Certaldo Alta is a short train ride from Florence. The new part is less interesting, apart from a twice weekly market so head for the old part, Certaldo Alta either on foot or using the cable car from the square. Here you will find a lovely Tuscan hill town with few tourists, some interesting history and quiet bars and restaurants. In the summer there is a music and arts festival so you can listen to jazz in part of an old church surrounded by ancient frescoes. Even better, stay for the night in the nearby Fattoria Basseto, a former Benedictine convent, that is now a budget hotel and hostel. In one of the rooms there is a black and white photograph of the family who still own it, taken in the 1950's by Cecil Beaton.The owners are lovely, you will want to stay, arrange a cooking class at a nearby farm, and not return to Florence!
Via delle Città, 50052 Certaldo FI, Italy
+39 348 4370285
Google map: bit.ly/11ucXCG
This hostel isn't in the center of Florence - it's on the outskirts, but there's a free bus shuttle service into the center, and during the hot summer months, the pool and quieter location is a welcome respite from the summer crowds.
The location means you get cheaper room rates and heaps of extras - we loved the swimming pool, restaurant, bar and pretty surrounding olive groves.
We hired bikes and explored other parts of Tuscany - and the hostel organize tours to Pisa, Lucca and San Gimingnano.
Beautiful location, views of Tuscany countryside, great free breakfast, totally relaxing, and it was easy to pop into Florence, despite being in another town!
Ostello Gallo D'Oro is a central, pleasant and extremely clean hostel in Florence, owned by the most remarkable couple: Massimo and Silvia.
They drive every aspect of this lovely Florence hostel, and are constantly on hand to make sure that their guests (and you really do feel like a guest rather than a customer!) have everything they could possibly need.
I didn't stay long enough to take advantage of the offer, but long-term guests are invited out to their Tuscan farmhouse for the night.
It was a real wrench to tear myself away.
No. 104 Via Cavour, Florence
This place was absolutely fantastic with the type of service that really makes you feel at home. It has a great central location and loads of other features such as free internet, free national home phone calls and free CD burning! And the staff were very informative and helpful while at the same time very funny and quite charming.
Via Nazionale, 7, San Lorenzo Market, one block from central station
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