It’s the first thing you have to do on arriving in the country. In fact, if you’re going to give yourself the best chance of finding cheap accommodation (and attractive but budget Florence apartments do exist!) then you should start looking weeks, perhaps a couple months before getting on the plane. While finding accommodation in Florence isn’t as taxing as, say, finding accommodation in Munich, it does require a bit of effort!
While getting a good location is a massive bonus, the deciding factor for most students is cost. If you can find cheap accommodation in a non-ideal location, the public transport system in Florence is pretty comprehensive and can get you around the city pretty cheaply - beats paying your entire budget to live in an ideal location and having to sit in and eat homemade sandwiches for dinner every night…
The most effective way to locate a new apartment in Florence is to go online. Of course, the Housing Anywhere Florence search is one of the most effective solutions as we advertize apartments which are specifically for students and within student budgets.
Stick to HousingAnywhere and you’re bound to find plenty of listings, and be sure to act on them nice and quickly! If you find a cool, cheap apartment in Florence then you can be sure a hundred more people will have seen it within a few hours - get in there fast to maximize your chances of landing the place.
The so-called "historical centre" of Florence, among the famous buildings, museums and piazzas is the most expensive area of the city. There are apartments there, but the average cost is comfortably over €1000 per month for rent alone. If you have an unbelievable bursary then this might be feasible, but 99% of students visiting Florence will opt to live a bit further away from the action.
Particularly if you’ve driven to Florence, you’ll want to stay in a more residential area. The centre of the city is permit-only parking, but you can navigate the surrounding areas really easily on four wheels. It’s also more...traditional. You can live and shop like a local, without the constant presence of crowds and tourists.
Unlike many major cities, Florence is considered quite safe on all sides. There aren’t really any "dodgy" areas to avoid, or ominous suburbs where you’re likely to get mugged on the walk home. You can stay pretty much anywhere, and that’s one of the beauties of Florence. It’s worth mentioning that while no particular areas are unsafe, pickpocketing is rife (perhaps as bad as Barcelona!) and you should keep valuables firmly on your person when wandering around.
The definition of an "unfurnished apartment" varies hugely from country to country, and in Italy they take the term quite literally. While in the UK, for example, unfurnished apartments usually still include all white goods (like the fridge and washing machine) and a cooker (hob and oven); in Italy, apartments which are not arredato (furnished) do not come with these essentials.
In fact, you may lack light fittings, flooring and be required to paint the walls in some cases. As a student, it’s borderline impossible to furnish and live in such an apartment so try to avoid getting pulled in by the low room prices!
The cost of living in Florence isn’t cheap, but the room prices are pretty good compared to many of its European rivals. As a broad average, you can expect to pay between €300-€600 euros fairly comfortably - plenty of apartments cost more than that, but you’ll have a huge variety of options within that lower range.
It’s pretty easy to find a room in Florence, particularly among students. The locals are just as likely to spend a semester or a year abroad as you are, so frequently rooms are exchanged for the ideal duration of time. The resources we mentioned above (Apartments In Florence and Housing Anywhere Florence) are superb tools for finding single rooms. You can input your budget, specify by location and message the hosts before going for a viewing.
Since you’ll usually be "borrowing" someone else’s room for the year, it will be well-furnished and things like internet and utility bills will already be taken care of! You just pay whatever you have to without any of the stress. A cool extra is that you'll likely be living with Italians and get the chance to improve your language skills rapidly.
Where renting a single room is the most convenient option, many students prefer to live with fellow internationals, especially if their command of Italian isn’t that great. You integrate into the international scene more easily and do all the ridiculous things exchange students do (you know, like "studying") without upsetting your more-settled housemates.
It works out at the same price as renting a room, usually €300-450 a month if you get a nice place in a decent location, and is far superior to staying in any kind of student halls. You can also rent shared rooms in some instances, which cost a pittance - around €250 average. The downside of course is that you get zero personal space.
Finally there are one-bed apartments and studios. Unless you really don’t enjoy the company of others, I’d caution against this option. They are far more expensive (probably €600-800 easily) and, from experience, I can say that it’s the people which make up 90% of the fun and excitement of being on exchange!
Most landlords or hosts will want to meet you before offering the room (as most of us would) so you may have to sort some temporary accommodation in Florence for the first week or so. Hostels might be your best bet as you can stay there without worrying about all your luggage, while staying inexpensively in a good location. Consider booking for at least a few nights before making the trip, to make life a little easier.