By: Aimelie Moen, BA 2014-18
You made the decision to come here, and now you’ve made the decision to stay—but in the city of Renaissance homes packed with tourists and students, how do you find a home for your budget, in a neighborhood you like, and with features, appliances, landlords, and housing agents to boot? With a bit of effort and patience, your ambitions can be met.
There are several ways to live in Florence: on-campus housing, off-campus housing, or in a homestay. Below is a list of the different types of housing, their different features and functions, as well as benefits and drawbacks, so you can make a more informed choice regarding your future living space in Florence.
On-campus housing: the go-to safe bet for a guaranteed reliable accommodation. While more expensive at about $1000 USD per month, you will be guaranteed a fully furnished apartment with room and bed, living space, kitchen with utilities, bathroom, and a responsive landlord. It may not be the most posh living situation, and you will be surrounded by other students and understand the unique experience of living in a building with 50 other students, but it will be a safe bet as communicating through Marist and the Marist Housing staff can protect you, your home, possessions, and finances, and offer safe and facilitated changes if emergency situations arise. Whether you’re a new student or returning, click this link to watch a video with all apartment scenes filmed in Marist Italy student housing. Student housing is in the San Lorenzo and Mercato Centrale neighborhood and within 5-10 minute walking distance of all school buildings, police station, immigration office, doctor’s office, and grocery stores.
Off-campus housing: if you want to explore different areas of Florence and feel like establishing your own roots in this city, and save yourself a few bucks or get what money can really buy, living off campus is for you. Florence, as the second most popular destination for English speaking students abroad, has become a very student-friendly city and many housing agencies, real estate companies, websites, and other props have popped up to offer cheap, accessible, and ready-made student housing.
- Priorities with Florentine apartments: try finding a good neighborhood that has what you want – if you want to be near classes and other international students, be in the San Lorenzo or historic city center area (Santa Croce, Piazza dell Duomo, San Marco). These apartments will be more expensive, as they are more popular for tourists (think a three bedroom, one bathroom apartment being upwards of €1200 euro
- Location: is it near school, a grocery store, hospital, police station, or within a comfortable and safe distance of where you want to go? Florence is generally safe, but this is just to consider. Although Florence is small, knowing your bus route to help you get to classes or around the city is also quite important. here’s the ATAF website to find how to plan routes, and here’s a link to a map of the bus stops (Google Maps is also great at planning directions with buses!)
- Accessibility: the entryway and floor level are important to consider as you will be carrying groceries, moving in and out, and may enjoy more comfort than you think (elevators are not popular here, and AC is not a thing). The ground floor makes a lot of stuff easier, but keep in mind that living so close to the street might be noisy.
- Facilities: Florentine apartments, like student housing in general, will not offer the creature comforts of home. You’re probably not going to have a drying machine or dishwasher, screened windows, or a full size shower or the thought of a bathtub. What they will offer is a stove and oven, sink, fridge, toilet and bidet, shower, radiators, and basic furnishings. Some apartments may have different features like terraces, large TVs, private gardens, and more.
- Cost: probably more what you’re considering than anything else. I have a detailed description down below to show you what to expect when paying for housing here.
- Knowing what you’re paying for: this is a BIG one. Italy is known for having a plethora of hidden taxes and fees, and Florence is certainly no different. Depending on your situation, you may pay some unexpected costs.
- Things you have to pay for:
- Monthly rent: this is dependent upon what housing situation you find—whether you are sharing an apartment, a room, or a home, and in which location, etc. Prices can be anywhere from €250 per month for a shared room to well over several thousand for a nice, full facility (dishwasher and drying machines are luxuries here!) and updated apartment
- Utilities: sometimes included in rent, but not always. Utilities are composed of several factors-electricity, water, and gas. The electricity bill is composed of three separate taxes based on time of day, from the time of full sun, evening light, and nighttime. The highest price is for electricity used in the full light of day, while the lowest price is for electricity used at night when it is more necessary.
- Wifi: sometimes included in rent or utilities
- Monthly building upkeep: not every rental contract or situation requires this, mine does and between my two roommates and myself we split the €100 monthly fee
- Deposit: usually the cost of one month’s rent
- Agency fee: ONLY if you go with an agency—my agency charged us the cost of one month’s rent, but this is not required in every situation.
- Things you have to pay for:
Ways to find housing: websites online, housing agencies in the city, and by word-of-mouth
- Websites online can offer great selection, choice, and information about apartments currently and soon to be available in the city. Be cautious with some websites that ask for more information, but do reach out to them if you are interested in an apartment, villa, or room. If your Italian is not good, do not worry: most of the websites online are geared towards international students. Here are links to some of the websites that students have rented from with success in the past:
- AirBNB (super popular for traveling, and also super useful for apartment hunting!)
- Apartments In Florence (very student-friendly)
- Apartments Florence (caters to a higher budget)
- ERASMUSU (intended for ERASMUS students, European exchange students)
- Studentsville Florence (specifically for students)
- Windows On Italy (offers great service)
- Housing Agencies will undoubtedly help you find exactly what you want and facilitate visiting the apartment, meeting with the landlord/lady and offer you some legal protection in emergencies. That said, they most certainly charge for their services.
- Word-of-mouth is great and viable, but usually only if you have connections in Florence already. New students may not yet know anyone, so finding new housing this way is a bit difficult, but after a semester or two here it is quite easy.
- Homestays: the fun and unique hybrid that allows you to share a flat with new people while simultaneously exploring the real Florentine and Italian lifestyle! This is a great option if you want to really culturally immerse yourself. I have never done a homestay, but the LdM website offers a home stay service and can place you with a trusted family that has been vetted by their standards while a quick Google search can offer many results as well.
In the end, being practical and setting expectations that are both realistic, financially viable, and safe are the most important things when finding a home anywhere but especially here in Florence and during college years. Home can be a place where you come to crash and refresh yourself, or it may be a place where you welcome friends, family, movie nights and dinners and more. It depends what you want out of your time and money here! You may not get that beautiful penthouse apartment on the Arno, but with good flatmates (or none at all!) and a bounty of good memories, any house can become your home.