Florence, Italy, may be known for its Renaissance architecture, art, and Duomo, but when the sun goes down, a bustling club culture gives the city a whole new M.O. Nightlife in Florence isn't just a summertime thing, thanks in part to the thousands of university students who flock to this charming Tuscan region for study abroad programs year-round. Its compact layout makes club hopping easy on the feet, so there's really no need to even hail a taxi if you're looking for a trendy place to drink. Bars range between casual cocktail lounges and late-night dance floors that pulse to the rhythm of the DJ's turntables, although the sleepy vibe of Florence in the daytime might suggest otherwise.
Don't be fooled by the quiet that strikes Florence during siesta—typically between noon and 5 p.m. In the evenings, this city is brought to life again. Florentines love a late dinner (the locals start filing into restaurants at 8 p.m.) and are no strangers to a midnight espresso. Thus, the clubs start getting busy later than they would in the states. Wait until 11 p.m. or so—after you've finished eating your weight in pasta and gelato—to put on your party shoes. You'll be partying like a Florentine before you know it.
Bars in Italy aren't typically noisy and rambunctious (if this is what you're looking for, opt for a nightclub). They tend to have more laidback, coffeeshop-esque atmospheres that are conducive to conversation because although Italians do love to drink, they don't just drink to get drunk. Some are quirky and artistic and play live music while others cater to the kind who like their martinis mixed just right. Come for the aperitivo (pre-dinner drinks), then go find one of those world-famous Florentine steaks to fill your belly up.
- La Cité: Speaking of eccentric bars, this one's colorful décor and jazz lounge-like vibe have turned it into a bonafide hipster haven. A library bar, you could call it, most of the time full of young and progressive intellectuals drinking beer and talking about politics and the like.
- The Lion's Fountain: For those who are partial to an Irish pub but don't fancy going to one that's brimming with teenage foreign exchange students. You can expect The Lion's Fountain to be busy, yes, but not just with hordes of tourists. It's a local favorite for watching sports and enjoying a pint.
- Moyo: Santa Croce is a hotspot for nightlife in Florence and right in the heart of it is Moyo, a cocktail bar that takes mixology very seriously. Have a Negroni here before heading over to Club TwentyOne for a dance.
- Vineria Sonora: Vineria Sonora has rebranded the traditional Italian wine bar into something devastatingly hip. The interior is modern and minimalistic and the clientele, although young, is sophisticated. This is where you come to share a bottle of world-class Tuscan vino and a cheese plate with your travel mate.
- Mad Souls & Spirits: When you're in Italy, but all you really want is a good old-fashioned, hometown dive bar, head to Mad Souls & Spirits to sip on creative cocktails and mingle with a refreshingly unpretentious crowd.
- Mayday Club: Attention lovers of vintage décor, inventive craft cocktails, and microbrews on tap: Mayday is for you. You're about to lose yourself to another generation under the dim disco lighting of this ravishingly snazzy cocktail lounge.
Unlike the local bars, Florence's clubs open late and keep the party going until 4 a.m. or longer. If you see the word "disco," it probably means a multi-level behemoth that beholds a number of DJ-run dance floors. Nightclubs are on the tamer side—smaller and attracting a slightly older crowd. End your night at:
- Bamboo Lounge Club: Bamboo is a self-proclaimed "revolutionary" (and tourist-friendly) watering hole and dance club in the historic center just blocks from the Duomo. You'll see plenty of foreign exchange students spending their Friday and Saturday nights here. It's open for apertivo around 7 p.m., but the party doesn't start until after 11 p.m.
- Club TwentyOne: An unpretentious venue in the heart of the historic center, between the Duomo and Piazza Della Signoria, Club TwentyOne eschews posh décor for an airy, no-frills dance floor. This Santa Croce haunt is where you go when other bars and clubs are beginning to cool down.
- Yab: Italians (and all Europeans, for that matter) love to dance, so make like a Florentine and give this glamorous club your best moves. This is your chance to debut the designer heels you bought from Via Della Vigna Nuova earlier in the day. It's near TwentyOne, but the vibe couldn't be more different: stylish clientele, a glowing marquee, and an upscale atmosphere.
- Space Electronic: File this one under the category of discoteques. Space Electronic's downstairs lounge and bar make for an ideal early-evening hangout, but the real action takes place upstairs. The cavernous industrial interior lends to a warehouse party vibe. You'll forget you're not in the trendiest club in Berlin.
- The Blob Club: Just a few blocks away from the Museo Galileo and Uffizi Gallery, The Blob Club is an intimate two-story venue that offers partygoers a casual and friendly club experience. The downstairs bar, decorated with wood-framed paintings, boasts an art-house vibe and the nearby dance floor leaves no room to be shy. The DJs here stray from the norm, leaning more toward Italian hits, rock, and old-school hip-hop. Only open seasonally from October through April, The Blob Club is Florence's cure for the winter blues.
After the Negronis wear off, you'll be craving a taste of Florence's world-class cuisine. This little slice of Italy has long been a foodie scene. Thankfully for partiers, many chefs stay up serving their focaccia, pizza, and buttery pasta dishes late into the night. One of the city's best-kept secrets is its late-night bakeries. They're tucked into unassuming alleyways and in residential 'hoods—just follow your nose and you'll arrive at a hot, sugary pastry at 4 in the morning. Also try:
- Mister Pizza: There's not a more quintessential drunk food in Italy than a cheesy, doughy, wood-fired pie. Mister Pizza caters to the vegan and gluten-free variety, too. Neither location—one near the Duomo and one near Santa Croce—closes before 4 a.m.
- El Chico: Sure, you may not have come to the pizza capital of the world to dine on tacos and burritos, but the Mexican fare at El Chico is just about too fragrant—and scrumptious—to pass up.
- Fo'Caccia La Notte: Something about being tipsy makes you want to order food out of a window, which you can do at Fo'Caccia La Notte. You can also customize your pizza and focaccia with an array of different toppings (tip: try the pesto). It's open until 6 a.m.
- Voglia di Kebab: Kebabs are the mother of all drunk food and there's a kebab shop conveniently located right outside The Lion's Fountain, serving up doner for just 3.50 euros a pop until 6 a.m., seven nights a week.
Perhaps the busker playing his violin in the piazza has ignited your craving for live music. Or, you're traveling solo and you're looking for a one-person kind of thing to do. No matter your situation, Florence has just the thing for you. From old-school jazz bars and low-key acoustic sets to mosh pit-inducing rock bands, you'll find your fix of live music at:
- Le Murate: This is one of the bigger venues in Florence. It's basically a bookstore, cafe, bar, and concert hall all wrapped up in one. Its al fresco performance space is perfect for summer evenings.
- Virgin Rock Club: Take a break from the typical tourist trail and find yourself jamming out to Italian rock with the locals at Virgin Rock Club.
- La Ménagère: Hanging out at a flower shop that turns into an underground (literally—it's in a basement) jazz club at night is one surefire way to go home from Florence with a story in your pocket.
Tips for Going Out in Florence
- Florentines go out late and party until dawn. Many of the clubs don't even open until 11 or 11:30 p.m., then close at 4:30 a.m.
- There is no open container law in Florence, so drink your beer or your bottle of Chianti in the piazza without reserve.
- While drinking in public is commonplace, being obnoxiously drunk in public is massively frowned upon. Abide by the local etiquette and limit your inebriation to the indoors.
- Whereas the minimum drinking age is 18 years old throughout many European countries (and 21 years old in the States), the drinking age in Italy is 16 years old (hence why high school and college kids from all over the world flock to this place).
- Tipping in Italy is neither expected nor routine, which makes Florence (and Italy, in general) a cheaper destination than some other places.