Third places in Florence

Third places in Florence

Bookshops, youth hostels and libraries offer warmth and community this winter and beyond.

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Mon 22 Jan 2024 11:45 AM

In the 1980s, sociologists began paying attention to what have become known as third places in urban environments, a term that defines the locations where people go to socialize and build communities beyond the home (the first place) and work (the second place). Crucial for community engagement, relationships and urban identity, third places play a more important role than we appreciate. With rising costs of electricity and heating, which are increasingly difficult to fund, many people depend on third places. With a long stretch of the winter still to go, here is a selection of Florence’s indoor spots that make for a warm few hours in the evening or over the weekend.

Giunti Odeon

The most beautiful place to study in Florence? Giunti Odeon is attracting students galore. Ph. @marcobadiani

The Giunti Odeon reopened in November and has since become The Place to Be. While the ground floor houses shelves of books to browse through, the seating upstairs is frequented by students, groups of friends and individuals with a book, taking advantage of the beautiful interior, which maintains a relaxed ambience despite its plurality of uses and constant occupation. Throughout the day, the LED screen displays silent movies, educational videos, film trailers and specific dedications for directors, while the desks that flank the space are used by students, grateful for the free wifi, plug sockets and free water refills. The plush yellow chairs are dotted with people chatting, reading or taking a well-deserved break mid shopping trip.

Libraries

Biblioteca delle Oblate

For peace and quiet, Florence’s public libraries are just as vital as ever and the city is blessed with a range of options. Biblioteca delle Oblate and Biblioteca Palagio di Parte Guelfa are both located in the city centre and offer plenty of working space for students, freelancers and digital nomads, as well as hosting reading group meetings. The Biblioteca delle Oblate also has an array of events for children and families, ranging from craft activities to story readings, plus talks, book releases and music events for grown-ups. Almost all the events are in Italian, which adds a language learning moment for internationals.

The British Institute

The British Institute with the historical Harold Acton Library in Palazzo Lanfredini is no secret among the international community, particularly with its breathtaking views over the Arno. Entering feels like travelling back in time to the Grand Tour days of British aristocrats, particularly with the wealth of books available to read in the grandiose library or to borrow and take home. With a membership, there are weekly events to keep up with, spanning educational and social opportunities, with lectures, afternoon teas and music recitals making the library a well-loved hotspot for the expat community.

Bookshops with bars

Todo Modo. Ph. @utari_syaukat

What better accompaniment to a good book than a cup of warming coffee? Florence’s best spots for enjoying both simultaneously include Brac on via dei Vagellai, Todo Modo on via dei Fossi and Il Conventino in the Oltrarno’s via Giano della Bella. Blending bookshop and bar as a place to socialize and read, these venues provide the ideal combination for a relaxing afternoon, where you can even pick up a copy of your favourite English language magazine in Florence.

Youth hostels

YellowSquare

More than a pit stop for young backpackers whistling through Florence, hostels such as YellowSquare and Ostello Bello are becoming venues that serve permanent residents as much as those looking for a social opportunity on their travels. By day, they offer coworking spaces with free wifi. When the sun sets, the common areas host free public events. Karaoke nights, language exchanges, games nights and even beer pong competitions give both tourists and residents opportunities to expand their social networks.

Mercato Centrale Firenze

In the San Lorenzo neighbourhood, Mercato Centrale Firenze is open every day for a browse among the diverse range of vendors. Regardless of whether you’re eating or just grabbing a coffee, the tables spread out over the market’s two floors make a great spot for a catch-up with a friend. For special occasions, the market hosts free food-themed events that are advertised on their website and on social media.

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