San Lorenzo: The best stargazing spots in Italy’s cities
One of the most romantic nights of the year in Italy is San Lorenzo, when shooting stars can be seen across the country.
This is because of the passing of Perseid, a meteor shower that cross the sky at this time of year and is known in Italian as lacrime di san lorenzo, or ‘San Lorenzo’s tears’. August 10th is the name-day (onomastico) of San Lorenzo.
There’s a good chance of seeing falling stars any day this week, with August 12-13th tipped as the best nights to see a meteor shower. But the 10th is when you can really join Italians in celebrating the festival, with many towns and cities putting on events.
Here are your best bets for joining in the fun and doing a little star gazing if you’re in a major Italian city this year.
Gianicolo (‘Janiculum’) Hill, which overlooks the city of Rome, is one popular viewpoint to head for; and for those who want to lay down their blanket without having to make too much of a schlep there’s Circo Massimo, an ancient Roman chariot racetrack in the middle of the city.
It’s worth noting that due to their central locations, however, neither spot will have perfect visibility.
If you want somewhere a little further out (with less light pollution) there’s Parco degli Acquedotti, a park set amongst ancient Roman aquaducts in the south-east of the city; and Parco della Caffarella.
Both parks are ungated (something of a rarity for Rome), meaning they’re open 24 hours a day.
From 8.45pm (sunset is at 8.17pm), Villa Vogel, which is hosting the event ‘Sotto le stelle‘ (‘Under the Stars’) will put on a star-watching session led by the Florentine Astrological Society.
If you’re not in the mood for an organised activity, the Pian dei Giullari, not far from Piazzale Michelangelo near the centre of Florence, is recommended or those who can’t get too far out of the city.
For those who have access to a car and can head a little further afield, the stone quarries of Maiano in the Fiesole area; or further out, the hill of Monte Morello, are both good star-gazing destinations.
One option for stargazing without having to leave the city is the Giardini Indro Montanelli planetarium in Porta Venezia, which organises a special evening event at 9pm for San Lorenzo on August 10th featuring guided observation of the night skies.
If you’d rather find a peaceful spot outdoors to watch for shooting stars, one option in the city is Parco di Trenno (also known as Parco Aldo Aniasi). This 50-hectare stretch of meadow and woodland sits between Milan’s San Siro stadium and the perhaps better-known park at Boscoincittà. Boscoincittà however closes at 8pm, while Parco di Trenno is ungated and remains accessible at night.
Another ungated city park featuring meadows, woodlands and seemingly endless wide open spaces, Parco Nord is, as the name suggests, in the northern part of Milan. Like Parco di Trenno, it’s a peaceful space but it is still within the city, meaning visibility will still be affected somewhat by light pollution.
The roof of Milan’s duomo cathedral illuminated for a nighttime concert. Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP.
A half hour train ride away from Bologna city centre, the Planetarium of San Giovanni in Persiceto is hosting a series of events from 9.30-11.30pm on August 10th, 11th and 12th.
Entry is free and no advance booking is required; attendees are invited to lie down on the lawn to look up at the sky.
Villa Ghigi, just outside the city in the southwest, is a recommended spot for stargazing, as is Parco Cavaioni a little further out.
Closer to the city centre (with its attendant light pollution) there’s Villa Spada and the Giardini Margherita.