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If you’re planning a visit to Tuscany’s capital, chances are you’re wondering where to stay in Florence. The obvious answer might be the city center, but there are way more options to explore. Means of transport, familiarity with the city, and preferred activities will all impact your choice of area to stay in.
One of the most convenient ways of visiting Florence is by train, followed by car. Florence’s city center is closed to visiting cars, so be careful about driving there not to get fined.
The key to finding reasonably priced accommodation in a busy tourist hotspot like Florence is booking well in advance. If you’re visiting during the busy summer months, figuring out where to stay in Florence and securing the accommodation of your dream early is even more important.
We were lucky enough to visit Florence for the first time in mid-2019 and absolutely loved it, and can vouch that where you stay can definitely play a role in your experience there.
If you’re still lost in trying to figure it all out, take a look at the next paragraphs. We’ll take a look at some of Florence’s neighborhoods and try to figure out the best area to stay in Florence!
Best for: first-time visitors, those who want to see all the main sights, people visiting with a limited time who need to rely on public transport
The Centro Storico area of Florence is one of the best choices for people getting to Florence by public transport and staying for a limited time. Having a place to stay right in the city center offers the best flexibility to the typical visitor.
The obvious downside of staying in Centro Storico is that it’s generally more expensive than in other areas of Florence.
Centro Storico is a great area to stay in if you’re a first-time visitor wondering where to stay in Florence. It’s perfect for visiting all the main sights because the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Galleria degli Uffizi, and Ponte Vecchio are all going to be just a short walk away from where you’re staying.
Some of the best streets to look at are Via dei Leoni, Via del Proconsolo, and Via della Condotta.
Where to Stay in Centro Storico
Santa Maria Novella
Best for: Those traveling by train, looking for a convenient yet affordable location
Santa Maria Novella is the name of the Florence central train station and the quarter around it. Like usual in Italy, the train station is only around a 10-minute walk from Piazza della Signoria and the Duomo.
This means that the area northwest of Centro Storico is more affordable but still central and convenient for visitors coming to Florence by train, plane, or car.
The whole area is a wonderful starting point for exploring Florence. It’s close to the San Lorenzo area with its many restaurants, cafes, and the central market, as well as Centro Storico.
Where to Stay in Santa Maria Novella
Best for: Evening entertainment, foodies, socializing
Santo Spirito is an area in Oltrarno, which is what the other side of the river Arno is called in Italian. It is one of the most wonderful areas of Florence. It has a high concentration of restaurants and bars and is a great choice if you’re looking for lunch and dinner options!
It’s also where many restaurants that serve aperitivo are, which means that’s exactly where you want to be if you’re someone who’s looking for some casual evening entertainment.
If you’re someone that likes their sleep, though, this isn’t the area for you. Italians like to socialize outside, especially during the warmer months. This means that it’s very like you’ll end up with loud talking below your windows until late at night during peak times.
This area is also not too close to the main sights in Centro Storico so if you’re going to Florence for a short time and if it’s your first visit, consider staying somewhere closer to its main attractions.
Where to Stay in Santo Spirito
Piazzale Michelangelo/San Niccolò
Best for: families traveling to Florence, views of the Arno River and Florence city
The Piazzale Michelangelo area in the San Niccolò quarter is set in the Oltrarno area on a slight hill. In comparison with the Santo Spirito area, this is a quiet, calm, and central area, perfect if you’re a family looking for where to stay in Florence.
It’s close to several green areas, such as the Boboli Gardens and the Terzo Giardino park, that overlooks the Arno directly. The added benefit of staying in this area is a high chance of getting a room with a view over the Arno and the entire historic center of Florence.
One of the most well-known parts of this area is the Piazzale Michelangelo, known as the best spot to watch the sunset in Florence, and if you decide to stay here, this can be your end-of-day activity, close to home.
Where to Stay in Piazzale Michelangelo/San Niccolò
Best for: Living like a local, proximity to nightlife, restaurants, and bars
If you’d like to know how the Florentines live and get a real feel of the city, then the best area to stay in Florence for you is Santa Croce. The center of the area is Santa Croce square with the Basilica di Santa Croce.
The square is lined with some of Florence’s most wonderful bars and restaurants, and for anyone enjoying the nightlife, you’ll find some of the town’s most visited nightclubs and bars here.
Here, you’ll also be staying close enough to the Centro Storico, but far enough to be a bit further away from all the hustle and bustle of thousands of tourists that visit Florence every year.
Because Santa Croce is still a very central area, the prices of accommodation are still quite high. But by booking and planning ahead, you’ll be for sure able to score a deal and get yourself a nice place right in one of Florence’s most authentic neighborhoods.
Where to Stay in Santa Croce
San Marco/San Lorenzo
Best for: Proximity to museums, cafes, and restaurants, as well as shopping
The areas of San Marco and San Lorenzo border the Santa Maria Novella area and the area of Centro Storico of Florence. The San Lorenzo area, especially, is incredibly close to the main train station of Santa Maria Novella and is a bustling neighborhood filled with museums, up-and-coming cafes, and restaurants.
The center of the San Lorenzo area is the main Florence market Mercato di San Lorenzo, also known as Mercato Centrale. The San Lorenzo Basilica houses many art pieces by Donatello and the tombs of the most important Florentine family of the Renaissance, the Medici family.
The area of San Marco is mostly known for the Galleria dell’Accademia, which has in its collection Michelangelo’s David. It’s also an important historical area with many renaissance palaces and the church of Santissima Annunziata di Firenze on an imposing square.
This area is extremely convenient and should be on the list of everyone looking where to stay in Florence, Tuscany. The prices here are lower than in Centro Storico and about the same as in Santa Croce. Especially in the San Marco area, you’ll get the added benefit of being a bit removed from the largest influx of tourists during the day.
Where to Stay in San Marco/San Lorenzo
Best for: Proximity to the airport, outdoor oasis, historic spots
Novoli is a residential neighborhood a short drive from Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci airport. It’s also right next to the San Donato city park, which is a real oasis of peace in a busy city.
Because of the proximity to the airport, this area is perfect for anyone arriving in Florence by plane. This is also where most big hotel chains have their hotels.
The most important attractions of the area include the Mercafir fruit and vegetable market on Piazza Arom, the church of Santa Maria a Novoli with its 16th-century face, and the Quartiere San Donato shopping center.
Where to Stay in Novoli
Best for: History, outdoor gardens
Fiesole is a small town about 7km from the center of Florence. It’s perched in a saddle between two hills, overlooking Florence in the distance, and as far as picturesque Tuscan locations go, it’s pretty magical.
Historically, this has been one of the most exclusive areas of Florence, and it still is one of the richest municipalities in Tuscany.
What does all this mean? Well, it means that staying here won’t be as affordable as it might seem, but you’ll most definitely get your money’s worth.
Fiesole has a bus connection to Florence, but I would still only recommend staying here if you’re arriving by car. This way, you’ll be able to discover even more charming villages in the Tuscan countryside.
That is not to say that Fiesole doesn’t have anything to offer! The town is a historic goldmine, with Etruscan and Roman ruins, as well as wonderful medieval history. The bulk of the history is connected to Florence’s rich and famous, who had countryside villas, that housed the likes of Giovanni Bocaccio and Leonardo da Vinci.
Some of the main attractions in Fiesole include the wonderful villas with their gardens. While the large majority of the villas themselves are privately owned and cannot be visited, access to the Villa Medici and Villa Bardini gardens is permitted.
If you’d like to visit more, you’ll have to pay attention to special programs and events that allow access to the villas that are mostly closed to the general public.
Where to Stay in Fiesole
The past couple of paragraphs has shown that choosing where to stay in Florence is not a simple decision, especially if you’re visiting the city for the first time.
Because Florence isn’t as big as some other Italian cities, a good location is even more important, because you’re likely to do a lot of walking.
Staying close to the hub of your preferred activities is a great choice, and no matter where you stay in Florence, you’re guaranteed to have a wonderful experience in one of Italy’s most charming cities.
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