Living in Florence: your practical guide
Our goal is to give as much information as possible to people who choose to stay in Florence, for a study holiday to learn the Italian language.
Italian is a language of knowledge, it is hardly learned for work reasons. Very often foreign people learn Italian out of their intellectual curiosity and because they love history, art, culture, cuisine and Italian wines. The language in this case is a tool to get to know the country better and get in touch with its inhabitants. Florence, for its history and for the artistic and cultural production that distinguishes it, is the perfect context for learning Italian. In this case language and environment are interconnected.
Get to know Florence
Florence is the perfect city for a cultural Italian language stay where some of the most beautiful monuments of Italian art can be admired.
It is a city built in the heyday of the Renaissance on a human scale, the streets and buildings, but above all the squares, are the perfect setting for your walks and meetings with friends. The artistic heritage is immense, some of the greatest artists have left their works in the city over more than three centuries. You can throw away your car keys as walking is the easiest and probably best way to explore the city center. Florence has also several cycling lanes, which makes it ideal for cyclists to tour.
Most of the schools of art, photography, and Italian for foreigners are concentrated in Florence, as well as many of the study programs of American universities. For this reason you will be able to meet people from all over the world who are in the city to study. You will find a series of libraries and places of historical and artistic importance, where you can study in complete tranquility with the support of an extensive WiFi network.
There are a variety of bars, trattorias and restaurants of all price ranges which offer the products of Tuscan cuisine, and the wines of the nearby hills. The districts of San Frediano and Santo Spirito offer handcrafted objects whilst their lively nightlife offers concerts, plays, and cafes / restaurants open all night.
Where to live in Florence
The best way to “live” the city is to find an apartment in the historic center, where you can enjoy the Florentine life right at your doorstep. You’ll also benefit from one of the many local bars or greengrocers around every corner.
Many apartments have been renovated and offer every kind of comfort. It is also possible to find panoramic accommodations on the roofs of Florence with a view of the Duomo or Palazzo Vecchio. There are studios with a bedroom, a study corner and kitchenette or larger apartments to share with other students with a single bedroom and bathroom. The Italian Center offers assistance in finding and renting this type of accommodation.
>> Find out with us where to live in Florence.
Areas of Florence
The city of Florence is divided into districts, which all have different characteristics.
Santa Maria Novella
This is the neighborhood where the central train station is located, and a very touristic area. Here you can however find some affordable small hotels for one or two nights.
It’s the district of the main historical monuments: Duomo, Baptistery, Orsanmichele and Palazzo Vecchio.
Perhaps one of the most interesting neighborhoods to live in Florence as it still retains some artisanal activities and shops of all kinds; it has a very active nightlife, with a wide array of pubs, restaurants and clubs, which makes Santa Croce one of the top spots for a night out.
It was the district of artisan’s workshops such as carpenters, blacksmiths, framers, goldsmiths and bookbinders. Today it’s populated by young people, both Italians and foreigners, who have revitalized it with new generation of businesses, shops and cafes; it was recently named one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the world by Lonely Planet.
This, also an artisan district, was originally the poorest district in the city, characterized by its typical narrow and tall houses, which have now been renovated and inhabited by younger generations. Together with Santo Spirito, this is one of the best areas to live in Florence.
Neighbourhoods to stay in Florence
Around Florence there are some of the most beautiful hills in Tuscany. They are still cultivated with olive trees and vines and adorned with splendid historic villas or farms, where oil and wine are produced and from where you have a stunning view over the city. On each hill stands a village full of history and beauty.
These are the most charming and well-known villages.
Fiesole is where the first Etruscan civilization had settled, and were subsequently supplanted by the city of Florence with the arrival of the Romans. Fiesole prides itself of a beautiful large square with many outdoor cafes and a Roman amphitheater. The hill between Fiesole and Settignano is dotted with villas with large parks of outstanding beauty, built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
A village nestled on the crest of the hill with a square which is a beautiful terrace on Florence and where there are small interesting cafes and restaurants.
Bagno a Ripoli
A town that developed during the twentieth century, because it became the residence of the wealthiest Florentine classes, who made it a residential neighborhood excellent for living in.
The land of oil and world renowned terracotta, where the jars for storing oil are still produced. The road which starts in Florence, touches Piazzale Michelangelo and arrives in Impruneta, is one of the most evocative itineraries in Tuscany and offers marvelous views of the city of Florence and its surrounding hills full of olive groves and vineyards.
Rent a place in Florence
You will find different options for renting an apartment in Florence.
Go to the Airbnb website, select Italy-Tuscany-Florence and check all the offers presented. This site also offers prices for long term stays.
Contact an agency specializing in tourist rentals. In this case you must be selective, because there are all sorts. Direct yourself towards those offering rentals for Italian students who attend the local universities, they have good options in the neighborhoods immediately outside the historic center. Amongst these neighborhoods we recommend: Le Cure, Campo di Marte, Rifredi and Legnaia. There are also agencies specializing in renting apartments and luxury villas, offering accommodation in the most beautiful squares of the city or in the hills.
Usually Italian language schools for foreigners and American universities offer a free search and booking service for accommodations for their students. By registering with our school you will receive confirmation of your lodgment in an independent apartment or with a family, usually in the historic center of the city.
Cost of living in Florence
Florence offers a variety of accommodation choices at different rates. Living downtown is probably more attractive but definitely more expensive, while its surroundings are cheaper and offer the opportunity of experiencing how the locals live.
If you do choose to live in the city center, keep in mind that grocery stores, hardware and household shops are quite scarce, but on the other hand, wine bars, cafes, and restaurants are everywhere and open until late. Be aware that most of these cafes and bars charge different prices depending on whether you sit in or consume by the counter (for example a cappuccino costs 2 Euro at the counter but can reach €3-4 if you sit at the table), so check the price list exposed before choosing to sit at a table.
You can buy fresh produce at a good price in the small neighborhood’s shops, such as bread (€2-4 per Kilo) and fresh vegetables which can be bought in the lovely Market of Sant’Ambrogio; in a supermarket the average cost of food and basic needs per person is €55 per week.
Bus tickets cost €1,50 for a duration of 90 minutes; it’s always better to buy a ticket beforehand as buying tickets on board is rather costly and not always an option.
The same ticket can be used for both bus and tramway.
Here are some samples of accommodation prices.
Apartments shared with other students:
- Single bed shared room – €420 per month
- Single room – €550 per month
Apartments shared with local families:
- Single bed shared room with breakfast and dinner (half board) – €770 per month
- Single room with breakfast and dinner (half board) – €890 per month
- Studio with bedroom bathroom kitchenette – €500 per week
- Three rooms apartment (for 2-3 people) with kitchen, double bedroom, living room with sofa and bathroom – €700 per week
Bed and breakfast:
- Single room- €50 per day
- Double room – €70 per day per room
- Three rooms apartment (for 2-3 people) with kitchen, double bedroom, living room with sofa and bathroom- €850 per month
- Four rooms apartment (for 4-5 people) with kitchen, two double bedrooms, living room with sofa and bathroom – €1000 per month
Safety in Florence
Florence is a substantially quiet city, where there are no great dangers and where you can live peacefully day and night. There are only a few minimal warnings to follow depending on the neighborhood where you live.
Santa Croce, Santo Spirito and San Niccolò are the districts where nightlife is mostly concentrated, which however sees Italian and foreign students studying in the city as the main crowd. In these neighborhoods, as common sense dictates in any other part of the world, it is advisable to avoid drinking too much and letting your guard down, avoid approaching noisy and apparently violent groups and avoid walking alone in the streets after midnight.
In Italy you can serve or sell alcohol from 18 years of age, without limitation, and you can freely walk on the streets with drink, so the temptation is great.
There are several gardens, parks, special paths and trails to walk or jog along the Arno River. All these places are absolutely safe and populated by locals who go there to exercise or walk their dogs. There are also lovely open air bars along the Lungarno della Zecca and Lungarno Colombo so the area is populated until late at night, especially in summer. The Cascine Park, instead, is not safe at night and you should avoid walking there alone.
In the historic center, especially in the Duomo area during the high season, when big groups of tourists visit the town, there may be beggars and pickpockets around, and you may need to pay attention to your purse and your credit cards, but in the same way as you should do in any touristic city.
It is also unlikely for apartments to be broken into and for documents and money to be removed from your room. Also in this case, the precautions to take are as minimal as locking the apartment door and not leaving windows open that overlook the street during your absence.
In case you have any problems regarding your safety or become the victim of assault or attempted theft, there are some useful numbers to call:
112 Emergency Response – Carabinieri
113 Public emergency aid – Police
114 Child abuse emergency – Telefono Azzurro
115 First aid for fires or collapses – Fire brigade
118 Any kind of health emergency
Some smartphones have an automatic transfer of the emergency number of your country to that of the country where you are staying, check this before coming to Italy.
Healthcare in Italy
Italy has a very well developed and extensive health system throughout the national territory. All Italian citizens, who work and pay taxes, have the right to healthcare for themselves and their families, almost completely free, within any public or affiliated facility throughout the country. Any type of hospitalization and hospital intervention for emergencies from accidents and serious illnesses is free. Medical visits to your doctor are free.
Tickets are paid only on medicines and diagnostic tests. If you have to accompany someone to the hospital due to an accident or an illness, you have to go to the Emergency room, which also works as an admission to the hospital. The severity of your condition (classified as green, yellow or red) will assess the type of assistance you will require and the waiting time. You may need to be hospitalized for further treatment.
This type of assistance can also be extended to you automatically, during your stay, in the case of a tourist or study visa up to a maximum of 90 days, if you are a citizen of the European Community, through the European Health Insurance Card (TEAM). If you are a citizen of a country outside the European Union you need to take out supplementary insurance. This private supplementary insurance can be taken out in your country, before coming to Italy, otherwise we will give you all the information on how to do it in Italy. You will be able to take advantage of urgent and elective healthcare services upon payment of the relevant regional rates. For a period of residence of up to 90 days, there is no need to register with the National Health Care System (SSN).
If you reside in Italy for a period of more than 90 days and have a regular stay permission, you can register with the SSN (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, in Italian, the National Health Care System) by contacting the ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale, in Italian, the local offices of the National Health Care, present in every municipality) of your municipality of registered residence, or, if you are not yet a resident, the municipality of actual residence indicated in the stay permission. Registration with the SSN allows you to choose the general practitioner registered in the ASL registers with consequent attribution of 4 recognizable credits for the purposes of the integration agreement. Healthcare is also extended to your family members who regularly stay in Italy.
There are also private doctors with all types of specialization, who speak English and who you can consult for a fee.
For further information check the following list of English speaking doctors:
- English Speaking Doctors and Medical Facilities in the Florence Consular District – US embassy
- List of English-speaking doctors in Italy – British government
Weather in Florence
Florence is located along the banks of the Arno and sheltered by the hills of Impruneta to the south and by the first mountains of the Apennines to the north. It therefore enjoys a mild although a little humid weather at times. The most pleasant seasons are spring and autumn, in which temperatures remain at the minimum 5-8 Celsius degrees and the maximum at 18-22 degrees. The large blooms of the most common flowers, such as iris and wisteria, or the coloring of the leaves of the many trees in the city parks, make these two seasons the most beautiful for living in Florence. In winter the minimum temperature rarely drops below freezing, and bright dry days alternate with gray and rainy days. It can occasionally snow once a year and that’s when the city stops, with groups of young people playing snowballs. In summer the maximum temperature can reach 35-38 Celsius degrees and it hardly ever rains.
Expat life in Florence
For centuries the largest foreign community in Florence has been the English one. The city has always been a favorite destination of Britain’s intellectual and artistic aristocracy. The large villas on the hills around the city have seen illustrious guests, who have contributed to the development of art criticism and historical research. Part of this community has moved to the most renowned wine areas, also producing good wines, so much so that we often talk about Chiantishire. German and American representations are also very dense, since the educational trips of which Goethe was a precursor and the tales of beauty and artistic richness of the city from the pages of Henry James. Literature aside, it is pleasant for people from these countries to live in Florence, being able to enjoy good job opportunities, offered by the many artistic and cultural institutions of their countries.
The best way to find a job in Florence is to act in advance, that is, contact the many universities, cultural institutes or foreign art centers, before arriving in the city. In general, those who know their mother tongue well, as well as a little Italian, do not have major difficulties in finding a good job in the city, which may be temporary but fairly well paid. Tourism is another sector where there are good job opportunities, especially in catering and hospitality, for those who speak English.
Florence with kids
Florence is a city particularly suited to the needs of children and therefore of families. The existence of one of the largest areas of limited traffic (pedestrian zone), now comprising the entire historic center within the ring road, and the existence of large historic parks, open to the public, make it an ideal city for the children. Some of these parks are equipped with play areas and host rides or other sources of entertainment. The educational opportunities to stimulate the curiosity of children, given by the artistic heritage and museums are many, so much so that several museums have also equipped themselves with special itineraries for younger visitors.
Getting to Florence
Florence is at the center of the Italian high-speed train network: Freccia Rossa and Italo. Many of these stop in the two main stations: Santa Maria Novella and Campo di Marte. The first is in the historic center and is also an architectural monument of considerable value, the second is a little off-center and you have to take a taxi or bus to get to the city center from there. There are also many other small stations with local trains, which function a bit as a subway for the suburbs or as a mean of transport for excursions in the surrounding area.
Florence has basically two airports, the main one, named Amerigo Vespucci, which is in an area of the city named Peretola, is served by the main airlines and can be reached by tram, bus or taxi. The other, Galileo Galilei, is in Pisa, where mainly low cost airlines operate and it is easily accessible within an hour by train from the Santa Maria Novella station.
From Florence Santa Maria Novella station, direct trains leave every half hour for Pisa Airport, It is also possible to check in and drop off baggage for your flight at Florence station on request.
Getting around Florence
The historic center of Florence was conceived in the Renaissance and built on a human scale, it was enlarged in the 19th century but it is still possible to reach any point of the city on foot in a maximum of one hour. Given the quantity and beauty of monuments and valuable architectural works in the city, walking in Florence is a continuous discovery and an intellectual pleasure.
Even by bicycle you can easily admire most of the works in the city. The municipal administration has also completed a network of cycle paths that crosses the entire city and connects the center with the surrounding countryside. Particularly beautiful are the cycle paths that from the historic center reach the first hills of Chianti or that follow the course of the Arno River.
Cars and motorcycles
If you do not reside in the historic center or if you don’t carry out your commercial activity in that area, you cannot enter the city with your car or motorbike. So come by train or plane and forget about cars and motorbikes for a while.
Public transport (buses and trams)
The municipal administration has completed a greatly efficient tram network in 2019, divided in two routes. The first one starts from the historic center, crosses the Cascine Park and arrives in Scandicci, while the second one starts from the historic center and arrives at the Amerigo Vespucci Airport, crossing the Rifredi and Novoli districts. The ticket costs €1.50 and lasts for an hour and a half. With the same ticket and for the same duration it is possible to get on the many buses that from the center lead to all the suburbs or to the railway stations.
Taxi & Uber
Despite there being an abundance of Taxis in Florence, as soon as it starts to rain they all seem to disappear or aren’t enough to satisfy the demand. It is not yet known whether the responsibility lies with the drivers, who do not like to drive in the wet weather and instead make a pit stop at the bar, the insufficient number of cars, or the fact that Florentines love to be transported in the rain through the streets of the city by taxi. You can choose.
Taxi drivers are a very strong and efficient corporation in the city and have made sure to have an absolute monopoly and to exclude Uber from city transport services.
What to see in Florence
You absolutely must make a choice between famous and lesser known museums. If you stay in Florence for a few months, you can also decide to visit them all. The Uffizi has the largest collection of Renaissance art with works by Botticelli, Raphael and Caravaggio. At the Accademia Gallery you will find an impressive amount of sculptures by Michelangelo, in addition of course to David himself.
Other museums not to be missed are: the Museo dell’Opera Del Duomo, where you will find the machines for the construction of the Brunelleschi’s Dome designed by Leonardo, and Palazzo Pitti, with art and objects typical of a royal palace, such as those of the Medici family. Other less known museums are: La Specola Natural History Museum, Science Museum (complete with planetarium), Museum of Anthropology, Ethnology and Paleontology and the Etruscan Museum.
Same as for museums, there is an abundance of churches and those to visit are: the Duomo (with the adjoining Baptistery and Giotto’s Bell Tower), the Cathedral of Santa Croce (where there are the tombs of the great men of Italy, among others Galileo Galilei), Santa Maria Novella with adjoining cloister (the Brancacci Chapel, frescoed by Masaccio), and the Basilica of San Miniato. You can visit all of the smaller churches to, each containing an artistic work or an architectural perspective that will leave you amazed.
The most famous garden in Florence is Boboli garden, and it truly represents the art of the Italian garden at its best, and a peacefully refreshing garden to relax in the heart of the city center. It’s also a place full meaning and important key moments of the history of Florence during the Renaissance, but especially during World War II for its link with the Uffizi Gallery and the Vasarian Corridor. The ticket includes the visit to the Giardino Bardini (see below).
Another lovely garden in Florence is the Giardino dei Semplici, a Hystorical Botanical Garden connected to the Museo di Storia Naturale and the University. On the left bank of the Arno River, the Giardino delle Rose is particularly spectacular in May. Not far from it there’s the Giardino Bardini with its pergola of wisteria and lilacs, its 60 different types of hydrangeas and its wonderful view on Florence. A private garden which can be visited, but only upon reservation, is the Giardino Torrigiani. The Giardino dell’Orticoltura is yet another interesting park with its beautiful big greenhouse where flower markets, particularly loved by the Florentines, take places in autumn and spring, as well as art events. The biggest park in Florence is the Parco delle Cascine, a park which stretches along the Arno River on the west side of Florence.
The bridges over the Arno River have marked the various historical periods and are today an expression of them. The most artistically important ones are in the Renaissance center, in particular the Ponte alle Grazie, the Ponte Santa Trinita (adorned with marble statues) and the Ponte Vecchio with its typical houses which still house the shops of Florentine goldsmiths. Representative of the nineteenth-century period is the Ponte alla Vittoria, while more modern works are the Ponte San Niccolò, which was renamed by the Florentines “the iron bridge”.
Historically in Italy, the square is the center of the medieval village and the Renaissance city, it is the place where people meet, discuss and decide. Over time it has also become the place where you can have fun and spend time in company, at the chairs of bars and restaurants. One of the squares which offer all these features is Piazza Signoria, where the Florentine people used to gather in the past and where you can now sit in the shadow of Palazzo Vecchio while enjoying a good coffee or a glass of wine. Piazza Del Duomo offers an architectural perspective which is an integral part of the surrounding monuments, while Piazza Santa Croce appears as a clearing within a wood formed by the stately buildings that surround it. Piazza Santa Maria Novella is the extension of the cloister inside the church and almost appears to be its courtyard, while Piazza Santo Spirito offers a break for air from the narrow and lively alleys of the neighborhood. Piazza della Stazione, with its floors at different heights, must be seen as a single piece with the adjacent railway station, as well as Piazza del Cestello must be considered following the architectural perspectives from the church of the same name.
Historically, the streets leading to the city gates have been market places for people who came from the surrounding countryside, and have always been full of shops for “le compere”, as the Florentines call shopping. Via Gioberti, via di Porta al Prato and Borgo San Frediano are still places to shop at or where to enjoy a good coffee. In the streets around the two main food markets of the city, San Lorenzo and Sant’Ambrogio, there are many “bancarelle” (Italian for mobile stalls on wheels), offering clothing, household items and perfumery. The nineteenth-century center of the city, between Piazza della Repubblica, via Calzaiuoli and via Tornabuoni is now home to the boutiques of the most important Italian and foreign Fashion Designers, where you can shop the top brands of Italian Luxury.
The presence of cycle paths that lead from the historic center to the surrounding hills or along the Arno valley, allows you to take wonderful bike rides. It is possible to buy a good bicycle for as little as 100 Euros from any mechanic or even in supermarkets, alternatively you can rent one for about 15 – 20 Euros per day. If you want, you can also find organized bike tours, in a group or private, with guides in Italian or foreign languages, including stops for picnics or light lunches in a trattoria.
A large number of hiking trails branch off from the immediate outskirts of the city. The C.A.I. Italian Alpine Club takes care of the maintenance and signage of these paths, which can be of historical-artistic, food and wine or naturalistic interest. Specialized agencies offer guided programs in Italian or foreign languages, for small groups or privately, departing directly from your hotel or apartment. Many of these excursions include visits to monuments along the way or to farms, where it is possible to taste artisanal food products and wines.
From Florence you can easily and quickly reach the main places of interest in Tuscany. We recommend the train to visit Lucca, where you can’t miss a walk on the ancient walls, and Pisa, where you can climb the Leaning Tower and visit the Piazza dei Miracoli. You can instead take the bus to go to Siena, the city of the Palio and Paolo Uccello’s painting school, which is fairly faster than the train. Also by train you can discover one of the least touristy cities in Tuscany, Arezzo, with a splendid Piazza del Duomo, or Pistoia with a beautiful and quieter historic center. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to go to Montecatini, where you can visit and enjoy the ancient thermal baths.
Learn (Italian) in Florence
Learn Italian language
Florence is the city where Dante lived and wrote the Divine Comedy, and where thanks to him the Italian language was born (Common Italian as opposed to Latin). It is also the city where the offer of Italian language schools and cultural stays were born, justified by the fact that there is no better historical and cultural setting for this type of vacation. Italian is a language of knowledge, those who study it are interested in the culture, art and history of our country, there is no better reason for this than learning it in Florence. The city has numerous Italian language schools for foreigners with a wide range of group and individual lessons. For this reason, Florence is also the location of many study programs of foreign universities, especially American ones.
During your stay in the city you can take a Tuscan or Italian cooking class, in the form of a series of lessons or as a one-time experience. All programs include a lunch or dinner with a menu which you’ve prepared. The classes can be group or private and you work for about two hours on a menu indicated by the teacher or chosen by the participants. At the end of your class you’ll be able to sit and enjoy lunch or dinner with the products of your work and an appropriate wine choice to complement it. The meetings can be held both in Italian and in English and there are various tourist agencies or culinary associations to choose from, who offer this type of program.
You have the possibility of enrolling in a wine tasting course. In this case as well there’s the option to attend a one-time class or a multiple days one, privately or in a group. The teacher is usually a sommelier, who presents 3 or 4 Tuscan wines following the stages of sensory analysis: visual, olfactory and gustatory. You participate by tasting the wines and expressing your feelings and comments. There are various tourist agencies or wine associations that offer this type of program.
Florence with its historical and artistic heritage is an ideal place where to attend an art course. The city is home to a very famous Academy of Art, which offers annual academic courses and there are many private schools which offer lessons in sculpture, painting and graphics, also in the form of an open workshop at various levels of learning. Lessons are held in both Italian and English. It is also possible to access artisan workshops to learn the techniques of wood carving, marbled paper, leather binding, jewelry and ceramics.
Universities in Florence
Italian Universities in Florence – The city has always been home to important Italian university faculties, which can be accessed with a selection exam, which also includes understanding the Italian language. Among the most famous Departments are Medicine, Agriculture, Mathematics, Foreign Languages, Literature and Philosophy, Architecture and Political Science. Some private schools offer preparation courses for the Italian language exam and administrative assistance for foreign students who want to enroll at the Italian University.
Foreign universities in Florence – Many foreign universities have their headquarters in Florence. Many of them organize study stays for their students. The main subjects are of course Art, History, Language and culture. Some of the most prestigious American universities such as Stanford, Syracuse and New York, offer quarters or semesters of study to their students. Florence is also home to the European University, an organization which directly depends on the European Community, and is based in a beautiful Villa on the hill of Fiesole.
Everyday life in Florence
In Downtown Florence there are two food markets: the Mercato di San Lorenzo in San Lorenzo neighborhood and the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio in Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood. The Mercato di San Lorenzo has gradually become a place where you can taste finger food or gastronomic specialties from different Italian regions which makes it an ideal spot to have lunch or for an aperitive. Yet there are some shops dedicated to specific food selections such as Baroni for cheese, who offer a great choice of quality products. Outside the covered market, there is an open air market where you can find touristic souvenirs and clothes, as well as leather products.
The Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is still very interesting and alive. Everyday there are stalls that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, some owned by small local farmers, and during the week there’s an ever changing selection of sellers who offer vintage and newer clothes. The Florentines, from both the central area and the surroundings go there to buy food, and it’s a great excuse to spend a few hours in the area. Inside the covered market there’s also a simple trattoria with traditional dishes at very reasonable prices.
In a little square in front of the food market, there is the Mercato delle Pulci, an old, lovely “Flea market” where you can find vintage and second hand treasures such as antiques, books, records and furniture.
If you like antiques, you can’t miss the Mercatino dell’Antiquariato in Piazza dei Ciompi, every last Sunday of the month the Ciompi square and its surroundings are stuffed with stalls selling all sorts of vintage products.
A market which is truly in the Florentine’s hearts is the Fierucolina, every third Sunday of the month in Santo Spirito square, where only small organic farmers and local artisans sell their seasonal products directly to you. Together with organic vegetables, cheese, honey, bread, wine and olive oil, you can find handmade baskets, leather products and straw hats. Talking with the producers in a lovely authentic atmosphere is an experience you truly don’t want to miss.
The biggest market in Florence is the Mercato delle Cascine which runs every Tuesday in a spectacular park along the Arno River, where you can spend all morning wandering around in search for clothes, kitchen items, shoes, etc.
If you’d like to venture outside of the city center, the best market to visit is the Mercato delle Cure, which is on every morning (apart from Sunday) in Piazza Delle Cure and it’s one of the best places to go shop for food, especially fresh vegetables cultivated by local farmers, but also clothes.
It is not difficult to find food in the city. There are both small food shops and medium-sized supermarkets. The main chains of large distribution are all present: Coop, Esselunga and Carrefour. Both supermarkets and small shops accept debit and credit cards. Shops open at 8 am and close at 1 pm, and then reopen at 4 pm and close at 7 pm. Supermarkets instead are open all day through from 8 am to 8 pm. It’s also possible to buy cooked and packaged food for take-away in various cafes or rotisseries of both Italian and ethnic cuisine. There are also city couriers specialized in home delivery of hot dishes and pizzas from nearby restaurants.
Eating and drinking
In Florence there are many bars and restaurants where you can eat and drink at different times. The offer includes Italian cuisine as well as cuisines from all over the world, but remember to check the restaurants opening times as many are not open all day. Normally you can have lunch from 12 to 2:30 pm and you can have dinner from 7 to 10:30 pm. The pizzerias have more flexible hours as well as the Chinese restaurants. Bars usually open very early, many start working from 6:30 am, but their closing times may differ depending on whether or not they work with a night crowd. Some close at 8 pm while others may stay open until 2 am. Take into account that in some bars you can take your drink at the counter or sit freely at the tables, while in some others there is a waiter to whom you have to present your order. There is no writing that differentiates one type of bar from another and the difference in prices is in some cases considerable.
Tuscany is famous for its wines and Florence is no exception, so you won’t have problems in finding places where you can get a bottle of wine. But if you’re looking for places where you can get great selections of wines and some knowledgeable advice to help you make your choice, then there are few places where you can go. Noteworthy in the city is the tradition of the Vinai, small places where back in the day you could, and still can to this day, drink good wine while eating a selection of cheeses and cold meat. Another city tradition linked to wine is that of the wine doors, small doors built on the side and in the same style as the door of the building, from where a glass of wine was offered to pilgrims or travelers, without having to open the door of their home.
Gyms and swimming pools
There are some modern structures with innovative design where you can find large swimming pools, a wide variety of machines and courses for all needs, where a lot of different generations go while also enjoying a various musical offer. More than gyms, they are real fitness villages, where you can keep fit, train, swim freely and meet other Italian and foreigners.
Florence is one of the places where ice cream was invented and its ice cream makers have been famous since the Renaissance times. Today it’s possible to find all kinds, the small craftsman, to the large Gelato shops, the historical names of the city, and the modern artisans of the suburbs.
Driving in Florence
Compared to other Italian cities, Florence is a quite simple town for drivers. It’s small, mainly flat and it has a circle lane of boulevards surrounding the central area which facilitates reaching the suburbs. Nevertheless it’s important to be aware that all the central area (including Oltrarno) is a no car zone, named ZTL where driving is not allowed. This can cause confusion if you’re not a resident which sometimes results in traffic jams on the boulevards during the rush hour. As Florence is so small, in total honesty, there aren’t many reasons for driving, unless you need to get out of town.
The average price is 2 Euros per hour in the parking lots near the city center. Searching for a parking place can definitely be a very stressful experience, but along the boulevards (called Viali di circonvallazione), or along the Arno River nearby the national Public Library, you can always get a parking spot for your car, at about 20 minutes walking distance from the Duomo. There are useful covered parking spaces in Piazza Beccaria, Piazza Annigoni, Parterre, and nearby the SMN Train Station. On the left bank area (the Oltrarno) you can search for a parking spot in Viale Petrarca, between Porta Romana and Piazza Tasso
There are various spa offers in the city, some very exclusive with limited access which offer massages, herbal teas, perfumed essences and reserved relaxation areas. Most spas are part of facilities which include gyms and swimming pools. In these cases they are large spas modeled on the Roman baths, with hot and cold pools, saunas, Turkish baths and large whirlpools. You can only access by becoming a member for a short or longer period.
Cinemas and Movies
The city center, like the immediate suburbs, still retains many small traditional cinemas, while the large multiplex cinemas are located on the outskirts. First television and then the great variety of music and entertainment available on the internet, have caused a crisis in the movie theater industry, which are now mostly closing down or on the brink of. In Florence there were some very beautiful ones in Liberty or Rococo style, sometimes created in old theaters. The tradition of offering summer film festivals outdoors in the city parks or squares remains alive.
Florence has always been a city full of libraries. Books, mostly used, are also sold on street stalls. Famous publishers such as Feltrinelli manage large bookshops in the historic center of the city, where you can also enjoy a snack at their cafe. There are still some specialized bookstores, for example in travel, magic, gastronomy, scientific subjects, and some neighborhood bookstores, some of which offer books and games for children.
In all the districts of the city there are small laundromats. As with all services of this kind across the world, you can operate the machines by changing your cash for tokens and selecting the appropriate setting. At this point all is left is to wait while perhaps listening to music or reading a good book.
Nightlife in Florence
Many young Italians and foreigners live in Florence, so the city is characterized by a very rich nightlife. Italians are students of the many Departments of the University of Florence, while foreigners are mainly students who follow Study Programs Abroad at American Universities. On the weekend, many young people arrive from the suburbs to enjoy the city’s nightlife. In summer, the Municipality organizes a program of concerts and theatrical or cinematographic performances in all the districts of the city, in an event called “Florentine Summer”.
For several years now, bars have offered a buffet at the counter during aperitif hours, which is included in the price of each drink. It is therefore possible to participate in these aperitifs with a cost ranging from 5 to 12 Euros. Many bars offer good music throughout the night and open spaces, especially in the city squares.
In the center of the city there are some historic discos, where Italians and foreigners meet. In this case admission includes a drink with the exception of when there are live gigs. The largest discos are at the entrance to the Cascine Park or in the more distant suburbs. There are all kinds, from rock music to ballroom dancing.
The beautiful city squares are transformed at night into outdoor areas where you can sit, eat, drink and listen to good music. Particularly charming are Piazza Santo Spirito and Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, where the bars set up their chairs and tables outdoors, along the entire perimeter of the square. In summer in most of these squares stages are set up for concerts, theatrical performances and debates.
I believe we have reached the end of our introduction to the city of Florence. We will now go into the details of each theme we have dealt with so far. We hope that you can use these tips directly for your stay in the city and that you will easily discover the secrets of this beautiful city. Perhaps thanks to our indications and learning the language you will soon feel a little Florentine.