santo Spirito 60R). Sip on vino, nibble on five-star crostini and stand on the street in your linens, wools and leathers, watching iron-clad women hop off Vespas looking like models riding bareback. Just down yonder is Babae (via Santo Spirito 21R), where another formidable crowd stands, younger, and more midriffs showing, around the oh-so-famous wine window, which was a way to sell wine during the Black Death years.
Down by the river and set in a park, Santarosa Bistrot (lungarno di Santa Rosa) is an amazing place for aperitivo as well as dinner. Bungalow-style seats, wooden benches around a firepit, hammock lounging, booths and tables give variety and ambiance to the modern romance of this ristorante. Around the corner, Circolo Rondinella del Torrino (lungarno Soderini 2) is a social club next to the Arno, where you can enjoy a drink with a view. You’ll need an ID card, which is easy to get (simply buy one at a booth at the bar).
Started by coffee bean hunter extraordinaire Francesco Sanapo, Ditta Artigianale (via dello Sprone 5R) is a cafe with an international vibe that offers a variety of drinks alongside guacamole, chips and tacos. (Check out the other locations in piazza Sant’Ambrogio, via dei Neri and lungarno Soderini.)
Just outside of the city walls, Il Conventino Caffè Letterario (via Giano della Bella 20) is a convent that’s been made public for the purposes of art, craftsmanship and community. Browse through books and newspapers, while the library cafe opens into the enclosed center of the convent. There’s often live music and something cultural happening in the evening.
If you’re looking for an environmentally conscious cafe serving cocktails with freshly squeezed tomato juice, raspberries and blueberries, then Amblé (piazzetta dei Del Bene 7A) is the place to go, hidden away near the Ponte Vecchio. Close to the Bargello museum, I’Margaritaio Cantina Messicana – Cocktail Bar (via dell’Anguillara 70) is a shots and margarita bar comforted by spicy nachos, while Red Garter (via dei Benci 33R) pulls in a large American undergrad population in this burger bar turned karaoke venue. My friend discovered Nove7 (borgo La Croce 97) while on a date with a fiorentino. Run by the vintage-wearing Giacomo and his mother, order a drink of your choice for just five euro and snack on toasts, hummus and chips. Get there before 8pm to snatch a chair before the hubbub, so that you are on the perfect perch within the storm of clamoring Italians and motorbikes.
The highlight reel
Club 21 (via dei Cimatori 13R) is the place to go on a Thursday night. Once I was sitting forlornly on a stone bench, munching on focaccia, when two Italian girls asked me to go with them. “But it’s Tropical Animals!” they cried, when I said I had school the next morning. Tropical Animals equal techno night. The three different rooms are just enough to play the perfect game of hide and seek. According to my teacher, Yab (via dei Sassetti 5R) is where he went to see and be seen when he was 26 and did things like that. (He’s now 42 and in the process of adopting a baby.) Some of my friends still enjoy going. It’s classy, often filled with formal attire. North of piazza Santa Croce, local favorite Jazz Club Firenze (via Nuova de’ Caccini 3) is open every night of the week, except Monday.
Tenax (via Pratese 46) has rave reviews among my circle of friends. Their verdict? “Good techno.” “All Italian.” “A real club.” It’s sizable. Very popular amongst locals, Otel Firenze (via Generale C. A. dalla Chiesa 9) is a club that strives to be “cosmopolitan” (their words), which requires a taxi drive or a 45-minute bike ride from the city center. Out in Antella, El-Pavoreal (via di Pulicciano 53) is somewhere fiorentini go to experience strange remixes and eclectic vibes.