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There are many good reasons why spending time near the 'blue spaces' of Florence are so beneficial. Much more than just 'messing about on the river', the therapeutic impact of being near water, the sensory experience, the opportunity to exercise or relax and to still our busy minds, has found an increasingly important role in recent years.

At tabl. our quest is to provide thoughtful ways to enjoy a destination through cultural gastronomy and immersive experiences. Tuning in to how blue spaces can amplify your pleasure and happiness is important to us.

The Blue Spaces of Florence

The term 'blue spaces' typically refers to bodies of water such as oceans, rivers and lakes. Often, we tend to gravitate to the coast for a proper boost of watery love. There's nothing quite like the ocean to remind us of the power of nature and its ability to soothe and heal us, even without getting in it. Lakes and rivers offer something different, but the opportunities for activity or relaxation, alone or with people, are vast, with significant benefits.

These spaces can be more challenging to find in urban areas and big cities. Still, they exist in those environments and play a vital role to residents and visitors, who relish the feeling of freshness, physical expansion, and tranquillity water provides.

So how do you get the same endorphin kick in a landlocked Italian city like Florence?

The capital of the Tuscan region is a stunning city north of Rome, surrounded by hills and covered with villas, vineyards, farms, and orchards. But what role do the waterways play in this much-loved destination? And how can you embrace them alongside the extraordinary culinary delights?!

The Arno River of Florence

The Arno River runs through the city and has played a crucial role in its history. It has provided transportation, irrigation, and power generation for centuries and played an immeasurable role in the city's art, culture, and economy, allowing Florence to prosper as a centre of trade and commerce. The city rose to extraordinary wealth in medieval times and is the birthplace of the Renaissance and art forms such as opera. It evolved to be a mighty influence over culture, arts, politics and finance during this time and is of great significance in Italian history.

Sadly, resembling a story you might hear at the opera, the Arno experienced great tragedy in 1966 when it broke its banks, leaving most of the city six feet underwater. Many people died, and the flood caused severe damage to Florence's historic buildings and millions of rare books and artworks.

Enjoying the waterways of Florence

The river today remains a valued part of the local landscape, and it is a popular spot for walking, picnicking, and enjoying the beautiful views of the city. Many of the city's landmarks are along the riverside, an area known as 'lungarno', which literally means 'embankment of the Arno'. These include:

Ponte Vecchio - an iconic medieval bridge lined with shops

Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens - a large palace and its gardens. The former residence of the Medici family, the palace is home to several museums and art collections. The garden, designed in the 16th century, is divided into several sections; the Amphitheater, the Grotto, the Isolotto, and the Kaffeehaus. The garden features an ornamental lake, fountains, and other works of art, including statues by famous Italian sculptors, Giambologna and Bartolomeo Ammannati.

The Uffizi Gallery - a world-famous art museum that features works by Italian masters such as Botticelli and da Vinci.

The Piazzale Michelangelo - which is a terrace with panoramic views of the city.

The Basilica of Santa Croce - a large Franciscan church and the final resting place of many notable figures such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.

Boats, Food and Drink

One of the best things to do in Florence is, of course, to enjoy fabulous food. The river is the perfect location to soothe all your senses. The calming water runs alongside restaurants, cafes and bistros, allowing you to indulge in renowned Florentine cuisines and tickle your tastebuds. Order some delicious Italian vino while choosing from dishes like Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo (Pasta Noodles with Porcini and Truffle Mushrooms), Bistecca alla Fiorentina (thick-cut T-bone steak grilled on charcoal) or the regional classic, Pappa al Pomodoro (thick soup made from bread, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil).

Another way to combine the water and food of Florence is on a boat. A cruise of the Arno River presents the city from a different perspective. Sunset and evening dinner cruises offer an aesthetically delightful view of the city as you cruise, peruse and sample a delicious Italian menu, perhaps while sipping some regional Chianti.

For something extra special, you can rent a private gondola and take a romantic tour of the river while drifting away from the crowds.

It wouldn't be Italy without some beautiful bridges and some fantastic fountains, and Florence is no exception. Why not combine bridge spotting with a cycle and gelato tour for Italian immersion Florence style? Or discover local food and fountains on a walking street food experience.

Fountains, Bridges and Wine

Ponte Santa Trinita is a three-arched 16th-century bridge that spans the Arno River and is considered one of the most beautiful bridges in Florence. Ponte alla Carraia is an excellent spot for taking in the views of the city and the surrounding hills.

Many of Florence's fountains are considered architectural and historical landmarks. One of the most notable is Fontana del Nettuno, located in the Piazza della Signoria, and features a statue of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. In the Mercato Nuovo, you will find Fontana del Porcellino with its statue of a wild boar - a symbol of the city of Florence. If you rub the nose of the boar, it will bring good luck. Find a Piazza, and you will find a Fontana. That watery connection is never far away. It might not be the ocean, but the sight and sound of the acqua running over ancient sculptures and Renaissance creations are easy on the eye and good for the soul. Possibly even more delightful with a Negroni in hand.

Florence is also known for its wines, especially red wines like Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. Best accompanied by renowned Florentine artisanal food, like cured meats, cheeses and a variety of bread, all made with ancient recipes and techniques. Eating in Florence is an authentic cultural experience where you can indulge in traditional, hearty, and comforting dishes.

Cinque Terre on the Italian Riveria

Finally, if you are in need of some 'Vitamin Sea', less than three hours from Florence is Cinque Terre - the breathtaking UNESCO National Park where you can visit Monterosso, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Riomaggiore. These picturesque coastal towns have made this part of the Italian Riveria famous. When you see Manarola, for example, with its coloured houses perched on the hills overlooking the sea, you will see why. Understandably popular with tourists for its beautiful scenery, hiking trails that join all the towns, and wine production.

There are many Cinque Terre tour options, including transport and a trip to a local vineyard so you can sample the wonderful Sangiovese grape, which is the foundation of wine-making heritage in this region. Beaches, seafood, coastline cruises and ocean view piazzas; combine a visit to Cinque Terre with the city of Florence, and your Tuscan trip will be complete.

The blend of blue spaces plus a feast of cultural and gastronomic experiences will invigorate your tastebuds and calm your mind. You may find you perfect the Italian art of Dolce Far Niente - to sit and do nothing. A beautiful guilt-free approach to relaxing. A sweet idleness that allows us to step away from everyday life and nourish our wellbeing in the moment. An Italian philosophy we can really get behind!

Experience the Blue Spaces of Florence

With its glorious fountains, ponds in the park and beautiful Arno River, the blue spaces of Florence are certainly worth exploring. Book food and drink experiences in Florence with and make the most of authentic Italian cuisine while escaping the crowds.

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