When I decided to study abroad, I knew I specifically wanted to get to know the city of Florence better after traveling here once before. The culture itself has so much to offer and I found the possibility of discovering cafes, bookstores, and historical sites very exciting. Getting swept up by the hustle of city life was inevitable, the number of people just walking around makes it feel like everyone has a destination and a purpose. What I did not anticipate a little while into being in Florence, was the desire to escape the busy streets in favor of greenery and a quieter environment. Most people that are traveling or touring don’t venture far from the city center, so they aren’t entirely aware of the “hidden” green spaces all around. Throughout my time here, I have found several places that allow me to escape from the city without actually leaving. They each have different things to offer, but they are equally effective in allowing you to reconnect with nature and spend some time among greenery.
Cascine park is the biggest public park in Florence. I didn’t know it existed until I was introduced in my Health and Fitness in the Mediterranean class. We biked from our class building, through the city center, all the way to the park. It was quite an experience getting there, but it was absolutely worth it. It is about one mile from the Ponte Vecchio, and it runs right along the Arno River. It is my favorite place to go on a walk or run because it is quiet, has trees all around, and the water is right next to one of the main pathways. Most of the people there are locals engaging in the same activities that I go there for, so it feels like its own little community. If you’re lucky when you visit, sometimes there is a large market made up of an infinite number of tents. The market offers anything you can think of, whether that be fruits, vegetables, vintage clothes, or potted plants. It is definitely something to take advantage of if you have an opportunity to do so.
Caffagio del Vescovo is a small garden in Florence that is part of a building in use by Florence University of the Arts. There are tables and chairs in the middle of the garden, and a café in the building where you can order coffee or food. Being in the garden feels like its own world, it is immediately quieter than the streets, yet not far from them at all. Many of the plants and herbs are used by the culinary students in the school, such as rosemary and basil. It is a perfect environment for getting schoolwork done or sitting and appreciating the greenery surrounding you. It is also a great place to meet up with friends or get a coffee after class.
Giardino Martin Lutero is another small garden and it is actually situated in front of a church. It is specifically found on the south bank of the Arno River and is easily missed if you don’t know where to look. I passed it several times before actually taking a look around after class one day. There are benches everywhere, trees, flowerbeds, and shady spots that are very convenient in the warmer weather. It may be tucked away and unassuming at first glance, but it is a breezy location to sit outside without going too far from the center of Florence. You may even stumble upon some friendly dogs looking for attention.
Whether I was looking for a quick escape from the crowded streets or seeking solace in the form of nature, these places have provided both for me. Florence is an amazing city and there are plenty of green spaces and gardens, you just have to be willing to look for them.
Written by: Catherine, Fall 2023 Florence student from University of South Carolina