Most of you probably wouldn’t have cause to know this, but when I got back from visiting my family in the US I moved to the outskirts of the Florence city center, drastically impacting my overall commuting time. If you look at a map of Florence, you’ll note a couple of important things.
The first is that most of the general tourist maps are really limited in the area that they cover, centering on not just the city center zone but the immediate center of the city where most of the tourist attractions, main churches, etc are located. The second major thing is that Florence is divided by a river. Whaaat? Yep, though it doesn’t really divide the city equally. The main city center is at the top and the Oltrarno is the area once you cross over the river, the Arno (mind-blowing, right?). You’ll note that there aren’t a ton of touristy things to do across the river, but there are many fewer tourists, Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens within are a hidden gem, and there are tons of places to go out. Win-win-win.
Note also that the main railway station the top left hand corner barely makes it into this map. Below is a more realistic portrayal of Florence, if slightly more overwhelming:
Now this map might seem massive, but keep in mind that most tourists stay primarily within the confines of the above map, not this one; this one is just to give you a better idea of how the city is laid out. Florence is pretty small (really!) and the main touristy area can be traversed on foot easily within half an hour (though during high season you might want to tack on a couple extra minutes to fight through the crowds). One major thing that you can see in this map is the “viales,” the major streets that run around Florence, unlike the tiny streets that weave through the heart of the city. You can also notably see the train stations and tracks, which is particularly important for yours truly. In the left hand corner you can see the main train station, Santa Maria Novella, as well as the Fortezza de Basso, where events are now held. Go north ten minutes and you’ll find the family I babysit for.
In the righthand corner you can see more train tracks, beyond which lies a big green patch. See that? Leading directly to that street is a footbridge that goes over the train tracks that I basically walk over every. single. day. Closer to the train tracks is a smaller stadium, where this past weekend they were holding track meets (that’s all I can assume, from the frequent sound of the gunshot and then cheering). Past that, still in the green and labeled on the map is the major stadium of Florence where the Fiorentina, the soccer team, plays. I live pretty much directly opposite the smaller stadium, so before the trees had leaves I could actually see inside it, but while I can see the lights and hear the announcements and cheering from the Fiorentina games I can’t actually see that stadium from my window/ balcony. Here’s my view:
So the view above is what I can see looking straight out my tall doors that open on to my balcony. Behind the trees is the smaller stadium with the mountains in the distance and in front is what we in the US would term a bus barn.
If you look to the left from my window, this is the view: you can clearly see the big bright lights that are lit up when the Fiorentina play in the big stadium.
It’s more difficult to see with the trees in full bloom, but to the right you can see the train station and the footbridge. It’s funny because when I first moved in I never noticed the trains but now I hear them all the time.
My dad specifically requested this post once I had lived here for a bit, so I’ll try to explain what it’s like to live out here. A lot of young Florentines live out here because it is cheaper than living directly in the city center. Technically I live just outside the city center, but my address is still in Florence. It takes me about half an hour to walk to the Duomo and to school, depending on what direction I take while walking. It takes me about 45 minutes to walk to the family’s house where I babysit. A lot of people ask why I don’t catch the bus more often; it’s something I have considered, but even though the fare is only 1,20 euros, that adds up over time and I really don’t have a huge budget for transportation when my feet work just fine. Also, when you count in waiting time, sometimes it actually isn’t faster to get the bus, and I’d rather be in motion than standing around waiting. Also, bus strikes? Happened multiple times since I’ve moved out here.
Campo de Marte is generally a quiet neighborhood, which is definitely a major plus over living in the city center. I lived over a bar before, paying double the rent on a shared room (now I have a single) arranged through student housing, which generally tends to be more expensive. The bar would have a good crowd until late in the night, and was particularly rowdy during the summer when it was warm enough to sit outside (though Florentines will sit outside when it’s freezing, a concept I don’t understand). I specifically remember one time being woken up at three o’clock in the morning to “Barbie World.” Not an experience I’d care to repeat.
However, the quiet is definitely broken when the Fiorentina play at home, which thankfully isn’t too often. I’ve had to walk home twice when the games get out, which basically consists of feeling like a sardine and getting elbowed and stomped on because I’m going majorly against the flow of traffic.
Generally speaking, though, while Campo de Marte is technically a neighborhood of Florence it definitely feels like the suburbs. It’s quiet, generally, and I don’t always see a ton of people around. There is a dog park near the footbridge, and running paths, so I suppose if that’s your thing it can be nice. There is a grocery store around the corner from my apartment but it is tiny, so I typically shop in the city center and carry it with me when I’m on my way home. There are a couple of major stores and coffee shops, but all my friends live in the city center, so that’s much more likely where I am to be found. Walking has just become part of my routine, and thankfully it’s rare where I have a day where I really don’t want to walk the distance; it’s just a part of my life.
Still, were I to continue living in Florence I’d personally prefer to be closer to the action. It’s much easier to just grab a coffee with a friend or run a quick errand when it doesn’t involve a half-an-hour commute. In many ways it reminds me of living back in Plano, my hometown, and commuting into Dallas for an event. Half an hour and you’re there, but it’s more convenient if you are closer. Housing in Florence can be hard to find, and if you are looking to move here, start early! It might seem crazy to look a few months in advance, but finding an apartment, a good one with decent landlords, which I am lucky to have, can be tough. If you want any more advice in that area, feel free to contact me.
Is there something you’d like to see on the blog? Drop me a comment and I’ll consider it!