The Top 5 Dog Parks of Florence!
Florence, as was described in our post, is not only a city that was so inclusive of dogs that the bipeds are seriously thinking we should all just move there … but it also boasted some really amazing dog parks.
For a relatively small city center (we did not visit the “suburban” areas) we found a surprisingly large number of dog parks and it seemed that every small district of the city boasted its own. In addition the parks were lovely in there uniqueness; they really reflected the flair or vibe of the neighborhood they were in. As such they were all completely different from one another – not just in style, but also in approach. It seems that the resident human population of each neighborhood had simply decided what type of Dog Park they wanted and implemented accordingly. There was no common approach citywide.
1) Green Grass and Off Leash!
We will start with our favorite and lucky for us, also the one that was closest to our rented apartment. This one can be found right on the banks of the Arno River. Situated west of the Ponte Vecchio on the Oltrarno side, you will find a large expanse of green grass, surrounded by water plants, herons and other animals. No homes have been built here because it floods too often. What makes this special is how large this area is in a town where every square foot is valuable. The area had a number of massive mature trees to sit under to protect the bipeds from the sun. It also had a sandy “beach” area where the digging was excellent. Sunbathers often take over this spot, and also from time to time some beach volleyball can be spotted on makeshift courts. But always you could find a dog chasing a stick, or running after the large number of gulls. Access is easy and signs are very clear about the pick-up the poop rules. Bags are not provided but trashcans are. The park is naturally “fenced in” with the river on one side and the city floodwalls on the other.
In Review: We give this park a 5-paw ranking. It simply has everything: water, a magical view, sand, a relaxed atmosphere, large space and it is off leash. The sunbathers and volleyball players know it is a dog park and never did they insist that they had more rights. As a result, I got a lot of loving from all. Most important the park has the rarest thing of all – healthy, lush, green grass!
2) A place to Chat!
Near the Jewish quarter we found a lovely little dog park where the locals seemed as thrilled to hang out as the canines did. The place was fenced in, and had a really fun statue of three red dogs (depicted like rocking horses) one on top of the other … and there were so many benches under trees that surrounded the area that it was quickly obvious that this park was meant for perhaps the elderly and the gossips (although we saw children there as well). The potted plants were lovingly cared for and although there was no grass – the dogs ran around off leach playing leapfrog and chasing games. The space was relatively small, so if you have a hound or lab or any high energy animal that requires a lot of running to burn off excess energy, this park was not the “it” park for you. But looking at the crowd of predominantly “under 25 pounds” and many a grey-muzzled senior it was nice to see that these dogs had a safe haven from the manic running of the larger dogs or the paws of uncontrolled puppies. Poop bags and disposal bins were available.
In review: We give this park a 4-paw ranking. It may not be perfect for everyone but it was perfect for those it catered to. We took a paw ranking off because it could have benefited from a grassy area. Although the dogs there did not seem at all bothered by it… for the purpose of this blog and its predominately North American readership, this may be a problem for those with pets trained only to “go” on grass.
3) Relaxed in the Shade!
In Tuscany, where the sun beats down on citizens with unrelenting heat from April until August, shade is a valuable commodity. The heat and sun affect canines as much as it does the human population. As such it is no surprise that the city boasts a “shade dog park”. Yes, a dog park with shade specifically in mind. This park can be found near the most impressive remains of the old city wall in the district/neighborhood known as S. Frediano. At the foot of this towering fortified relic, nestled between the start of the hills and the Arno River, you will find an area designated as a dog park. There were no poop bags provided but once again garbage cans were available for waste disposal. The area is clearly marked and asks owners to keep their dogs under control. Here we noticed an interesting trend. The small dogs were off leash … the large dogs were not. At first this seeming discrimination felt unfair, but it became clear quickly that the space was not really large enough for big dogs to run rampant. In addition, for some reason we have yet to figure out, it seemed that most of the dogs in the area were rather old. Perhaps this is a senior dog park? We do not speak Italian so we couldn’t ask. In any case the park has 5 square grass areas – about 15×15 feet – with trees, a lot of benches and a little path that winds its way all around and in between the squares creating a French Garden effect. This provided a nice stroll, in the shade for any of the senior or low maintenance dogs we saw. We noticed a collection of small toy breed puppies hanging out at one of the grassy squares – we guessed there was a puppy garden class going on or a socialization class. These were on leash.
In review: A 4-paw ranking. This park was again catered to one particular clientele. We took a paw off for the lack of running space for larger breeds – such as Labs, Boxers or German Shepherds – and for the fact that the grass was so dry it was more like straw at the time of our visit. With the river so close, perhaps an irrigation system would be a god idea.
4) A Shame
Once again along the banks of the Arno, near a tiny barrage and the (insert) bridge there is another much narrower green area at the foot of the flood walls. Here the way down is rather steep, so much so that a sign tells you to hold on to your child’s hand as well as your dog’s leash. The view is stunning. The barrage, the Ponte Vecchio just a little up ahead. The park goes under two bridges and has lush green grass and a nice combination of sun and shade. It has everything going for it to be perfect… if it wasn’t for one very serious issue. It seems that some of the locals use this area to “party”. As such the ground is often covered in shards of glass and bottle caps from bear bottles. The bipeds often picked me up as we came across these party pockets. This meant that the humans had to be very vigilant in order to avoid my paws getting sliced. We still had a really nice walk, if a little tense, and as such the park became known to us as the “A Shame” park.
In review: We can only give the park a 2 paws rating because of the serious nature of the problem. It could have easily been a 5 paw park and I do not know if a letter to city hall would help the situation. After all, everywhere we have ever gone there seems to be such a place where “delinquents” go to let loose and create a mess. My recommendation would be to remove it as a dog park altogether.
5) City Wide
These are the official dog parks that we found but it is important to note that in Italy any green space or plaza is very much an dog park. For example the most panoramic “park” would be the Piazza Michelangelo with the superb skyline views of the city of Florence. In addition the very large green space in front of the train station was also often dotted with owners and their dogs – sometimes even off leash. It seems that the entire city is one big happy dog park. People pick up the dog waste – we never ever saw a dog poop lying around. We were very impressed.
It seems to us that the North American concept of a dog park is almost obsolete when your pet is allowed with you everywhere. There is less need of them when your dog can go with you shopping, or to pick-up your prescription at the pharmacy, join you and your friends for a coffee or dinner. Dog parks for the North American represent the only real place for “getting out of the house” something that is not really needed when your pet comes with you to everything you do, including your work. How many dogs in bike baskets, or walking next to a cyclist did we see during the morning commute? More than we could count. So it is all the more amazing that Florence boats so many lovely dog parks.