Florence is a tiny city but it packs a big punch. It is a popular tourist destination because of its incredible Tuscan cuisine, outstanding art and architecture, as well as the Renaissance history that seeps from every stone. It is small enough that you can walk from one side of Florence to another in 30 minutes. However, each neighborhood has its own charm. This will impact how you feel about Florence. There are seven neighborhoods in the city center (or centro storico), and this is without crossing the bridge to the Oltrarno. Although you can walk only 5 minutes to the duomo, each of Florence’s historic centers, which are UNESCO-designated, has something unique.
Our guide will help you find the best Florence neighborhoods for your stay.
Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella, a neighborhood in Florence, can be divided into two parts. The more dangerous streets near the train station are the most unsafe. But the residential area between Santa Maria Novella Church and the Arno River is the most eclectic. There are many lovely hotels, as well as some that leave something to be desired. The Dominican Basilica is the most notable of these, with a few bars and some alfresco dining options that range from neighborhood pubs to quiet cafes.
You’re a confident online booker and you want to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere. You’re also looking for an affordable hotel in central Florence.
Santa Maria Novella Train Station
Although technically part of Santa Maria Novella, the streets nearest the train station are slightly more grittier than those in the rest. The area is convenient for people who don’t have much time. It is just 10 minutes away from the Duomo and other major sites. It is also centrally located and the most affordable. This is where we stay for our work trips to Florence.
Stay here when: Your budget is tight; you have an early morning train; you don’t need to travel the city at night; your booking was last-minute and there aren’t any other hotels in the area; you don’t mind walking a few minutes outside of the city’s center.
Fortezza da Basso
To the east of the train station is the Florence neighborhood of Fortezza. Although it might not look like much, this is exactly what makes it so appealing. It is far from tourist hubs and yet within walking distance to the main attractions of the city. It’s not fully pedestrianized so you might see a few more cars. However, there’s also the Fortezza (16th century) complex, which is now a convention center. There are many restaurants that offer traditional Florence foods like the Lampredotto and the Ribollita vegetable soup.
Stay here, if: If you are looking for a quiet and residential stay in Florence; close to the train station but a little more up-market than Santa Maria Novella. You have come to Florence to attend a convention.
San Lorenzo is the market area, located between the Duomo and the train station. It is a chaotic and bustling neighborhood. This area of Florence is close to attractions such as the Renaissance Basilica di San Lorenzo or the nearby Medici chapels. These are like little islands in the middle the street market that sells clothing, souvenirs and leather goods. It is worth visiting the covered San Lorenzo Market. Look around the stalls located on the ground floor, which sell fresh fish, meat, vegetables. Then, head up to the food court at the top.
Stay here, if: If you thrive on chaos and crowds; If you want to discover Florence’s food culture, then browse the huge outdoor market for great bargains; If you find a good price on a room; If the center is your favorite place;
Santissima Annunziata und San Marco
The reputation of the Santissima Annunziata area to the north Florence is not great. It is not well-known for its traffic and aggressive panhandlers. Also, it is far from the heart of the action in Florence. It is a great budget option for Florence and has many attractions. For example, the namesake piazza houses the stunning Santissima Annunziata Basilica, and lots of history. Ospedale Degli Innocenti is also located in the neighborhood. It was the first European orphanage and was established during the Black Death, when over half of Florence’s population died. Further south, close to San Marco Church, is the Etruscan Archaeological Museum. It also houses the Accademia, which holds the statue of Dave.
Stay here when: If you are looking for the hippie-friendly place to stay in Florence, it is possible to find one along a quiet street. You can walk from anywhere in Florence and still have great food and nightlife right underneath your hotel.
The city’s bullseye is the Duomo. It’s the heart of action and the most expensive and touristy place to stay in italy, as usual. This neighborhood’s actual name is San Giovanni. However, we include the stunning Piazzadella Signoria here. Florence’s main hotel district. But be aware that while some hotels are a high-end luxury experience, others hide behind their star location. The Florence Duomo neighborhood is not a place to avoid tourists. You’ll be there, among others, but just steps from the stunning Cathedral, Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery.
You are not looking for money; you’re here for a brief time; you’re unable to or unwilling to walk long distances but want to see the main attractions; you don’t mind tourists; the convenience is what you seek; Florence is your destination for a room with a beautiful view.
Santa Croce is most famous for its massive Basilica. The interior walls are decorated with intricate frescoes of Giotto. These chapels also serve as the final resting places for many of the most prominent Italian thinkers and artists, such as Galileo and Michelangelo. The streets are filled with people who visit the many bars and restaurants along the streets for the popular aperitivo hour. You will also find a variety of hotels – there’s a hotel for every taste and budget on Via de’ Benci and Via de’ Macci.
Stay here, if: If you are looking to feel like a local and have a passion for Florentine art and want to explore the city; you enjoy a lively nightlife and don’t mind some noise at night. You also want to be close enough to walk to most of the popular bars and restaurants.
The quiet and family-oriented Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood is located east of Santa Croce. It is one of the most authentic Florentine neighborhoods on the Arno. It features attractions such as the Synagogue and Piazza dei Ciompi flea markets, as well as some of Florence’s finest and most affordable cuisine. Piazza dei Ciompi’s popular flea market on the last Sunday in each month sells everything from vintage furniture and clothing to teacups and lamps, mirrors, postcards, and even teacups. You’ll be able to experience Florentine life at its best if you are lucky enough to see one.
If: You are looking for somewhere to stay in Florence that isn’t touristy; you want to be in a quiet area but close to the center; you like the feeling of being in Florence; the people and the culture; you travel with children and enjoy the tranquility of the day but also the excitement of nightlife after dark.
Piazza Santa Trinita
Florence’s most well-known shopping strip is via de Tornabuoni. It spills into Piazza Santa Trinita named after the magnificent church that overlooks it. If you’re looking for a place to shop, this is the place to be! Gucci, Armani and Versace are all found in Tornabuoni. For more options, explore the narrow streets of medieval Tornabuoni. Even if you don’t shop, the neighborhood is clean and well maintained.
Stay here, if: Your idea of souvenir shopping involves designer labels; you want a luxurious hotel; the only tourist that you are willing to avoid is a well-dressed person; you want a close proximity to the Oltrarno; and you want to see a modern Florence set against the backdrop of medieval streets.
Along with the two other neighborhoods, Santo Spirito is found in the Oltrarno district. This encompasses literally the entire area “over Arno”. It was once a working-class area for artisans. You can still find workshops that are committed to preserving centuries-old handcraft traditions.
Just across the Ponte Vecchio, you will find the lively and popular Santo Spirito neighborhood. It is best known for its excellent restaurants and lively nightlife. This neighborhood of Florence is home to the Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens, and some of the original artisan shops that were established in Renaissance Florence. Spend a night at one of the many bars and restaurants that the area has to offer, and then visit the Santo Spirito Flea Market on the following day. It opens every Sunday.
Stay here, if: You’re looking for a vibrant neighborhood; you don’t mind a few hipsters.
San Niccolo is located to the east Santo Spirito, at the foothills of Florence’s hills. This neighborhood is becoming a popular spot for nightlife, perhaps due to Santo Spirito’s excess, but it doesn’t have many hotels. It’s still a great place to visit to get better prices for dinner and drinks, before heading back to the center storico. The beautiful San Miniato Church in PiazzaleMichelangelo is also located above the neighborhood. You can enjoy the most stunning sunset view of Florence from this location.
You want to be away from the crowds and still enjoy the nightlife of Santo Spirito. Even if you don’t find a suitable place to rest your head, it is worth visiting the area for its views, food, and peaceful walks.
San Frediano is located to the west from the Santo Spirito neighbourhood and is one of the most fascinating places to stay in Florence. This former working class borough, which stretches from the Oltrarno side of the Santa Trinita Bridge and westwards to Porta Pisana can still claim Florentines and artisans as its residents. It was once a bit too residential to be worth mentioning. But now it is the best place to stay in Florence if your friends want to hear that you “went there before it became popular”. San Frediano is home to enough great food, lodging, and culture that visitors won’t need to cross the river again.
Stay here if: You want to know more about Florence’s ancient artisan history and see how it juxtaposes with modern day Italy; you want to stay “off-the-beaten-path”; you don’t mind walking a bit; you want to stay somewhere “new”; you really detest the crowds; you don’t need to be near a major attraction.
You want to know more about Florence? Or what are your tips? Leave a comment to let us know what you think!