Florence’s color palette is one of soft yellows, sky blues and—thanks to the rolling hillsides, olive groves and clusters of cypresses surrounding the city—glorious greens. When you’re ready to emerge from art-filled museums and cozy trattorias, you’ll find that going outside is one of the best free things to do in Florence. Whether you prefer to meander uphill toward unforgettable Florence views or enjoy a leisurely picnic in the shade, these are our favorite ways to enjoy a breath of fresh air in the Renaissance city.
The Best Free Green Spaces in Florence
Walk to Piazzale Michelangelo
The best known vantage point to admire not only Florence’s Duomo and skyline, but also its surrounding hillside villages, is Piazzale Michelangelo. There are many ways to get there, including our go-to unforgettable Florence views walk, a 2-mile route that starts at the Ponte Vecchio and winds along Via de’ Bardi and Via di San Niccolo before the grand finish.
Fortunately, for those craving a walk in solitude, there are also some lesser known “urban hikes” toward Florence’s most famous viewpoint. One route passes by the Forte Belvedere—a 1500s fortress that now serves as an exhibition space—and traverses winding streets lined with stone walls and enviable villas. Using Signorvino (Via de’ Bardi, 46/R) as your starting point and facing away from the Arno, turn left and you’ll see a tunneled street heading upward: That’s Costa dei Magnoli, the only uphill portion of this walk. Climb this quiet residential road and feel an immediate sense of calm, passing Villa Bardini on your left before running straight into Forte Belvedere. When it’s open in the summer months, stop by for a coffee on the incredible panoramic rooftop. Otherwise, keep walking along a twisting road called Via di San Leonardo, where your only companions are chirping birds and olive trees. After 15 minutes, you’ll reach Viale Galileo, a busier road with a beautiful, tree-lined walkway for pedestrians. Now you’ll be able to appreciate that steep climb from the beginning of the walk: Turn left on the path, and you’ll have spectacular views of the city below. Your first glimpse of the Duomo will guide you from here; keep following the path, and you’ll reach Piazzale Michelangelo within 20 minutes.
Another way to reach Viale Galileo and Piazzale Michelangelo begins in Porta Romana, also in the Oltrarno neighborhood. Beginning at the neighborhood’s namesake 13th-century gate, turn left onto Viale Machiavelli. This popular walking path is lined with trees on both sides, giving runners a respite from the sun. It also passes by the perfect pit stop for a picnic or a rest: Giardino del Bobolino, not to be confused with the Boboli Gardens. This grassy park has a turtle pond, fountain and lots of tall trees welcoming you to lounge under the shade. Spend some time here before continuing along Viale Machiavelli, which then becomes Viale Galileo as it heads toward Piazzale Michelangelo.
Have a picnic and smell the flowers at the Rose Garden
Just below Piazzale Michelangelo is the Giardino delle Rose, Florence’s best place to admire flowers for free. Open year-round, the garden is at its peak from May to June, the most impressive time to see the more than 300 rose varieties while they’re in bloom. No matter the season, it’s a lovely place to have a picnic, catch up with a friend or take in a flower-framed view of Florence from 9 a.m. until sunset.
See competition-winning flowers at the Iris Garden
It’s easy to understand why the Giardino dell’Iris is so under the radar: Tucked behind Piazzale Michelangelo, this space is only open for about four weeks a year, when the Italian Iris Society gives the public the chance to view the flowers’ short bloom from late April to late May. The irises’ purple, blue, orange, and pink shades are so splendid, they’re fit for the international iris competition hosted at Florence’s very own garden. Best of all, the iris (or giglio) is a symbol of Florence, making this free garden the perfect place to pause and appreciate the city.
Sit by the dragon sculpture at the Horticulture Garden
The focal point of the Giardino dell’Orticoltura is an 1800s tepidarium built from iron and glass. Check it out in the spring and summer for flower fairs and cultural events. Another highlight of the park is a staircase flanked by a dragon sculpture with colorful stone scales. It’s the perfect place to sit and eat a panino on your way to the off-the-beaten-path Stibbert Museum showcasing historic armory, ceramics and paintings.
Exercise in Florence’s answer to Central Park
Covering a sprawling 395 acres, Cascine Park is by far Florence’s largest green space. Originally a hunting reserve for the Medici family, it’s now a local favorite for jogs along a wide, paved, dog-friendly pathway that follows the Arno. Bring a book and wander into the park for a quiet afternoon, or enjoy a little more activity with your green space. There’s an open-air market on Tuesday mornings selling everything from plants to porchetta, a bustling public pool in the summer months and even a carnival. If you have kids, bring them: Cascine has a playground and plenty of grassy areas for a game of frisbee.
Gardens with Paid Entry
These must-see gardens date back to the 1500s and have as much splendor as you’d expect from the Medici family’s personal backyard to the Pitti Palace. Well worth the combination ticket that gets you into both the outdoor space and Palatine Gallery, these gardens have a ton of variety: Walk among fragrant lemon trees outside of the Limonaia, marvel at ornate statues and fountains and enjoy quiet tree-lined paths that open up to prime photo-ops of Florence. The best view, though, is from the highest point of the gardens—which just so happens to be the Porcelain Museum. If you’re just planning to visit the gardens, avoid a wait to enter with Boboli Gardens skip the line tickets for easy access.
Yet another idyllic museum-and-a-garden offering in Florence can be found at Villa Bardini. While the museum’s exhibits are ever-changing, the fabulous terraced garden is a constant. Sit on a bench and let your eyes wander over the Baroque staircase and sculptures before meandering along the gravel pathway flanked by oaks and cypresses. The gardens’ crown jewel is a famed wisteria pergola that begins to flower in April—there’s even a webcam so you can plan your visit around its progress!
Though the Giardini Torrigiani are privately owned by two families who still live on the grounds, they are indeed open to the public—as long as you call ahead and reserve a tour for your party. The largest private garden in a European city, this carefully preserved 25-acre space is replete with exotic tree species, marble artworks, lemon houses and countless stories from its 500-year history. For a guided tour, check out the excellent Secret Gardens of Florence tour exploring parts of the Boboli and Torrigiani gardens.
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Restaurants Among Greenery
If you’d like to enjoy the outdoors in a dignified culinary setting, you’re in the right city. In the summer months, Florence’s Giardino Antonino Caponnetto—a grassy area on the banks of the Arno, situated to the east of the San Niccolo bridge—comes to life with food stalls selling everything from hamburgers and pizza to fried seafood and vegan fare. Go with friends, and you can all pick up your preferred meals before eating together at communal tables.
The Oltrarno neighborhood boasts three great restaurants for coffee, aperitivo or a meal outdoors. A civilized pit stop on Viale Galileo, Chalet Fontana serves modern Tuscan food with a view of its garden and flower shop. In San Frediano, Santarosa Bistrot is a popular spot with the younger crowd for seafood-focused fare in the Henry Dunant garden, dedicated to the founder of the Red Cross. And at what may be the dreamiest place to relax or work remotely in Florence, Il Conventino has plenty of tables for sipping coffee among cypress trees.