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Romantic opera composer Giuseppe Verdi is famously supposed to have said, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” Some might be tempted to make the same trade for the city of Florence alone, with a history of cultural significance and importance dating back to the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance in particular
Most people visit Florence for the art and the architecture, which are world-famous (and warranted UNESCO’s honoring the city with its own designation as a “world heritage site,” chiefly for its cultural contributions, back in 1982. There are a number of significant churches, with their own art collections; in addition to the world-famous landmarks such as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio; statues like Michelangelo’s David, and enough important museum and gallery collections (170 in all) to exhaust even the most ardent art-tourist or art history student. And though art and architecture are the main draws for tourism, other cultural options also exist in the sports and entertainment worlds.
Though the city technically has five official divisions as neighborhoods, when it comes to sports and particularly football (soccer), Florence is divided into four districts, each named for a central church in the area, in a tradition that goes back to the 14th century when the walls were first built around the city itself. There’s Santa Maria Novella in the northwest, color red; St. John in the northeast, named after the baptistery, color green; Holy Cross, in the southeast, with the color blue; and Holy Spirit, in the southwest, color white.
Florence’s own soccer team, though, the Fiorentina, sports the color purple – and its many fans head to the Artemio Franchi stadium on Sundays in Viale Manfredo Fanti in Campo di Marte to watch their team play. (You can take a train there from Santa Maria Novella train station that stops at Campo di Marte, or catch a number 7 or 17 bus.)
There’s also the internationally-attended “Florence Marathon” for runners on the last weekend in November, with a non-competitive family run (the “Ginky”) taking place at the same time. The Marathon course runs through the central historic district, passing the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, and many other tourist sites.
And there’s also plenty of opportunities for swimming, golfing, tennis, and riding horseback.
Every July and August, watch for the three-week-long “Fortezza d’estate” held at the Fortezza da Basso, with over 100 shows, concerts, panels, workshops, exhibitions, food shows, music and cinema. Prices vary; some events are free.
In Rifredi, an under-utilized section of the city, every summer the Zauberteatro theater company offers outdoor performances on the grounds of the 19th century Villa Fabbricotti; there’s an ethnic music festival (“Musica dei Popoli”); and on the grounds of the recreational complex Il Poggetto-Flog, an outdoor cinema. Rifredi also has an art house cinema, the Fiorella Atelier; and a lively Teatro di Rifredi, on Viale Vittorio Emanuele II.