Florence’s ‘Serre Torrigiani’ Summer Oasis


The nature setting of the Serre Torrigiani summer oasis

Heat waves can make the Florentine summer especially brutal. Both residents and tourists searching for a cool escape can find respite at the Serre Torrigiani Bistrot, a local garden oasis for drinks, aperitivo and dinner open daily from 6 pm to 2 pm.

Serre Torrigiani is named for its location, the Torrigiani gardens. The gardens were built in 1531 and are only accessible to the public from an unsuspecting alleyway near Porta Romana. It became the largest private garden in Europe when built, an achievement made more impressive in 1716 when the gardens became the site of one of Europe’s first botanical societies. Then in 1898, it was also the founding site of Florence’s first soccer team.

The history can certainly be felt, but renovations and modern design make the space look brand new. While the whole garden is still privately owned, Serre Torrigiani covers a large swath of the green space. Opened in 2014, the dining and drinking space operates across three distinct areas, each with a different culinary and botanical flair.  See a slide show of Serre Torrigiani here.

The bar, called Orti, comes first. Walking in, Mediterranean and tropical trees hang over a patio area, shading patrons sipping on their signature cocktails. Specialties like the Passione e Basilico (€13) or the Cetriolo (€14) work well as photogenic refreshes. The former, made with vodka, passion fruit and basil, is a wonderfully presented, garnished with a bright green basil leaf on top. The Cetriolo’s namesake cucumber match perfectly with the citrus flavors—and the gin. The bar is also decorated by wrought-iron sculpture pieces by Florentine artist Matteo Baroni. He works with discarded materials, including an iron chair peeking through the vines draped around the bar’s central gazebo. On some weekdays, bands and DJs also play live music there.

The second area—named Tartarughe after the turtles who live there—is for aperitivo. More than just nuts and chips by the bar, Serre Torrigiani’s aperitivo consists of hummus (€7) or typical Italian cured meats, Tagliere Toscano Classico (€13). Couches and lounge chairs dot the lawn, and funky house and hip hop fill in the gaps between chattering families.

Lecci, the last area, is for dinner. Centered around the massive oak tree in the middle of the space, the dining section really feels like a getaway. The shade keeps dinners cool as they eat dishes made with produce from the restaurant’s own greenhouse. That greenhouse also serves as an indoor dining space in the winters, letting Serre Torrigiani stay open year-round. The restaurant offers a host of salads and pokes, like a rice bowl with hummus and grilled Argentine shrimp (€15).

Open from 6 pm to 2 am, Serre Torrigiani Bistrot is a place to beat the summer heat and enjoy a classy drink. The same management also runs a bar downtown (appropriately named Serre Torrigiani in Piazzetta), but for an escape from the sweltering city center, the gardens are a must.  (andrew checchia)