Florence’s Empty Streets & Survival Guide

An empty Mercato Nuovo on Florence’s Por Santa Maria behind the iconic Porcellino fountain

The effects of mass tourism on downtown Florence is especially evident in light of the COVID-19 lockdown: significantly fewer permanent residents also thanks to a predominance of private rentals, Airbnbs, residences and hotels. There are less residents out and about even doing grocery shopping in the historic center, those who do so are walking around, masked, for the most part before lunchtime.  Florentines are known to take their dogs out for a walk in the early afternoon; see photos.

Click here to see a video of Florence’s empty streets and squares for a current vision of the Renaissance city and its landmarks minus tourists, tour guides and students with restaurants, cafés, museums, concert halls and movie theaters all closed for health safety reasons.

Although there are some Florentines and foreigners with residence permits still living in the neighborhoods of Sant’Ambrogio, Santo Spirito, San Frediano and near San Marco within the medieval city walls with an occupancy rate of available apartments by these groups estimated to be only 50%, the areas around the Duomo, the Santa Maria Novella train station, San Lorenzo, Piazza Signoria and Ponte Vecchio are completely deserted.  This is also due to virtually no traffic and very few deliveries, which are now limited to supermarkets, pharmacies and small food stores in addition to private firms filling homes orders placed with shops (click here to access the official list of commercial activities in Florence guaranteeing home delivery).

The Erboristeria San Simone on via Ghibellina provides home delivery of organic food products such as bread, eggs, cheese, canned tomatoes, pasta, flour, packaged easy-to-prepare pizza mix, vegetable juices, cooked and uncooked beans and legumes, biscotti, chocolate, spices, mineral water, teas and herbal infusions as well as soaps, body lotions, shampoos, fragrances and herbal remedies for problems such as allergies.  To access this service, send an email to info@anticaerboristeriasansimone.it or call 055-0517646 Monday through Friday from 10 am to 5 pm.

In addition to the Conad and Carrefour supermarkets, there are also fruit and vegetable stands in Piazza Santo Spirito Monday through Saturday (producers there also offers dairy products on Wednesdays and olive oil and wine on Fridays directly). The ground floor of the San Lorenzo market is still operative (with few customers), ditto for the covered Sant’Ambrogio market, selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, fresh pasta, bread, cheeses and cold cuts, plus more.  It is business as usual for a historic fruit and vegetable stand in piazza San Piero Maggiore, continuously operating for the past 100 years by generations of the same family) Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 1:30 pm.

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus emergency, there has been a significant drop in air pollution as well as a 75% drop in crime and 46% fewer arrests for drug dealing.

With modifications approved on March 25, a new decree by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has further restricted work activities as of March 28.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, herbal shops (erboristerie or parafarmacie), hardware stores, tabacchi (a shop that sells cigarettes, matches, lighters and postage stamps), newsstands (click here to see those guaranteeing home delivery), grocers, fruit and vegetable stands and shops, indoor markets that can include fishmongers and pet centers continue to remain open along with post offices, banks and gas stations

No outdoor sports, physical exercise or activity is permitted except in the proximity of one’s home, at a distance of a least a meter (3 ft.) from another person.  (rosanna cirigliano)