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All About Living In Florence, Italy As An Expat

Are you looking for a perfect Italian location to call home? If yes, then Florence might be the right choice for you. This beautiful city has become a favorite destination for many expats from around the globe.

Florence is located in one of the most beautiful regions of Italy – Tuscany. It’s a vibrant city home to over 600,000 residents.

This guide shows why living in Florence is such a great idea.

What’s it like to live in Florence?

Located in the middle of the gorgeous Tuscan landscape, Florence is like a big outdoor museum.

Living in Florence - Vasari Corridor
Arches of the Vasari Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano) in Florence.

The city has been around for over 2000 years, something noticeable at every corner. Every street has something special and every alley has a story behind it.

You will constantly be awed by this incredible city. It is, of course, great for any art or history enthusiasts but also for people or couples of any age who are looking to move to a different kind of city than what they are used to.

Florence offers that as it sometimes doesn’t even feel like a city but more like an open-air museum.

How much does it cost to live in Florence?

Florence is not one of Italy’s most expensive cities to live in but it is also not one of the cheapest. However, it is possible to minimize spending by using small tips and tricks.

You do have to be prepared to spend around €800, excluding rent in monthly costs per person.

Utilities cost around €150-200 per month, a monthly transportation pass is €35 and a meal at an average priced restaurant is around €20-25.

Housing expenses

On average, renting a 3 bedroom apartment costs around €1000 euros a month. For property buyers, the average price per square foot is €3500.

Living in Florence - old streets
Streets of Florence

If you want to live in the heart of the city you are going to have to be willing to pay around €1500 a month to rent a 3 bedroom apartment.

If you’re thinking of buying a property in the centre it can cost around €7000 per square foot.

However, living in the beautiful hills around the city is also a great experience and is even easier on your wallet, especially if you are thinking about buying.

Buying your home abroad is a stressful undertaking anyway. If you are in the planning stage, read our guide on Buying A Property In Italy to make sure you follow the rules and do all the due diligence to protect yourself as a buyer.

Is Florence a friendly city?

It is estimated that around 100 000 expats live in Florence at any given time.

The city that has become world-famous for its art and architecture has attracted many foreigners making it pretty international.

There are quite a few international job opportunities (depending on your sector of course) in Florence. If you go to the right places you will find other Americans, Brits, Canadians, and Australians.

It is also generally a pretty safe city and great for raising a family, your kids would grow up in a gorgeous city and be enriched by its culture.

The city of Bologna which is very famous for its universities is also not too far away.

The locals are usually very welcoming and friendly and will make you feel at home. Just be sure not to try and put pineapple on their pizza as that might get you banned from a couple of restaurants.

The pros of living in Florence

1. Picturesque landscape around the city

The gentle hills overlooking the city, covered by vineyards, trees, flowers and even some historic elements have become a UNESCO world heritage site. They are truly unique and stunning, they are perfect if you want to escape the city for an afternoon and go on a beautiful walk or drive in the countryside. 

2. The food

Like all Italian cities, the food in Florence is absolutely scrumptious. There is a lot of roasted meat in Tuscan food like the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina which is a must-try. This traditional Florentine steak comes from a special breed of local cattle and is usually served rare and is absolutely delicious.

Fair warning though, if you ask for it cooked ‘medium’ you might get a couple of stares.

3. There is so much to see, do and visit

There is so much to do and to see in Florence, you’ll probably never get bored. By the time you have seen everything, they will have probably already discovered and dug out a new historical building or site.

Living in Florence - Piazza della Repubblica
Piazza della Repubblica in Florence

Many people don’t really know where to start when they arrive so here are the top 10 places to visit in Florence: Ponte Vecchio, Galleria degli Uffizi, Basilica di Santa Croce, Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Giardino delle rose, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo, Basilica di Santa Maria Novella and Battistero di San Giovanni 

4. All the major attractions are very close to each other

All of the attractions cited above and many more are all within walking distance of each other, making getting around very easy.

The centre of the town is where most of them are located and every couple of minutes you are guaranteed to see a famous attraction. This is especially a pro in the summer because you will be able to explore everything without having to worry about where to park or the bus times.

Attractions like the Giardino delle rose or Piazzale Michelangelo are a bit further away but the walk to get there is also very beautiful.

The cons of living in Florence 

1. Expensive caffès/restaurants in the centre

A lot of restaurants in the centre of the city, especially around the most famous tourist attractions can be very pricey. For example, if you want to eat breakfast in Piazza della Signoria, almost all cafés will charge you triple the price if you want to enjoy it outside on their terrace.

However, there are heaps of normally priced restaurants that are only a short walk away. Won’t be the same view though!

2. The tourists and the crowds

Florence is on many people’s bucket lists and for good reason but this does mean that especially during the summer months, there can be a lot of tourists.

This can make it a bit difficult to get around sometimes as the streets which due to the age of the city are relatively small are usually pretty crowded.

This can especially be problematic if you have to get somewhere quickly and don’t like crowds.

Where to live in Florence?

Picking a neighbourhood to move to in a new city is not always a walk in the park. The first thing you have to decide is if you would like to live in the centre of the city or on the outskirts.

Living in Florence -  trattoria
Traditional trattoria in Florence

If you are a person who prefers the city these are some of the neighbourhoods you should definitely consider:

1. Santo Spirito

Santo Spirito is a perfect area for the young and young at heart. Located in Oltrarno near the San Lorenzo district, Santo Spirito was once an artist’s haven. It’s now a lively mix of students, expats and artists.

It’s also where you will find a more local flavor and some of the best restaurants and bars in the city.

The Piazza is a place where you can buy local produce during the day, including fresh bread and pastries.

At night, the Piazza becomes a lively mix of young people and tourists enjoying an aperitivo or a pizza on the steps of Santa Maria del Fiore.

It is located within a restricted traffic zone. If you have a car, get ready for along and complicated process of applying for a residential car permit.

2. The Duomo neighbourhood

The Duomo neighbourhood is definitely a solid choice. There is limited traffic which means less pollution and it is very centralized.

Living in Florence - the Duomo
Piazza del Duomo and cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

The Duomo area has some of the best views of the city, especially at sunset. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes.

Everything you need is about 5 minutes walk away. Including all the major sites. As a consequence, there are always crowds of tourists here.

On a plus side, you can happily live here without a car as everything you need is there: shops, entertainment, all the facilities you might need for your day-to-day life.

3. San Frediano

Just west of Santo Spirito, San Frediano has a similar vibe to Santo Spirito with lots of local artisans, but it’s a bit more modern. The Lonely Planet once called it the coolest neighborhood in the world.

The area is full of small artisan shops and local bars, with almost a village-like vibe. The neighborhood is on the southern side of the River Arno, which means it’s not as tourist heavy.

4. San Marco

It is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Florence located to the north of the city centre.

It is well connected by public transportation and gets quite busy because of its proximity to Duomo.

There is a market here where you can get fresh produce. There are also quite a few family owned restaurants here where you can enjoy a nice meal and drinks with your friends.

Other neighborhoods in Florence

Other very good options to consider are Santa Croce and San Niccolò which are all pretty centred and very close to the attractions.

Living in Florence - the gardens
A “green lung” of Florence – the Boboli Gardens

Via Bolognese, which is on the outskirts of the city is also a very nice option. It is away from all the hustle and bustle and the neighbourhood is mostly made up of families. Public transportation also makes it easy to get to the centre.

If living surrounded by nature is the thing for you, I strongly recommend choosing accommodation in the hills that overlook the city. You will be in the middle of a great landscape, in contact with nature and Florence will only be a short commute away.

Tips on settling down in Florence

1. Tipping in Italy

I know quite a few of you are very used to tipping 15-20% when you have been very satisfied with the service you have received but that is not at all the custom here in Italy.

Italians after eating usually never tip and if they do they only leave a couple of euros on the table. Waiters here don’t expect a tip and are more than appreciative of a few euros.

This is just something useful to keep in mind and could prevent a shocked waitress/er from running after you as you depart the restaurant after leaving a 20% tip.

2. The Limited Traffic Zone

Florence, like many other Italian cities, has a so-called ‘Limited Traffic Zone’ in the centre of the city.

This means that in order to drive in certain parts of the city you have to have a permit if you are not a resident.

The Limited Traffic Zone is also further divided into different parts, each has different rules and regulations. To be safe and not get fined, check the official website before driving near and in the city. 

3. Explore the city and know how to get around

The city can be a tiny bit confusing at first, the streets do look quite similar and you can easily get disorientated.

Therefore, as soon as you move, explore the city and act like a tourist for a couple of weeks.

There really is no better way to get in your daily steps than to walk around Florence. Knowing the city you live in and how to get around it is always a great asset.

4. Get acquainted with the public transport

If walking to your destination is not always an option, you might be tempted to use a car. A bad idea! As just written, driving around Florence is complicated due to the Limited Traffic Zone. Parking and taking a taxi can also be quite pricey.

Therefore I recommend familiarizing yourself with the public transportation network, the buses and trams. They are cheaper and often more convenient.

Final thoughts on living in Florence

Florence is overall just a great city. It’s a perfect destination if you want to live in Tuscany while enjoying the rich culture and all the buzz that comes with a popular tourist destination.

It is also close to nature and the sea, making short weekend or day trips definitely an option.

If you don’t mind a vibrant city and one that has movement, living there will be a fantastic experience. I guarantee you will be amazed by the city and its attractions every time you step outside of your door. So move there and enjoy the fantastic city like millions already have over the course of its long long history. 

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