If you’re going to Florence for any extended period of time, you know you can count on one thing being at your disposal all the time: food. Pizza, pasta, focaccia, pasticcini…gelato. It’s a good thing the whole city is navigable by foot! Not to mention the daily trek up to the fifth floor and back down you are bound to be doing in the apartment you’re staying in.
The workout your legs are going to get just by exploring Florence definitely helps the third scoop of gelato go down a little easier.
But if you’re there for any extended period of time, you may wonder about having a more regular schedule of organized exercise. And to this end, you may find the following list helpful. Whether you like gyms, yoga, running, or outdoor park equipment it’s got a little bit for most everyone.
Where To Find A Gym In Florence
Answer: In Italy’s Oldest Fitness Center
With a city center as small and compact as Florence’s you may not expect it to have any 24-Hour Fitnesses–and you’d be right. But I did spend a couple months going to a gym in the city center that was quite large. It’s called Palestra Ricciardi, and not only is it one of Italy’s oldest fitness gyms, having been founded in 1953, but it is also still the largest gym in Florence at around 1,800 square meters (or over 19,000 square feet!). The gym is named after its founder, Tullio Ricciardi, who has a pretty awesome story you can read here, so there’s some cool history as well that goes into working out in a place like this. The history lives on in the space, as the gym is now run by Tullia’s daughter, Lola.
The building is on the well-known Borgo Pinti street, nestled between Piazza della Annunziata and Piazza d’Azeglio, so pretty close to the University as well. It’s unlike any gym I’ve ever been to before, because although the overall space is quite large, the workout rooms wind around an inner garden area. Overall I thought that made for a pretty cool, characteristic workout experience. I felt like I was working out in an old European city.
The building has everything you need to get in all different kinds of solid workouts. It’s complete with a cardio room, several rooms for free weight lifting, and even a couple sizable studio rooms for dancing, spinning, and other fitness movement classes. You can see a full list and calendar of their classes here.
I worked out in Palestra Ricciardi for a couple months while I was studying abroad in Florence in 2011. I don’t recall exactly how much I paid, but I do remember thinking it was pretty reasonable for unlimited access to the gym for a couple months. I think it was somewhere between €100-€200, and there was a student discount involved. Their website seems to indicate too that all classes except spin classes are included in your membership, though I didn’t take any while I was there. Plus I imagine you can easily attend on a pay-as-you-go basis if you prefer or are there for a shorter period of time.
They gave me a little identification card that I used to enter the gym each time I went, and below the gym there is a nice locker room area with showers.
Where To Do Yoga In Florence
Answer: In A Palazzo From The 1400s
There’s something really extraordinary about practicing yoga in a new place. And Florence is no exception.
If you talk to some of the yogis in the city they’ll tell you that yoga is not very popular (yet) in Italy. But as you might imagine there are some pockets of people who love it, and amongst the rich aesthetics of Florence they have found some amazing spots to work on their practice.
One gem that Jordan and I both practiced at regularly for a month when we were there together in 2015 is It’s Yoga Firenze. It’s located in an old palazzo from the 1400s in a very convenient location just on the other side of the Arno (right on the way to the Bardini Gardens, if you’re familiar yet with them).
The space inside has old wood floors and great big windows that let in a lot of light from the street below. The studio room can comfortably fit around 15-20 people, and that was the most we saw in any one class in April. The Friday morning sessions were a bit more busy, but most days we were there didn’t have more than 12 people practicing in the class.
The studio comes in at a reasonable €15 per class, but if you’re in Florence for a while you can buy a month’s pass for €90. I believe this price included the It’s Yoga membership card that was necessary to practice there. If you’re a student you can find another €10 discount off the monthly price.
Where To Run In Florence
Okay–strength training, check!–stretching, check! Now let’s cover some options for the cardio-lovers among us who love to run or jog. Jordan and I have done a half-dozen half-marathons between the two of us, so we enjoy getting a good run in fairly often ourselves.
But given the busy, narrow streets and sidewalks of Florence it can be a little challenging at times. You’ll see the occasional runner weaving in and out of people in Piazza del Duomo or the larger pedestrian streets in the center of town, but running through crowds is not for everyone. Don’t fret though, a relaxing run is still obtainable in the city center–you just have to know where to go! The first answer is just the right place.
Answer 1: A Huge Park Filled With Exercise Equipment
If you’ve ever stopped to look at a map of Florence when you weren’t hastily trying to find something, you may have noticed a gigantic green spot running along a large length of the Arno river. This happens to be a gigantic park, Parco delle Cascine, founded by Cosimo I de’ Medici in the 1500s as a farming and hunting estate for the Medici family, that today spans nearly 400 acres in the shape of a long and narrow strip along the river. Talk about perfect for running!
There’s several sections to a park this large, as you might imagine. One of them is tree-lined pavement that goes at least a kilometer in a perfectly straight line. This section of the park also has exercise stations at periodic intervals. Some of the equipment isn’t the most useful (e.g. oddly-spaced vertical poles that seem to expect you to run slalom-style through them), but there’s some good stuff as well like a walking dip bar, and some bars you can use for pull ups if you’re creative.
As great a spot as this is for running, it can take a bit of time to get there depending on where you are staying in the city. Fortunately, there is another awesome running opportunity that’s super different.
Answer 2: A Weekly Running Course Through The City With Hundreds Of Runners
When Jordan and I first walked past the finish line of this event in Piazza del Duomo on our way back to our apartment, we were amazed and thought we must have had lucky timing to witness this once-a-year race in the city center. But we were shocked to find out that not only is it not once a year, this event is put on every single Wednesday between October and June!
It’s called Corre Firenze (“Run Florence”), and the event seemed like quite a spectacle. There were banners, microphones, speakers, a stage, and all kinds of event coordinators setting up outside of the Universo Sport store on the north side of Piazza del Duomo. It seemed like there were probably a good hundred or two running participants as well. Check out the video below for a look into what I mean:
If you’re interested in running in a Corre Firenze event, it seems pretty easy to do so. According to this post the cost is only €5 per person (or €30 for the whole year), and you just meet in the Universo Sport store at around 7pm. You can store your personal belongings there, and they set you up with a microchip for timing your run across the start and finish lines. The running itself seems to start at around 8pm and go until around 9:15-9:30. The course is 8 kilometers (5 miles), and there are different speed groups you can run with, led by pacers each with a uniquely-colored balloon.
If you’d like to find out more before you show up, you can visit the event website at FirenzeCorre.it, but it’s a bit hard to navigate in addition to being in Italian.
Bonus: The Best Steps To Climb In Florence
Any article about exercising in Florence probably wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Piazzale Michelangelo steps. The Piazzale is a must-do lookout point that delivers picturesque views over the Arno, city center, and surrounding Tuscan countryside. To get such an elevated view, of course you must climb a hill. So unless they drove there, any Piazzale visitor will remember the long stretch of stone steps they had to climb to get there. Get to the top once and, while you’re trying to catch your breath, inspiring thoughts may cross your mind of what a great thigh and butt workout you could get if you climbed those babies a few times a day.
The view from the top is unbeatable, and there’s even a relaxing rose garden you can enter from the middle of the staircase if you want to lay out after or take a break in between reps. But climb the Piazzale steps as a targeted workout and eat those next cannoli totally carefree!
What do you think about getting your exercise in while staying in Florence? Did we get anything wrong? Or do you have any additional favorite exercise spots in Florence we didn’t mention? Don’t be shy! Please let us know in the comments and maybe we’ll try it out next time we’re there!