Florence, in Tuscany, is one of Italy’s top locations for Expats of all stripes but finding your feet, learning to live like a local and figuring out all the quirks of this stunning Renaissance city isn’t always easy!
As you survey the city, particularly shortly after arriving, it can be a little daunting to throw yourself into your new life as you realize how much there really is to learn to live as comfortably as the locals do.
However, there are a whole range of life hacks that you can employ to make your time in Florence as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. Understanding and learning all the vital life hacks for living in Florence will help you to settle in and before long you’ll be sauntering through the evening piazzas after dinner, just like a local!
Avoid Living In A Touristy District.
It might be tempting to move into one of the most popular tourist areas because you’ll be near the famous sites and right in the center of town but over time the glamor will wear off and you’ll find yourself becoming frustrated at the noise and constant crowding during the summer!
You’ll also have to pay premium rents, even for a modest apartment, and won’t be able to experience the authentic lifestyle of a genuine “Florentinean”. Instead, you should consider living in a residential neighborhood or on the outskirts of town. You’ll still be within easy reach of the center but you’ll get some great bargains on property and the pace of life is much more relaxed.
If you live in a residential area you’ll also be far more likely to make friends with the locals as well as being able to shop and eat in restaurants that primarily serve the Florentine community. This will save you money and give you a much better insight into the life of the locals.
You Don’t Need A Car While Living In Florence.
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that Florence is an enormous city but it’s actually quite easy to get around on foot, particularly in the central districts. In fact, owning a car in Florence is usually more trouble than it’s worth! Like many ancient cities, Florence was not built with cars and modern traffic in mind so finding parking spots can be very difficult and it’s expensive. This makes owning a car costly and given how difficult it is to drive through the narrow streets it’s really not worth the hassle.
Florence is very compact and so it makes more sense to get around on foot. When you need to make a longer journey within the city you can just jump on a bus. The bus system in Florence is excellent and the ticket prices are very low compared to other parts of Europe. For a 90 minute bus journey prices are usually under 2 Euros per person.
The truth is that most Florentines either walk or use public transport within the city so if you’re an Expat in Florence you should take a leaf out of their book and ditch your car.
Discover The ‘Other Side’ Of The River Arno.
Just like you don’t necessarily want to live in the tourist districts you should also explore the ‘other side’ of the River Arno. The Oltrano quarter, on the ‘other side’ of the river, is far less touristy and has a great atmosphere. It’s also where you’ll find Bohemian galleries, artisan workshops, antique stores as well as restaurants, bars and cafes that cater to the locals and charge much lower prices.
You can also see the sculptures in the Baboli park, have a picnic in one of the grottos and visit iconic landmarks such as the Piazzale Michelangelo and Forte Belvedere to appreciate panoramic views of the city below.
Pro Tip – The Best View Of The City!
Contrary to what most tourists think, the best view of the city is not from the Piazzale Michelangelo! In reality, it’s actually from San Miniato al Monte. By heading up to this Romanesque church you’ll not only avoid the selfie taking crowds but you’ll get a more majestic view of the city as well as being able to explore the church, which itself is over 1000 years old.
While you’re at San Miniato al Monte it’s worth having a look around the cemetery where, among others, you’ll find the tomb of Carlo Collodi who was the original creator of the beloved story of Pinnochio.
Set Aside Time To Get Lost In Florence.
If you’re living in Florence then you might want to consider putting aside a day every now and then to walk through the city with the intention of getting lost! This may sound like a strange thing to do but if you just follow your feet without worrying about where you’re going you’ll quickly start to stumble across all kinds of hidden gems.
Make sure you have a bottle of water and a few snacks on you before you head out and use common sense to avoid places that look like they could be dangerous; but once you give it a try you’ll discover that getting lost in Florence is great fun. Once you get tired and have done plenty of exploring you can simply order a taxi to take you back home.
As you continue your explorations you’ll really start to get to know the city in a way that you won’t if you always follow a planned itinerary. This type of spontaneous urban exploration is one of the best ways to get a real feel for the authentic Florentine atmosphere so if you’re in the city for any amount of time it’s something you should try one day!
Always Shop Where The Locals Shop.
While you’re living in Florence as an Expat you should take heed of the Italian saying, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. Therefore, you should get into the habit of shopping in local markets and stores just like the locals do. This will not only save you a lot of money compared to shopping in the international chain stores but you’ll also gradually get to know the shopkeepers and become accepted as a member of the community.
Florence has a whole host of incredible markets that sell everything including fresh food and ingredients for home cooking, leatherware and clothes, antiques, jewelry, furniture and even household items such as light bulbs and cleaning materials!
Buy Museum Tickets In Advance.
When you buy tickets for a museum in advance you will be able to skip the queues as well as save money in many cases. You can book tickets online for all the major museums so to have the best experience of seeing the sights, don’t be like the tourists who leave all their arrangements to the very last minute!
As well as buying tickets in advance you can also save extra money by planning your visits for the first Sunday of every month when all state museums are free to enter.
Save Money By Eating Out At Lunch Instead Of Dinner.
While you’re living in Florence you will naturally want to eat out and experience the best of what the superb range of restaurants have to offer. However, instead of eating out in the evening you can save money and have a more relaxing experience if you eat out for lunch instead.
Many local Florentines eat out at lunch as well and in many restaurants it’s primarily tourists that fill up the tables in the evening. In fact, smaller restaurants that are outside of touristy areas mainly cater to workers and other locals at lunch so they keep prices right down while maintaining the highest standards of quality and still use the best of regionally sourced ingredients.
Enjoy The Best Rooftop Perches In Florence.
One of the most spectacular aspects of life in Florence are the rooftop terraces and bars where you can relax and watch the sun go down over the city skyline. There are plenty of places where you can perch yourself and enjoy the scenery from above although there are a few top choices that are worth making your regular haunts to meet up with friends or simply to unwind and take in the beautiful views.
Many hotels in Florence have rooftop terraces where you can have an aperitivo while savoring the view. Some of the best rooftop terraces for an evening drink and meetup with friends include:
- Grand Hotel Cavour, Via del Proconsolo, 3.
- Terrazza Brunelleschi, Piazza Unita Italiana, 6.
- Grand Hotel Minerva, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 16.
- Hotel Torre Guelfa, Borgo Santi Apostoli, 8.
- Hotel Continental, Vicolo dell’Oro, 6r.
It might sound obvious to advise you to learn Italian but a large proportion of Expats never take the time to learn the language, even while they are living in the heart of one of the country’s most beautiful cities! Learning to speak the local language will open endless doors for you in everyday life and you’ll really be able to make new friendships in your local community.
It can seem like a monumental task to learn a new language but if you just start with a few simple phrases you can quickly begin to build up your knowledge by practicing everyday.
Learning to speak Italian is the ultimate life hack for Expats in Florence because without it you will always be seen as an outsider, even if you do make some friends and are well liked in the neighborhood.
Of course, you might be shy about making mistakes when speaking to local Italians but you shouldn’t be! When locals see that you’ve made the effort and are trying hard to learn Italian they will not only be forgiving for the mistakes that you make but they will be openly supportive and go out of their way to help you.
Simple Life Hacks Will Help You Enjoy Florence At Its Best.
The Dolce Vita is something of an artform and so as an Expat in Florence you should look to your Italian neighbors for inspiration! Once you learn the ins and outs of life in Florence you’ll find that you enjoy your time in the city much more and the chances are you’ll never want to leave!
So start to put the life hacks that you’ve learned into practice in your daily life and watch as your friendships and time in the city begin to blossom.