You’ve spent your time in Florence exploring the Uffizi and Accademia, discovering some of our secret spots (shhh!), or perhaps enjoying a romantic afternoon just the two of you. You’ve done an excellent job on your Tuscan dinner of hearty Fiorentina steak, but you’re not ready to call it a day…and, you notice, neither are the Florentines. What should you do with the remainder of your evening?
You can opt for the Great Italian Pastime, la passeggiata (the traditional evening stroll, punctuated by pauses to exchange pleasantries, window shop, and order gelato), or you can stop in at one of the city’s many cafés, clubs, and theaters that feature live music, from rock to opera, into the late evening hours.
Ulisse Albiati (https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyberuly/)
Florence, like most of Italy’s cities, has a nightlife that begins late to accommodate the average 8 pm dinner hour, and typically continues long past midnight. The advantage of staying out past your bedtime in Florence is that the city center is quite compact and walkable, so you can easily stroll back to your hotel when the music ends without having to bother with finding a taxi.
If you’d like to make a night of it in Florence and relax with a nightcap while enjoying a live concert, here are some venues to consider.
If you are a fan of classical music or opera, your best bet is to check the season schedule at one of Florence’s excellent theaters and reserve concert tickets. Here are the three principal theaters in the city center:
Nuovo Teatro dell’Opera
Viale Fratelli Rosselli, 15
Florence’s stunning contemporary opera house was inaugurated 2014, and the complex includes an opera theatre, concert hall, auditorium, and open-air amphitheater. Each May, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino arts festival directed by Zubin Mehta is held here, as are the city’s most important classical music concerts, ballets, exhibitions, and other cultural events.
via Ghibellina, 97
The opulent 19th century Teatro Verdi has been the permanent home of the ORT (Orchestra della Toscana, considered one of Europe’s finest chamber orchestras) since 1998. If you are looking for an evening of classical and orchestral music, the concert season runs from October through May. The theater also hosts jazz concerts and ballet and dance performances.
Teatro della Pergola
Via della Pergola, 18
Florence’s historic opera house dates from the 1600’s, making it the oldest in Italy. Unfortunately, the venue is now dedicated exclusively to theatrical events, but it does host operatic performances during the Maggio Musicale festival each May.
Clubs and Cafès
A more informal and spontaneous way to catch live music, especially jazz, folk, or rock, is to pop in at a cafè or club after dinner for drinks. There are a number of unique spaces in the center of Florence with a fun, hip atmosphere and a rotating schedule of live performances on the weekends or throughout the week. Usually entrance is free, but you are expected to order drinks or food during the show.
Borgo San Frediano, 17r
This rocking club is in the heart of the Oltrarno , and musicians perform on the stage set in the shop-front window overlooking Borgo San Frediano six nights a week from 10 pm. There are two bars where drinks are served and the atmosphere is much more club than café. Expect dancing and late nights.
Borgo San Frediano, 20r
A laid-back, French-inspired bookstore/café space filled with students reading over tea by day, and the same students quaffing wine and cocktails to the sound of live music by night. The atmosphere is vintage bohemian and the music tends to be acoustic, folk, swing, and world music.
Caffè degli Artigiani
Via dello Sprone, 16r
Located in picturesque Piazza della Passera near Santo Spirito, this “artisans’ café” has been a popular gathering spot since 1945. It has been renovated and pleasantly “hipster-ized” recently, and has a bar and dining room on the ground floor, and a small upstairs venue with table service for wine and cheese platters where jazz and blues musicians play each Friday at 10 pm.
Circolo Vie Nuove, Viale D. Giannotti, 13
This local jazz club has been hosting national and international musicians since 1995, and is known for its quality Saturday night performances. Tickets begin at €10, and you are also required to become a member of the club for a nominal fee.
Via Villani 15
One of the most interesting spaces in Florence is part of a budget hostel that hosts live music on an antique theatre stage once part of a school run by local nuns, restored and repurposed as the hostel bar. Relax on the vintage leather couches and watch an eclectic array of live acts on select evenings Thursday to Sunday; times vary.
Via Nuovo de’ Caccini 3
This has been Florence’s main jazz venue since 1979, and you can catch jazz performances as well as salsa, blues, Dixieland, and world music here Tuesday to Saturday nights from 10:30 pm (closed July and August). The Sunday jam session has become local legend among aficionados. Membership (which gets you entrance to the club) is €5, drink included.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale
For an earlier evening, you can dine at Florence’s newly spiffed-up Mercato Centrale to the strains of swing, jazz, and acoustic live acts each Wednesday evening around 8 pm. Sample some of Tuscany’s best regional specialties or a glass of local red from the gourmet food stands while enjoying the free show.
Via de’ Ginori, 4/10r
This funky bistro has live music – primarily jazz trios – on Friday, Saturday, and some Sunday nights at 9 pm. Settle in with one of their excellent cocktails and inventive tapas selection and enjoy the classy atmosphere and free concert.
Via dei Servi ,76r
Just steps from the Duomo, this landmark basement club has been a gathering place for fans of blues and rock in Florence since 1981. Rock, pop, indie, and tribute bands play Tuesday to Sunday nights in the vaulted hall decorated with band and concert posters and drinks are served from the small central bar in the center. Doors open from 8 pm and some events require a cover charge.
Piazza delle Murate
This venue was built in the 15th century as a monastery, later became a prison, and has now been beautifully restored and repurposed into an gallery cafè and music venue. There is live music or a dj set most evenings from 9:30 pm, and the cafè serves a generous aperitivo if you want to settle in before the music starts with drinks and finger food.