Cascine is Florence's biggest park. It stretches about 3.5 kilometers along the northern bank of the Arno River, just west of the city center. It began in the mid 1500's, starting from a farm owned by the Medici family, and was fully opened up to the public in the 1800's.
The western part of the park begins at the Indiano Bridge, which crosses the Arno River at it's confluence with the Mugnone. The bridge gets it's name from the Monumento all'Indiano, a monument located at the junction of the rivers, which was built in 1870 as a memorial to Rajaram Chuttraputti, a young Indian prince who fell ill and died in Florence in November of that year. The prince's body was burned, in accordance with Hindu rites, at that spot and his ashes were scattered along the rivers. This, of course, sparked a lot of curiosity with the Florentine people, who had never witnessed such an event, and ever since then, this spot is referred to as l'Indiano (the Indian).
There are tons of paths to wander in the park, many covered by canopies of tall trees.
Also in the western part of the park is an amphitheater. Concerts and other events are held here, mostly in the summer months.
The park is very popular with local Florentines. On any given day, you will see people riding bicycles, roller skating, and jogging. Couples stroll arm in arm along the Arno. Friends gather for games of calcio (soccer) and picnics. Families bring their children to play in the park, and in the summer, to the swimming pool.
|Locals and their dogs, enjoying the park|
There are a few oddities at the park. The strangest, in my opinion, is the pyramid. It seems rather random, but it's original purpose for being built was as an ice house.
Another thing you might find strange is a monument to George Washington. Yep, that George Washington. George isn't the only American President that is represented at the park. Both Washington and Lincoln have paths named after them (Viale Giorgio Washington and Viale Abramo Lincoln, respectively), and in the middle of the park, you'll find the Piazzale Kennedy (which is where the bust of Washington can be found).
If you keep your ears open, you might hear an odd squawking sound coming from the tops of the tall trees. Look up...and look closely. What are they? Green parrots!
Every Tuesday, between the hours of 7am and 2pm, there is a huge outdoor market along Viale Abramo Lincoln. This is not a tourist market by any means. Wandering among the booths, you won't find goofy souvenirs here, but you will find just about anything else you can imagine. Shoes, leather goods, clothing, food, pets (I saw a few really cute bunnies there), antiques, books, gadgets...you name it, it's probably at the market. This is where the locals go for bargains and you can join in the bargain hunting right along with them.
Also on the Viale Abramo Lincoln, close to the tram tracks at the eastern end of the park, is a small amusement park called Luna Park that has rides, games and booths that sell goodies, such as cotton candy. It's more like a carnival atmosphere than formal amusement park. You can walk through it for free, but the rides and games will cost you around a euro. We didn't make it there when it was open, but we did walk through it during the day when it was closed. It's open evenings during the week and on the weekends (at least in the summertime) it's open from around 10am to midnight (I'm not sure about winter hours).
You should definitely visit Cascine while you are in Florence. It's an absolutely gorgeous park and it's completely free, so go and enjoy! Bring a picnic, or visit one of the snack bars that serve up panini and other goodies. Take your time wandering through the trees. Sit by the Arno and watch the birds. Take it all in. The sounds, the sights, the smells. You're in Florence. Life is good.