Moving to Florence
The ‘cradle of the Renaissance’ is a city of architectural delights and artistic flourishes located in the northeastern part of Tuscany - the region of which it is capital. Florence’s domed cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore) and its ornate bridges (the most famous of which is the Ponte Vecchio, lined by shops held up by stilts) attest to its important place in European history as an early centre of trade and finance, home of the Medicis, one of the richest city states and capital of the short-lived Kingdom of Italy.
Tourists flock in their millions to see Florence’s world famous sculptures, paintings and buildings which include works by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Pisano. They also come for the Tuscan cuisine - rich dishes based on traditional peasant food - and the wine - Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano are all located nearby. These highlights are, of course, also available to those moving to Florence on a temporary or permanent basis, but for those looking to spend longer in the ‘Athens of the Middle Ages’ there are several other bonuses.
A fantastic base for exploring the region of Tuscany as well as the north and central sections of Italy, Florence is located just an hour’s drive from the mediterranean coast with its mixture of sandy beaches and bustling port towns.
Moving to Florence from the UK
Climate, cuisine and la bella vita remain the major draws for Brits moving to Tuscany, a favorite retirement or second home destination.
Membership of the EU means there are no official obstacles to those moving to Italy from the UK so, for those who aren’t living off a pension (or otherwise independently wealthy), the most serious consideration will be finding employment. Fluency in the Italian language is a requisite for securing a job in a country currently suffering from high unemployment. The mainstay of the Florentine economy is tourism though it also has a strong manufacturing sector.
Accommodation costs in Florence are traditionally higher than in most of Italy but, with house prices having fallen for four years in a row, this might not be so much of a concern to those with the proceeds of a UK house sale.
As a major tourist destination Florence is a hotbed of pickpockets and purse snatchers so extra vigilance may be required for those used to living in cities without petty theft problems.
Women may also find the highly vocal and demonstrative tendencies of Italian males troublesome when out alone and might feel pressured into dressing more conservatively as a result.
Thinking of moving to Florence?
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Comparing Florence vs London
Modern ice cream is thought to have originated at the court of the Medicis in Florence in the 16th Century. With high temperatures averaging 32 °C in August (a good nine degrees higher than in London) it’s no surprise why. Though Florence is located far to the south it’s not protected in winter by the warming effect of the ocean like London. It actually sees similar lows in winter to the UK capital and snowfall is about as frequent an occurrence.
Rents are about half as expensive in Florence as in London and property prices are a good 30% lower which, in spite of higher prices for food and consumer goods, leads to a lower cost of living overall.
The average Florentine salary is significantly lower than the average Londoner’s so local purchasing power is reduced in spite of lower accommodation costs. Florentines also report lower satisfaction in healthcare. They do report feeling marginally safer than Londoners though, experience less pollution and spend much less time commuting.
Property in Florence
As mentioned earlier, Italian property is on a long downward trend which began with the Eurozone crisis and which has been exacerbated by austerity measures, political instability and a contracting economy. Tuscany and Florence have not bucked this trend which, when the market bottoms out, could lead to significant bargains for cash buyers.
You can currently pick up a three bedroom apartment with a private garden and parking space, in Bagno A Ripoli, near the centre, for around €240,000 (£200,500). A six bedroom 16th Century villa with 23 hectares is a steal at €15,500,000 (£12,950,000).
Property transaction costs are pretty high in Italy though - there are three separate taxes to pay which, along with estate agents fees, bring the average outlay to between 9% and 23% of the property value.
The rental market in Italy - a nation with around 80% home ownership - requires a little hustle if you’re going to find the best deals. Many Italians get around high real estate agent fees by letting privately so you might want to find temporary accommodation to begin with while you find the lay of the land. Fluency in the language will again prove invaluable.
Family friendly: Bagno A Ripoli is only a few minutes from the city centre by bus but is a world apart from the bustle of the tourist areas. A good selection of family friendly restaurants and short drive from the International School of Florence.
Hip and trendy: The hipster scene has to move fast to keep the tourists at bay in Florence. The Via dei Benci though is a perennial centre of nightlife.
Upmarket: The Florentine hills, including Careggi, Fiesole and Settignano, are the traditional locations for the homes of the elite - several Medici-built villas are still extant.
Up and coming: Moving a little further afield, the south Tuscan coast is relatively undeveloped as yet and could present the best opportunities for bargain hunters.
Schools and education in Florence
In Italy public schooling is available from the age of three but schooling isn’t compulsory until the age of six. Up to three years of kindergarten are followed by five years of primary education, three years of lower secondary education and between three and five years of upper secondary education (which is provided by three types of institution; technical, professional and academic). As with most bureaucratic operations in Italy, registering your child for school can be a long process so make sure you start investigating as early as possible.
There are also plenty of private and independent schooling options in and around Florence for parents who wish to continue their children’s education in their mother tongue.
The Ecole Franco-Italienne is a multilingual school offering tuition in French, Italian and English from nursery grade to high school. It’s accredited by the French Ministry of Education and fees start at around €5,500 per annum.
The International School of Florence teaches in English from preschool to high school, offers the International Baccalaureate. Fees start at €10,250 and rise to €19,200 per annum.
The English Primary School is a bilingual school located in Lucca which teaches to Italian Ministry of Education standards.