Florence

Where to Stay, When to Go, Why Pick Florence - Tips from a Digital Nomad

The small but mighty Renaissance city of Florence is the jewel in the heart of Tuscany. Combining art and architecture, history, food, and fashion, this city draws in the crowds with tourists, study-abroad students, and expats who have decided they never want to leave this enchanting and exciting place with its unique energy.

Culture vultures can overdose on the masterpieces in the museums and churches with works by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo plus Giotto’s frescoes – These works of art needing time to be admired again and again rather than rushed past. Art and history aside, Florence is a city where you can take a step back and get lost in contemplation, it calls out to be sketched, walked, and admired at a leisurely pace.

Kickstart your day with an espresso at your local cafe before wandering the backstreets stopping to browse in the craft and gift shops as you tickle your taste buds with a delicious gelato. You can more than fill your daily quota for art and architecture, enjoy opera and classical music performances as well as contemporary art and music too. Admire the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, then hang out with friends during aperitivo (happy hour) before moving onto a nightclub – Florence having a vibrant nightlife scene. Florence is a city that it’s almost impossible to be bored in if you appreciate the arts.

The whole of the historic center feels like one large museum which, if you’re staying for a while, can take its toll with the need to escape the most touristic spots but that can be done in the areas such as Santa Croce where you can enjoy an evening of fine dining. If you still feel the need to escape just remember that Florence is your gateway to exploring the Tuscan countryside with all of its glorious villages and vineyards right on your doorstep.

Where to Stay in Florence

The small yet mighty city of Florence has long been enjoyed by those who appreciate art, architecture, history, and of course food and fashion! From the touristic city center that gets jam-packed with tourists every Summer and indeed through the year, Florence also has a wealth of trendy and creative neighbourhoods where you’re sure to feel the authentic Italian vibe shining through as you sip a coffee in a street cafe and admire the Italian flair for fashion as local life plays out around you.

Whether you’re a solo traveller in Florence for just a short time, a digital nomad with the freedom to explore Florence til your heart’s content, or you’re an expat moving to Florence for work whether alone or with your family, there’s a neighbourhood with your name on it whether you want to overdose on culture, cocktails, or get a slice of the quaint essential Italian lifestyle all of your own! Read on to find where you might feel most at home…

[First Pick] Santo Spirito

A very cool up-and-coming bohemian neighbourhood located on the South side of the river with lots of narrow tree-lined and shop-lined streets to explore. It’s an ideal place for creative digital nomads to base themselves alongside local Italian designers and artists. Santo Spirito is somewhat off the main tourist trail but still within easy reach of the city center and has a great selection of local bars and restaurants plus a variety of markets.

[Second Pick] Duomo

The heart and soul of the city, this is the grandiose cultural and historic center of Florence filled with tourists but also local life making it a very lively and attractive area to stay in. Museums, art galleries, architecture, designer fashion stores, restaurants, and bars all within walking distance of your doorstep.

Other Areas:

San Lorenzo

A peaceful Medieval parish that’s family-friendly for both locals and expats and conveniently located close to the central train station. Considered part of Florence’s “centro storico” along with neighbouring Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo has a lively market, lots of cafes, some unique boutiques and plenty of palaces, museums, and churches to enjoy.

Santa Croce

A lively neighbourhood with plenty of nightlife, the nightclub, pub and bar hub being around Santa Croce Piazza. This is where the young crowd hang out whether students or backpackers. Head East of Santa Croce Piazza and the Santa Croce Church and you’ll discover a slightly quieter, more authentic neighbourhood popular with young expats as well as young locals.

San Niccolo

A quirky neighbourhood where artists and other creatives will feel right at home. Full of art galleries, street art, casual wine bars and restaurants San Niccolo isn’t all that crowded and benefits from its riverside location where you can stretch out on the grassy banks or take a stroll up through the Giardino Bardini Park.

Sant’Ambrogio

A great neighbourhood that benefits from the best of both worlds – A place where locals live and hang out, drinking coffee, visiting the daily market but with the touristic center right on the edge of the neighbourhood making it easy to get lost in the crowds and let your inner touristic culture vulture run wild whenever you want!

San Frediano

A small neighbourhood in the Oltrarno district that’s just beyond the reach of mass tourism making it a great place to base yourself when you want to feel like a local living in Italy. More and more trendy new bars and restaurants have been opening in this area giving it a casual local feel with a light artistic vibe.

How to Get a Visa to Florence

Whether you’re planning on visiting Italy for tourism purposes or you’re intending to study or work there, you may need to apply for a visa to make it legal to do so.

In this article, we’ll give you the information you need to make informed decisions about whether or not you require a visa before entering Italy and, if so, which visa suits your purpose best.

Italian Visa Requirements

If you’re a passport holder from any territory within the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland, you are not required to obtain a visa to visit, live, work or study in Italy.

Additionally, nationals from a list of 68 countries including the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are permitted to enter Italy and stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

If you are not a passport holder from any of these countries or you’d like to remain in the country for longer then you will require a visa and may have to apply for a work permit if you are relocating for employment purposes.

Types of Italian Visa

Tourist Visa

If you’re planning visiting Italy for tourism purposes such as leisure, recreation, or visiting family or friends, you will need to obtain a Tourist Visa. This visa will allow you to enter and remain in Italy for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

To be eligible to apply for the Tourist Visa, you must be able to evidence;

  • Six months’ worth of bank statements
  • Invitation letter from a sponsor (if applicable)
  • Completed Schengen Visa application form
  • 2x Passport photos
  • Passport and copies of your previous visas (passport must be valid for 3 months beyond your proposed return date and have a minimum of two blank pages)
  • Proof of return ticket purchase
  • Travel medical insurance with coverage of the entire Schengen area
  • Letter of motivation for visiting Italy
  • Travel itinerary
  • Flight ticket (if applicable)
  • Evidence of accommodation bookings for the duration of your stay in Italy
  • Proof of financial sustenance for the entire length of stay

Due to processing times, you must apply for this visa 21 days prior to your departure date.

Business Visa

The Italian Business Visa is designed for travellers visiting for business purposes such as business meetings, conferences and trade shows. This visa permits the holder to stay in Italy for up to 90 days in any 180-day period and must be applied for 21 days before departure. Your application will require you to produce some documents relating to your trip such as;

  • Evidence of any previous trade relations between the two companies (if applicable)
  • Original certified copy of Memorandum and Article of Association
  • Trade License
  • Proprietorship/Partnership documents
  • An invitation letter from an Italian company which includes the business address and the purpose of your visit
  • A certificate from your employer detailing your reasons for travel
  • Six-months’ worth of business bank statements
  • Completed visa application
  • 2x Passport photos
  • Passport and copies of your previous visas (passport must be valid for 3 months beyond your proposed return date and have a minimum of two blank pages)
  • Proof of return ticket purchase
  • Travel medical insurance with coverage of the entire Schengen area
  • Travel itinerary
  • Evidence of accommodation bookings for the duration of your stay in Italy

With regards to the expenses you incur during your stay, in the invitation letter, either the employer or partner company must state that they are willing to cover your expenses for the duration of your stay in Italy.

Student Visa

The Italian Student Visa can be obtained for the purpose of study, research, training, and any other type of internship in Italy. The length of the visa is not predetermined and is often aligned with study dates. To apply for the student visa you must submit the following;

  • Evidence of your enrolment onto your chosen course
  • Certificate of completion
  • Financial sustenance for the duration of your studies
  • Completed Schengen Visa application form
  • 2x Passport photos
  • Passport and copies of your previous visas (passport must be valid for 3 months beyond your proposed return date and have a minimum of two blank pages)
  • Proof of return ticket purchase
  • Travel medical insurance with coverage of the entire Schengen area
  • Letter of motivation for visiting Italy
  • Travel itinerary
  • Flight ticket (if applicable)
  • Evidence of accommodation bookings for the duration of your stay in Italy

Medical Visa

If you are visiting Italy temporarily for medical treatment from an official medical institution, you are required to obtain a Medical Visa before travelling. This visa is normally only issued when the applicant is unable to receive the appropriate care in their own country.

To apply for this visa, you are required to present the following evidence as part of your application;

  • Letter of invitation from the medical institution you are attending stating the purpose of your visit, your diagnosis, and any treatment plan that is in place.
  • Proof of payment for the medical care
  • Guarantee letter stating that you are able to pay for any additional medical costs , should they arise.
  • Doctor’s medical report from your home country
  • Accommodation booking or confirmed hospital accommodation for anyone accompanying you
  • Completed Schengen Visa application form
  • 2x Passport photos
  • Passport and copies of your previous visas (passport must be valid for 3 months beyond your proposed return date and have a minimum of two blank pages)
  • Proof of return ticket purchase
  • Travel medical insurance with coverage of the entire Schengen area
  • Travel itinerary
  • Flight ticket (if applicable)
  • Proof of financial sustenance for the entire length of stay

Other Italian Visas

Visas are available for a variety of other purposes such as these listed below;

  • Spouse Visa
  • Cultural Visa
  • Official Delegations Visa
  • Retirement Visa
  • Airport Transit Visa
  • Underage Children Visa
  • Residence Visa
  • Work visa

Further information on all Italian visas can be obtained from your local Italian embassy. Always bear in mind that Italian immigration rules and regulations change frequently and without notice so always check in with your local embassy before making any travel arrangements.

How to Extend Your Italian Visa in Florence

The Italian Schengen visa may only be extended in exceptional circumstances which are assessed by the immigration officer at the Florence Immigration Office. When applying for your visa extension, you will be asked to provide several documents which prove that you are unable to leave the country to compelling unforeseen circumstances such as a flight cancellation or sudden illness. Such documentation may include;

  • Letter of motivation
  • Travel insurance which covers your medical expenses for accidents or sudden illness for the extension period you are applying for
  • Evidence of financial sustenance for the remainder of your stay
  • A guarantee of your exit from Spain
  • Proof of the force majeure or humanitarian reasons preventing you from leaving Italy

If successful, your new exit date will be entered into your passport and you will be required to pay a small fee. If your application is unsuccessful then you will have to leave Italy before your original visa date passes or, if that date has already gone, within 72-hours.

Immigration Office in Florence: Sportello Unico Comunale Immigrazione – Servizio Famiglia e accoglienza – Direzione Servizi sociali, Via Pietrapiana 53, 50121.

Overstaying Your Visa

Overstaying your visa in Italy can result penalties such as fines, black marks on your personal file (these negatively affect any future visa applications), ban on entering Italy for up to 3 years, and even deportation. These penalties are implemented at the discretion of the immigration officer on an individual basis.

Best Time of Year to Visit Florence

Located in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, Florence is a city that experiences different weather than other parts of Tuscany. It has hot and humid summers and moderately cold winters, snow being a rarity that lasts just a few days if it occurs all.

Busy all year round to some degree, the peak tourist season in Florence is during the hottest months of the year in July and August, the low season being the colder months between November-February. The best time to visit Florence to avoid the worst of the weather and the worst of the crowds is May, June, September, or October. There are cultural events and festivals on all-year round so you’ll always find something to spark your interest.

Spring: March-May:

There’s a special kind of energy in the air during Spring when, although there are plenty of Spring Showers around, the days are getting brighter and warmer and people are venturing out of doors once again. The city comes alive with flowers and trees blossoming and there’s plenty of fun and festivity. Easter is a huge event and the Explosion of the Cart is a tradition that cannot be missed on Easter morning! The annual arts festival, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino also starts in April and runs until June.

Summer: June-August

This is the peak season for visitors to the city with July and August being the hottest months, locals often leaving the city in August to escape the heat and enjoy a Summer vacation on the coast which can mean it’s not the ideal time to visit as you’ll be left in semi-deserted city with mostly fellow tourists for company. Whilst it’s business as usual in the historic center, offices and some shops/restaurants in other parts of the city will be affected with most closures happening the last 2 weeks of August. Despite this, a variety of open-air arts festivals and concerts are held during the Summer months with the 2 month long Florence Music Festival also taking place. In June you can witness Piazza di Santa Croce and enjoy the costumes and football events and also shop to your heart’s content in the July Summer Sales.

Autumn: September-November

September through to early to mid October has pleasantly warm temperatures which make it ideal for sightseeing, without the crowds of the Summer season. Later on, as Autumn arrives in full-force, the weather can be unpredictable with temperatures dropping, November being the wettest month.  If you’re a foodie, Autumn can be a great time to visit Florence – October is the wine harvesting season with Vendemmia, a wine harvesting event also taking place and in November, the olive-picking season commences.

Winter: December-February:

Outside of the Christmas and New Year holidays, this is the cheapest time to stay in Florence so can be the best time to visit if you’re not too bothered by the weather. January is the coldest month with December being rainy but snow is a rarity that, when it does happen, only lasts a couple of days though ice and wind can make the city rather bleak at times. Pack a warm winter coat, a hat, scarf, and gloves and you’ll be able to enjoy the city without the hoards of tourists and can always keep warm and dry in the museums. Florence Biennale takes place during December whilst in January, shopaholics and fashionistas will be kept busy with the January sales and also January fashion shows.

Author

Tal Gur is a world traveler and personal development enthusiast. An adventurer at heart, after trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, Tal spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey continues as a location-independent blogger, lifestyle entrepreneur, and coach. Tal’s published two books: One Year to Freedom, a 1-Year Roadmap to Living Life on Your Own Terms; and, his most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living – 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World.

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