The Ultimate Question: Prato or Florence?
Monash advises you to stay in Prato because you get the whole rustic Italian experience, mingle with the locals,slide out of bed and be in uni in less than 5 minutes and most importantly avoid tourist infested Florence.
While all of the above it true and valid- Just stay in Florence. You cannot walk past the Duomo in Prato, you cannot party till 2am and watch the sunrise over one of Italy’s oldest city in Prato and the best gelato is in Florence, so let’s not kid ourselves, you don’t really have a choice.
Where to find the apartment
Having made that decision, searching for the just right apartment can be a stressful experience so booking your apartment should be one of the first things that you figure out.
Here are the sites that was the easiest to use in terms of response time and availabilities.
Which area to stay in
Before I start, I just want to emphasize how small the city of Florence is. Take away the tourist crowds and you can get through the entire city and its major sights in about 30mins. Below are the descriptions and vibes of the plances I know people have stayed at whilst we were there.
A rough idea of where all the ‘neighborhoods’ are.
San Lorenzo is controlled chaos. The San Lorenzo Leather Market moos with the range of leather goods and also by the wily shopkeepers who sell their leather goods. The recently refurbished Mercarto Centrale is a hybrid of old and new, selling all your traditional market goods and pastry and a top level which has been turned into a fancy new chill out area with an interesting food court (no, but seriously, if you are looking for vegan food, you have found it who would have thought).
I stayed in the San Lorenzo area and I can’t recommend it enough for its convenience. However, of course, convenience comes with a premium price but if a 5 minute walk to the train station is important to you then this is the place to be.
Distance to Santa Maria Novella Station: 5mins
Ahhh Santa Croce or as I have come to know it: The only place you can party side by side with American Frat Boys and Dante. At the centre Santa Croce is the Santa Croce Basilica which also houses the famous Leather School. It is also home to the party district in Florence which I had the distinct pleasure and disgust in patronizing. Santa Croce is pretty much as heart of the city as you can get with a spiralling network of laneways leading from the Santa Croce Bascilica that hide Florence’s worst kept secrets in terms of best gelatos and paninis.
It’s a close walk to the major sites here and a midnight stroll to the Ponte Vecchio is never out of the question.
Distance to Santa Maria Novella Station: 20mins
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, you know it’s amour. The centre point of what you think of when you think of Italy. I don’t really know anyone who lived in this area but if you like sunsets and gondolas and rivers then this area is the quintessential place to be. Most of the apartments here look over the Arno River so you will be ensured of a river scene to quietly sing to your hearts content.
Distance to SMN station: 20min-25mins
Crossing the river from the duomo and just a little further down, you will find yourself in one of hippest areas in Florence. I’m talking the home of Artisan, independent fashion and hipster bars to make yourself comfortable in. Piazza Santa Spirito is alive and buzzing well into the night so if you want to get off the beaten track (or as much off the beaten track as you can get in the city of Florence), Santo Spirito is just perfect. It helps that it’s close to one of best wood fired pizza places in town.
Distance to SMN Station: 20mins-25mins