Florence is an old city with lots of Renaissance architectural gems, but, surprisingly, also is a hot spot for great nightlife. Around the Basilica of Santa Croce, which remains quiet and spiritual during day, you will find many bars and restaurants open in the evening with a great, lively atmosphere. Explore the city at night with me by joining these top activities that I have listed for you.
Clubbing in Florence has rather fallen from favour in recent years as more smaller (and cheaper) bar-come-dance venues open up. But there are a couple of places you can still find a good night out, although don’t expect anything too cutting edge.
Central Park (Via delle Fosse Macinate 2) is only open on Friday and Saturday nights these days, but it’s the biggest clubbing venue within spitting distance of central Florence and is located in the Cascine Park. Choose between five dance floors and DJs who spin sounds that range from Latin, pop and house to drum ’n’ bass. From May until September, everything moves outdoors.
It may have been around since the 1970s, but YAB remains popular among both local night owls and visitors. This is helped, no doubt, by the fact that it’s bang in the centre of town. Saturdays are always packed out and the Monday hip-hop nights are a favourite of rowdy foreign students. Full-Up is another centrally-located veteran and is also popular with foreign students who are given free entrance before 1am to the hip-hop Obsession nights on Wednesdays.
Big name music acts tend to bypass Florence in favour of cites such as Milan, Turin, Rome and even Bologna, so the opportunities to hear live music at a certain level are limited. But they are by no means absent.
The main live music venues of any significant size are the 7,000-capacity Palasport Mandela Forum and Saschall, a tent-like 4,000-capacity hall on the river out in the eastern suburbs. Very occasionally, the football stadium will be used for really big names such as Bruce Springsteen, but that’s rare these days.
Smaller venues include Auditorium FLOG, which hosts an eclectic mix of events including film, a world music festival and live gigs followed by DJ sessions. Tenax has been hosting cultish line-ups since the 1980s and is still going strong; the club has a huge dance floor and various bars and chill spaces. Stazione Leopolda, a huge disused railway station and a great performance space near Porta al Prato, hosts music events during the Fabbrica Europa festival in May and occasionally during the rest of the year.
Jazz fans should check out the Sala Vanni, regular venue for the series of mostly progressive and contemporary jazz concerts promoted by Musicus Concentus. Hard-to-find Jazz Club has live performances most nights (local combos with the odd more famous name) and a jam session on Mondays. On Friday and Saturday nights, Caruso Jazz Café attracts mostly Italian talent including some well-known names while Pinocchio Jazz hosts the odd international star along with local artists on Saturday nights.
Fans of Latin sounds head out to the western boomies and Girasol – one of the most colourful bars in town where the mojitos are great, live bands play most nights and the punters pile in to strut their samba and salsa know-how.
Like Italians from many other cities, people from Florence have a great outdoor drinking culture. On Friday night or during weekends, many people sit outside and drink, or grab their favourite beer from the closest supermarket to drink at a square. People sit down together on a random terrace, chat out loud and spend time relaxing with friends when the weather is good. You can have a lot of fun in Florence without paying for expensive cocktails in fancy bars. Piazzale Michelangelo is a famous point for young people to sit around drinking while enjoying a breathtaking view of the city.
Though the Florence Cathedral is undeniably stunning under the sunlight, it’s also appealing at night. The Florence Cathedral and Giotto’s Bell Tower are mysteriously beautiful in the dark. There are crowds, but less than during the day; thus, you can enjoy this massive piece of art better without bumping into another tourist. The surrounding bars also offer a wonderful neighbourhood for a night out.
Like the cathedral, the famous Arno River with the city’s oldest bridge, Ponte Vecchio, shows its different sides at night. The reflection of the surrounding medieval buildings on the river is magnificent. Walk along the Arno and you will find the secret, slightly dangerous and tricky spot for photographs, where you can sit literally on just a piece of rock above the water’s surface!
The last but not least, located not very far from Florence centre (about 20 minutes by bus), the small town of Fiesole is located on a hilltop, so from here you can view all of Florence. Climb up to the monastery of San Francesco to reach one of the highest points for this undiscovered panoramic view! If you like to stay around downtown, stick to the popular viewpoint, Piazzale Michelangelo.