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Florence location good for seniors

Hoping (yes, I know...) to take my husband on his first trip to Italy next year. I've been numerous times, but that was back in the 80s & 90s and I know things have changed.
In Florence I'm curious about a location suitable for seniors with mobility limitations who do not appreciate night life or noisy street carousing. We'll probably be in Florence 4 nights.
I would consider Fiesole, but would also be interested in any suggestions in Florence proper. I checked the Reviews section of these forums but didn't see any topics addressing this particular question.

Posted by
1832 posts

The Oltrarno side of the river is our preference because it's quieter than being in the center of things.
If mobility is an issue the local bus system will take you anywhere you want to go - cheaply and with a minimum of hassle.

Posted by
719 posts

Both my trips to Florence I've stay about 2 blocks from the train station, once in one direction and the other time in the other direction. In both cases they were very quiet but still only a 15 minute walk from the Duomo (so the center of things). I like staying near the train station for ease in coming and leaving and if I'm doing any day trips. The streets directly bordering the station are not good - too noisy, just not that nice, but literally, go just a couple blocks and it's much nicer. In both cases the street the hotel was on was not 'charming', nor was the exterior of the building, but inside was beautiful and the location was perfect for me. You don't mention how serious your mobility issues are. The center of Florence is flat and distances are not far but if mobility issues are more serious I'm not sure what I'd advise as the center is largely pedestrianized. There are buses to go around the center though.

Posted by
2640 posts

Thanks for these suggestions. It's great to know that the bus system has good coverage. When I was there as a young adult I simply walked everywhere, paying no attention to bus options. What I remember from one stay in Florence was throngs of young people out in the square around the Duomo and other landmarks, drumming and chanting and dancing until all hours. But that was in August, whereas my current plan is for an off-season trip.

Mobility issues are sort of a moving target -- he may be doing a little better by the time we travel, thanks to medical interventions. But we can plan on the fact that he has difficulty with any steps/stairs unless there's a railing. We've learned to ask people who are sitting/hanging out on stairways to please move aside so he can use the railing. (This happens where we live, for example on the stairs in NYC's Grand Central Station.) He can't walk more than about 1/8 mile without stopping to rest. He can't walk very fast, so he gets nervous in a crowd, such as when leaving an arena after a sports event.

We will strongly prefer a hotel room on the ground floor, or if necessary the European 1st floor, because even if there's an elevator, in case of a fire the elevator wouldn't be working. That is a worry, albeit remote. (I know, any travel involves certain risks, just as there are risks when you're staying home!)

Posted by
504 posts

Hi epltd, in 2002, I visited Fiesole and would not recommend it as a base because you need to take a bus to get places and it takes a while. However, depending on your budget, it’s a 25m taxi ride and IT is expensive. I would talk to your hotelier, etc. and ask how much to expect to pay for a cab ride and settle the price with the driver before getting in. With that said, it is a scenic drive between Florence and Fiesole.
If your husband has trouble climbing steps, taking the bus may not be the best option because you have to climb three steep steps and if the front end of the bus is filled with passenger’s, then you will have to walk to end to find a seat if there are any. Otherwise, you may find yourselves standing the entire duration of the trip.
My next trip to Florence was in 2005 where I slept in the Oltrarno neighborhood that was low-key with good rest restaurants. I doubt if it’s still uncrowded with tourist crowds today, but if you’re going during the off season, it could be. Depending on where you stay in Oltrarno, it can be a close walk across the river.
There was a mini-bus that took me from Florence to Siena that might be more doable than a big bus. However, going to San Gimignano which is worth a day trip required a connection.

Posted by
2640 posts

Thanks, Mary Pat, for the advice about buses. You've given me some good reasons why a taxi could be worth it, as opposed to a bus, although he did OK on buses when we were in Scotland a couple of years ago.

I agree that Fiesole might not be the ideal choice for us. Even though I'd love to go there (maybe for dinner one evening), daily "commuting" from a suburb to the central part of the city where the interesting sights are can be a bit of a pain. And then if you wish you had brought along a sweater or you forgot some item, you're stuck.

I like the idea of sleeping in Oltrarno, based on what you and others have said.

For a day trip to certain towns outside Florence, I planned that we would hire a driver because there are a couple of places I want to visit that aren't popular with other tourists, nor are they convenient on public transit.

Posted by
2640 posts

@Geovagriffith thanks for the recommendation! Is that the Hotel Balestri on Piazza Mentana, located on the same side of the river as the Uffizzi, near the Ponte alle Grazie? If so, the photos on the website look beautiful.

I couldn't tell from the website whether they have rooms on the ground floor -- presumably there are some on the European 1st floor -- and/or an elevator. It looks like it is 5 stories including the ground floor.

Posted by
116 posts

We found that many (most) Italian hotels in central city areas begin on the 1st floor (not ground) or higher. The ground floor is usually a retail establishment. Make certain to ask the hotel if the lift starts from the ground floor and if not - how many steps. Send an email and explain your husband's limitations and abilities. The more you communicate the better your experience. They certainly don't want to not meet your expectations.

I, too, suggest finding a hotel close to the center of the city. Looks like the one we stayed in in '19 is now closed. Hotel De Lanzi is in the same building & appears to have a lift from the ground floor. I know we used that lift to our hotel on higher floors. It is one block from the baptistry and bell tower. Hotel is not too special - but the location was great! Evenings were very quiet. If his walking is limited to short stretches - it's easy to then walk a bit, stop for gelato or coffee and go. Everything is very close by. You would only need car/driver for your day trips.

Posted by
12063 posts

Forget Fiesole. It’s nice for a half day visit but too far from things to be considered as a base.
Anything in the historical center, which is flat, would work. The city center is closed to traffic now, so car traffic is not an issue. However some streets are busy with foot traffic and the so called movida, other streets (very few) have some city transit traffic (buses). However overall, even in busy streets, if your room doesn’t face the street, you won’t hear any noise. More concerning for someone with mobility issues should be the presence of an elevator. Many ancient buildings in Florence (including hotels) don’t have one.
Go to any hotel search site (Booking.com, hotels.com, Trivago.com, Expedia.com, etc.) find the hotel you like, make sure it has an elevator (you can filter that through those websites) and once you’ve made a few choices, I can give you the estimate on the decibel level for the noise in that street.

Posted by
1237 posts

I disagree with hearing no noise in the city centre.
I stayed in a lovely apartment on the Via del Corso in 2010, the bedroom faced the back inner courtyard, and the noise from the surrounding streets was unbelievable....mostly drunk American students .
(I could hear them yelling and screaming/laughing, dropping bottles well into the early hours.)
Since then, I've always stayed across the river , more toward San Frediano area where it's quieter.
Of course, now, I would hope there will not be the crowds, even after things open up again.

Posted by
2640 posts

Thanks for these comments! I totally know what you mean about drunken students making noise all night, as we experienced that in Dublin two nights running.

On another one of these forums, someone described a hotel in Oltrarno but didn't name it. I tried sending a private message to that person, but haven't gotten a reply yet. The hotel sounds like exactly what we'd want: "... free shuttle between the hotel and the Oltrarno or several points North of the river, on call, from around 8 am to 10 pm - don't know if this service is still offered. ...Slept with windows open at night, no noise (!), spectacular views. ...The hotel itself belonged to the Duchess of Aosta, then it was a convent, now charmingly reinvented again."

Does anyone know what hotel this might be, or a way to track it down? I already tried Googling "Duchuss of Aosta," and while that yielded some interesting links it didn't reveal the hotel.

Posted by
6 posts

I did a little research and I think I found the place you are looking for -- Villa Agape? The description (see below) sounds quite similar to your information. There is a reference to the Duchess of Aosta as well as a mention that nuns had managed it at one point. The shuttle is cited on the website as stopping at 3 drop-off points but unfortunately is discontinued at the moment due to Covid restrictions. Reviews on TripAdvisor are absolutely glowing with a 5.0 rating! The address is: http://www.villaagape.it/

"In the amazing setting of Piazzale Michelangelo, a short walk from the scenic area of the Arcetri Observatory in Florence, stands the romantic Art Hotel Villa Agape, former Villa Arrighetti owned by the Duchess of Aosta."

The origins of Villa Agape are lost in the history. In fact the building seems to date back to the Middle Ages, when it was built as a simple country-house. Villa Arrighetti, however, owes its entire and present magnificence to the Duchess Anne D’Orléans, widow of Amedeo Duke of Aosta, which bought in 1948 from Mrs. Royle Cladyf, daughter of George Macleam.

In 1968 Villa Arrighetti became the new house of the Stabilite nella Carità Sisters, and place for spiritual exercises, conferences, meeting, studying days, short or long periods to rest in solitude for physical and spiritual relaxing. The nuns renamed the Villa in Villa Agape, from the Greek word meaning “banquet”. The sisters remained there until 2014, and 2015 Villa Agape, with a new management, has become a wonderful hotel in the hills of Florence, thanks to a big renewal of its halls and rooms."

Posted by
12063 posts

Drunk American students or visitors can pop up at any place and at any time. The only exception is now, due to Covid restrictions since Americans are not there at all now. But under normal circumstances there will be young Americans drunk and acting loud and foolish somewhere in Florence. I just cannot predict where they will be exactly. I remember a large bunch of them in Fiesole one time, so not just in the city center. The ways of the American drunk students are infinite.