May is a goldmine for free things to do in Florence. It starts right away with the Notte Bianca events in the early hours of the 1st and continues throughout the month with days and nights of free museums, gardens, movies, and more. So let’s consider May the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after all those April rainstorms. With this list (and the extras on our calendar), you’ve certainly hit the jackpot.
May 1 | Labor Day
Wake up, party people! Labor Day is celebrated on May 1st in Italy. Despite your all-night reveling for Notte Bianca, today is a day you will not want to miss. Two particularly extraordinary things are on the agenda. First, many of our favorite museums will be open for free to the public with special holiday hours, including: Boboli Gardens (8:15-18:30), the Bargello (8:15-13:50), Palazzo Davanzati (8:15-13:50), Cenacolo di Andrea del Sarto (8:15 – 13:50), Villa Medicea di Castello Gardens (8:15 – 18:30), Villa Medicea della Petraia (8:15 – 18:30), Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi (8:15 – 19:00), and Villa Medicea di Poggio a Caiano (8:15 – 18:30).
The second extraordinary thing is the Trofeo Marzocco, a famous flag-waving contest hosted by the Bandierai degli Uffizi in Piazza della Signoria. The group’s more than 80 members (including children!) will compete against six teams from other areas of Italy for a trophy to see who practices and performs the old art best. Be sure to meet them down in the piazza at 15:30 and root for the home team! For more information on the event and the Bandierai, visit here.
May 8-10 | Notte Blu
Notte Blu celebrates Europe with 27 hours (one for each state in the EU) of events. While it doesn’t get nearly as much press as her big sister Bianca, Blu holds her own with free lectures, concerts, gallery exhibits, video screenings and more. This year, most of the excitement will take place at Le Murate, the former convent turned cultural hub in Florence. For a full list of the interesting events scheduled, visit the official website here.
May 10 | Canto Gregorio at Santa Croce
This is your last chance to enjoy a concert of Gregorian chanting in the hauntingly beautiful Santa Croce for free this year. Now, entering the basilica gratuito is reason enough to show up at church on a Saturday night, but the music from the talented choir makes this event unmissable. The concert starts at 9 p.m., and entry is free until seats are filled. Best to show up a bit early to ensure you snag a spot. For more details on the overall program, click here.
May 17 | La Notte dei Musei
Once in a while, Florence’s biggest museums throw open their doors, stay up late, and say, “Take me, I’m yours!” As in, come in for free. Luckily for May visitors, one of those special nights falls on the 17th. Known as the Notte dei musei, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. visitors enjoy free entry to museums across Italy. Last year, participating institutions in Florence included the Accademia, the Uffizi, the Galleria Palatina at Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Vecchio, the San Marco Museum, and a smattering of Medici villas: Poggio a Caiano, Cerreto Guidi, and Petraia. Now, we might be jumping the gun a bit. This year’s lineup is still being firmed up, and Florence’s participation is yet to be announced. But considering the city’s heavy involvement in 2013, we’re confident this year will be just as special. Stay tuned here for details as they are released.
Through May 20 | Iris Garden
One of our favorite seasonal stops on our San Miniato walk is back! The Iris Garden on the east side of Piazzale Michelangelo is in bloom, but only for a short while. The garden, dedicated to Florence’s iconic giglio, has been a sanctuary since 1954 for all types of irises donated from around the world, including Japan and the United States. Paired with the Rose Garden, which is also be in bloom, anyone who makes the walk in the weeks to come will be in for a visual and fragrant treat. Click here for more information.
This list doesn’t even include the Gelato Festival, free movies at the Odeon, another Florentine Sunday, or the popular Guarda Firenze walks all happening this May. When a single month offers so many things to do, you pick what you think are the top five, write your list, and then immediately reconsider all your original decisions. So do us a favor and browse our calendar for the full list. We would hate to have you miss something during a month as spectacular as this! Ciao ciao!