Florence has bundles of excellent, mostly free listings publications. At the tourist offices, pick up the free monthly “Informacittà” (www.informacitta.net), which is strong on theater and other arts events, as well as markets. Younger and hipper, pocket-size “Zero” (http://firenze.zero.eu) is hot on the latest eating, drinking, and nightlife.“Firenze Spettacolo,” a 2€ Italian-language monthly sold at most newsstands, is the most detailed and up-to-date listing of nightlife, arts, and entertainment. Free monthly “iOVO” (www.iovo.it) is good on contemporary arts and cultural goings-on in the city.
If you just want to wander and see what grabs you, you will find plenty of tourist-oriented action in bars around the city’s main squares. For something a little livelier—with a slightly younger and more local focus—check out Borgo San Frediano, Piazza Santo Spirito, or the northern end of Via de’ Macci, close to where it meets Via Pietrapiana. Via de’ Benci is usually buzzing around aperitivo time, and is popular with an expat crowd. Via de’ Renai and the bars of San Niccolò around the Porta San Miniato are often lively too, with a mixed crowd of tourists and locals.
Florence no longer has a glitterati or intellectuals’ cafe scene, and when it did—from the late-19th-century Italian Risorgimento era through la dolce vita of the 1950s—it was basically copying the idea from Paris. Although they’re often overpriced tourist spots today—especially around Piazza della Repubblica—Florence’s high-toned cafes are fine if you want pastries served to you while you sit and people-watch.