At the same time, a similar event in Barcelona also descended into violence, with demonstrators throwing bricks at police and setting bins alight.
The protests came as Spain, Italy and several other European countries introduced new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus amid a rising second wave of infections.
Belgium on Thursday night introduced a six-week closure of non-essential businesses and extended November school holidays by an extra week as Prime Minister Alexander de Croo warned the country otherwise faced a breakdown of its healthcare system.
On Friday, crowds in Florence’s historic centre chanted anti-government slogans and threw fireworks as they came up against police cordons.
The demonstration came after Italy announced its third emergency measure in two week on Sunday.
Protesters clashed with police in Florence’s Signoria square on Friday evening as an unauthorised protest against a government decree aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus took place
Riot police in Florence formed cordons to herd protesters into another square at the protest on Friday evening in the city centre
Italian police face demonstrators in Florence. Anger has grown over new coronavirus restrictions as Italy announced its third emergency decree in two weeks on Sunday
Under the new rules, gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and theaters will be closed, with bars and restaurants having to close at 6pm.
Non-essential movement between regions is also discouraged.
Molotov cocktails were also thrown, according to Corriere Della Sera newspaper, which said the flames from the cocktails blackened the wall of a building. Vandals trashed bicycles and outdoor seating areas and sprayed walls of the city’s historic centre with graffiti.
The paper reported that police eventually blocked the protesters into the Piazza della Repubblica square using cordons and armoured vehicles and that some sat on the ground chanting ‘Freedom, freedom’.
Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence urged citizens to abandon the demonstration and express their ‘anger and suffering’ in a peaceful and legal way.
A demonstration in Bologna on Friday avoided violence despite the presence of ultras of the Bologna Football Club 1909 and others who had travelled from outside the city to attend the demonstration
Protesters set off flares at a rally in Bologna which drew 300 people and was heavily monitored by Italian police officers
‘This is not how suffering is given voice. It is only violence for its own sake, gratuitous.
‘Whoever disfigures Florence must pay for what he has done,’ Nardella said.
More than 300 people also gathered to protest the government decree in Bologna.
The demonstration in the city ended without damage despite the presence of ultras of the Bologna Football Club 1909.
Others also came from outside Bologna to attend the rally in the city.
Italy on Friday recorded 31,079 new infections and 199 deaths, bringing the total to have died from coronavirus in the country to 38,321.
Belgium announces tighter coronavirus restrictions as cases rise
Belgium last night announced tighter restrictions including a six-week closure of non-essential business, including hairdressers. It also extended November school holidays by an extra week.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the country of 11 million people otherwise faced a breakdown of its health system.
‘We are moving in the direction of reinforced confinement with a single objective: to prevent health care from creaking under pressure that is already immense today,’ he said.
‘These are the last-chance measures.’
But de Croo did not order a full repeat of the spring lockdown even though Belgium’s COVID-19 numbers are the worst in the EU.
Friday night also saw clashes on the streets of Barcelona where protests over Spain’s state of emergency restrictions turned violent.
The demonstration began peacefully in St Jaume de Barcelona Square before descending into smaller violent clashes on Friday.
At least two people have been arrested according to the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force.
Several hundred people from sectors badly affected by coronavirus, including restaurants, the arts and gyms initially gathered to protest regional border closures.
The measures came as Spain’s central government unveiled a state of emergency to give regional authorities powers to impose curfews and close their borders to anyone moving without just cause.
A demonstrator throws a rock at a police van in central Barcelona on Friday after a protest against new coronavirus restrictions descended into violence
Some protesters set bins alight in the Barcelona’s streets as police attempted to disperse the crowd. Police blame a small group within the rally for inciting violence
Protesters face off against police in central Barcelona on Friday night over new coronavirus measures including a curfew and the closure of the hospitality sector
At least two people have been arrested according to the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force, who were called in to disperse the crowd gathered in central Barcelona
Some protesters began pushing against police cordons and throwing flares and other objects at officers who then attempted to disperse demonstrators from the city centre, attendees told Spain’s El Pais newspaper.
Police also hit protesters with batons and reportedly used foam bullets against those assembled outside the regional and local government headquarters.
Dozens of protesters then separated into groups to narrow streets in Barcelona’s gothic quarter, setting trash containers on fire to serve as barricades.
A Mossos spokesman told AFP news agency that up to 700 protesters had attended the rally but the violence was started by a group of about 50.
A protester holds a brick aloft during a rally in Barcelona against new regional measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Several protesters threw rocks and other objects at police during the Friday demonstration
Catalan police reportedly used foam bullets to disperse protesters in Barcelona who they were photographed hitting with batons on Friday
A cyclist rides their bike past a bin set alight during a protest in Barcelona on Friday evening over new coronavirus measures in the region
Some demonstrators hurled barricades at police as they gathered outside the headquarters of the regional and local government in Barcelona on Friday
Sirens wailed throughout the city centre as police sought to disperse the protesters and firefighters hosed down the streets to put out fires in several large wheelie bins.
The call to protest had spread in social media with flyers. Rioting began within minutes of the gathering when some of the protesters removed their surgical masks and shouted ‘This is theft! This is a scam!’
Some protesters have accused authorities of lying about the seriousness of the outbreaks to justify curbs on personal freedom.
Riot police offers hold their batons up as they move to disperse a crowd of protesters from central Barcelona on Friday evening
Riot police restrain a young man during a protest in Barcelona against the new lockdown measures in Catalonia introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus
Police used their batons to disperse protesters in Barcelona on Friday night as Spain announced 239 new fatalities, bringing the country’s total death toll to 35,878
Regional police officers take position next to burning rubbish set alight by disgruntled protesters in Barcelona. A rally was held in the city centre against new coronavirus measures introduced as part of Spain’s state of emergency
El Pais reported that some police sources blamed ‘radical groups’ linked to the nightlife and security sectors – both badly hit by the pandemic – with inciting violence at the rally and have accused them of intentionally setting out to provoke incidents.
Some people in attendance at the rally reportedly agreed that there were some elements in the crowd intent on causing trouble from the outset.
Friday’s clashes mark the second violent protest in Barcelona in less than a week. Four people were arrested on Sunday after the Mossos intervened in a rally of protesters who deny the existence of Covid-19.
It followed similar disturbances sparked by coronavirus deniers in Bilbao, in Spain, on Thursday and in cities across Italy on Monday.
Barricades intended to hem in the protesters were used as weapons by some in clashes with riot police in Barcelona on Friday night
Sirens wailed throughout Barcelona’s city centre as police sought to disperse the protesters and firefighters hosed down the streets to put out fires in several large wheelie bins
Protesters threw bricks, flares and barricades at regional police officers in Barcelona who responded with batons and, reportedly, rubber bullets
Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries by COVID-19, imposed a state of emergency this week to try halt the rise of coronavirus infections. It is expected to last until may next year.
Like other European countries, Spain has resorted to increasingly drastic measures to curb infections, although less stringent than in Germany or France.
Catalonia has seen some of the toughest measures introduced, with officials closing down the hospitality industry and imposing a 10pm to 6am curfew. All but essential weekend travel in and out of local areas has also been banned.
Firefighters were deployed to put out fires in Barcelona’s city centre after disgruntled protesters set fire to bins as part of a rally against new coronavirus measures
Police clashed with protesters at a rally in Barcelona on Friday after officers said a small group within the hundreds-strong crowd became violent
Customers hide inside a shop to avoid getting caught up in a clash between police and protesters in central Barcelona on Friday night
A man holds his dog as police officers chase demonstrators during clashes in Barcelona over new coronavirus measures introduced this week
Health Ministry data showed 25,595 new coronavirus infections confirmed on Friday, a new record that brings the total caseload since February to 1.18 million.
The government last week admitted that the real tally, including missed cases, could be well over 3 million infections.
With 239 new fatalities, the total death toll rose Friday to 35,878.