At Love from Tuscany, we’re busy putting together a list of our favourite accommodation. From boutique hotels to charming B&B’s, castles and country agriturismi, they are places that are guaranteed to make your holiday memorable. We’ll be sharing this with you soon, but in the meantime here’s a few inside tips on where to stay in Florence and Tuscany.
Choosing accommodation in Florence
Florence has a huge choice of accommodation. But which are the best areas to stay in?
Near Santa Maria Novella train station. Around the station and San Lorenzo Market it can be quite busy, and not as well manicured as other parts of the city. But it’s very convenient if you’re planning day trips from Florence to nearby destinations and using public transport (the main bus terminals are all around the train station). There’s a lot of budget accommodation in this area, and a few long established four star hotels. The Duomo can be reached on foot in ten minutes from the station.
Around the Duomo. If you want to be right in the middle of it all, choose a location between the Cathedral, Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Signoria. Here you’re never far from the main attractions, and it’s busy and lively at all hours of day and night. You have a choice between budget hotels and pensioni or charming boutique establishments tucked away down the quieter streets. For a room with a great view, why not look for a hotel overlooking the Arno river, near the Ponte Vecchio?
Santa Croce area. This is one of the hot spots for Florentine nightlife. It’s an area with lots of artisans around, and plenty of bars, cafes and pubs to enjoy in the evening. It’s a young crowd, so don’t come for peace and quiet.
Oltrarno is getting more and more popular, with plenty of private accommodation and B&B’s. it’s removed enough from the city centre that you can still get a sense of the real Florence, even if that is changing fast with the increase of tourist accommodation in the area. Around Piazza Santo Spirito it’s very lively at night, as is the San Niccolò area, but as a general rule it’s less busy than the other side of the river.
Away from it all. Further south is the area around Porta Romana, the southern gate to the city centre. It’s a lovely, green area with plenty of accommodation on the hills that rise up to meet Piazzale MIchelangelo. There are buses that connect Porta Romana with the centre or you can walk. It takes around 30 minutes to get from the Duomo to Porta Romana on foot.
Choosing accommodation in Tuscany
The options for places to stay in Tuscany are many and varied, from basic pensioni to luxurious villas and castles.
Agriturismi are a wonderful way to experience Tuscany. They are usually big country houses that have been converted into accommodation, where you can rent a room or even a self-contained flat within the agriturismo. They all have communal spaces and gardens and often a swimming pool. The standard varies of course and you’ll find this is reflected in the price. The smaller agriturismi are informal and family run, and will give you a real feeling for Tuscan living. On the other hand, some of them offer a truly luxurious 5 star experience.
B&B are plentiful in both the cities and in the countryside, and on average the standard is good. Expect clean rooms and a friendly welcome. The standard of service varies from the more basic, to places with air conditioning, swimming pools and special breakfasts. “Pensione” is another term for a small traditional hotel, usually family run and smaller in size. They are cheaper and the services offered can be functional, but friendlier than bigger hotels. You’ll find them in cities and small towns and especially at seaside resorts. Unlike hotels, staff may not be fluent in English.
Bigger hotels mostly stay open all year round while smaller B&B’s can close down over the winter, so the choice, in the more remote areas, might shrink a bit. But there’s still enough to choose from throughout the year and prices out of season do tend to drop.
The quality and prices of accommodation in Tuscany are in line with most other European destinations. The standard of cleanliness in hotels and and B&B’s is usually very high, and furnishings tend to be on the traditional side.
Parking. Always ask the hotel about additional parking fees, parking permits and permits to enter the city if you’re planning on driving to Florence city centre. This also goes for other cities like Lucca, Siena and Pisa, where there’s a ZTL ‘residents only’ area in the centre.
Internet. Most of hotels offer wi-fi, but you might find it’s not the lightning fast speeds you’re used to.
Breakfast is usually continental (bread, croissants, fruit juices and coffee) but bigger international chain hotels also offer cooked breakfasts, and smaller boutique hotels might treat you with fresh, quality pastries. If you don’t fancy breakfast at your hotel, you’ll often a better quality cappuccino and pastry at a bar around the corner.
Air conditioning. If you suffer from the heat in summer, make sure you ask about air conditioning. Nowadays most accommodation has been fitted out with it, but you still find some one the older hotels and B&B’s haven’t been converted, and you may have to make do with a fan.
Heating. Be aware that when renting private accommodation in the winter months, the owners may charge you extra for heating.