Once again, I found myself on a quick trip to Florence – so of course, I went for a run.
Now, with the Suunto 7 with a pre-loaded route to try to follow.
Florence is not just the beautiful city of the Renaissance, it is also a favorite GPS testing ground of mine.
The narrow roads of the old town are hell on GPS; wider streets are still questionable, and then there are streets across the hills and along the Arno river that are wide open to the sky – and thus, GPS signals.
The first thing to notice from creating routes for a place like this is that automatic routing is sometimes quite odd.
Roads are usually being followed very well, but routes follow unusual paths across wide-open squares, zig-zagging as paths are marked in the background system rather than cutting straight across open spaces.
Thus, there will be differences between routes and reality – and of course, then GPS reception and position determination issues come in, as well.
In the Florentine Old Town
Around the Duomo, the view to the sky is quite okay in spite of the houses around, and the track is pretty nice.
The route (marked in blue, if that isn’t obvious by itself) follows the map-marked roads/paths rather too closely; who would ever walk like that?
South of the Duomo, the roads are so narrow, nothing but a sliver of sky is visible. It is, frankly, very surprising that there is any signal reception there.
The Suunto 7 did have some issue at the beginning of my run south from the Duomo – but actually, this “tooth” to the side is less of a problem than one might think, as this is where I went back and forth a second time for shooting a video of myself running there (as you can see in the video of my run).
The recorded track is not quite where I actually ran all through this area, until I emerge back out onto Piazza della Signoria, but the streets nearest to the track are the right ones – and that one loop, that is where I noticed that I was not following the route, and ran back to turn onto the road I had planned to run!
Behind the Palazzo, I missed one turn and only took the next street, but the map view made it clear enough that I could just as well continue here to get back onto the route.
The track shows some meandering compared to reality, but again, it does make it visible which streets I had taken.
Route Navigation in Practice
As you can tell from these notes on how I wanted to run and how I ended up running (and sometimes, missing a turn), following the route on the S7 map screen was not the easiest here.
Having the map is tremendously helpful, having both map and the marked route, even more so. – It makes finding one’s way so much easier when there is not just a marking, but also names of places around, for example (see the turn at Hotel Bernini in the video).
With the difficult GPS reception, my position was not updated quickly and exactly enough to avoid some wrong, well, non-turns where I actually wanted to turn.
It was always possible to recognize that within a short time, though – and I had deliberately created that route to follow a path that would be difficult to find, turning just where the paths are at their narrowest.
Considering this combination of factors, I was amazed at how well this worked!
Open Space over the Florentine Hills
Across and along the Arno river, up to Piazzale Michelangelo, and onwards, there is a clear view to the sky. Sometimes, the track is a bit off to the side here, but it is usually very good.
Up the meandering paths to the Piazzale, I didn’t take the same path as planned in the route all the time, but it is very clear where I did or didn’t. Same afterwards…
Navigation was totally unproblematic (except perhaps for a bit coming off Piazzale Michelangelo where the automatic routing was a bit confusing, as it followed roads or paths no person would take on foot).
Back down towards the river (coming from the south, in the lower right of the image above), some paths, with some high buildings around, cause a bit of an offset/meandering from the road.
Even where the road is a tunnel because houses are built across it, at the curve going along the river, the Suunto 7 track is pretty good, though – and it even shows where I was playing with the wolves in front of Palazzo Pitti at that time.
Some offset from the road comes again, later, but what looks like a wider circle than the route does came from me not having been sure if I was already at my turn right, thus continuing a little longer, then turning back.
The GPS track really should have been closer on the road here, both as I was coming down that road and after I had had to turn back to take the planned turn, but okay.
Except for this one turn right that I missed – and actually thought I was missing, just wasn’t sure until I had continued for a bit longer – following the route was, again, absolutely unproblematic.
So it continues.
Past Santa Maria Novella
Same towards the end; a bit of a strange offset soon after I enter the part in the image above, some meandering later… except not.
The curve later, as I start to run east towards and past the Santa Maria Novella railway station, is me actually having run exactly there, on the other side of the road from how it was planned in the route.
The turn left in the southeast corner of this railway station square is interesting:
The route follows a road that can only be used by motorized vehicles.
I went through an underpass – and the GPS very nicely captures where I went underground and where I reappeared aboveground (except for the immediate turn back and then into the street there, which is shown only as me reappearing and entering that street).
Route Navigation Experience
Once again, even with the GPS issue, it was easy to follow the route. And it was interesting, too.
Coming back to the Arno river, the upcoming bridge was much sooner visible on the map than in reality, where the narrow street prevented the view of that.
Same here, coming towards the railway station: It was visible on the map already, I would soon turn onto a road where I have been many times – but from the path I was on, I was not yet able to tell.
Following the route + map was very nice and helpful here.
Crossing the road was one of those typical cases where one needs to know when to follow a route, when to deviate – and down I went into the underpass.
Coming back up, even if I had not known which road I needed to take, it would have been possible to see that on the Suunto 7 almost immediately; it had my location again very quickly.
All in all, it’s one of those typical GPS performances where one could find errors and talk them up, but it’s really, considering the conditions, a very nice performance.
It’s all the more nice as I was able to follow the route very well, even in the deep and narrow “canyons” of the old town.
There were only two cases where I continued a bit too far, then turned back (once in the old town, the other in Oltrarno).
Past Palazzo della Signoria, there was one case where I ran on too long, then decided to just continue on the road I was then on because the map+route made it obvious I would be back on-route almost immediately.
WearOS did have its usual issue here; the battery demand for this run was not low.
I was running for just over one hour, and with these conditions, best GPS, map view/navigation pretty much constantly in use (just going back to battery-saving display), notifications on, about 25% battery was used up.
With the remaining ~70% charge, it was no issue to get through (more than) the rest of the day, though – and that, sports and life, is what the Suunto 7 is meant for, after all.
For those who need all the numbers they can get, too:
The Suunto 7 measured this run at 9.94 km in distance.
Polar Grit X: 9.43 km
Polar Vantage V: 9.72 km
The route as created in the app is stated as being 9.62 km.
Ascent/Descent: 78 m/88 m (S7), 90 m/90 m (Grit X), 85 m/85 m (VV)
I will also have a post looking at the performance of Vantage V vs. Grit X here.
Need comparisons Suunto 7 vs. Polar? Here you go.
S7 (here in orange) was on my left arm; Grit X (here in blue) and Vantage V (dark red) were, at a distance from each other, on my right arm.