Visiting Italy and living among the locals in Florence, Italy, one of our favorite Italian cities
Local travel isn’t just about exploring the region on your doorstep; in recent years, there’s also been a trend towards living like a local when travelling. Rather than following the same tourist trails and dining in tackily-decorated restaurants with garish picture menus, travellers are seeking out corner cafés to while away hours people-watching, neighbourhood parks not featured in run-of-the-mill guide books, and cutting-edge exhibitions at lesser-known art galleries. This phenomenon also extends to accommodation: rather than the traditional option of a hotel, many holidaymakers are opting to make like locals and rent apartments.
Apartment rentals aren’t exactly new on the vacation scene: beach-goers have been renting them for over a decade. But when it comes to city breaks in cities like Florence, apartments are just beginning to find their niche. Your spending money certainly buys more square metres when it comes to renting apartments or houses: even a studio apartment can be bigger than the average hotel room. For families, the advantages are clear – kids of all ages have space to roam around and can even have a separate bedroom, while cooking facilities mean there are no more issues for fussy eaters. Couples, groups and solo travellers are all starting to see the benefits of apartments too – they’re cost-effective, spacious, and allow you to feel a little like you actually live in the city you’re visiting.
Recently, when visiting Florence, Italy, I was given the opportunity to stay in a Florence apartment through Roomorama. With a range of properties of all sizes available in and around the city, choosing was difficult, but I eventually narrowed my choices down to a one-bedroom apartment just outside the main tourist centre on Borgo Pinti, a residential street which also hosts plenty of shops. I wanted to be within easy walking distance of the sights, but removed enough to feel as though I was part of Florence’s fabric rather than just another tourist. Located just a ten-minute walk from the Duomo (Florence’s famous cathedral) and other sights including the Accademia art gallery, this Florence apartment certainly allowed me to do that.
After arranging my arrival time with my host via email (all Roomorama properties are owned by independent hosts), I checked in with no problems. My host’s representative showed me around the spacious, light-filled apartment, which featured a bathroom, large living/dining area complete with table and chairs, kitchen, flat-screen TV and sofa bed, as well as the main bedroom. My temporary home was comfortable yet simple: it didn’t have the ‘lived-in’ feel you’d get from a house-swap, but it was far less impersonal than a hotel. The stack of towels and extra pillows and blankets you’d expect from a hotel was still there, but there were also plenty of facilities ideal for longer stays, including the fully-equipped kitchen and a washing machine. I have to admit I did miss the little bottles of toiletries in the bathroom though – perhaps a bar of soap could be provided as a compromise!
After settling in to my Florence apartment, I set out to take a look at my new neighbourhood. I spotted numerous grocery stores nearby, ideal for picking up provisions if I wanted to cook – or so I thought, until I stumbled upon the nearby Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. Open from 7am until 2pm Monday to Saturday, this large fresh produce market sells seasonal fruit and vegetables, all of which looked much more vibrant than their supermarket counterparts, as well as the finest Italian cheeses, meats, cakes and more. With such wonderful produce on your doorstep, not trying out your apartment’s cooking facilities would almost seem rude – especially when a number of wine shops around the corner sell locally-produced reds for just €2 per bottle. If you’d rather eat a little less locally than at your lodgings though, there were plenty of good-value local restaurants nearby, including Pizzaiuolo on Via de Macci, a lively spot which serves huge pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven for a very reasonable price. There were also plenty of bars within walking (or stumbling) distance, including Kitsch, which serves aperitivo (one of my favourite Italian customs – a happy hour where buying one drink allows you endless buffet access) every evening.
Renting an apartment in Florence through Roomorama: The conclusion
After a little local indulgence on my first evening, I rolled home and unwound in front of some Italian TV before taking myself off next door to my comfy bed. It was just like staying in a suite, but without the price tag – or the restriction of breakfast times. Next morning, I rose at my leisure and ventured forth to explore the city on my doorstep. Sipping a cappuccino at the bar with my fellow Florentines, I almost felt like a local.
Kate received a complimentary stay through Roomorama. As always with our site visits, our opinions are always our own.
All photos by and property of the author.