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A run with a view

February 18, 2010
A view across Florence

This view across Florence was getting towards the high point of my daily runs

I spent the tail end of last week in Florence, having an short last-minute break and taking advantage of the low season for tourists. Running and holidays don’t always mix, especially if you’re trying to follow a training routine that builds either speed or distance – or both.

Over the summer, we went on holiday to Sicily. I was training for 10k races at the time, aiming to stay fit and with no particular time in mind (other than I wanted to go faster than my last run). The heat was unbearable in the day, but it seemed that several Italian runners had incorporated their training into the dusk passeggiata. (The passeggiata is a pre-dinner stroll particular to Italian culture; a time and place to be seen in your evening finery.) Consequently, some of the Italian runners were the most fashionably kitted out I’ve seen.

In Florence, in February, the temperature wasn’t a problem. It was consistently around 7°C in the day, so slightly warmer than I’m used to at the moment, but not much so. The challenge, this time, was planning a route. Although out of season, the narrow streets of the historic centre are easily clogged up with milling pedestrians, so getting out of the tourist hub was vital.

The central area is small, and while I had to pass through it when running from our hotel, it was quick and easy to get off the beaten path and into some less touristy areas. Picking out some of the characteristics of the Tuscan terrain that provided a contrast to Abingdon, the climbs on the south bank of the river made a regular feature in my running. So, while my runs were shorter and slower than they would have been on home turf, they were more challenging in parts.

A map of the terrain I covered running through Florence

The south bank of the river includes a ridge of hills that provided plenty of challenging climbs

I have to say – and as an advocate of running, this may sound a bit predictable – it’s a great way to see a new city. I got a much better feel for the real Florence as a result of running through it and touring through the back-streets and peripheral roads. It’s a lovely city, and it’s a great place to run.

A narrow, hilly street south of the river in Florence

Tough climbs and flagstones make for a challenging run

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