In planning your vacation to Florence, you might be asking yourself: which area of Florence should I stay in? is there a particular area or neighborhood that is better/safer than others? As far as where to stay, you essentially have 3 choices: the historical center, outside of the center but still within the city and outside of Florence in the surrounding countryside. Which one you choose depends on your preferences, so let's start by looking at each and when we would recommend each one.
The historical center in Florence
The center of the Renaissance city of Florence is actually quite small, easily walkable from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes and contains almost all of the main sights you'll be seeing in Florence. So staying within its boundaries makes lots of sense, particularly if your time is very limited and want to see most of the main sights in that short time plan your itinerary in advance starting from your accommodations.
Take a look at the map to the right: see that yellow ring? That "ring" pretty much marks the historical center of Florence and where you'll be during most of your visit to the city. This area corresponds to the oldest part of the city, the ring is the boulevard built where most of the 13th century walls that circled the town were torn down in the 19th century. If you drive in Florence, you'll likely drive on these "viali" that circle the downtown area, making sure to not go into the center as it is a limited-traffic zone open to only those with permits.
This part of Florence is so small, that you pretty much walk everywhere! You can stay by the main train station called Santa Maria Novella (SMN) and just be 5 minutes from the Duomo. If you're right by the Duomo, you'd be just 5 minutes from Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. These are all walking distance times! So this should give you an idea of how concentrated everything is in Florence's historical center. The center is closed off to motor traffic so visiting on foot is the best way to see Florence.
So where to stay within the center? My recommendation is to look at accommodations and choose based on the one you really like. Since all of the main sights are so close to each other, it won't matter what area you are in within the center. If you want to be right in the very heart of Florence, I'd suggest staying anywhere between Piazza San Marco to the north, Piazza Santa Croce to the east, Ponte Vecchio and the Arno to the south and Piazza Santa Maria Novella to the west. This is also the area most busy with visitors all throughout the day, and in the summer, late into the evenings. You could also stay in the Oltrarno to the south of the Arno river to be among the artisan workshops, antique furniture galleries and to the Pitti Palace and Boboli gardens - but you won't be out of the historical center. You will always be within a short walking distance from everything, all the monuments, squares and churches as well as restaurants, shops and main museums.
What you do find in Florence is that some areas might be more appropriate over others for various reasons. For example, if you're interested in night life, then I'd recommend staying near Via dei Benci in the Santa Croce area or near Piazza Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno: lots of pubs and discos along the first one and pubs and restaurants in the second that are open until late at night. Most restaurants are open until midnight in any case across all of Florence. At the same time, streets off these main areas are generally quiet despite the high traffic nearby - and any room away from the street will definitely be more quiet than one facing a street. If you want to be in the middle of it all, with many people about, I'd highly recommend staying near Piazza San Lorenzo: with the daily market on the streets surrounding the church and the main food market a short walk away, you will find lots of activity and chances to buy gifts for yourself, friends and family to take back with you!
See a selection of lodgings in the center of Florence here.
Staying in Florence but outside of the center
You can also opt to stay out of the historical center for various reasons. The main advantage would be to your wallet as it can definitely cost less per night to sleep outside of the historical center. Another very good reason I'd recommend staying out of the center if you would prefer a highly residential area where you can experience the daily life of local Florentines or if you arrive to Florence with a car. Since the historical center is off-limits to anyone without a permit, I highly recommend parking the car outside the center and forgetting about it but if you stay outside of the center, the car will definitely be more accessible if you want to use Florence as your base to visit other areas of Tuscany on day trips. A B&B or hotel outside the center might offer private parking in addition to the street parking available in the area so that is another plus.
Also depending on where you stay you might not be that far out of the center: if you stay right outside of the ring road that surrounds the center in Piazza Beccaria or near Piazzale Michelangelo, for example, you are still only about 15-20 min walking distance from the Duomo!
Here is a selection of lodgings in the areas outside of the center that I'd recommend staying in, without being too far away from all of the sights:
- Fortezza da Basso
- Piazza Beccaria
- Porta al Prato
- Piazza della Libertà
- Poggio Imperiale
- Piazzale Michelangelo/San Niccolò
- Campo di Marte
- Via Bolognese
- and if you need to be close to the airport, take a look at these.
Which are the safest neighborhoods to stay in?
Florence is small and a very safe city. The question about where to stay sometimes is made to find out if there are any areas to stay away from. While larger cities might have "shady" areas - Florence does have some rather rundown streets considering how old it is, as well as its share of graffiti - given its small size, the high amount of visitors and the many residents still living in the center, make all areas of Florence safe to stay in. The center is always alive with people shopping, visiting and exploring its many sights and you feel safe walking around at any time of day.
This is not to say that there isn't any crime. Just like most cities in the world, there is petty crime and you just need to pay attention and alert to pickpockets and stay on well-lit, populated streets at night. Employ what your common sense tells you, and you will have the greatest time visiting and exploring Florence's many tiny, medieval streets and its many wonders!
Staying in the hills around Florence
If you're using Florence as your base from which to visit the rest of Tuscany, you might also opt to stay in the outskirts or in the surrounding hills which offer the opportunity to benefit from being close to the city as well as enjoy the relative quiet of the countryside. With more space, lodgings in the hills of Florence will have their own parking as well as large outdoor areas and gardens which often include a swimming pool, great for the summer months and perfect for families with young kids! By staying outside of Florence, you'll experience the best of both worlds: Florence just a short bus ride away and the rest of Tuscany at your fingertips for exploration. If you stay out of Florence in the countryside, we would recommend renting a car to move around.
Ready to look for the perfect place to stay? See the selection of lodgings recommended within:
- the historical center of Florence
- villas in outskirts and hills surrounding Florence
- B&B's near Florence
Hope you find the perfect place for you and enjoy your visit to Florence!