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Did you enjoy Florence outside of the cultural sights?

Once Covid is controlled, I definitely plan to visit Florence for all the amazing art. But, you can only absorb so much culture in a given day. Did you actually enjoy the city as a city? Vibrant nightlife, for example? Tours or other things to do that have nothing to do with the Renaissance or the visual arts? Live music? Classical, rock, jazz? Watch sports? I like just about all sports.

I haven’t done a whole lot of planning, just kicking around some travel plans once international travel is safe again.

Posted by
6520 posts

You might be able to pinpoint better everything other than the typical tourist stuff depending on the time of year you go.
There are a lot of tourists and University exchange students there all year round so it may not feel special.

Posted by
1203 posts

Not as much as I have enjoyed other Italian cities. It's beautiful in the centre and there is plenty of art, if you like that sort of thing. But I also found it cramped and busy, almost claustrophobic. And Florence did seem rather up-itself. For cities to just pootle around, I enjoyed Bologna and Perugia more, for example.

Still, it is a case of horses for courses and clearly many love Florence and its "vibe".

Florence does, of course, have a famous football club, so there is always that for sport.

Posted by
1092 posts

I like walking the streets and parks, we have to stop in all churches for my wife. I can only take so much Renaissance art and ancient artifacts, though the statue of David was a standout for me. Fiesole was mentioned in a recent thread (up the hill on the number seven bus) and is well worth a visit for a walkaround and a nice lunch. We actually stayed in Fiesole. Our nightlife is usually restricted to a bite to eat. I looked into seeing a football (soccer) game but the tickets were sold out. Florence was playing Juventus when we were there. We ended up watching the game in an Irish pub downtown.

If you are interested, and depending on how much time you have, there are many wine tours, and some of the Chianti wine villages can be reached by bus or train, not sure of travel times - San Casciano, Barberino, Panzano, Radda. Panzano is home to the famous Dario Cecchini. Greve has a nice village square and a good market day (Saturday?). Further afield, San Gimignano and Volterra. Lucca is popular on this forum.

Posted by
12063 posts

Florence is not a huge city (about 36 square miles with a pop.370,00 within city limits and about 1.5M in the whole metro area). But, in addition to that, it has over 50,000 university students at the university of Florence alone, plus thousands of international students studying at dozens of international schools and university branch campuses (see list of foreign universities below)
https://www.studentsville.it/foreign-universities-in-florence-italy/
To the above, add 25 to 30 million tourists visiting every year (mostly between April and October).

Nearly all of this humanity tends to be concentrated in Florence’s historical center (about 2 square miles).

So...what do you think nightlife would be in an area of 2 square miles with 60,000 college age students and 25 million visitors a year with nothing else to do but try to have fun?

Florence football (soccer) club, called AC Fiorentina, much to my chagrin, is not doing too well at the moment. We were all hopeful with the new ownership (Italian American multibillionaire Rocco Commisso, Mediacom, inc. founder and CEO now owns it) but the team is still struggling.

Posted by
4169 posts

You’ll need to eat to get thru the day and night, and Florence is an absolute food heaven. Tackle a thick, rare Bistecca alla Fiorentina steak in Florence, and take a shot at a local’s favorite Lampredotto sandwich. The food in town is another art form.

Posted by
11985 posts

Our nightlife usually consists of just walking around, absorbing the streetlife, I've no idea what it'll be like in the early post-COVID days but there was a rotating roster of street musicians in Piazza della Repubblica when we were in Florence. If this group is still around, they are fabulous! They've evidently played some other street locations in Florence and some other cities as well.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/florence-street-musicians

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdPbi6-dwfI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djAKqDUqMzU

Here is the (terrific) violinist taking on some classical:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJqohdNFUPQ

Posted by
5535 posts

We enjoyed visiting and eating at the market as much as the art. The leather market as well.

Posted by
44 posts

Florence is awesome but we do get churched out when we travel in Italy. Last time we were in Florence, we took a quickie tour. When the coach stopped for 10 minutes in Fiesole - - we bailed - - and spent a pleasurable afternoon walking around Fiesole and having lunch. One of the best day trips from Florence is the Verranzzano Winery in Greve. It includes a tour and lunch and everything about it is visually stunning; like a dream. En boca al luppo.

Posted by
12063 posts

Florence historical city center is now completely closed to motor vehicles traffic. There are very few streets that still have some transit traffic (buses, taxis, and residents with permit). Mopeds and motorcycles are allowed only in some streets of the historical center. I presume the previous poster stayed outside the historical center or went to Florence over 25 years ago.

The city center is however very busy with intense foot traffic, therefore people who don’t like crowds may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Venice is similar in that respect.

I don’t know what interests you have, but you can easily be entertained in a variety of ways without setting foot in any museums or church.

Some of the best sources to find what is going on are:
www.studentsville.it
www.visitflorence.com
www.theflorentine.net

Posted by
1573 posts

Do consider staying across the river (Oltrarno district). It's another world when you get out of the historical center.

Posted by
320 posts

I suspect it is all in what your comfort level is. In the early evening (pre-dusk) , the people watching at the train station is great. For more later evening people watching, the Piazza della Repubblica with the carousel and street sellers is superb. During the day, be adventurous and take the trams out to the edges of town. Hop off and explore the various neighborhoods. The gardens south of the Arno are great to wander through and are easily accessible by walking or by public transit. Visarno Arena hosts major concerts as well. If you are football fan, head east and there is a museum for Italy's National team. We make it a point to give ourselves time during any extended stay in a city to explore well outside the normal tourist zones.

Have fun!

Posted by
17 posts

I found the consignment stores in Florence & the artisan craft markets across the Arno to be fabulous.

Posted by
72 posts

I agree with Janet, the Oltrarno district south of the river is wonderful for just meandering. Serious artisan workshops, art restorers, quirky little shop windows, it's work-a-day artistic Florence in action. You can get out of the very busy Florentine pedestrian center and enjoy evening walks in a quieter, delightful neighborhood. Besides some good small hotels and great value Air BnB's, there are also some very good Florentine steak houses and trattorias, gelaterias, small surprise eateries in this area, mostly frequented by locals. We stayed in the hills above Paizzale Michaelangelo, at Villa Agape (late February 2019). We lucked out with good weather, 9 sunny days in Tuscany, but still very cool. It was colder/windier in Siena and the hill towns. The hotel had a free shuttle between the hotel and the Oltrarno or several points North of the river, on call, from around 8 am to 10 pm - don't know if this service is still offered. It was like being in the country, olive groves and country roads for a good walk, yet having all of Florence at your feet. Slept with windows open at night, no noise (!), spectacular views. You can also opt to walk down to the Oltrarno, takes about 20 minutes, all downhill of course. The hotel itself belonged to the Duchess of Aosta, then it was a convent, now charmingly reinvented again. Anyway, we enjoyed this quieter side of Florence. It provided a very relaxed platform from which to launch into Florence every day! This area may not be for everyone but we certainly enjoyed it.

Posted by
179 posts

Florence, on top of tourism, is a vibrant city by itself, due to being capital of a Region.
In Fortezza da Basso (fair district) there are often fair and exhibition about different matter. Some are dedicated to art or architecture, bit there are even meeting about psychiatry or dermatology of handcraft.
For sport Florence is very important in Italy. For soccer, of course, but even rugby, volleyball, swimming, American Football...... The city has important teams in several sports (I mean, at top at Italian level) and often host National events (like finals of some sport).
Concerts: yes, there are often concerts and live music. Both of big singers (Gianna Nannini, for example. Here some concerts in different venues:https://www.ticketone.it/city/firenze-220/) at the Stadium or small groups in pubs.
Is a city cramped among hills, so there aren't spaces for wide streets and outside the no-traffic area driving is a nightmare. But this means that is a lively city.
Probably when you know when you travel to Florence we can help you to refine a research about sport and music events.

Posted by
784 posts

We love Florence and we are not museum types.... (although we did see David & the Duomo). We try to take at least one group cycling day trip and a day wine trip. My husband loves to find music at night in local square and there is always the food. If it's in season you can always find a pub with a soccer match on TV. If you travel during cycling season you might even be able to catch a race on TV. I think you could keep busy for 3 days without even entering a museum

Posted by
861 posts

I think, to our shame, we have rather ignored the cultural sights in Florence. The David (just chisel off all the bits that are not David, and job’s done) for instance.
But we have had happy times, just walking up through the Boboli gardens. Hanging out at the Central Market, taking a bus up to Fiesole and having a glass of wine at the Co-op.
Happy memories.

Posted by
1239 posts

I have been to Florence 9 times and each time for usually longer than the previous one.
Just walking the streets is an absolute pleasure, and as others said, get on a bus or tram and explore the suburbs.
You will see something different every time you walk down a street; and don't forget to look up.
There are many fascinating features above eye level on buildings.

Posted by
67 posts

We usually stay in a short term rental (airbnb, vrbo) for about a month in the Oltrano neighborhood of Florence. We like to walk, eat, drink and absorb the culture without necessarily having a set destination. We are not museum or Church people. We also do day or overnight trips to other areas. One of our favorites things was an all-day cooking class in the countryside with Walkabout. Florence is large enough that there is always plenty to do/see/experience and it's a walking city which we love. We've already done the iconic things so we're more leisurely now, although at times we'll revisit one of the great cultural sites. If you enjoy a city environment and like Italian culture, Florence is perfect.

Posted by
34 posts

My husband and I have spent about a month in Italy on 3 different trips, and yes I will say it, Florence was my least favorite of all the places we've been. FYI we've stayed in Rome, Orvieto, Lucca, Lake Como, Venice, Bologna and parts of Tuscany. It's of course all a matter of taste, yes there's incredible art and churches, food. But I found Florence not as charming as similar sized Italian towns, not as scenic as villages and not as cosmopolitan as Rome. That being said, glad that we spent 4 days there, however there are plenty of other places I would go or revisit first.