No visit to Italy is complete without a couple of days in the company of Dante, Michelangelo and co, because if one city sums up Italy in all its Renaissance glory – the painting, the sculpture, the poetry, the architecture – this little city by the Arno is it.
Camping Internazionale Firenze is as ‘internazionale’ as the name suggests. There are more national flags aloft over reception than in an Olympic athletes’ village. This is Florence (Firenze to the locals), after all, and in summer it’s clogged with gaily-clad camera-clicking culture-vultures from all possible corners of the globe. But the site is a 20-minute, €1.20, bus ride from the city centre, so in the height of a Tuscan summer you’ll be able to relax a little way away from all the hubbub happening in town.
The site is reasonably large and quite steep, but the good news is that the chalets are out of sight near reception and the camping area is on long, broad grassy terraces up the hill. Though you can’t see downtown Florence from the site, pitch over here and you’ll have views of the illuminated convent of San Paulo on one hill, or pitch over there and there’s the monastery of Certosa. As night falls, you’ll see bats on the wing, flitting between the trees with their built-in sat-navs picking out bugs and moths in the air, and you’ll be winked at by the fireflies lurking in the grass. You’d be hard-pushed to find that sort of thing in a 2-star pensione in town.
Down the hill on one side of the site is a fairly lively bar, frequented by a youngish crowd whose attire is usually as loud as their voices. Luckily for all campers in need of a peaceful time, it’s all well out of earshot of the camping area.
There’s also a modest restaurant (no awards, as yet, and don’t hold your breath) and a reasonably well-stocked little shop, where the basics of breakfast can be found in the morning and a cold beer in the evening, if you want to take one back, sit on the grass and Bluetooth the bats.
And when it’s time to hit the tourist trail you just won’t know where to start. Michelangelo at the Academia or Donatello at the Bargello? A café macchiato or a glass of Chianti? Prosciutto or formaggio? Ponte Vecchio or Ponti’s ice cream? You need to take a deep breath, lace up your most sensible walking shoes and prepare yourself for culture, Italian-style.
Florence is one of those convenient cities in which the main attractions are all handily within walking distance of each other. But unfortunately there are so many to choose from that you can easily cover the Olympic marathon distance getting from one to the next, and on to the next.
At least it’s all walker-friendly; the centre’s streets are largely pedestrianised or only have room for those scooters that sound like hairdryers and tiny Fiats that look like upturned bathtubs. Neither seems capable of more than 15 mph, even with a tailwind, so you’re in more danger of tripping on the ancient cobble stones than anything else.
Just pick up a map and don’t pay too much attention to the road signs. They’ll just point you to Rome.
FacilitiesAmple showers and WCs and plenty of washing facilities (clothes and dishes) in a central block. The reception has leaflets and boards with local information, a small shop selling essentials (including postcards and stamps), a bar and a pizzeria. There is an internet point, WiFi and a tv room. An outdoor swimming pool is free for campers to use. There’s a large electricity pylon slap-bang in the middle of the site and there is a bit of noise from the motorway.
Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs – yes.
NearbyClimb the dome of Brunelleschi’s Duomo, explaining as you go how the twinskinned structure was built without scaffolding, and then regain your breath by enjoying the views from the top. To seeing Donatello’s über-camp statue of David – a far cry from Michelangelo’s massive muscular marble version at the Academia. Donatello’s androgynous little imp has undergone an 18-month restoration programme and is back on display at the Bargello.
Food & DrinkThe campsite has its own small bar, pizzeria and restaurant serving a few of the local Tuscan dishes with a shaded area for outside dining. Eat on the hoof when in town. Just by the Duomo there’s a great little enoteca (wine bar) called Alessi (Via delle Oche), which serves delicious bruschetta and quality wines by the glass. For something near the Uffizi, try Giulliano Centro, a small café with local grub – spiced and herbed chicken, local sausage, rosti and a dollop of spinach and broccoli mashed up with garlic and olive oil. Just opposite is a great stand-up place serving Tuscan nibbles like artichoke and truffle on bread and help-yourself chianti at €2 a go.
Internazionale Firenze, Camping Internazionale Firenze, Via San Cristofano 2, 50023 Bottai-Impruneta, Tuscany, Italy
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