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Hi.

Welcome to my photography and travel blog. This is a space where I share my travel stories, thoughts and photographs of beautiful places around the world. Enjoy reading!

Em xx

Visiting Florence: Should You Stay in Florence or Prato?

Visiting Florence: Should You Stay in Florence or Prato?

Considering a trip to Florence but would prefer to escape the mass tourists crowds? Perhaps in favour of a nearby cozy Italian town with a more local atmosphere? In that case, staying somewhere like Prato, which is a short train ride from Florence, allows you to have a good mix of both. Whether you are just here for a short visit, staying longer for work, or studying abroad - you’ll find this article insightful.

I had the absolute pleasure of spending many weeks (if not months), flitting back and forth between Florence and the lovely town of Prato, exploring the different areas and immersing myself in the local culture. In this blog article, I will share with you some comparisons and practical tips to help you decide whether to stay in Florence or Prato.


CONTENT:

1. Tourist Crowds vs Local Crowds
2. Getting Around: Transport Time
3. The Cost Factor: Food and Living Costs
4. Night Life and The Noise Factor
5. Accommodation Tips and Recommendation


1. Tourist Crowds vs Local Crowds


FLORENCE
// If you love the hustle and bustle of big city life, enjoy sightseeing and attractions, don’t mind large crowds and hoarding tourists, then you’ll love staying in Florence. It’s noisy, it’s hectic but it’s also a beautiful chaos - and I mean that in the nicest way possible.  Everywhere you go (the Duomo, Michelangelo Square, Ponte Vecchio Bridge) - is overrun with tourists who all flock to see these beautiful places, but there are also many quiet streets and secret locations amongst the chaos.

Tip: If you’d like to see Florence from a local’s perspective, then try Couchsurfing. Maybe you could even just meet up for coffee or food at a local place - it’s a great way to see a different perspective on any city.

PRATO // The ambience in Prato is simply beautiful, very cozy and refreshingly relaxed - when compared to Florence. There is a lot of nature to enjoy here, a beautiful river that runs down the township. The Old Town is filled with pretty cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and local shops/cafes. You soon realise that in Prato, it’s not about the touristic ‘Sights and Attractions’ but the appreciation and feeling of being surrounded by local Italian culture - that is an experience in itself.

Due to the presence of a few University Campuses (like Monash University), which constantly brings in new exchange students from Australia, America and Canada - I personally found the local people to be rather well-spoken in English and much warmer towards foreigners than in most touristic cities. (If you’re in Prato more than a week, there’s a good chance people will start asking questions and you might come away with some new Italian friends!)

My Personal Opinion:
Florence in short doses is fantastic. I personally love the buzzy energy and youthful artsy vibes of Florence. But once the novelty wears off, I found that in the long term, Prato was much calmer and didn’t stress me out as much as Florence. I preferred doing my creative work and staying in the chill ambience of Prato, knowing that the beautiful sights of Florence were just a short train ride away.  

2. Getting Around: Transport Time

The two stations I regularly commuted between Florence and Prato were:
- Firenze SMN (main train station of Florence)
- Prato Porta Serraglio (next to the pretty part of the Old Town)

One Way Tickets: 
- Cost: 2.50 Euros
- Duration: about 30 mins

Alternatively you can also hop off at: Prato Centrale Station
This takes you to the newer and more modern side of Prato. It doesn’t really matter, as it’s just a short 15-20mins walk between the two stations. But if you can get to Prato Porta Serraglio, then all the better as that’s where the charming cobbled lanes and beautiful old buildings are.

FLORENCE // Transport in Florence can be a nightmare. Depending on your mode of transport and where you are, it can take just as long to get from one side of Florence to the other - as it would to get all the way from Prato to Florence.

Tip: Use your legs and walk. It’s free. Bikes or scooters can be more efficient, but Italian drivers are crazy so beware. Cars and Taxis are impossible - I’ve seen entire streets blocked by cars attempting to U-turn or park. On the bright side: everywhere you go is so pretty and steeped in history that you don’t mind your journey taking longer!


PRATO
// Since everything is within walking distance… I just walked everywhere! Bikes are also a good idea, especially since it’s more spacious and there’s less traffic - Prato has some really nice cycle routes too. Cars and taxis also get around much more efficiently here.

My Personal Opinion:
Getting around in Florence was often quite stressful, dealing with loud noises, crowds of people, crazy drivers… ahh! I was always quite relieved to be back in Prato and actually found the transit from Prato to Florence much more convenient and pleasant - than if I was to commute from one side of Florence to the other.  

3. The Cost Factor: Food & Living Costs

FLORENCE // It goes without saying that of course Florence is more expensive in almost every aspect, especially in the touristic areas. Coffee also tends to be a tad more expensive in Florence, but again it depends where you go. If you can, ask some locals for their favourite places!

  • Dinner for two at a local (upscale) restaurant: roughly 40-50 Euros (drinks included).

  • Coffee: (ie. cappuccino) ranged from 1.50-3.00 Euros.

For you cafe lovers, you can find a list of my favourite cafes here:
Top 5 Cozy Cafes in Florence

PRATO // Since Prato is a lot more ‘local’ than ‘touristy’, this is also reflected in their prices. I found food, coffee and drinks very affordable. Some places (eg. I Frari delle Logge), you can grab a sweet deal of any drink (alcoholic included) + a buffet dinner for just 10-14 Euros

  • Dinner for two: roughly 20-30 Euros (drinks included).

  • Coffee: (ie. cappuccino) ranged from 1.50-2.50 Euros.

My Tip: Best Cafe in Prato for Work & Study

Caffè Bacchino
Address: Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri, 21, 59100 Prato
Super cozy cafe right next to the Monash University! Fast wifi and excellent drinks - chill vibes and lovely outdoor terrace.

My Personal Opinion:
If you’re eating or drinking out local in Florence, then the prices won’t differ so much from that of Prato. However, overall I found Prato to be less expensive and the quality of food, coffee, drinks, etc. were just as delicious :) 

4. Night Life and The Noise Factor

FLORENCE // When the work day ends and the night falls… that’s when the Italians come out to play! But apart from late night dinners and gelatos, I cannot say I’ve really experienced the real ‘night life’ in Florence (but I’ve certainly heard it!). From what I’ve read, if you love to go out, there’s a huge variety of places to choose from. I would point you to this article here: All in One Guide to Florence Nightlife

If you’re staying in the city centre or nearby, then just be prepared that the city can get really loud at night and I often found it hard to sleep, thanks to motorcycles and cars making those horrific loud noises, and never ending sirens from ambulances and police cars. 

PRATO // Nightlife in Prato was more my style. The daily aperitivo time has such a buzzy vibe with lots of chit-chat, nuts, olives and Spritz (or Aperol). Followed by a late dinner (about 8-10pm), more drinks and hanging around till late. Even as the clock strikes midnight, you’ll still see families out and about with young children, enjoying the cool evenings. 

In Prato, you don’t have to go far to get some peace and quiet. I stayed at a place, which was within a 5min walk radius of the Old Town (the ‘happening’ part of town) and within a few minutes, you have your quiet.

My Personal Opinion:
Everything in Italy seems to have very late opening hours - I’ve seen gelaterie (gelato shops) open till midnight! Although I found Florence a tad too loud and hectic for my liking, I did really enjoy late night strolls through the pretty city and night buskers on the bridge. Prato was much more chill and I really liked the local scene. I love the contrast of both!


5. Accommodation Tips and Recommendation

While there are some beautiful accommodation options in Florence, I’m of the opinion that you can find very comfortable places to stay in Prato too - and often for much less. Here are some of the places I have stayed in and can recommend:

FLORENCE //

1. Hotel Duca D’Aosta

A lovely boutique style room with elegant decor. Great location right next to the main train station and lots of nearby (touristy) places. Beds were comfortable and light breakfast also included. Overall, I did find it very expensive and would only recommend it, if location (of being close to the train station) is very important for you - because you have a conference nearby or something.

You can view the hotel here: Hotel Duca D’Aosta


2. Airbnb by Daniele & Clara

This lovely couple has done an amazing job with these apartments, lofts and rooms. We stayed here two nights and loved the artistic decor and creative flair. Bed was super comfy and bathroom was really clean and nicely done. Very affordable place to stay, amazing hosts who were very helpful - highly highly recommend

Here is a link to all their Airbnb listings: Daniele & Clara - Listings

PRATO //

1. Apartment Flats by Eleonora - Airbnb

For longer stays or short term rent (ie. studying or working) - this is a great and affordable shared apartment option. My brother stayed here while he studied at the Monash Campus in Prato and found it super practical and affordable. He shared an apartment complex with 4 other rooms and the communal areas (ie. fully equipped kitchen, two bathrooms, and lounge area) were professionally cleaned once a week, which kept the place looking really clean and tidy. Location is great: less than a 5mins walk to Monash Uni, the Old Town and Prato Porta Serraglio Station. 

Here is the link to her listings overview: Eleonora - Airbnb Listings

2. Dimora Giulio: Whole Apartment - Airbnb

Absolutely the sweetest little place with a gorgeous view from the bedroom window. If I could stay longer, I would - it has everything you could need and a fully equipped kitchen. Great location right by the Old Town and a short walk to the Prato Porto Serraglio train station. Giulio was a fantastic host and I couldn’t recommend this place more! 

Here is the link to the apartment: Dimora Giulio - Airbnb


My Personal Opinion - The Best of Both:

If you’re planning a longer trip to Florence (one week or more), then I’d suggest staying a few nights in Prato as well. I think it’s a great way to experience the best of both and by that I mean: experiencing the local culture without compromising on the ‘sights and attractions’ you came to see in Tuscany. After a day of hectic sightseeing in Florence, surrounded by tourists and noises, I found Prato to be a nice escape.

Perhaps I am of a biased opinion because I had the privilege of spending much more time in Prato, so just remember that this is my personal opinion derived from my experiences. Big thank you to the lovely locals in Prato who made my time such a beautiful one :)


Just a wee Disclaimer // Some of the links I’ve used here are affiliate links, which means that if you book or buy something through these links, then I will receive a commission from the company - however, that does not (in any way) change the prices for you. It’s simply a lovely way to help support this blog and I appreciate it so much :) 

If you’d like a discount on your first Airbnb stay: Emily Peilan - Airbnb


Have you been to both Florence and/or Prato before? Do you have a preference or is there anything you would add to the points above for others to contemplate? I look forward to hearing your thoughts below! 


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