Where to Live

Where to live in Florence

Florence (Firenze) is popular Italian city, especially with internationals. Discover everything about its neighborhoods before calling this beautiful place home.

Florence
writer

By Lisa Harvey

Updated 8-1-2024

Do you want to move to Italy, but need help deciding to which city? Consider Florence – often called Bella Firenze or Beautiful Florence, the capital of Tuscany. It also boasts an active international community. This famous little city ranks highly for its impressive architecture, art collections, and museums. Of course, residents also enjoy the delicious local cuisine and Italian culture.

Despite Florence’s compact geography, the city boasts ten unique neighborhoods in the historic center. Each one has its own personality, with century-old traditions.

Follow this in-depth review of Florence’s neighborhoods to see where you will feel the most at home:

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Florence overview

Florence is the capital of Tuscany, located in the northern part of central Italy. It nestles into the valley of the Arno River. Florence, located in central Italy, has a long and illustrious history dating back to the Roman Empire. It was a significant center of trade and commerce in the medieval period and became the birthplace of the Renaissance.

Skyline (with city lights) - Florence, Italy at sunset
Florence, Italy (Photo: Fab Lentz/Unsplash)

Some of history’s most famous artists, writers, and scholars – including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Dante Alighieri – called Florence home. Today, the city continues to be a popular destination for people worldwide, visiting its many museums, churches, and other historical landmarks.

Summers are hot, with average temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, often reaching 40 in August. Winters are chilly but still humid, with temperatures ranging from 7–10 degrees Celsius (January).

The greater Florence city includes five districts (quartieri), including:

  • District 1 – Centro Storico (Historic Center)
  • District 2 – Campa di Marte
  • District 3 – Gavinana-Galluzzo
  • District 4 – Isolotto-Legnaia
  • District 5 – Rifredi
Florence districts map
Source: Nilo Glock/Wikimedia Commons

It’s difficult to summarize all that these districts have to offer. Still, all are only minutes away from the center of Florence and can give you a very different, and more authentic perspective as to what living everyday Italian life is without the hectic tourism vibe of the center.

Florence (Firenze) has been the Italian city of art and architecture since the 13th century for world-famous masterpieces like Michelangelo’s David and Brunelleschi’s Duomo. Most of these monuments and sites are located in District 1.

District 1 – Centro Storico

Centro Storico contains ten neighborhoods within the road that circumnavigates the city inside the old wall ruins. Tourism in the center is heavy, but there is still a thriving local lifestyle if you know where to look. District 1 is the Florence everyone imagines, and this article will dive into the central neighborhoods specifically.

For more adventurous expats, finding a home further away from the tourism can be a more affordable and spacious option.

District 2 – Campo di Marte

The Campo di Marte neighborhood is home to the Florence soccer stadium, Stadio Artemio Franchi. It also has its own train station that connects to the city center and surrounding areas. You can find more housing options here, with larger apartments on the market. Housing includes a mixture of historic and newer builds (circa 1950)

The neighborhood is also more residential than the center. Still, it is close enough to the main shopping street.

District 3 – Gavinana – Galluzzo

This district has much less tourism but is only a short walk or ride to the center. Smaller shops are typical, and there is a tight-knit community with local markets and festivals throughout the year.

Housing can range from a small apartment to a house with a yard. Normally property prices are lower than in the center of Florence. Families also enjoy picnics and parties on the large green spaces next to the river.

District 4 – Isolotto-Legnaia

District 4 stretches out into the Arno valley with more modern architecture and one of the city’s main tram lines. Still, public transport links are less and more people own cars.

The Isolotto neighborhood is known for its larger apartment buildings and several green spaces, many with playgrounds. Many homes are available at lower costs than in the city center. The area becomes more industrial towards Legnaia, but you can still find a home with a more outside space.

District 5 – Rifredi

The Rifredi neighborhood is known for its large student population because of the proximity of the University of Florence. There’s a mix of smaller older homes and newer construction. The second tram line also runs through this district. For green space, you can visit the large Parco di San Donato.

Rifredi is the hip, up-and-coming district with plenty of affordable real estate.

Cost of living in Florence

Daily life in Florence is generally more expensive than in other areas of Italy. Typically, businesses set their prices for the tourists, not locals. In 2022, the average annual Italian income (in Italian) is just over €29,000 before taxes, according to the latest reports from the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro or CGIL (in Italian).

Even regular expenses can be a big part of your income. However, if you work remotely and earn a higher salary, prices may seem reasonable, which is one of Italy’s appeal for internationals.

Il Sole 24 Ore (in Italian) has analyzed the quality of life in Italian cities based on forty-two different areas. In 2022, Florence is ranked third overall, first in the culture and free time category, and sixth for demographics, society, environment, and services.

However, Florence slipped from the top ten for wealth, consumption, and security due to expensive rentals, small spaces, and high theft rates driven by tourism in the area.

Vibrant international community

This rise in the cost of living in the center may be why Italians have been moving away. Many of these residents have rented their homes to foreigners and international students, creating a vibrant expat community in this area. Just browse Facebook groups like Foreigners in Florence or The Creative People of Florence to find them.

Woman buying food at a deli market in Florence
Photo: Charles Büchler/Unsplash

These groups are also great resources for job hunting if you want to work while in Italy. Florence also seems tolerant and open to diversity. For example, the LGBTQIA+ community has a strong voice in the city with the annual Pride Month celebrations, and numerous gay bars throughout downtown.

Accessibility

Florence’s topography is relatively flat (as opposed to the Tuscan hills towns), making it easier for someone with limited mobility to move around the city. However, its centuries-old architecture, and dearth of elevators in buildings or level doorways make it less accessible.

Public transportation in Florence

Autolinee Toscane (in Italian) runs public transportation in Florence with bus and tram lines across the city and out to the airport. Although the system isn’t perfect, using public transport in Italy can be easier than driving a car as almost all of Centro Storico is in the limited traffic zone (zona traffico limitato – ZTL).

Trams at Firenze Santa Maria Novella station
Trams at Firenze Santa Maria Novella station (Photo: Guido Cozzi/Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

Only taxis, government or emergency vehicles, public buses, and residents with permits can access this area. So, if you want to live more sustainably, walking, biking, taxis, and public transportation may the way to go.

You can buy a single ticket for the bus and tram lines. A ticket costs €1,50, which you can buy at any tabaccheria, or larger tram and bus stations (e.g., Piazza San Marco). Once you have the paper ticket, validate it in the yellow machine onboard the bus or tram. It will stamp the date and time on the end of your ticket, starting the 90 minute validity time.

You can also buy a digital ticket using your phone credit (€1.80). Simply send a text to the number 4880105 with the message FIRENZE. You’ll receive a 90-minute ticket.

Employment and business

The Employment Center of Florence – serving all Centro Storico neighborhoods – is located right by the Duomo. It offers assistance to those looking for work and can answer questions about job vacancies and employment opportunities. Having some knowledge of Italian is recommended when you make an appointment for a consultation.

With tourism being the primary employment sector in Florence, many shops, hotels, and restaurants need multilingual staff. Other fields offering expats work opportunities include, tourism offices, international schools, childcare, and teaching English as a second language.

For more multilingual job opportunities in Florence, you can search the Florentine Classifieds, and social media groups like Foreigners in Florence and English speaking jobs in Florence – Italy. Many smaller businesses still prefer to post job vacancies on their windows. It never hurts to drop a resume (curriculum vitae – CV) wherever you see these signs.

Before starting your job search, ensure you have an Italian work visa. Offers to work without a contract (in nero) are common for those without legal documentation. However, these jobs are illegal and can land you in trouble with the authorities.

Schools and education facilities

Historically, many of society’s greatest thinkers came from Florence. The Italian education system comprises optional kindergarten, compulsory primary school, and eight years of secondary school. You can use the official school search website to find your closes public school.

Teenage school boys playing football in a piazza in Florence
Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

However, many expats send their children to international schools like The International School of Florence (one of the oldest international in Europe).

There are also many study abroad programs (e.g., Lorenzo de Medici), Italian language schools (e.g., Giorgio la Pira), art schools (e.g., Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze), and many more. All of these facilities are centrally located and within easy reach from anywhere in the city.

Healthcare and doctors

The Santa Maria Nuova Hospital is in the center of the city, allowing easy access to an emergency room and full healthcare services. The Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria Careggi is Florence’s main hospital in the Rifredi district. It is easily reachable by bus, tram, or taxi.

If you’re planning on living long-term in Florence, you can register with the government healthcare system. For those who are not yet fluent in Italian, there are many private English-speaking doctors (e.g., Medical Service Firenze).

Pharmacists can also prescribe medication for minor illnesses. You can easily recognize a pharmacy by an illuminated green cross outside its door.

How to find housing in Florence

To start searching for your dream home in Florence, you can browse classified ads, Facebook groups, and real estate websites or hire a real estate agency.

If you know some Italian, start with real estate websites to become familiar with the locations and types of housing in your price range. Some of the top real estate websites are:

You can also see if there are any recent listings in the local classifieds (e.g., The Florentine), a great resource for finding information on everyday life in Florence. Many also access expat social media groups to ask for recommendations or look for private listings.

If you still need to become fluent in Italian, plenty of English-speaking real estate agents in the Florence area will be happy to help.

Typical accommodation

In Florence, there isn’t a typical style of housing. All are unique in their layouts and structures. For example, you can find a mansion with a sprawling grand entrance next to tiny studio apartments.

Woman cycling on street in the late afternoon, past apartments in Florence
Photo: Ilnur Kalimullin/Unsplash

If you’re looking for outdoor space, some apartments have balconies or terraces, while ground-floor flats can have small yards. Some condominiums also have a common outdoor space accessed by all residents.

Renting a home

Though it is possible to find studios for €500–600 a month, the range can go as high as €15,000 and above for a luxury apartment.

You can look for rental listings on platforms like Spotahome, or contact local agencies specializing in Florence rental properties.

These include:

With some sites, you can opt to stay in a furnished apartment instead of a hotel. These monthly rentals may save you money and be more comfortable, when finding a more permanent home takes a while. Airbnb is another option for temporary accommodation.

Buying a house

Buying property in Italy can be a long and complicated process with lots of red tape and paperwork.

If you want to buy an apartment in Florence, first, know your budget so that you can be realistic in your search criteria (i.e., location, property type, size). Second, establish if the property would need renovations, which would stretch your budget further.

Average property prices in Florence range from €100,000 – for a tiny studio apartment – to millions of euros for a ten-room penthouse.

The neighborhoods of Centro Storico in Florence

This entire area is relatively small, fitting into the surface area of Lower Manhattan in New York City. Each neighborhood has at least one piazza (square), an integral part of Italian culture. In a piazza, you get insight into the community’s heart and soul as this is where residents meet, eat, relax, visit markets, and celebrate with festivals.

Centro Storico Firenze map (Map of District 1, Florence's Historic Center)
Source: TravelMarx

The historic city center comprises ten distinct neighborhoods, namely:

  • Duomo
  • Santa Maria Novella
  • San Lorenzo
  • San Marco and Annunziata
  • Sant’Ambrogio
  • Santa Croce
  • Oltrarno (Santo Spirito, San Frediano, San Niccolò)

Duomo

The Duomo neighborhood, including Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza del Duomo, and Piazza della Signoria is the busiest in Florence. Its central city apartments are sought-after by young and international residents.

Crowded street in the city center (Centro) of Florence
A crowded street in central Florence (Photo: Maxime Steckle/Unsplash)

However, this area’s tourist crowds may be too much for some; noise at night is one of the residents’ biggest complaints. Still, despite the area’s high foot traffic, the streets are generally clean and well-kept.

Environment

If you dream of waking up to the gorgeous red terracotta-tiled Duomo (cathedral) outside your window, this is where you want to live. Granted, it only offers little green space, but if you enjoy a vibrant night life and like trying the local cuisine at different restaurants, this is the place to be. Of course, Duomo’s visual appeal includes the cobblestone streets, grand piazze (squares), and gorgeous architecture.

Facilities

You’ll find Florence city hall located in Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the city government since the 14th century.

The Duomo neighborhood boasts many restaurants and nightlife hot spots, but the quality can vary significantly. To find authentic Florentine favorites, it’s always best to ask the locals.

To feel like a real Florentine, grab a coffee while standing at the bar (sitting down costs more) in Caffè Gilli or Caffè Scudieri. These institutions haven’t changed for generations.

What the Duomo is best for

The Duomo neighborhood really is for those who want everything at their fingertips and be in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. It is a neighborhood that never truly sleeps.

Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella – a diverse, multicultural neighborhood – takes its name from the Santa Maria Novella Church and piazza, west of the Duomo. Florence’s main train station – Santa Maria Novella (Stazione di Santa Maria Novella) – is central to the area.

Exterior of the Santa Maria Novella church
Santa Maria Novella (Photo: Sunil Bhardwaj/Pexels)

It is also the central hub for the tramway network (i.e., Line 1, 2, and 3), which has been operational since 2010. Trams are part of Florence’s environmental mission to create a greener city. For example, 10,000 people use Line 1 (T1) daily, meaning 1,900 fewer cars and 800 fewer motorcycles, resulting in lower CO2 emissions. New tram lines connecting the surrounding districts and neighboring cities have been planned for years. The newest line to the north of the city will be completed by early 2024, with additional lines following.

Environment

Housing in this area is more affordable. However, as often the case with an area near the train station, Santa Maria Novella may not be as aesthetically pleasing as other neighborhoods. Living spaces can be small and cramped.

Facilities

Near the Piazza Santa Maria Novella (main square), you will find many hotels, restaurants, and larger retail stores. Closer to the river, small, independent shops like Todo Modo bookstore/cafe (with a great English book selection) and Antico Cafè del Moro/Art Bar Firenzi are hip hangouts for the local international crowd.

Cascine Park (Parco delle Cascine) – the largest green space in Florence – borders this district on the west. You will find one of Florence’s many community pools (which opens only in summer) here.

The US Consulate building is also in the neighborhood and easily accessible by US nationals living in this area.

What Santa Maria Novella is best for

Santa Maria Novella may be an excellent option if you need to be near the train station, have a smaller budget, and prefer ample green public space.

San Lorenzo

The San Lorenzo neighborhood is most famous for its leather and food markets, attracting large crowds of tourists. Of course, the San Lorenzo Church (Basilica di San Lorenzo) and Medici Chapels are also well-known landmarks. Many immigrants settle here, encouraging a more diverse culture and international cuisine.

Environment

The well-known Mercato Centrale (Central Market) in San Lorenzo is a thriving outdoor leather market specializing in high-quality jackets, gloves, bags, and shoes. It attracts large crowds of tourists, raising the noise level significantly early mornings and at night.

Colorful leather handbags at the leather markets of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy
Mercato Centrale, San Lorenzo, Florence (Photo: sanniely/Getty) Images

Many immigrants are working in the leather market and choose to live nearby. Like Santa Maria Novella, housing in San Lorenzo is more affordable but the quality of homes can be lower.

Facilities

The migrant communities in San Lorenzo have opened specialty businesses, such as Vivi market (including international groceries and diverse hair salons), tucked between traditional Florentine lunch spots and museums.

The central neighborhood square, Piazza San Lorenzo, is populated by street artists. Many residents gather on the church steps to people-watch or enjoy the sun. Festivals like the Feast of San Lorenzo (on 10 August) has a huge turnout every year.

What San Lorenzo is best for

If a vibrant late-night atmosphere appeals to you and you are looking for more affordable accommodation, look no further than San Lorenzo. You will also be close to the train station – easy access to public transportation – and the magnificent Duomo.

San Marco and Annunziata

In the north of the city center, you will find San Marco and San Annunziata. These neighborhoods take their names from their patron church and main piazza. It is also home to one of the main transport hubs for the city busses that run through Florence.

Environment

You will find many hotels, hostels, residential apartment buildings, and student housing in this area. The slightly wider streets allow for more natural light inside apartments and many hidden green spaces.

Students chatting on stone steps in front of large wooden doors - possibly at the university
Photo: Emma Innocenti/Getty images

It is a family-friendly area, with more of a local neighborhood than a touristy atmosphere. Many families spend time on the piazze over the weekend or after school during the week. Young European and Italian students also make up a large proportion of the resident demographics, wanting to be close to the University of Florence (Università degli studi Firenze).

Facilities

Despite San Marco being more residential than San Lorenzo or Duomo, it still offers its residents many small businesses, independent shops, and restaurants. Locals can also relax in cozy cafés or browse well-known museums. For example, the Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery) exhibits one of the world’s most famous statues, Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David. You will also find the fascinating Museo degli Innocenti, exhibiting art, history, and architecture located on Piazza Annunziata.

Of course, residents and visitors can enjoy many markets, events, and festivals throughout the year.

What San Marco and Annunziata is best for

San Marco and Annunziata could offer a quieter neighborhood not too far from the Duomo vibe. The mix of international and Italian families create a dynamic and culturally diverse place to live.

Sant’Ambrogio

The Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood is quieter with fewer tourists, yet well known for its market, Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. Although the streets become more residential as they stretch toward the Arno River, its banks are still populated with large hotels.

Environment

This neighborhood maintains its slower Florentine daily pace, with families strolling through the tree-filled Piazza d’Azeglio or hanging out under the loggia in Piazza dei Ciompi. The Florence Synagogue (circa 1882) reflects the strong Jewish influence, also seen in the many restaurants and shops specializing in kosher recipes.

Facilities

Though smaller than the Central Market in San Lorenzo, the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is where locals shop for fresh produce. Just across the street is the permanent antiques market, Mercato delle Pulci (Flea Market) where you can treasure hunt for hours.

Artisan building a model of wooden ship at his stall in the flea market (Piazza dei Ciompi)
Piazza dei Ciompi (Photo: De Agostini/Getty Images)

Many artisans still have their workshops in the area and unique storefronts entice passersby on the main avenues. There are also a few neighborhood hangouts, like Le Murate, an old prison turned into a literary cafe.

What Sant’Ambrogio is best for

Sant’Ambrogio is great for those looking to still be in the center of Florence but prefers a quieter atmosphere with a few hip hangouts, green spaces, a great market, and festivities in the piazze.

Santa Croce

The Santa Croce neighborhood is famous for the Santa Croce Church (Basilica di Santa Croce) with the tombs of Galileo, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo. The large piazza in front of it dates back to 1294.

It also boasts a lively nightlife, making it popular with tourists. Despite its lack of green spaces, it is still a densely populated area where residents can stroll to the Arno River.

Environment

The streets of Santa Croce are filled with restaurants, hotels, bars, and gift shops. Historically an area for creatives, you will still find a few studios and workshops in the back streets, attracting many tourists.

Facilities

Via dei Benci (i.e., a popular street) is lined with late-night bars frequented by young Florentines on the weekends and tourists and international students throughout the weeknights. The Piazza Santa Croce is the perfect square for concerts, festivals, and markets, such as the Florence Christmas Market, and the Calcio Storico Fiorentino (i.e., ancient football matches).

Players tackling each other at the Calcio Storico Fiorentino ancient football games
Calcio Storico Fiorentino (Photo: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

Residents frequent Via dei Neri, a street famous for its cheap fair of culinary delights. If you have a sweet tooth, visit Vivoli, one of the best ice cream parlors (gelateria) in Sante Croce.

What Santa Croce is best for

Like Duomo, this neighborhood is better for a younger crowd who prefer a vibrant city vibe to bigger living quarters. So, consider Santa Croce, if you want to experience the social scene, dine at countless eateries, find bargains or unique wares at pop-up markets, and attend events on the piazza.

Oltrarno (Santo Spirito, San Niccolò, San Frediano)

Florentines will sometimes reference the three neighborhoods on the south side of the Arno River inclusively as the Oltrarno, translating to ‘the other side of the Arno.’ This area is known for the Uffizi Gallery (Le Gallerie degli Uffizi), and the grand Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) divided into five museums:

  • Treasury of the Grand Dukes and Museum of Russian Icons, including the Palantine Chapel
  • The Palantine Gallery
  • The Imperial and Royal Apartments
  • The Gallery of Modern Art
  • Museum of Costume and Fashion
Tourists and art sellers gather in the Vasari Corridor of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence on a sunny day.
Vasari Corridor of Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (Photo: Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images)

Behind the Palazzo Pitti, is the magnificent Boboli Gardens (Giardino di Boboli), with vast green spaces, grottos, and large fountains. These gardens, originally established by the Medici family, became the blueprint for many European court gardens.

Further south, on the hills, locals and tourists alike can enjoy the panoramic views from Piazzale Michelangelo, designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Poggi.

Environment

In the past decade, tourists have discovered Oltrarno, accounting for a mix of visitors and residents on the piazze. The artisan vibe permeates the neighborhoods, and chic cafés have popped up in recent years.

Facilities

Piazza del Carmine and Piazza Tasso are two other squares attracting local community members.

In the evening, Santo Spirito fills for dinner and drinks with crowds of young Florentines and internationals flooding the church steps to socialize.

Tucked just under the hill of the Piazzale, San Niccolò, a tiny neighborhood with only a few streets, is known for its quaint cafés and even more artisan shops. The area has multiple green spaces along the Arno and around the Piazzale. It is an excellent location if you prefer Florence’s quieter, more artistic side.

What Oltrarno is best for

Both the Florentine and international communities have a strong presence here, and many love the more serene lifestyle on the other side of the river. Living spaces may be bigger, but housing can be more expensive with fewer properties on the market. Artists especially love this area, but families also find a comfortable home in the community-minded neighborhood.

Neighborhoods to avoid in Florence

Generally, Florence is a safe city, concerning serious and threatening crimes. According to Sole 24 Ore Crime Index (2022), the most common types of crime include theft (including pickpocketing/snatch thefts), robberies, and home break-ins.

Year-round tourism creates many opportunities for scammers and pickpockets – especially in the Duomo, Santa Maria Novella, and Santa Croce neighborhoods – so it’s best to stay vigilant throughout the city, especially at night.

Tips on choosing a neighborhood

All this information may leave you overwhelmed and no closer to choosing which central neighborhood in Florence you want to settle. Here are a few tips for making a decision:

  • Do your research even before you move to Italy by talking to Italian colleagues, friends, or expat communities online
  • Explore the city! Stay in a centrally located, short-term rental or hotel, and walk around, exploring neighborhoods by day and night to get a feel for them
  • Use public transport (or a taxi, car, or bicycle) to figure out the best way to get around the city, commute further afield, and where to park (if available)
  • Consider your priorities: be close to your work or an international school? Want green spaces, piazze, cafés, and restaurants nearby? Prefer a quieter, family-friendly neighborhood or to be near the action?
  • Be realistic about your budget and the type of housing you want, as this may limit the areas you can consider
  • Reach out to a few rental agencies (e.g., Spotahome) familiar with expats to share your criteria and get their expert advice

Useful resources