take a walk
The Florentine Parks
There is an old adage that states “the grass is always greener on the other side”. This is clearly not the case in Florence, where grass is a scarce resource that I find myself missing a little more each day. Florence may possess world famous art, fashion and food but I just cannot seem to find a place to go exercise and lay out on a nice day. I decided that this needs to be investigated further.Cascine Park
Cascine Park, more commonly referred to as Florence’s Central Park, is open all the time and free, thus allowing the city’s residents to enjoy the many things it has to offer, among them a swimming pool
, market, tennis courts and its own race track. Like its namesake in New York City
, I encountered a bunch of interesting characters while in the park including an old man urinating on a fence. Although I had a little trouble finding my way through the mazeof construction to enter the park, I soon realized that it was huge.
This park is great for exercising; there are paths for bikers and softer paths for joggers that run parallel to the Arno
. The only thing that might deter me from going back was the constant harassment from men that I received, and the park definitely isn’t safe at nighttime. The Tuesday market
at this park should not be missed; a mile long stretch of venders sells everything you can imagine and some even negotiate. Note that this park is not the kind of place for sitting down on a blanket to read a book as, although it does have grassy patches, they are not well groomed and used by a variety of dogs. There are plenty of benches with good views if you are looking for a place to sit and relax.Boboli
I was definitely skeptical of any park that requires a 6 euro entrance fee to get into but was not disappointed. Boboli Gardens is the park connected to the Pitti Palace which should immediately hint at its decadence. The park is well cared for and therefore conveniently lacks some of the odd characters that pollute the public parks. It has a lot to offer including well-manicured paths and lush lawns, intriguing statues and great views. I found myself in awe of the different sections of the park, some thickly wooded and forest like and others very well planned out and open. Art majors might gravitate here since there are plenty of benches and intriguing statues as well as fountains to be sketched. This park is truly one of Florence’s treasures and a must for anyone seeking nature on a nice day. Piazzale Michelangelo
San Miniato Gardens:
My favorite by far, it offers views of Florence that rival the famous Giotto bell tower. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this park, or know that I would get a workout just trying to reach it. After a treacherous climb up a winding hillside path, I was stunned by the breathtaking panorama of Florence. By the time I reached the famous San Miniato Basilica I had completely forgotten I was still in the city. The park is not conventional in the sense of having straight paths or trails to exercise on. Small food venders are available, though aimed at tourists looking for a quick bite. I would recommend bringing a group of friends on a sunny day to help capture the breathtaking views that provide the perfect backdrop for photos. Comfortable clothing is a must for the hike up the hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo and to San Miniato beyond. Bardini
Surprising in all respects, this park has been newly renovated, and upon entering from Via dei Bardi I was almost positive there was no way a park could be hiding behind its street facade. After entering and walking though a path still under construction, I was greeted by a groomed hilltop with views to spare as well as the absence of the sounds of the city. I climbed up the path to the top where the park offers postcard worthy views that even an amateur photographer can appreciate. I explored the rest of the park noting the absence of litter compared to the others. The downsides to this park are that it is relatively small and many paths are still being worked on and not open to the public. There are grassy areas to admire but they are highly protected. When summer arrives, I predict it will be more accessible. If feeling ambitious, one can exit the garden and with the same ticket climb up some steep winding streets to get to the Fort Belvedere
, part of the Boboli Gardens. Built in the 1500’s, this fort offers a glimpse into that time period in Florence, as well as a good place to relax and lay in the sun.