If you’re looking to study abroad in a city rich in culture, history and indulgent food, Florence is a no-brainer. Surrounded by beautiful Renaissance architecture and art, you’ll be living in a city “where dreams are made of”…because who doesn’t want to live the Lizzie McGuire movie?
Pasta, and Pizza, and Gelato Oh My!
It’s no secret that Italy has some of the best food in the world. Something you’ll be sure to learn quickly while studying abroad in Florence is that food is a huge part of Italians’ lives. Get ready to indulge in some of the best antipasti, pizza and gelato of your life!
Forget your favorite Co-Op sandwich. Florence offers the freshest and tastiest paninis. Made right in front of you, the Italian panini consists of any meat, cheese, vegetable and spread combination you could think of. Head over to the famous All’ Antico Vinaio on Via dei Neri for a yummy sandwich that is worth waiting in the daily out-the-door line!
While you’re still on the street of food dreams, make sure to stop by Gelato dei Neri for the best gelato in all of Florence. The only place you can find a salted caramel flavor – my personal favorite. Another great hidden Gelateria is La Strega Nocciola. Located across the Ponte Vecchio on Via de Bardi, they offer unique and super creamy flavors like lavender, blood orange and white chocolate cinnamon. YUM.
Don’t worry about missing Starbucks when you’re in Italy. Their coffee shops consist of top-notch espresso. Make sure to get a cappuccino from News Cafe, where each one is decorated with an artistic image of Florence. Although iced coffee is almost impossible to find in Florence, luckily the cafe Ditta Artigianale (featured in The Wall Street Journal as Florence’s best coffee shop!) offers the best cold brew latte. Perfect for a quick pick-me-up in the first few hot months in Florence.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on food but still want to dive into the Italian culture, try out the Italian happy hour called aperitivo. Offered at almost every cafe and most restaurants, you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet and a drink for usually under $10.
Before you leave Florence, dine at the famous La Giosta for one of the best meals of your life! The beautiful restaurant is covered in white christmas lights and is the perfect atmosphere for a date or a nice dinner with friends and family. Although it’s expensive, you’re welcomed with a free glass of prosecco and an amazing plate of an antipasti appetizer.
When You’re Not Eating Pasta…
Welcome to leather heaven. The city of Florence is flooded with leather shops, two markets and to-die-for shoe stores. Whether you’re looking for a gift for family and friends or something for yourself, bargain at the San Lorenzo market and Piazza del Mercato Nuovo for leather goods. Walk out looking like you’re favorite fashion blogger with their high quality knockoff of the Celine bag.
If you’re searching for a leather jacket, go to Massimo Leather. Located right off the San Lorenzo market and across from Trattoria ZaZa restaurant (endless truffle dishes!), the store’s super friendly owner will help you pick out the perfect jacket. Say you’re an Elon student for an incredible discount – he is even friends with some prior AEF students on Facebook!
Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, the home of Chianti’s famous olive groves and vineyards. Take advantage of the city’s location by going on a wine tour. You’ll taste the highest quality of Chianti Classico wine and familiarize yourself with proper wine-drinking etiquette. The vineyards are beautiful and the countryside is a nice change of scenery from the city life. I had a great tour with my family through the Tuscan Wine School located on Via de Bardi.
Although you’ll want to travel to different parts of Europe, I highly recommend visiting the village of Positano and island of Capri in the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, all beautiful places only a few hours by bus from Florence. Make sure to go in September while it’s still warm!
The City of Art
The most exciting part of Florence is seeing the Ponte Vecchio in person – not just on the cover of guidebooks. Walk across it to find intricate gold jewelry and live musical performers at night. It truly makes the city feel magical and looks beautiful during all parts of the day. If you’re lucky, you may be able to cross it every morning to get to school depending on the location of your apartment.
My hands-down favorite thing in Florence is the Piazzale Michelangelo. If you’re a runner, go for a run across the river and then walk up the stairs to reach the piazza – it is more than worth it! Once you’re at the top, stop and sit on the stairs to take in the most amazing view of the city. More than just a great Instagram opportunity, this spot is also the perfect place to watch the sunset with friends after a day of class. If you’re up for it, continue to trek up the hill to the San Miniato al Monte church for an even better view. You can even see Forte di Belvedere, where Kim and Kanye tied the knot.
Whether you choose to enroll in Art History or not, make sure to take advantage of the incredible museums and piazzas in Florence. The city itself is a piece of art! My personal favorites are Santa Croce, The David in Galleria dell’Accademia and The Boboli Gardens in the Pitti Palace. Before you leave, climb the Duomo Giotto’s Bell Tower for an incredible view of the city.
With only one month left, I can’t imagine not studying abroad in this beautiful city I now call home. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] If you have any questions about the study abroad program or about Florence itself. I would be more than happy to help!