Nature of Italy: Gardens and greeneries around Florence

By Delia Binetti

Florence doesn't need to feel like exploring just another Renaissance city in Europe. If you're looking for a place to enjoy some quiet and surrounded by nature while studying abroad, here are a few green spots in and around the city to make you stop and smell the roses.

Bardini Gardens

One of Florence’s main attractions and frequently visited nature areas is the famous Bardini Gardens. Located on the other side of the Arno, right across the Alle Grazie bridge, you will find one of the several entrances to these beautiful and angelic gardens full of blooming flowers and vegetation. Initially known as the Florentine Baroque Garden during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Bardini Gardens still hold true to what can be visited. Stunning statues, fountains, and smaller buildings can be found throughout the gardens along with a breathtaking view of the city which can be found at the top. Although the area is beautiful any time of the year, visiting during the spring months, especially April, is an ideal time to go and experience the blooming wisteria that covers many areas of the beaten paths.

Giardino Martin Lutero

Giardino Martin Lutero, or Martin Lutero Garden, is also along the water and on the other side of the Arno, facing toward the Duomo and its beautiful surrounding architecture. This garden is one of the few places in the city where you can find a patch of grass or a bench to sit on that isn’t surrounded by buildings. Although the area is quite small, it makes the setting and the environment much more intimate and relaxed due to less people overcrowding the area. For locals, it is an area that is usually used for socializing, walking their dogs, or even just reading a book. What is also eye-catching about Giardino Martin Lutero is the beautiful orange church situated right in the corner of the grassy area. Sometimes you may find yourself at the exact moment when the bells are ringing.

Area Cani Pando

Right near the center of Florence, located Lugarno, or alongside the Arno, you will find a strip of grass that overlooks the fast-streaming river. Cani Pando, technically considered as a dog park, is known as one of the popular areas where younger crowds come to relax and enjoy themselves. Frequently you will see people throwing a frisbee out on the field, reading, or even just soaking in the sun while watching the crew boats pass by along the river. This area is tucked right under the center, and its seclusion makes you feel detached from the fast-moving pace of the city. As summer approaches, this area quickly becomes a local hotspot in the evening, where family and friends meet up for a quick aperitivo or dinner at a nearby restaurant. If you're a dog lover, there's no better place to meet and pet furry friends.


Area Pettini

If you ever need a break from the city center to find some greenery, Area Pettini is the park to visit. Located in the neighborhood of Le Cure, this popular park is used primarily by the Florentine citizens who live in the nearby area as a place to relax in the thick grassy fields, get a coffee at a nearby cafe, or play a variety of recreational sports. Normally on the weekends, you will see plenty of families spending their day having a picnic and enjoying their break before the next work week begins. At night, the park becomes a hotspot for younger locals to gather for an aperitivo and socialize with friends. This spot is a great place to visit if you are looking to explore the “not so touristy” areas of Florence, it is easily accessible by bus or even walking distance from the city center.

Student Travel Guide: 4 Easy Day Trips Outside Florence

By Annabelle Marenghi

While the city of Florence is rich with art, food, and endless experiences to keep you busy, Tuscany extends far beyond its Renaissance capital. As you study abroad in Florence and immerse yourself in Italian culture, I highly suggest taking day trips to the many surrounding cities and landscapes throughout the region. From medieval fortresses to calming beach towns and mountain scenery, don't miss the opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes just a short train or bus ride away from Florence. Here are some unforgettable day trips I recommend to further enrich your study abroad experience.

Beach Towns

For a refreshing change of scenery, head to one of the many beautiful beach towns only a two-hour train ride from Florence. My personal favorite is Castiglioncello, but many also love the nearby cities of Livorno and Viareggio. I recommend taking the train in the morning, picking up sandwich materials at the local grocery, and heading down to the beach to swim, tan, and have a picnic on the sand. The nearby Bagno Roma serves Aperol spritzes and offers pedal-boats for a group. Take in the Mediterranean sun on pristine beaches framed by cliffs and beautifully blue waters, and later walk through the main street and grab dinner at one of the seafood restaurants in town. Whether you're lounging on the sand or exploring hidden coves, Castiglioncello and neighboring beach towns offer a delightful retreat from the business of Florence, perfect for a day of relaxation and sun.

Tuscan Countryside

The Tuscan countryside offers endless opportunities to immerse in Italian culture, from medieval towns to explore, green rolling hills for hiking, and vineyards for tasting Chianti Classico and other wines from the region. San Gimignano and Montepulciano are two of my favorites, and other cities like Siena, Lucca, and Bologna are popular as well.

The hilltop town of San Gimignano is known as the “medieval Manhattan of Florence.” This city is made entirely of stone, and uniquely distinct for its iconic towers and enchanting atmosphere. A short train ride from Florence, you can wander through cobbled streets, sample local wines, and soak in panoramic views of the rolling hills covered with vineyards.

Montepulciano is another beautiful Tuscan city, famous for its Vino Nobile wines and Renaissance architecture. There’s a main street running through the town center, and some of the best wineries are Poliziano and Avignonesi. Montepulciano is a train or bus ride away, and I recommend going for the historic center, trying classic Tuscan dishes, and admiring the stunning views across the Val d'Orcia.

Wine tours in Chianti are one of the best quintessential study-abroad day trip experiences. There’s a wide range posted on Tripadvisor, ranging in price from around 35 to nearly 200 euros. From my own experiences and what I’ve heard from friends, you can’t go wrong with any, and many offer different types of wineries and length of the trip.

Thermal Baths

Tuscany's renowned thermal baths are arguably one of the best secrets of the region. This is the perfect day trip when you’re in need of rest, relaxation, and a nature-focused getaway. Rapolano Terme Hot Springs is a train ride away. You can purchase a day pass and use the thermal pools at Terme Antica Querciolaia. For a more rustic experience, Bagno Vignoni is another town known for its entirely natural hot springs, and you’ll need a rental car to reach it. Whether you prefer a tranquil spa day or a more adventurous experience in the rocky thermal pools, Tuscany's thermal baths provide a calming escape from the city crowds.

Wells in Florence Program Trips

Most importantly, I highly recommend you take advantage of the Wells-organized program trips to Venice and Cinque Terre, two of Italy's most iconic destinations. Venice, the floating city, is famous for its beautiful canals, unique architecture, and historic glass-blowing industry. The Wells trip will provide you with memorable experiences seeing the incredible St. Mark's Square, riding a gondola, trying traditional Venetian food, exploring the historic Jewish quarter, and more.

In beautiful coastal Cinque Terre, Wells in Florence will take you throughout the five famous cities stacked upon the cliffs. This region is known for its stunning beaches, colorful villages along the mountains, and incredible seafood and cuisine. There are scenic trails to hike, breathtaking views of the coastline, and hand-made boutiques and artisans to shop from. From Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare, the Wells trip to Cinque Terre is an unforgettable experience of natural beauty and coastal views, and one of my most treasured trips from abroad.