Renting an apartment in Florence can be an excellent way to get the most out of your stay. Even if you’re only there for 4-5 days, you may be able to save money with an apartment rental over a hotel room, not least because you have your own kitchen and can keep goodies on hand for breakfast and snacking. There’s even bigger potential for saving money if you’re traveling with a group, either several friends or a small family. There are just a few things to keep in mind before you book an apartment in Florence.
What to Expect from Apartments in Florence
The main thing to be aware of before you start apartment hunting is that living spaces in the historic center are generally very small. Not only that, everything inside the apartment is likely to be slightly smaller, too, from the shower stall to the kitchen cabinetry. You’re likely to spend most of your time outside the apartment, so don’t dwell on its petite size too much. It’s more room than you’d have in a budget hotel.
Read the fine print of apartment descriptions. Just because it says it “sleeps four” doesn’t mean there are two bedrooms or even enough beds. Often those counts include pull-out sofas, which means both a bed that’s not as comfortable and a bedroom that’s not as private. This may work for your purposes, but it’s at least good to know about in advance.
Many historic buildings don’t have elevators, so if you have trouble with stairs be sure to check for that in the description of the apartment. Buildings that do have elevators often have quite old or small elevators – you may need to make a couple of trips if you’ve got lots of luggage (or people). Also remember that in Italy, the “ground floor” is equivalent to the “first floor” in the United States, the Italian “first floor” is the U.S. “second floor,” and so on. A Florence apartment that’s listed as being on the “third floor” is really four flights up.
Hallway lights in Italian buildings tend to be on timers, but they aren’t motion-sensitive. Light switches are spaced along the walls and in stairwells, and they’ll illuminate everything for a specific period before they automatically shut off again. Don’t panic if you walk into a dark hallway – just look for the tiny orange or yellow glow on the light switch.
Cleaning services typically only come into an apartment rental when you leave, so you won’t get fresh towels and sheets every day like you would in a hotel (but really, does anyone actually need fresh linens every day?). You also aren’t likely to find tiny toiletries in the bathroom, so be prepared with your own soap and shampoo – or just find the nearest market when you arrive.
Which Florence Neighborhood to Choose
The historic center of Florence is really very walkable, so as long as you’re in the center you’ll be able to explore most neighborhoods (and see most sights) simply by walking between them. Having a car in the center is far more hassle than it’s worth anyway.
The names of the neighborhoods in the historic center are: Duomo, Uffizi, Palazzo Strozzi, Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, Santissima Annunziata, Santa Croce, Palazzo Pitti, and Santo Spirito. The latter two are in what’s called the “Oltrarno,” on the opposite side of the Arno River. All the rest are on the same side of the river as the train station and Duomo.
The neighborhoods right around Florence’s main sights – including the Duomo, the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Piazza Signoria – are likely to be busier (and noisier) on a more constant basis, not to mention more expensive. Prices on apartment rentals will generally go down as you get further from the Duomo (which is considered the middle of the historic center). If you’re seeking more peace and quiet, look at the Oltrarno in particular.
If you’ve got a car and you want to stay further from the center, there are neighborhoods on the outskirts of the historic center that are much less likely to have tourists staying in them – even if there are visitors exploring the area during the day. The hills behind the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens offer lovely views overlooking Florence, and may be just the thing for a slightly more secluded getaway. To turn the tables on the usual thing, you could even stay up in nearby Fiesole and take a day trip into Florence instead of the other way around.
How to Find Apartment Rentals in Florence
There are plenty of websites offering Florence apartments for rent: do a simple search for “Florence apartment rentals” to see the staggering number of results. Keep in mind that you can also look for “Florence vacation rentals” and get to the same results; these apartments are vacation rentals, after all. Just about every vacation rental company has properties all over the world, including Italy, so you can go with a company you already know as opposed to trying to locate an Italian company (although there are also apartment rental companies based in Italy, if you prefer).
It’s unlikely you’ll accidentally end up on a site geared toward Italians wanting to move to a new place in Florence, but just make sure the apartments you’re looking at are listed as being “fully furnished” so you don’t end up in an empty apartment with a six-month lease to sign!