8 Piazza del Carmine
Tel: 39 055 211 650
Trust extravagant Florentine fashion designer Roberto Cavalli to open a nightclub in a deconsecrated church. Asia Argento deejayed and the Tuscan beau monde partied at the December 2008 launch party of Cavalli Club, which occupies a former Anglican house of worship next door to the Brancacci Chapel. Inside, there's a stage (for a mixing desk or live music) where the altar used to be, and a sinuous gold-fronted bar snaking down the nave between the mirrored floor and ceiling; it's all a bit like Alien meets Saturday Night Fever. Upstairs is a 50-seat restaurant where the luxe-Tuscan menu plays second fiddle to the chiseled waiters and waitresses and huddles of leopard-print chairs.
Opens nightly at 7 pm.
6/r Piazza del Carmine
Tel: 39 055 284 595
The past five years have seen a steady increase in the number of trendy new bars in Florence, but Dolce Vita in the Oltrarno is one of the city's classic hangouts for night owls, and is still going strong. In winter, the best place to sit is the cozy salon, while in warmer weather, the huge terrace built into the central medieval square fills up with a see-and-be-seen crowd of cool regulars. Some move on to the clubs, while others dig in for the night right here.
Closed Mondays in winter.
80/r Borgo degli Albizi
Tel: 39 055 200 1956
This cozy watering hole in the eastern reaches of the Santa Croce area pretty much defines the neighborhood's neo-boho vibe. It's open from mid-morning on and is a good place for a light lunch. But it really comes into its own around aperitivo time, when the colorful decor is matched by an equally colorful crowd of regulars. The barmen mix a mean mojito, while the DJ mixes an equally impressive soundtrack, which skews toward lounge and chill-out (Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). Things usually wind down around 2.30 a.m.—except on Sunday, when everyone seems to be in bed before midnight.
3 Via Nuova de' Caccini
Tel: 39 055 247 9700
While not in any way on a par with the clubs of New York or London, this smoky dive without the smoking (which is now banned in Italy except at home or on the street) is the only venue in Florence where you can catch live jazz almost nightly. Located in the Santa Croce area, it features performers ranging from traditional bands to experimental combos, with plenty of blues, Latin, and progressive groups in between. Standards vary enormously. The club kicks off its week with a jam session each Tuesday and stays open through Saturday.
Closed July and August.
910/r Piazza Santa Maria Novella
Tel: 39 055 264 5282
Upstairs in this bar-restaurant attached to JK Place, the mood is contemporary retro; it feels like a cool private members' club, enlivened by huge mirrors and zebra-striped fabric. Downstairs, though, the scene changes completely in an all-white chill-out room that has something of the Moloko Plus bar from A Clockwork Orange—and it gets even weirder when the color-phasing lights turn the room pink, then green. Because of its fairly hidden nature, this evenings-only venue is a good option for a cocktail or after-dinner drink away from the crowds. If the pink glow gets too much, you can always move to the outside terrace on the recently pedestrianized piazza.
17/r Via dei Renai
Tel: 39 055 243 647
Named after the cocktail (a delicious but powerful mix of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari), which, legend has it, was invented in Florence, Negroni is a cool, contemporary bar in a picturesque part of the Oltrarno. The small but stylish interior hosts art and photography shows, and cocktail hour sees the arrival of a generous spread of goodies to help your aperitivo down. DJ sets (mainly chill-out) kick in later in the evening; Thursday's musical mix is accompanied by a wine tasting. The summer terrace is a particularly appealing spot on warm summer nights and much beloved by Florence's hip crowd.
Evenings only on Saturdays and Sundays.
12-14/r Lungarno Corsini
Tel: 39 055 210 751
Most evenings, crowds of convivial hipsters spill out of the door of this trendy cocktail bar and nightspot on the north bank of the Arno. It's especially popular in summer, when you can take your martini across the road and perch on the wall to watch the rowers go by. It's open for lunch, too—gourmet panini and megasalads serving. But the place really comes into its own around aperitivo time, when a huge spread of complimentary nibbles is laid out on a table. Later on, DJs pump up the sound level and a clubby atmosphere kicks in. The particular brand of hip practiced here is more friendly than forbidding, and decidedly upmarket.
14 Piazza del Carmine
Tel: 39 055 287 347
This large warehouselike auditorium in the Oltrarno is principally used by Musicus Concentus to host its excellent season of jazz concerts. The program runs throughout the year (usually transferring to an outdoor venue in summer) and showcases some of the great names of the contemporary jazz scene, both international and Italian. This is by far the best place in town to hear good progressive sounds.
63r Via Porta Rossa
Tel: 39 055 264 5354
Slowly is conveniently situated, just north of the Ponte Vecchio, for coffee or a light lunch. However, it really gets to strut its stuff at night, when the action kicks in and the sleek set arrive for cocktails and snacks. It's best in winter when the cozy seating, warm North-African-meets-chic-Italy decor, and mellow sounds from in-house DJs B. Wolant and Finella (who spin jazz early evening and hip-hop and R&B at night) and a series of visiting spin-meisters make a perfect backdrop for a drink.
46 Via Pratese
Tel: 39 055 308 160
It may have been around for a quarter of a century, but industrial-chic Tenax, an edge-of-town venue near the airport, is still by far the most influential and international of the Florentine clubs. As a live music venue it has hosted just about everybody over the years, from Spandau Ballet to the Asian Dub Foundation. These days, though, it's most famous as a dance club that flies in big-name DJs from London, Berlin, Ibiza, and Miami for guest appearances. The weekly Nobody's Perfect parties are the hottest place to be on a Saturday night in Florence.
Closed mid-May to September. Open Thursday through Saturday.
77/r Via Pisana
Tel: 39 055 221 122
Housed in a stylishly converted cinema building, the Universale is located just out of the center of town in the Oltrarno district. A big, flashy, multipurpose entertainment venue done out in an eclectic, retro style, it centers on a huge oval bar and a sweeping double staircase that wouldn't look out of place on an ocean liner. Downstairs, there's a giant video screen and club area, while diners at one of the two restaurants on the upper level can watch the action from the tables on the balustrade. Universale attracts a more figlio di papà (spoiled rich kid) crowd than its main rival Tenax, which is for hard-line clubbers of all persuasions and income brackets.
Closed June to September, Wednesday through Sunday.
13/r Via Dei Renai
Tel: 39 055 243 111
Zoe is a modern bar-caffè with a big following on a quiet piazza in the Oltrarno, just along from Negroni. There's a simple menu at lunch with interesting sandwiches (such as smoky, prosciutto-like speck and cheese) plus pasta, salads, and carpaccio. At "cocktail hour" (actually from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.), a lively crowd fills the place and spills out onto the piazza, where there are tables for dining and hanging out. In the late evenings, Zoe is packed with young Florentines talking loudly over ethno-ambient music. It also draws in plenty of foreign students, who are attracted more by the free Wi-Fi than by the regular contemporary art and photography exhibitions.