Mensola parkrun, Florence, Italy

Route map for the Mensola parkrun, a three lap route, roughly in a figure 8.

Mensola parkrun route. 3 laps, anti-clockwise from bottom right

Mensola park is a (as of 2022) fairly new park to the East of Florence. I walked there from the centre, around 6km, but the number 17 bus goes very close. Buy your ticket at a tabaccheria. Firenze Rovezzano station is near (1.4km away), but trains don’t run there first thing in the morning. There’s a North and South part to the park, with the run happening just in the top section, North of Via della Torre. The entrance is past the football stadium (and museum), just past the Beach Volley & Tennis Centro. There are no toilets in the park.

It is known as being a bit exposed, and it certainly is that, but there is shade on a couple of lovely bits of the course, and at the meeting point. This Saturday was a little cooler than recent weather, but the temperature was still in the high 20s when we started, and was climbing into the 30s. This was their first birthday, so we celebrated afterwards. There isn’t a cafe nearby, so they usually bring something to eat and drink, but we may have been treated even more specially. There’s a Lidl en route (1.8km away) if you walk, and I was very glad I’d picked up extra food and drink. The run director had spotted me outside Lidl as she drove past, so I’m very glad not to have got lost which might have sparked the mystery of ‘what happened to the obvious parkrunner heading to our event?’

Through two thick trees stands dry grass and a villa beyond, at the end of a straight line of tall thin trees
Looking through the trees at the meeting point

I bumped into a few other tourists on the way in – in a group of 6, there were English, Australian and Danish. The Australian had been walking to Firenze parkrun when he bumped into the others and it was lucky he did, as that event is not currently running and may not restart – the run director who was there when I ran in 2019 is now running this event and it’s much more convenient for volunteers.

A sign at the park entrance, hanging on a metal gate, points participants to the start. Behind is a grassy bank, brown for lack of rain, with trees standing up behind that.
Shown the way at the park entrance – you can’t see the start point from here because of the bank, but it is only a minute or two’s walk
Runners in parkrun shirts head off along a gravelled path, with one running barefoot
Shortly after the start, so I’m still close to all these people, who finished far ahead

Although the ground is brown for lack of rain, the course is colourful, with the brown complemented by the beige of the gravelled path and grey stone, and offset by the green of plants and trees. The clear blue sky and bright sunshine helps that, too, though it meant I struggled on the actual run. The course is undulating and twisty, with gravel underfoot, so although you can’t really call it hilly, it isn’t the easiest. I’d have done a little better on a cooler day, though.

I had been amused to bump into a runner I knew last week, and even contacted a friend I met the same day, in Rome in 2019, saying she should say hello to him if he was back in Rome. He was not, he was here, so we again had a couple of photos together.

Luigi and me, pictured at two different parkrun events on consecutive weeks - we hadn't arranged to meet.
Luigi and me, in Florence (top) and Salzburg

Although I came from Certaldo, a 45 minute drive away, and he from Rome (c.3hrs), we had started our journeys around the same time. Admittedly, that is partly because I caught the 6:17 train not the 6:59, to allow more than an hour for the walk, but also Rome has much quicker and more direct trains. It’s a fairly straightforward piece of tourism either way.

On top of a berm stands the parkrun flag and some cones to mark the route.
The finish line. The course runs on the lower path, toward the camera, up a small hill then (on the last lap) turns left to the finish

The park was very quiet apart from us. One other runner joined us for a while, one other walked a dog and I saw a couple of people walking through the Southern section of the park. There was plenty of room, in any case, and would have been even with more than the 22 finishers we had. The volunteers were excellent, giving briefings in English and Italian and smoothly navigating us round the course. I had my 500 shirt on, so was encouraged with “Cinquecento!” – I managed to splutter that I felt like a banged-up old fiat in reply.

People in purple, red, hi-viz and other colours stand around talking in groups after the event has finished. Bags rest on a bench made from a cut-down tree stump.
Gathered after the event
After the event, some purple-wearing participants chat, while the event paraphernalia (a message board and some poles) rest on some tree stumps. To the right of the path are a few trees, mostly hiding the view of the hills behind.
Chatting after the event. The noticeboard reminded us all it was the event’s birthday

I absolutely loved this event, despite being a bit hot from the very start. The contrast between the dry park and the green hills in the distance is gorgeous, and it is overlooked by villas, enabling a heap of romantic fantasies. The event is slickly run and well worth the effort it takes to get there from Florence. If you run along the river it adds a couple of km, but allows for extra sight-seeing opportunities.

Results from Mensola parkrun event 52, 30/7/22; 22 finishers.

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