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Where to Stay in Florence in 2023 | Best Areas & Hotels

Where to Stay in Florence in 2023 | Best Areas & Hotels

Where to stay in Florence? The short answer to this question depends on whether you want to be surrounded by tourists or not. If you prefer crowded areas, choose the central areas.

But if you want a more relaxed atmosphere, and some alone time, choose those neighborhoods that are either a little further from the center, or on the other side of Arno. But, whatever your choice, it won’t be a mistake: Florence is simply magical.  

Where to Stay in Florence

Not many places can boast that they single-handedly brought the rebirth of European culture, created the first modern, national poet (Dante Alighieri), created the first modern painter (Giotto), and gave birth to the idea of Humanism. To be precise, only one place can boast of all these things, and that’s Florence.

Once the capital of the Italian kingdom, this relatively small city was home to some of the most famous people in modern human history: Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolo Machiavelli — and for some time, even Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

The concentration of historical buildings, beautiful churches, cathedrals, basilicas, and museums in Florence is simply unbelievable. Our guide is not short, but it nevertheless comes short of the awesome cultural splendor of this city that is simply hard to describe or enumerate.

Almost everything in Florence — literally every stone in its stone-made roads and buildings — is historically important. Lovers of culture, history, and art will have the best time of their life: Florence is simply made for them.

The most monumental part and most important expression of the Florentine spirit are its churches and its museums. You haven’t really seen Florence if you didn’t at least take a peek at  the Florence Cathedral, San Lorenzo Cathedral, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce basilica, the Uffizi Gallery, Bargello, Gallery of the Academy of Florence, and the Museo del Novecento.

All of them — in different shapes and sizes — are what you should be looking for. Florence is populated by Italians, and Italians just adore food. The Tuscan cuisine — Florence is the center of a region called Tuscany — is especially famous for its meat.

In addition to the pasta and the pizzas you’ll surely meet at every corner, make sure you try some quality Florentine beef steaks prepared in a traditional Tuscan way.

Finally, regardless of its Renaissance heritage and high cultural symbols, Florence is a living city — like every town and village in Italy. That means that its contemporary culture and atmosphere of everyday people is quite lively and vibrant.

The nightlife, especially in some parts of the city, is also great. That means that if you feel a little tired of churches, palaces, and museums, take a break, have a rich, nourishing lunch, and go and get tipsy in some of Florence’s nightclubs.

The 5 Best Parts of Florence

Where to Stay in Florence map in vector format featuring the 5 best areas of town

Florence has a lot of areas and all of them offer something distinctive, unique, and special. Most of Florence’s most representative things and places are located on the northern shores of the river arno, and consequently, they’re more attractive to tourists.

But, Florence is beautiful in its entirety. Make sure you visit the southern and less crowded parts, and get a well rounded picture of this magnificent city. The best areas include:

  • City Center: The perfect place for those who are visiting Florence for the first time, and want to get the hang of the city, and see its most recognizable monuments.
  • San Lorenzo and San Marco: Two small areas next to each other, where you can see Michelangelo’s David and learn about the famous Medici family.
  • Santa Maria Novella: Qute close to the biggest train-station in Florence, and suitable if you want to explore the wider area around the city.
  • Santa Croce: Less tourists, more authentic Italian natives, great leather shops, and a vibrant nightlife.
  • Santo Spirito: A famous area on the other side of Arno river, famous for its park and down-to-earth relaxed atmosphere, with almost no tourists.

Florence’s Best Areas and Hotels

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Florence had more than 11 million overnight stays, which means the city is always crowded with tourists. Consequently, there are a lot of hotels in Florence, covering the whole spectrum of prices:

From extremely cheap budget hotels, to moderately expensive three-star hotels, and lavishly luxurious five-star hotels located in 500-year-old buildings, there’s something for every budget. The city center is the best place for receiving first-time visitors, but it’s also the most expensive part of the city.

The area around the Duomo, together with the San Lorenzo and San Marco areas, which boast the most important attractions, are quite expensive, but nevertheless also offer budget and mid-range options.

For cheaper solutions, choose the other three neighborhoods: Santa Maria Novella near the train station; Santa Croce, in the western parts of Florence; or Santo Spirito, on the southern side of the river Arno. All of them are quite versatile, but have more budget hotels in comparison with the central areas.

1. City Center

Image of the city center area, one of the top picks for where to stay in Florence, pictured on a clear day

FLORENCE, ITALY – SEPT 26: Busy street life in center of the ancient Tuscany city with Cathedral and old houses on September 26, 2018. Historical Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site/Radiokafka/Shutterstock

There’s no better place to experience the birth of modern European culture than the center of Florence. The Renaissance is literally personified in its buildings, streets, and galleries, which you will surely meet along the way.

Our short summary is just a tiny sketch that can never represent the richness of the city center of Florence in a faithful way. Nevertheless, here are some of the most important things you have to see. Renaissance architecture started in Florence, and here you’ll find some of its most important specimens.

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or better known as the Florence Cathedral, completed by the famous Brunaleschi, is the obvious first choice. But, once you have the cathedral in full sight, you probably set foot on the Piazza del Duomo, and from here the story really begins.

The Duomo square is the absolute center of the city, and the location where you’ll find the following list of buildings: The Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery of St. John, and the Loggia del Bigallo.

All of them — including the Florence Cathedral — represent the cornerstone of Florentine culture, and you simply have to visit them. Some of the best museums in Florence (and in the whole world) are also here. The Uffizi Gallery offers the story of Renaissance art enclosed inside its walls.

Here you can see pictures by Giotto, Boticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vincy, Durrer, Caravagio — among many others. Museo Nazionale del Bargello is no less important, and its collection is not less imposing. Make sure you visit them both.

Like all city centers, all around the world, the center of Florence is the most crowded and the most expensive part of the city.

Some of the best shops in Florence are scattered throughout its streets, and if you want to spend a lot of money and buy something special, definitely stick to the center. The restaurant and the hotel situation are the same.

Some of the best and the oldest restaurants are located here, and the options are practically inexhaustible. The Tuscan food — both the steaks and the pasta — are particularly great. There’s a huge variety of luxurious hotels too, but also a lot of mid-range and budget options.

Things to Do

  • The Renaissance started in Florence, and its history is narrated mainly through its architecture. Start with Piazza del Duomo or the Cathedral Square and visit its most important monuments: the Florence Cathedral which is basically the symbol of the city; the Giotto’s Campanile adjacent to the cathedral, a testimony from the person who single-handedly initiated the Renaissance; the Florence Baptistery where Dante Alighiery (amongst other famous Florentines) was baptized; and the Loggia del Bigallo with its middle-age atmosphere.
  • You won’t find better museums than the ones existing in Florence. Two of them — located at the center — are just non-negotiable for the potential tourist: The famous collection in Uffizi Gallery of the renaissance masters; and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello (or simply Bargello) which holds — amongst others — statues by Michelangelo (his Bacchus), Donatello, Belini and Bernini.
  • Uffizi and Bargello are about a collective movement —- the Renaissance — and may be a little overwhelming. Visit places and exhibitions connected to representative people from the renaissance, like Leonardo da Vinci, Dante Alighiery, Galileo Galilei or Michelangelo. Go to House of Dante which tells the life story of the writer of the Divine Comedy;  the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum full of the machines he invented and projected; the Museo Galileo which is a collection of his scientific artifacts; and the Casa Buonarroti which speaks about the early Michelangelo.
  • The famous Medici family are as important as Dante and Michelangelo with their generous patronage and influence over the culture of the city. Make sure you go to Palazzo Vecchio which is today Florence’s Town Hall. It’s a majestic building, as beautiful and important as the numerous cathedrals and churches across Florence.

Where to Eat

  • Trattoria Dall’Oste is great if you’re a big fan of meat — and especially stakes, even while in Italy. The place is famous for serving certified meat, “from nature to the plate, from the world to Florence”, as they say on their website. They’re main offer is 12 different types of beef, provided from every part of the world.
  • Trattoria San Lorenzo Firenze is a modern Tuscan restaurant that serves traditional dishes and Florentine steaks. The restaurant already has a reputation as a historic place, especially famous for its wide palette of vines. The interior — the venue — is cozy and quiet, and there’s a nice terrace if you prefer to sit outside.
  • Osteria del Proconsolo is both a restaurant and a pizzeria, specially equipped to serve tourists and show them the typical dishes of Tuscan cuisine. Great pizza, Florentine steak, and grilled filet are served in an unforgettable environment, mainly because of the most important Florentine attractions that surround you from every side.

City Center Budget Hotels

  • Hotel Dali is a beautiful and cheap one-star hotel with a great location: Santa Maria Novella, San Marco Church and Strozi Palace are all within walking distance. Some of the rooms in the hotel have a fridge and a stovetop, but everybody gets free Wi-Fi. Also, there’s free parking.
  • Hotel Bavaria is a one-star hotel, located 200 meters from Florence Cathedral. The rooms are quite nice, decorated with frescoes, and antique furniture — and some of the rooms offer a view of the most important city attractions. On top of everything, the hotel is completely pet-friendly.

City Center Mid-Range Hotels

  • Hotel Alessandra is a great mid-range hotel located in a state-of-the-art 16th century building you’ll never forget. All the rooms are equipped with TVs, telephones, wooden floors, and free Wi-Fi. The large buffet on the premises offers a great and tasty meal every morning and 09:30. The only real problem with the hotel is the elevator: since the building is so old, the elevator is very small.
  • Hotel Davanzati is a three-star hotel with a perfect location — 700 meters from Santa Maria Novella, and 200 meters from Strozzi Palace. It’s a decent hotel, with TVs in every room and free Wi-Fi. The front desk works 24/7, and offers a lot of different educational tours around the city. It’s especially great for couples.

City Center Luxury Hotels

  • Hotel Bernini Palace is a five-star hotel located in a 15th century building,  in the absolute center of Florence — just five minutes from Ponte Vecchio. The hotel offers a great combination between traditionally Florentine furnished rooms, and modern air-conditioning, satellite TV, and free Wi-Fi all over the premises. The hotel also has a restaurant, a bar, and a beautiful terrace that offers a beautiful view of Florence.
  • Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy is a five-star hotel, located between the Uffizi Gallery and the Florence Cathedral — basically, a location that’s a dream come true for every visitor. There’s a restaurant, a bar, and a fitness center on the premises, and the rooms are furnished in a contemporary way (flat screen TVs, free Wi-Fi) with a slight pinch of traditional Florentine details.

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2. San Lorenzo and San Marco

Basilica of San Lorenzo pictured lit up at night for a piece on where to stay in Florence

Muratart/Shutterstock

Just to the north of Florence’s city center lie two small but distinctive neighborhoods: San Lorenzo and San Marco. They’re usually grouped together because of their size and their proximity — basically, it’s quite logical to see them as one bigger area.

No matter the technicalities, the San Lorenzo / San Marco area is quite exciting and interesting — mainly for its great cathedral, the most famous sculpture in the world, and the history of the Renaissance’s greatest art patrons. “The Church” in the area is obviously the great San Lorenzo Cathedral.

It’s one of the largest and oldest cathedrals in Florence, the resting place for most of the Medici family, and a living museum for artworks made by famous renaissance artists: namely, the church was designed by Brunaleschi, the interior by Donatello, and the library by Michelangelo.

Quite a trio, you may say.The second central place is basically the most visited museum in Florence: Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze with its central attraction — Michelangelo’s David.

But, don’t be a philistine! There are a lot of different things to see in the museum, besides Michelangelos’s masterpiece: works by Boticelli, from Andrea del Sarto, from Ucello etc. Finally, the third part (or parts) of the trio are the memorials connected to the history and legacy of the Medici family — the family that literally catalyzed the Renaissance in Florence.

The Medici Chapels were designed by Michelangelo, and are a part of San Lorenzo Cathedral; the Laurentian Library is their private library, and it was also designed by the old Master; and the Museum of Casa Martelli will show you how the family lived their everyday life.

San Lorenzo and San Marco have an especially lively and vibrant culture during the day. The restaurants are great, there’re a lot of budget hotels where you can spend your trip without overburdening your wallet.

Just don’t get too distracted from the Medicis and Michelangelo, and forget to visit the spectacular San Lorenzo market at the center of the city — it shows a genuine and authentic part of Italian culture.

Things to Do

  • Florence and Michelangelo are one of the most famous love triangles between a city, an artist and a family. Visit the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze and take a long look at David. But don’t stop there. Also look at the unfinished Prisoners intended for a tomb of a famous Pope; and the statue of Saint Matthew. Michelangelo is not the sole artist here: see works of art from other famous Renaissance masters like Ucello, Ghirlandaio —- Michelangelo’s teacher —- Boticelli, Del Sarto, and also some anonymous Russian icons.
  • Spend a day discovering the magnificent history and the incredible material legacy of the Medici family. First, go to the San Lorenzo Cathedral, since most of the things are located there: the Laurentian Library and the Medici Chapels are Michelangelo’s work. The Museum of Casa Martelli offers another day spent in an educative way; but also go to the Medici Dynasty show for a great multimedia experience.
  • The street market in San Lorenzo is one of the central attractions of the city. Let’s not forget that Italian culture is a lively folk culture — Decameron and the folk tales are as famous as the Divine Comedy — with a lot of respect for the simple things in life. Here you’ll find everything: arts, crafts, food, clothing, souvenirs — and most of all, an unforgettably vibrant atmosphere.
  • San Lorenzo and San Marco offer a wide variety of restaurants and are a great choice for foodies. Make sure you go and grab a bite at Mercato Centrale — the best time is lunch time; or do something surprising and unexpected: take a cooking course at Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici just next to the San Lorenzo market. Here you’ll learn everything about Mediterranean and Tuscan cuisine.

Where to Eat

  • Godi Fiorenza – Corte e Cucina is a Tuscan restaurant which is the Travelers choice for 2022. It offers a great variety of authentic Florentine dishes, made with a pinch of modern touch. The restaurant is famous for two other things: you can get your meals from a private chef, and there is a wide range of cocktails from which you can choose. There are vegetarian and vegan options too.
  • Indian Restaurant Crown of India Florence is another Travelers choice restaurant that offers the best from the rich Indian cooking tradition. It’s famous for its both welcoming and elegant environment that’ll make you feel comfortable and special. Like almost all Indian restaurants, it offers great vegetarian and vegan options.
  • Matto Matto is a third Travelers choice restaurant in this area — there’s a lot of them, the food in these two neighborhoods is just great —- and a classic Italian steakhouse. Aside from the great meat that’s available on the menu — mainly beef —- but also great pizza, and other Mediterranean and Tuscan food. There are also vegetarian and vegan options.

San Lorenzo and San Marco Budget Hotels

  • Hotel Lorena is a cheap but beautiful two-star hotel with a perfect location —- just 5 minutes walk from the Medici Chapels. Every room has a TV and air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi, and some rooms offer a clear view of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. The breakfast that’s served every morning from 07:40 to 09:30 is quite nourishing, and will prepare you for an active day of sightseeing.
  • Florence Oasis is a decent and cheap three-star hotel located in one of the most favorite areas of Florence, especially suitable for couples. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, a shared lounge, and air-conditioning, and a TV, a desk, and private bathroom in every room. There’s also an Italian or à la carte breakfast every morning.

San Lorenzo and San Marco Mid-Range Hotels

  • HomEdo B&B is a four-star Bed and Breakfast that comes at a cheap price. Every room has air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs, a fridge and tea and coffee makers. There’s a bar that serves great breakfast every morning located just opposite the hotel, and — according to the reviews — the hotel is especially suitable for couples.
  • Hotel Caravaggio is a three-star hotel named after the famous baroque painter. The hotel has nicely furnished rooms, but they’re not its most famous quality: the bar and the restaurant are. There’s a calm garden right outside the hotel, where you can sip your drinks after a hard day of walking and sightseeing. The buffet also offers a tasty breakfast every morning — also available in the garden, too.

San Lorenzo and San Marco Luxury Hotels

  • Hotel Art Atelier is a great four star hotel in one of the best, central neighborhoods of Florence. Located 100 meters from Medici Chapels and other famous localities. The rooms are modern and luxuriously furnished, with free Wi-Fi and LCD TVs, parqueted —- or wooden —- floors, and marbled bathrooms. There’s also a bar and room service available, and the hotel is completely pet-friendly.
  • Globus Urban Hotel is another great four-star hotel with a great location: just a few minutes walk from Church of San Lorenzo. The rooms have flat screen TVs (with international channels), free Wi-Fi, and view — from some rooms — on the Medici chapels. The buffet serves a different breakfast every morning, with a lot of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

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3. Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella, one of our top picks for where to stay in Florence, Italy, pictured from the front garden in front of the monument looking past the church into the blue sky

D.Bond/Shutterstock

To the west from the city center, but quite close to it —- only ten minutes by foot — lies yet another beautiful neighborhood named after a famous cathedral: the area of Santa Maria Novella.

As you have noticed by now — since it’s a recurring theme —- almost all districts in Florence have a main church in their core which serves as the main attraction, and this one is not an exception. Santa Maria Novella is the third great church present in this guide, after Florence Cathedral and San Lorenzo Cathedral.

Like the previous two, the “New Holy Mary” is very old and very beautiful, and serves as one of the main symbols of Florence. Its distinctive facade, made by the famous Renaissance homo universalis (man capable of doing everything) Leon Albert gives it the distinctive look for which it is famous.

All your stools and sightseeing should begin and end here — near Santa Maria Novella. There are almost no areas in Florence without an important museum. You’ve already heard about the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia, and now it’s time you learned about another third option: the Museo del Novecento.

It’s not a secret that it’s not as famous as the places which hold the masterpieces of Michelangelo, but the lovers of 20th century modern art will have a blast in Novecento.

Most of the museum is about Italian modern art (the works of Giorgio de Chirico and the Italian futurists may ring a bell), but there are also works by international greats such as Braque, Kandinsky, Klee, Matisse, Mondrian and Picasso.

The third distinctive thing about this neighborhood is the largest train station in Florence, named after the Santa Maria Novella cathedral.

It’s ten minutes by foot at most, from any part of this area. This gives you a unique chance if you want to get somewhere else in Florence — namely, to travel to the wider area, or even visit Rome. For shorter, one-day trips that cost around 8 euros, visit Lucca, Siena, or San Gimignano. The accommodation options are broad and affordable.

There’s a great variety of budget, mid-range, and luxurious options: basically, Santa Maria Novella offers everything on the chart, from one extreme to the next, and that makes it a perfect choice for every kind of tourist. The restaurant situation is also great — like almost everywhere in Florence, to be fair.

Things to Do

  • Santa Maria Novella cathedral deserves all your time and attention. First because of its exterior, and second because of its interior. The facade is something you’ve never seen before (and probably would never see) and that’s why it’s the representative picture of all Florence. The interior, on the other hand, is full of artworks from the Italian masters: Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Boticelli, Duccio, Giorgio Vasari, and Massacio.
  • Santa Maria Novella is not the only historical important building in this area — there are many many more. Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, for example, is one of the oldest in the city (it was founded 1221), and it’s full of frescoes, statues, and paintings; Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano is one of the most beautiful baroque churches in Florence; the Palazzo Antinori is a beautiful 16th century home of the Antinori family; and Giardino degli Orti Oricellari is a famous garden.
  • Being close to the central train station in Florence —- the Santa Maria Novella train station — offers a wide range of possibilities for longer or shorter trips. The first choice is to have take of in the morning, probably to Lucca, Siena, or San Gimignano (which are quite nearby) and come back at you hotel the same night; and the second choice is to pack your bags and visit rome for the weekend or a few day — it’s also possible to have a one-day trip to Rome, but we don’t recommend it.
  • Have a go at the best museum for contemporary art in the whole of Florence: the beautiful and interesting Museo del Novecento. Here you’ll mostly see works by modern Italian artists, and find out that the Italian painting tradition isn’t only about the renaissance and the baroque. But, thanks to lucky circumstances and hard work, the museum has a variety of works from Internationally famous modern paintings, Picaso and Braque, for example.  

Where to Eat

  • La Cantinetta Winebar is a nice restaurant/bar with a cozy atmosphere. It’s located inside the hotel Croce di Malta and has a nice terrace where you can sit during the spring and summer months. The restaurant serves all kinds of meals — meat, pizza, pasta — but it’s especially famous for crostini di mozzarella e acciughe mozzarella. The vine list is quite extensive.
  • Trattoria Sostanza is all about simplicity, efficiency and tradition. It’s in business since late 1869, and serves mostly traditional Tuscan dishes. The dish you definitely have to order is their bistecca alla fiorentina, or the Florentine steak. The pasta —-  both as an antipasto or as the main meal is also a great option, and the chicken cooked in butter.
  • Trattoria da Giorgio is the perfect choice for those visitors of Santa Maria Novella that want to eat a traditional and authentic Italian meal, but prefer not to spend their life savings doing that. The atmosphere is both lively and casual, the many rich — regardless of the cheap price — and Friday is the definite day for eating fish.  

Santa Maria Novella Budget Hotels

  • Hotel Margaret is a quite cheap one-star hotel, on a ten minute walk from Florence Cathedral. There’s free Wi-Fi on the whole premises, a TV, and a private bathroom in every room —- and some of them (the rooms) have a balcony. There’s no available breakfast on the premises, but the place is quite close to a lot of restaurants and bars.
  • Hotel Delle Camelie is located between the train station and the historic center of Florence. This two-star hotel offers a great breakfast every morning, and facilities for disabled people. There’s also free Wi-Fi everywhere in the hotel.

Santa Maria Novella Mid-Range Hotels

  • B&B La Nannina is a three-star Bed and Breakfast with a great location: 10 minutes from Florence cathedral, and 200 meters from Santa Maria Novella train station. Every room has a parquet floor and a flat screen TV. An Italian breakfast, offering both sweet and salty dishes is served every morning to prepare the guests for a hard day of walking.
  • Il Marzocco Boutique B&B is another three-star Bed and Breakfast, also quite close to Santa Maria Novella train station. There’s free Wi-Fi all over the premises, satellite TV, and air-conditioning. The building in which the hotel is stationed is a historic building, with frescoed ceilings. According to the reviews the hotel is especially suitable for couples.  

Santa Maria Novella Luxury Hotels

  • The Place Firenze is a luxurious five-star hotel (and quite expensive) located around five minutes from Santa Maria Novella church and the eponymous train station. The hotel is elegant and beautiful, and the rooms have satellite TV and unique interiors. There’s a restaurant and a bar at the hotel — and the breakfast reviews especially recommend the breakfast. The restaurants serve Tuscan and Mediterranean food.
  • The Westin Excelsior, Florence is as good and as luxurious as it gets. The rooms are air-conditioned, with plasma TVs, a Westin Heavenly Bed, and bathrooms furnished from Carrara marble — the same marble from which Michelangelo’s David was made. The hotel also has a world class restaurant, a classy bar and a terrace to have a drink, and a relaxing wellness center.

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4. Santa Croce

Santa Croce church, one of the top picks for where to stay in Florence, pictured on a clear and sunny day

Aliaksandr Antanovich/Shutterstock

The basilica tradition continues! Here, east from the heart of Venice, you’ll find the unique Santa Croce basilica, which is one of the most beautiful gems in Florence. It’s quite close to the center — only 800 meters from the Duomo — but the difference is striking.

Here there are significantly fewer tourists, and more of the Italian locals. Consequently, the atmosphere is more relaxed and less crowded. According to the legend, the basilica was founded by St. Francis of Assisi — the first Franciscan monk.

Legend aside, the church is simply beautiful, and holds the traces of many different artistic legends: Giotto, Brunaleschi, and Vasari. It’s also the burial place of some of the most important Italians in history, like Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.

While you’re here — near the square in front of the Basilica — visit Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, the largest library in Florence. Santa Croce is quite popular for its leather. Every year it brings as many visitors to its leather shops and leather products as it brings to the magnificent Santa Croce Basilica.

The shops are everywhere: along the streets, encircling the squares — literally everywhere. If you’re especially keen to find out about the tradition of Santa Croce’s relation to leather, visit Scuola del Cuoio which is located behind the church.

If you’re tired of churches, basilicas and museums, and you want to have an exciting night-out, Santa Croce is the right place for you. Visit Moyo, Off the hook, Florence Unpopular Kafé, Dondino, Salamanca, Viktoria, and much much more.

Simply put: Santa Croce is the area with the most exciting, interesting and vibrant nightlife in all of Florence. Santa Croce is great in relation to accommodations and restaurants.

If you’re looking for luxury, some other areas will do better: Santa Croce has only two five-star hotels. It mainly offers decent and more than decent mid-range three-star hotels — some of them can be even classified as budget hotels. There are a lot of great restaurants, both traditional and contemporary. The pizzas are really incredible.

Things to Do

  • Like almost any area in Florence, the church is the main attraction. The Santa Croce Basilica is as old and as beautiful as the other three famous Christian buildings in this guide. Learn about its history, and visit its chapels, most of them with paintings by Gioto. Also, the church is important as the burial place of some of the most important Florentine historical figures, like Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.
  • Santa Croce is the neighborhood of leather. Some of the best leather shops in Italy are located in this area. They’re all around the place: some of them hidden between the streets, and some of them on the famous squares. Go to Cuor di Pelle, Misuri, or Leonardo Leather works. Finally, go to the Mecca of leather in Florence, Scuola del Cuoio, and find out about the history of the whole process.
  • Take a break from all the sightseeing, churches, basilicas, palaces, museums, and squares, and have a night out at some of the clubs in Santa Croce, since this area is famous for its authentic local culture, and vibrant nightclubs.  Moyo, Off the hook, Florence Unpopular Kafé, Dondino, Salamanca, and Viktoria are some of the best in the city.
  • Italy is famous for its gelato, and Santa Croce has probably the best and most famous gelato shop: Gelateria Vivoli. It’s not only old school, but also the oldest gelato shop in Florence. Try different types of gelato, and see for yourself if what you prefer the most: is it crema, pistachio, chocolate or stracciatella.

Where to Eat

  • Finisterrae means “at the edge of the Earth”, traditionally used for Gibraltar, immediately bringing associations that speak about its nature — all about the Mediterranean. It’s mostly famous for gourmet pizzas of every size and taste, which are surprisingly enough — concerning the location of the restaurant — quite cheap. Also, the atmosphere is quite cozy and down to earth.
  • La Giostra was founded by Dimitri Kunz, one of the numerous princes of the famous Habsburg Royal Family. The motto of this aristocratic restaurant is “In Food We Trust”, and it was being passed from generation to generation, much like the recipes. The pasta, the meat, the vines, they’re all perfect, and the atmosphere is elegant, yet warm.
  • I Ghibellini is a pizza restaurant located in the historical Palazzo Corbizzi dating from the 14th century. The pizzas are made in a wood oven so they can absorb the authentic taste, and the decor inside is quite admirable. Regardless of the long tradition, the restaurant has a versatile and ever-changing many, developing along the lines of time and innovation.

Santa Croce Budget Hotels

  • Michelangelo’s Relais is a small budget hotel that’s very, very cheap, and has only its great location to offer. It’s definitely the best choice for those visitors of Florence who want to spend the most of their day sightseeing and walking around the city. Its important to know that the hotel offers a microwave, a fridge, a desk, a kettle and a hairdryer in every room, and that it allows keeping pets.
  • Hotel Bodoni is a two-star hotel that offers simply furnished rooms (but very clean) with satellite TV, air-conditioning, and private bathroom. There’s free Wi-Fi on the premises of the hotel, and the staff is multilingual, available 24/7, and especially helpful concerning maps, tickets and other information. There’s also a nice breakfast and a bar in the hotel.

Santa Croce Mid-Range Hotels

  • Al Giglio Bottonato is a quite cheap three-star hotel located in one of the favorite parts of Florence — the Basilica Santa Croce is on a five minute walk, for example. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and a shared lounge for all the guests, and the rooms have air-conditioning, sofas, and flat screen TVs. Couples especially recommend this hotel in their reviews.
  • Benci House is a significantly better and significantly more expensive three-star hotel, located 400 meters from Piazza della Signoria. There’s free Wi-Fi available throughout the premises of the hotel, and the rooms provide air-conditioning, flat screen TVs, slippers and bathrobes. There’s also a restaurant, a bar, and a tasty breakfast every morning.

Santa Croce Luxury Hotels

  • LHP Hotel River & SPA is one of the two existing five-star hotels in Santa Croce. The hotel has a great restaurant, a bar, and a relaxing spa center on the premises, available to all the guests of the hotel, at any time of the day. The breakfast is particularly tasty, and it’s served every morning. The rooms are furnished in a contemporary way, with parquet floors and flat screen TVs.
  • Relais Santa Croce, By Baglioni Hotels is the second five-star hotel in Santa Croce, located in a beautiful and historically important 18th century building between the Santa Croce basilica and the Florence Cathedral. The rooms are very elegant and stylish — as is the rest of the hotel — furnished in a combined way: contemporary and traditional. There’s also a great bar and a restaurant on the premises, and the restaurant serves breakfast every morning.

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5. Santo Spirito

Gorgeous day in Santo Spirito, one of the best places to stay in Florence, pictured from the front of the church

DFLC Prints/Shutterstock

Just on the other side of the great river Arno lies the neighborhood called Santo Spirito, part of the bigger area that goes by the name Oltrarno — or in translation, simply “across the Arno.” It’s a calm neighborhood, far from the crowds of the central areas, and without the constant presence of tourists.

It’s a great choice for those who want to have a calmer and less explosive trip to Florence. But don’t worry: you just have to cross Ponte Vecchio or some of the other bridges on the Arno, and you’ll immediately arrive at the city center.

The main attractions of Santo Spirito are the Palazzo Pitti and the Giardino di Boboli, one next to the other. The Pitti Palace is a huge building dating from the 15th century, and throughout history it was owned first by the Medici Family, then by Napoleon, and finally, it was donated by Victor Emanuele the Third (the Italian King) to the people of Florence.

Like all palaces in Florence it’s full of famous artworks and paintings: by Raphael, Tizian, Caravadgio etc. The Boboli Gardens, located right behind the palace, is probably the most famous garden in Italy. Here you’ll find statues, grottos, caves, fountains and beautiful trees.

We recommend that you visit the gardens in spring, when nature is in bloom, and bring a camera with you. It’s definitely a sight both worth seeing and recording. Santo Spirito is not without churches too: the most famous one — from which the area gets its name — is the Santo Spirito Church.

This is another work by the legendary Brunaleschi (his name comes up a lot in this guide). It’s as beautiful from the outside as it’s from the inside. That’s not surprising, since some parts of the interior were decorated by Michelangelo. But, don’t concentrate exclusively on Santo Spirito Church: make sure you visit Santa Maria del Carmine, which boasts frescoes by Masachio.

Santo Spiroto has a lot of three-star hotels — somewhere around 50, to be more precise. Some of them are quite cheap and fill the gap of the budget options (there are no two or three-star hotels); but the others are quite nice, and even luxurious.

There are only two five-star hotels in the area, but those two are worth the money. The food in Santo Spirito, like everywhere in Florence, is unforgettable, with a lot of traditional restaurants.

Things to Do

  • The first thing you should do in Santo Spirito is to visit its most famous attraction: the Boboli Garden. It’s the most famous example of the so-called “Italian gardens”, preceding the famous French and English gardens by 150 years. It’s basically an open-air museum, full of statues, fountains, and man-made grottos and caves. Make sure you see the Buontalenti grotto, The Fountain of Neptune, Fontana del Bacchino, and the Isolotto — the man-made small island.
  • Even at Oltrarno, across the river Arno, you can’t get away from the famous Florentine churches. Here you have to visit at least two: Santo Spirito Church by the unavoidable Brunaleschi, with an interior decorated by Michelangelo; and Santa Maria del Carmine — the Church of the Carmelite Order — with frescoes by the early Renaissance master, Massachio, one of the inventors of the modern perspective in painting.
  • The Medicis left their mark even here, on the other side of the river Arno. Go to Palazzo Pitti that was built by a famous banker, and later sold to the powerful Medicie’s. Later in history it was owned by none other than Napoleon, and finally, in the early 20th century, it was given as a gift to the people of Florence. That’s why today you can go there without a problem and enjoy the grandiose beauty of this Italian palace.
  • Enjoy this part of Florence in a more laid-back and non-formal way, not connected to the museums, palaces and churches. Here are some recommendations: have a launch on the open — or al fresco, as the Italians call it — in Piazza della Passera, overlooking the Pitti Palace; or visit Santo Spirito’s market, and taste the local, authentic atmosphere of the people.

Where to Eat

  • Trattoria La Casalinga is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving traditional Tuscan food since 1963. The atmosphere — obviously — is family-friendly, cozy, and comfortable, and the food is prepared and served in an old-school way. There’s a great and extensive wine-list, and there are seasonal specials.
  • Trattoria Napoleone has a great location in the heart of Oltrarno, overlooking the Basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine. They’re famous for their pasta, stakes, outdoor view, and wood-beamed rooms. The numbers the restaurant boasts with are quite unbelievable: over 70000 customers per year, 3500 grilled steaks, and 15000 opened wine bottles.
  • Trattoria Boboli is located just next to the famous Boboli Gardens. The restaurant is practically historic, existing since 1978. Their main mission is to make you feel like you’re at home, and to have your belly full with traditional Tuscan meals. Their Florentine steak is very famous, and so is their wine-list and their courtyard.

Santo Spirito Budget Hotels

  • San felice house is a very cheap three-star hotel — there are no two or one star hotels in Santo Spirito. It offers free Wi-Fi on every part of its premises, and plasma TV in every room. The rooms are air-conditioned, have a separate bedroom, living room, and a fully equipped kitchen. The hotel is also pet-friendly.
  • Santo Spirito Suite is another very cheap three-star hotel. It offers free Wi-Fi and air-conditioning, the rooms are furnished with parquet floors, a dining and sleeping area, a fully equipped kitchen, and flat screen TVs. The hotel — according to the majority of the reviews — is particularly suitable for couples.

Santo Spirito Mid-Range Hotels

  • Hotel Palazzo Guadagni is an upscale and high-class three-star hotel located five minutes from Ponte Vecchio. The 16th century buildings have lounges decorated with authentic frescos; also, some of the rooms have both frescoes and real fires. The bar on the top of the hotel offers tasty breakfast every morning, and a perfect view of the Duomo every time of the day.
  • Soprarno Suites is another three-star hotel, also located near Ponte Vecchio. The rooms have high ceilings and parquet floors, air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi. There’s a bar on the premises of the hotel where you can get a drink, and every morning there’s a nice breakfast to start the day. The hotel is also pet-friendly.

Santo Spirito Luxury Hotels

  • Hotel Lungarno – Lungarno Collection is the only five-star hotel in the Santo Spirito area — but not in the wider area of Oltrarno — located 100 meters from Ponte Vecchio. It offers — among other things — a beautiful view of Arno, a Micheline star restaurant, uniquely furnished rooms, and famous paintings throughout the premises (one Picasso painting, and four Jean Coctou’s). It’s surely a hotel you’ll never forget.
  • Villa Cora is a fabulous and very luxurious five-star hotel located just to the south of Santo Spirito and The Boboli Gardens — so, it’s not literally in the area, but it’s quite close to it. The 19th century building is surrounded by a lively park, and has a large swimming pool; there’s also a fitness center, a spa-center and a Turkish bath. The rooms are classically furnished, and the restaurant on the premises serves Italian dishes and Tuscan wine.

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So, Where Should You Stay in Florence?

Nobody can fully describe the splendor and the richness of the city that gave birth to the Renaissance, but we had to give it a go. Now that we’ve reached the end of our destination, let’s do a quick recap, and see what we found out about where to stay in Florence.

  • The city center is the obvious choice for first-time visitors to Florence. The Florence Cathedral, the Uffizi gallery, the central location — all of those factors make it a perfect choice for those who want to see and visit “the best from the best”. Also, they can move around the city quite easily.
  • The tiny areas of San Lorenzo and San Marco offer almost the same packaging as the city center — they’re basically in the center themselves. Michelangelo’s David is here, and so is the San Lorenzo cathedral, and a lot of buildings and artifacts connected to the Medici family.
  • Santa Maria Novella is mostly known for two important things: The Santa Maria Novella church built by Alberti, and the train station that goes by the same name. It’s the perfect place for those who want to stay in the center, and yet who want to keep their choices open and freaky travel the area around Florence.
  • Santa Croce is the obvious choice for those who want to reap the benefits of a good nightlife. If you prefer to go out when the sun falls, this is the place for you. But, here you’ll also find the unforgettable Santa Croce church, and a wide variety of leather shops.
  • Finally, Santo Spirito is the only area on the other coast of the river Arno by our guide. It’s still quite close to the center — you just have to cross one of the numerous bridges that connect the two parts of Florence — but is significantly less crowded and noisy. It has a great park too.

Regardless of the area in which you choose to stay, you’ll be surrounded by friendly locals, amazing food, gorgeous scenery, and activities for all ages, interests, and budgets. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Florence today!