Fore! Not what first comes to mind when you think of Florence, is it? Golfing in Tuscany was a priority for my husband and I though. As soon as we dropped off our bags at the hotel, we ventured off to hit the links. Golf Club Parco di Firenze is about a 15-minute drive from the historic center. We had a lovely (and affordable) time golfing the lush, green course. Our green fee included club rental, a pull cart, and a bucket of balls for the range. A taxi dropped us off at the club house. I was entertained by the bevy of middle-aged men socializing on the patio. As they played a card game, they gesticulated emphatically and laughed heartily. It looked like a nice way to spend the day. The course was fairly easy—a plus in my book! The short length of the fairways didn’t stop my husband from losing sight of his ball though. As we searched for it, two guys yelled “over here.” It was the first time we had heard English on the course. We strode over and found out that they were study-abroad students from my alma mater, the University of Michigan. It’s a small world after all.
If you go golfing in Florence, make sure to bring a good bus map with you. You will likely be pretty far distant from areas where taxis are easily obtained. We got lost on the way back when transferring buses. In residential areas of foreign cities, it is more difficult to find English-speaking people than it is in the tourist areas. Even though many people wanted to help us, with my limited knowledge of Italian the language barrier stood in the way. We ended up walking aimlessly until I found a bus with a stop that I recognized as somewhat near the hotel.
If golfing isn’t your style but you would still like to frolic in the grass, you will want to visit one of Florence’s famed gardens like the Boboli. As the backyard of the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens boast acres of greenery. Starting with a magnificent amphitheater, Il Giardino di Boboli (as they are known in Italian) are sure to wow you. Wander down cypress-lined lanes. Admire fine fountains throughout the property. Gape at the grotto which once housed Michelangelo’s “The Prisoners” (now at the Accademia). The gardens feature amazing statuary—some from ancient Rome and many from the Renaissance era. As you stroll along, you’ll notice how the fabulous sculptures blend into the greenery. The Boboli Gardens are an outdoor museum and a visual feast.
If you’re looking for blooming gardens with fewer crowds than the Boboli, head over to the nearby Bardini Gardens—my favorite of the two. The show-stopper of the garden is the Belvedere Terrace where a pair of Baroque statues frame a magnificent view of Florence. The splendor of historic Florence is visible for as far as the eye can see. Brunelleschi’s red-roofed dome, Giotto’s pink and green campanile, and the crenellated tower of Palazzo Vecchio are clearly visible from this vantage point atop a hill. A terraced lawn descends beneath the belvedere. A magical way down the hill is under the wisteria-covered pergola with flowers lining the path. Looking into the covered passageway it looks as if one would be disappearing into a fairy tale.
If you need respite from the Tuscan sun, the Bardini Gardens offer a Kaffeehaus on the terrace where you can take a break and enjoy the view. Like the Boboli Gardens, the Bardini also boast beautiful fountains, splendid orchards, and a grotto. Visitors can purchase a pass that includes admission to both the Boboli Gardens and the Bardini, as well as smaller museums of the Pitti Palace. Make sure you ask for a pass that includes both gardens if you want one, because the passes can get confusing with various combinations (or single admission) at similar rates.
Although you’ll want to save plenty of time when in Florence to enjoy all the magnificent works of art and architecture, take some time to seek out some green spaces too. You’ll have to leave the area where most of the landmarks are located, but it will be well worth your time.
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