Another regular walk of mine goes along the Arno river towards the neighborhood of Rovezzano, then crossing the river to the Albereta park and back to Ponte San Niccolò. This is a pleasant hike during partially cloudy days, as sunny and hot weather may become challenging due to the lack of shade by the river banks. My favorite characteristic about this path is seeing Florence from underneath, by the banks of the Arno. While some tourists take a peculiar gondola ride by Ponte Vecchio in the summer months, I rather be far from the crowds and wander in a less-explored part of the city.
We start at Ponte San Niccolò, on the side of Lungarno del Tempio. Right at the entrance of the public park there is a path leading down to the river bank, passing the small dog park. It’s a great relief from the traffic noise coming from the street above. It immediately feels like we’re entering into a different Florence. Heading east, we soon arrive by the confluence of the meek Affrico river and the Arno. The Affrico was tamed a long time ago by the first Roman settlers, nowadays we don’t even notice this tributary walking around the city as it moves underground. Continuing along the grassy banks, we reach the Ponte Giovanni da Verrazzano, a bridge named after the famous 16th century Florentine navigator.
We pass by 14th century Villa della Casaccia, famous for having accommodated painters and poets in the 1800s. Ahead, the circus tent-shaped roof of TuscanyHall, one of the main concert venues of Florence, makes for an unusual sight. Shortly after, we cross under the Varlungo bridge to reach Rovezzano on Via della Funga. We spot a complex of buildings that were once the watermill and weir of San Michele a Rovezzano, a nice area to relax and enjoy the Arno up close. In the summer, I often spot Florentines sunbathing in this very scenic area. The weir was built to prevent the devastating floods of the Arno, the latest one destroyed plenty of lives and precious works of art in 1966. Before then, ferries would transport passengers across the river at this place, thus the area being named Nave a (boat to) Rovezzano.
From here there are a couple of side options before heading back into town. Option one: keep following the path along the river all the way to the neighborhood of San Jacopo al Girone to enjoy a few more scenic views of the Arno. Also, you can visit the Florence War Cemetery for Commonwealth soldiers who died to recapture Florence during WW2. The second option takes us on a loop visit to Rovezzano: we leave the dirt path turning left on Via delle Mulina di Sant’Andrea and continue towards the park of Villa Favard after we pass the recently restored church of Sant’Andrea. Villa Favard today is a music conservatory, but this historical building has been redesigned by famous architects in the past: Baccio d’Agnolo in the 1500s and Giuseppe Poggi in the 1800s. It’s a lovely park to be enjoyed on a sunny afternoon while listening to talented musicians practice their art.
We depart towards Via della Nave a Rovezzano to return to the banks of the Arno and follow Via della Funga back to the bridge of Varlungo. We will use it to cross the river and reach the Albereta park. The poplar trees that give name to this park provide a nice shade for the next mile, as we pass a small model of the Duomo and the Anconella acqueduct, Florence’s water treatment plant. After crossing the roundabout by Ponte Giovanni da Verrazzano, we proceed along the cycling path on Lungarno Francesco Ferrucci to soon find Ponte San Niccolò for the end of our walk.
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Ponte San Niccolò – Rovezzano – Albereta
- 2:15h (3:45h with Il Girone and Florence War Cemetery)
- 6 mi (9.5 km) / 8.2 mi (13.2 km)
- Getting there: the walk starts and ends on the outskirts of the historical center, a short walk from Santa Croce and the Duomo. But, you can also take buses ATAF n. 23 or C4 and get out by Ponte San Niccolò.