Although you might assume that accommodations in the area are expensive, if you know where to go, you can cut costs and get some great deals on lodgings in this beautiful Italian city. For instance, the three-star Hotel Dante overlooking the dome square offers quality lodging at a reasonable price.
Timing is everything when it comes to visiting Florence. The high season is between May and September, when the weather is perfect for open-air dining and taking part in the many art and music festivals the city hosts. Florence is very crowded during this season, and hotel rates are at their maximum. Reservations must be made three to four months in advance, because all reasonably priced hotels, like the four-star Nord Florence, fill up quickly.
Therefore, it's recommended to visit the European art capital in April, when there is a higher chance of scoring a great deal for accommodation. The warm sunshine may be interrupted by a few hours of rain showers, but at least you won’t break the bank during your stay. October is another terrific month for a Florence escapade because the weather is mild, the city is not crowded at all, and you can stay at the Hotel Botticelli at almost half the price than you can in the summer months.
From November to March, the weather is icy and the wind is cold. Looking at the bright side, though, there are fewer tourists and shorter lines for attractions, and accommodation rates are at their lowest. For those brave enough to brace the cold, this is the most budget-friendly period to visit Florence.
Tuscany has two airports, of which the Florentine airport is the smaller. Nineteen airlines operate at Amerigo Vespucci Airport, of which four have only seasonal routes. This is why most people land at Pisa International Airport (formerly Galileo Galilei Airport), and take a short trip to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa before they arrive at the Tuscan capital. From Pisa Airport, the fastest way to get to the city is by train, which takes about an hour and transports passengers to the central station of Florence, Santa Maria Novella.
From Florence Airport, you can get to the city center by shuttle bus, which takes about 20 minutes, or by taxi, which takes 15 minutes but is more expensive. A bus ride costs $8, while a trip in a cab will set you back at least $25-30. For those wanting to stay in the airport’s proximity, the newly refurbished Hotel Airport offers a quality stay for business travelers and tourists at a reasonable price.
Once you're in Florence, getting around is extremely easy. All of the city's main attractions are within walking distance. You can get from one end of the city to the other in less than 30 minutes on foot, making this the cheapest and best way to explore. Taking the bus is another low-cost option. There is a well-developed route system covering the area. Tickets cost around $1.50 and can be found in local convenience stores.
Florence is not compatible with cars. There are a lot of narrow one-way streets that make driving difficult. The city center and many of the main squares are off-limits to vehicles and only allow pedestrians in, so you should think twice before renting a car. Taxi fares are very expensive; most people only use them to get from the train station to their accommodation site or to the center. Remember that hailing cabs is illegal, so be sure to call for one first.
You don't need to stay in the center of the city to be close to the main sites. Choose a hotel next to the train station, such as The Style Florence, and stay right next to the famed Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella and the museum of the same name. From here, you can get to the Central Market, the Medici-Riccardi Palace, or the Palace of Congress in less than three minutes.
Piazza della Signoria is one of two main squares in Florence, where you can find Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello National Museum, which hosts one of the largest sculpture collections in the area. The house celebrating the birth of the major Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, is within a two-minute walk. Not too far away is the Santa Croce Basilica, a Roman Catholic Church built in the 15th century. Accommodations in this part of town can be a little more expensive, but if you plan ahead, you can get great bargains — even for the Best Western Hotel River.
The dome square is situated in the heart of the city with one of the most impressive edifices in the world. By going up 463 stone steps, you can see “The Last Judgment” fresco up close and admire the breathtaking view over the city. If you stay at the three-star Palazzo Ruspoli, you can look up to the cupola from the window of your hotel room. Staying in such a bed and breakfast is a great choice for a budget accommodation in the heart of the city.
After a day of seeing the paintings of the great masters in the Uffizi Gallery, cross the Ponte Vecchio — the only bridge that remained intact in the Second World War — to get to the Oltrarno district. Here you can visit the Pitti Palace, view the most important fresco of Florence in the Brancacci Chapel, and take a walk in the Boboli Gardens, the most famous park in the city. Staying in the traditional district with its peaceful streets and squares may give you a better insight into Florentine life than the crowded piazzas of the center.
Right next to Boboli Gardens is the Natural History Museum, which offers visitors insight into Tuscany’s flora and fauna. Be sure to walk up to Fort Belvedere, which offers a stunning view over the Dome and the whole city. Check out the Porcelain Museum when descending from the fortress. A stay in the Oltrarno district might be a more economical choice than lodging on the other side of the river Arno. Hotel Annalena is not only a low-cost accommodation, but it also has traditionally furnished rooms with friendly hosts to make you feel right at home.
Besides the Oltrarno neighborhood, the two other artisans' districts, San Niccolo and San Frediano, are great places if you're looking for budget-friendly accommodation. For a stay in a more lively area of town, choose Piazza Santo Spirito, which is packed with bars, cafes, restaurants, and clubs. Here you can stay in an old palace-turned-hotel such as Palazzo Guadagni, which combines traditional architecture with modern elements of design, offering a unique stay in a cheap way.
Instead of choosing a hotel, you can also stay in guesthouses like Casa Pucci, where they not only accept families with children, but small animals too, and have babysitting and dog-sitting services on request. Bed and breakfasts are also a great choice for cozy lodging, such as B&B La Signoria di Firenze, which is not only cheap, but close to the main attractions as well. If you choose to stay close to the heart of the city, check out these two budget-friendly options, and spend the extra money you would’ve spent on a hotel to see the major sites.
This type of accommodation is more and more in demand by tourists who are not only searching for an ordinary room, but also closeness to locals and an authentic experience. With Airbnb rentals, you can get a room or a whole apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. This way, you can save money by shopping in local stores and markets and preparing your own food instead of eating out at restaurants. You can also get guidance from your host about budget activities and attractions you might not have known about.
Advice about local cuisine, restaurants, and attractions off the beaten path are kindly provided by hosts. This type of accommodation is the cheapest you can find in Florence, even near the center of the city. Because of their unique services and low pricing, Airbnb rentals are highly recommended.
In conclusion, Florence is meant to be explored on foot, ideally in the months of April or October — and don't forget to consider lodging with a local.
Author bio: Adrienn Takács is a freelance travel writer from Transylvania and travel blogger at cityoftheweek.net. When she isn’t on the road or by her desk, she travels mentally with the help of books and movies, her favorite pastime.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.