Beyond the many traditional trattorias and aperitivo bars on offer in Florence, where does one go to hear live music? Not only does the city offer an array of intimate venues, but many have the added bonus of providing both local talent and a well-made drink. Why stay in when you can go out? Nardia Plumridge takes you to some of the best places to do just that.
NOF GALLERY is a bespoke music venue in heart of Oltrarno area. A nondescript side door takes you to a back-room bar where beer and cocktails are served. Bands perform from an AstroTurf stage in the shop-front window overlooking Borgo San Frediano. There is a second bar beneath wrought iron fixtures and leafy plant life. The venue hosts live music six nights a week, music starting from 10pm with free entry (borgo San Frediano 17r; www.facebook.com/NofGallery).
Alternatively, pop across the road to LA CITÉ, a French-inspired library space. By day, students huddle over laptops and textbooks, sipping hot tea. At night, La Cité turns into a hip bar serving affordable wine, with live music on the ground floor. Watch folk-inspired quintets over a cocktail (or hot drink) then settle into a cozy seat for a late-night book read. Not sure whether to study or go out? At La Cité you can do both, and entry is free (borgo San Frediano 20r; www.lacitelibreria.info).
BE BOP is a legendary basement bar hosting live blues and rock music just a skip from the Duomo. Since 1981, acts ranging from rock to pop, indie to tribute bands have graced the stage in this cozy vaulted room. Drinks are served from a small bar in the center; the surrounding walls are lined with old band posters. Bands play from Tuesday to Sunday, with songwriters encouraged to play original material as part of the Zero Cover night. Doors open from 8pm; there is a ticket price for some events (via dei Servi 76r; www.facebook.com/bebop.firenze).
A former prison in Sant’Ambrogio, the fifteenth century LE MURATE was originally a monastery. Now tastefully restored into multiple spaces, it also features an art bar and music venue. Bands or DJs perform from 9:30pm most nights (some evenings host films or workshops instead). The bar offers daily aperitifs for those who wish to eat and drink before the music starts. Be sure to check out the bathrooms in converted cells (piazza delle Murate; www.lemurate.it).
With distressed graffiti walls, DJs and live music, TAMERÒ is a new pasta joint in piazza Santo Spirito. From Afrobeat to electro and jazz, music starts from 11pm every Thursday to Saturday from a small stage at the back of the venue. A converted Oltrarno bottega, the bar serves drinks from 6:30pm, with tastings of its in-house handmade pasta. In the afternoons, Tamerò also hosts launch events supporting local book releases and artists (piazza Santo Spirito 11r; closed Monday; www.tamero.it).
TASSO HOSTEL is a newly opened budget hotel that hosts music from an old theatre stage that doubles as the hotel bar. The theatre was part of a school run by local nuns, which has been tastefully restored. Sit amidst vintage plush leather sofas, patterned rugs, 50s-inspired metallic lamps and watch performances from Thursday to Sunday evenings. From swing bands to body percussion acts, the line-up is eclectic and always surprising (via Villani 15; www.tassohostelflorence.com).
CAFFE DEGLI ARTIGIANI is a quaint artisan café and fixture in piazza della Passera. Walk past the tiny café bar counter upon entering to discover a hidden dining room serving lunches and dinners. Upstairs, jazz and blues groups play every Friday, while guests are table-served local wine and delicious cheese boards from 10pm (via dello Sprone 16r; free entry; www.firenze-oltrarno.net/caffeartigiani).
For something a little larger, VIPER THEATRE showcases local and international acts that travel especially to Florence to perform at this modern music venue. Established as a center for music, comedy, and other live arts, this industrial warehouse-style space can handle audiences up to 1,400. West of the city center, it is perfect for those seeking something a little more mosh pit than intimate (via Pistoiese 319, at via Lombardia Le Piagge; www.viperclub.eu).
Finally, FLOG (Foundation Workers Officine Galileo) was established in 1945 after World War II as a space for sport and entertainment. Today it still accommodates both, including live music in the auditorium; many acts are Italian and play original music. Situated north of the historic center of Florence, it is worth the journey for those who want an Italian music experience with a fully authentic local crowd (via Michele Mercati 24; www.flog.it).
This article first appeared in The Florentine (March 2013)