Studying abroad in Florence may be the greatest thing I’ve ever decided to do. It was the fall of my junior year, a time in my life where I really needed to get out of my comfort zone and just wing it. I had just gone through a pretty rough year with a pretty not fun breakup, and I didn’t really have a firm grasp on who I was anymore. So, I did what any level-headed young adult would do: I signed up to study abroad with a program where I knew no one and had relatively no expectations for how it would go. Though it was not always as easy and fun as my social media accounts made it out to be, it was certainly had a heavy influence on who I am today. I know everyone says studying abroad changes your life… and if you haven’t done it yourself I know it totally sounds like a load of BS, but it is so true!!! It showed me that I am in fact a functioning adult (most days) and it taught me to be much more open to new people, places, experiences, ideas, etc. I could think of nothing better to start my blog than to share some of my favorite things about my favorite city (ranked in no particular order)!
- The Coffee: Before Italy I didn’t even like coffee. I thought it was pretty bland and bitter and all of those other negative adjectives to describe something you don’t like. But then Italy happened… and I can’t get enough. A typical caffe latte or cappuccino was only around 1.25 euro, so it was almost impossible to not have one or two a day! Also, is there anywhere else where cafes are this aesthetically pleasing?
- The bike rides: Something that was sort of unique to my study abroad experience was that I brought my road bike with me. It was kind of a pain in the ass to fly with, but totally worth it! Having my bike with me meant that I could venture off wherever I wanted to go to experience views of the countryside… and it was absolutely amazing. It was such a great way to explore the surrounding areas of Florence without any limitations. Not to mention, my calves were super toned and fit by the end of the semester from all the climbing!
- The architecture: My favorite part of Florence was its magnificent beauty. I’ll just leave these photos here…
- The art: Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, so it’s no wonder that it’s an absolute dream for anyone who appreciates art. I am in no way an art-historian or artist, so I will leave the reviews of the local art to someone else. However, the art is definitely a highlight of the city. From masterpieces like Michelangelo’s David to local street artists, the city is absolutely covered with beauty and innovation. Around every corner there is something new and beautiful to admire and learn from.
- The nightlife: Since Florence is a huge study abroad hot spot, most of the local nightlife is overrun by Americans. The bars and clubs are pretty catered to students, and it can be quite tough to meet locals. That being said, it’s still a good time if you make it a good time. There are plenty of bars and clubs to check out, and it’s CHEAP! Or, if you’re like me and really couldn’t be caught in a club… you can still get a taste of a night on the town and enjoy an apertivo! Apertivo is the college kid’s dream: pay for a cocktail and get unlimited “appetizers”… aka make appetizer’s your dinner because you’re cheap and can’t afford anything else. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a night on the town for cheap (8 or 9 euro!!) and get some good food along the way!
- The food: I’m more than a little biased here because Italian food is my absolute favorite. Carbs are my life. Even when I’m at home, I have pasta for dinner at least 5 times a week. It’s fast, it’s cheap, and it is delicious. But, there’s nothing better than eating Italian food in Italy. When living in Florence, most times I would opt for eating at home to save money, as the groceries were cheap and I would try to budget my money for other things, like coffee, gelato, and traveling. Only a few of times a week would I allow myself to splurge on lunch or dinner! One of my personal favorites will forever be Gusta Pizza. Seriously, if you go to Florence and don’t have Gusta Pizza, did you even go to Florence? It’s cheap, fast, and the most fresh pizza you’re going to find. Also, If you ask the employees nicely, they will even make the pizza in a heart shape for you!
- The gelato: My Facebook album for my semester abroad was actually titled “A Gelato a day keeps the six pack away”… and I took that title a little too seriously. I would say most days I had at least one gelato. Some days I had 4. Florence is full of gelaterias that all have the most amazing flavors… so how could you not make it a personal goal to try them all? Moral of the story: life’s short, eat gelato. Personal favorite: Gelateria dei Neri.
- The surrounding landscape: I’m not much of a city girl. Even in Florence, a city that’s on the much smaller side (only about 400,000 residents), I sometimes felt claustrophobic. Good news for me, and for you if you have the same problem, is that Florence is surrounded by amazing countryside scenery. Just a short bus ride away and you’re in the green rolling hills. You can even catch a glimpse of Florence from Fiesole, or just relax in the grass and enjoy the peace and quiet away from the shrill cries of ambulances and all the other noises that cities make.
- The culture: Italian culture was something I didn’t really appreciate at first. I come from Southern California, where everything and every person is rushed. However, in Italy, people relax. When you go to dinner, the waitress isn’t concerned with getting you your bill as soon as possible; you’re expected to be at leisure. The buses don’t come on time. Really, nothing is on time. This was initially really frustrating for me, but eventually it taught me to appreciate everything more. When you’re not in a constant state of stress, you can listen more, learn more, and see more. There’s nothing more valuable while traveling than learning about the local culture, and trying your best to embrace it! This can include making friends with locals, going to festivals, etc.
- The people: Last but certainly not least, the people of Florence were such a special part of the study abroad experience! From locals, to housemates, to classmates, to friends that came to visit me in Florence… the people are what truly made the city memorable.
Why do you love Florence? Anything else you want to know about studying abroad there? Let me know in comments!