Florence Nightlife: Where Is the Action?
The Santa Croce neighborhood is widely considered the heart of the Florence party scene (or movida, as it is often called). Countless bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants extend along Via de’ Benci and its continuation, Via Verdi, spilling onto the main Santa Croce square and branching out into the adjacent streets. Here, hordes of American students (Florence is one of the study abroad capitals of the world) mix with tourists from all over the globe and, of course, plenty of locals.
On the other side of the Arno river (the so-called Oltrarno), you will find a less “touristy” nightlife scene more oriented towards locals: areas like Piazza Santo Spirito and San Frediano boast a wealth of evening hang-outs, but in these parts you will actually hear Italian being spoken outside of the bars, and the whole scene has a different and definitely more authentic vibe.
Around here, an evening on the town often begins with the aperitivo, a tradition said to have originated in Florence in the 1850s (though the city of Turin also claims paternity). What began as an upper-class social ritual, consisting of a pre-dinner drink accompanied by a small snack such as olives or chips, has evolved into a full-fledged feast which can effectively replace dinner.
Today, between the hours of around 6 and 9 pm, many bars, pubs and lounges around town put out some impressive buffet spreads that may include various pasta trays, all kinds of meats and skewers, cold cuts, pizzas, panini, etc. The great thing is that it’s all free and you can eat as much as you want, just as long as you buy one drink (which will cost between 5 and 10 Euros). On the flip side, the more popular aperitivo spots can get crowded, so you need to be ready to fight for the good stuff before it’s all gone… or wait for the next tray to come out.
Typical aperitivo drinks are the Florence-born Negroni (a stiff concoction of gin, vermouth and Campari), the Americano, or the light and fizzy Aperol Spritz. Of course, nothing stops you from ordering a glass of Prosecco (the Italian Champagne), wine, beer, your favorite cocktail or a non-alcoholic beverage.
The following bars and lounges are popular aperitivo venues, before they turn into nightlife hotspots as the evening moves on: Moyo in Via de’ Benci, Oibò in Borgo dei Greci, Kitsch in Viale Gramsci, Rifrullo in Via San Niccolò, Rivalta on Lungarno Corsini, Colle Bereto in Piazza Strozzi and Rex in Via Fiesolana.
Discos and Dance Clubs
Space Club – The city’s oldest and most famous disco brings an industrial-warehouse-Berlin-style vibe to the Florence nightlife, with a vast and cavernous dance-floor surrounded by elevated metal rafters. The downstairs lounge is a great place to meet a potential dance partner, before the action really begins and girls start dancing on the tables…
Yab – Located right in the heart of the historic center’s fanciest block, Florence’s most glamorous nightclub is the perfect place to try out your new designer heels or stylish Armani blazer. Cover and drinks are a bit more pricey here, but the music and ambiance are top shelf.
Flo – This chic outdoor club in a priceless setting is open from May to early October. With its colorful cocktails, cool cosmopolitan vibe and breathtaking views of the world’s most beautiful city, Flo is THE place to be in the warmer months!
Full Up – A Florence institution that has reinvented itself over and over throughout the decades. Today, Full Up is a modern dance club that attracts a young and flirty crowd ready to dance the night away.
TwentyOne – Cheap tequila shots and short skirts abound, as hordes of American students mingle with locals and other tourists on the packed dance-floor of this always-happening venue in the heart of old Florence.
Tenax and Otel – These two large clubs are located in the outskirts of Florence, on opposite sides of the city. Due to their location (you’ll need a taxi to get there) they are mostly frequented by locals, which may be just what you’re looking for…
Late Late Night
By law, Florence venues must stop serving alcohol at 2 am and close shortly thereafter. There is, however, a loophole, and certain private clubs can remain open much longer. These places set their own rules because they are members-only associations, which is why you’ll need to get your membership card before entering the first time (a quick process costing no more than 10-15 Euro). Here is a list of Florence’s after-party options, for those who simply refuse to go to bed.
Montecarla – This icon of Florence nightlife is known for its uber-kitsch interiors as well as for its massive, liquor-filled cocktails. With an ambiance like no other and the kind of patrons you probably wouldn’t invite to your house, this den of transgression deserves to be experienced at least once (at your own risk).
Blob – Nestled in the heart of the historic center, this tiny no-frills discotheque is the kind of place where people arrive drunk and leave drunker… and also the kind of place where people arrive alone and often leave in good company. Maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe it’s the stripper pole by the dance-floor, maybe it’s the cramped spaces that leave no room to be shy, but Blob is definitely a place to make friends…
Crisco – This place bills itself as Florence’s Worst Gay Club, maybe because two nights a week – on Friday and Saturday – it opens its doors to everybody. But no matter when you choose to stop by, you can be sure that a fabulously shady, Lower East Side vibe will accompany you all the way to the break of dawn.
Movies and Theaters
By now, most of Florence’s movie theaters have moved to large multiplex venues outside the historic center. One exception is Cinema Odeon, a striking 1920s movie hall which these days shows original-language movies (mostly in English, with Italian subtitles) ranging from new releases to restored classics and little-known art films.
Florence has a glorious theater tradition, and recent years have seen a renewed interest in stage productions. The historic Teatro della Pergola, first opened in 1636, is considered Italy’s oldest active theater. This striking opera house once witnessed the Italian premieres of Mozart’s works, but today it mostly used for dramas. The 19th-century Teatro Verdi offers a diverse schedule that ranges from stand-up comedy to classical music concerts, passing through art-house films and cabaret. The old Teatro Comunale, which had been home to Florence’s symphony, was permanently closed in 2014 and replaced by the stunning new Florence Opera House, a modern marvel located at the entrance to the vast Cascine Park.
Live music can be enjoyed at a variety of venues throughout the center of Florence, including – sometimes – in the streets! Here are some suggestions: it’s the Hard Rock… you know what you’re getting!
Jazz Club Firenze – A Florentine institution, boasting nightly performances from top musicians both local and international.
SuperFox – Small, English-speaking bar/café with live singer-songwriters virtually every night of the week.
Virgin Rock – A local joint with an authentic hard rock/grungy/metal feel.
Le Murate Caffè Letterario – Intriguing atmosphere in a restored medieval prison
Hard Rock Cafè – It’s the Hard Rock, what more do we need to add?
Major pop and rock concerts featuring Italian and international artists usually take place at Artemio Franchi Stadium (during ACF Fiorentina’s offseason) or at the Mandela Forum, Florence’s main indoors arena.
For a complete list of upcoming Florence events, see: http://www.firenzetoday.it/eventi/
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