Week Nine: Firenze
Florence is a beautiful city. Now that I only have about a month left, it seems 10 times more beautiful than it did when I first arrived. (Although if you had asked me then, this would have been impossible.) However, as a study abroad student, it is easy to get caught up in being in Europe rather than living in Italy. The allure of adding as many notches to your country belt as you can is incredibly enticing, and often leaves you running around like a mad person trying to visit and see too much. There is nothing like returning to Florence after a hectic weekend of bus, plane, and boat rides to see 3 countries in 3 days. It is so easy to take for granted where you live and to do little exploring in your new home. That is the inspiration of this post: a list of things to do if you’re planning on living in Florence so that you won’t take it for granted.
First, go to the Michelangelo look-out point. Depending on where you live in the city, it can be quite a hike, especially considering most students live across the Ponte Vecchio or near the duomo. However, it is 100% worth it. It is by far the best view of Florence and will make you appreciate the city even more than you thought possible. Make sure to do it early on in your visit so that it can serve as a memory as to just how lucky you are to be living in Florence.
Second, climb to the top of the duomo. Even if you are scared of heights, it’s worth it. The climb up is scary, especially when you get to the top of the dome yet you’re still in the building. This is when it is incredibly claustrophobic and a little intimidating. However, the very top is beautiful and not at all worrisome. It’s another amazing view of the city and it’s right in the center of everything! I mean, it’s the duomo of Florence, one of the most famous buildings in Europe! Everything was created around this one place and nothing is cooler than getting a birds eye view of your favorite gelato shop.
Third, visit the museums. Museums can have a bad name amongst college students, they sound cold and boring. But in Florence, they are a must, especially since a lot of the school’s in the city will give students a museum pass so that most visits are free! There is nothing more awe inspiring than seeing the David in person, that’s a promise. Pitti Palace is fantastic for fashion lovers, as are the Ferragamo and Gucci museums. Michelangelo’s art is pretty much in every museum, and also on most random street corners. Once you can recognize his art, the city comes even more beautiful and alive.
Fourth, eat at the less touristy places. Sure, Gusta pizza is unreal and Pino’s can make the best sandwich you will ever have. But, the real stuff is in the places you least expect. Basically, the rule of thumb is, if the restaurant serves Alfredo or pesto, don’t go there. These foods are not actually Italian and serving them may mean that the restaurant is more of a tourist trap than it is an authentic place to eat. Another good rule to follow is that if you can walk from the restaurant to the duomo in under one minute, it’s probably just a tourist trap too. The really good places are the ones you just happen upon that one afternoon when you get completely lost. The ones where you can’t hear a word of English being spoken and you have to point at the menu and hope you’re ordering something you like because you don’t actually know what it’s saying. My favorite restaurant in Florence so far is Osteria dei Pazzi. If you’re coming here, make a reservation!
Five, go for a walk. I know this sounds like something you could do anywhere, but I can guarantee that your stroll through Florence will be unlike any other walk you’ll take in your life. This is the best method to find your favorite shoe store, cafe, and view. This is how you end up buying that random perfume you love or meeting your new Italian friend who is filled with the hidden gems of the city. Walking is the best way to see Florence and it is a must do while you’re here.
There is a lot to see and do in Europe. It’s always fun to go to a different country for a weekend and explore more than your host area. However, don’t go overboard. One thing that I am seeing during my time abroad is people who go to so many places that they haven’t even really discovered their home city at all yet. People will ask them about their favorite places and they don’t have any to list! Make sure you plan some weekends to just relax and explore Florence. I promise more than anything you won’t regret it.