( Past Post on Florence Here )
Florence, Italy. I mean, it really is the perfect city to study abroad in ( esp if its your first time in Italy ). Its relatively small & the city is filled with students, so there is always something going on. Trust me, I lived in a ( weirdly huge ) apartment near the Mercato Centrale ( <<< I’ll cover this later ) this summer while studying Event Planning ( yeah, reaaaaal serious ) at Lorenzo de’Medici, and it seemed like the streets were NEVER quiet. Which is exciting, and somewhat annoying, but mostly exciting.
Before I got to Italy, I consulted TONS of blogs / people about all the things I had to see / eat / do / etc, ( okay, so sometimes I’m a little over-prepared ) and it was super helpful to have an idea of the city before I got there. Its a pretty small city, but its over-flowing with culture / interesting people / good restaurants & bars / etc, so your to-do list might get a little overwhelming. ( BTW :: Girl in Florence is a GREAT reference for anyone who is planning on studying / visiting the city ). For me, three weeks was not enough to see everything I wanted to … so, I guess that means I’ll just have to go back soon ( fine by me ).
One of my good friends is studying there this fall, and I promised her that I would make her a little list of all my favorite spots in the city ( & weekend trips !! ). So, why not share it with the rest of the world? If I can help anyone else have a bomb-azz time in Florence, I’m a happy girl. Instead of making one longgggg, drawn-out post, I’ll split it up into:
1. 2 Cents From My 3 Weeks :: random tips / helpful stuff to maximize your amazing experience & have enough money to do everything you want << This Post
2. Food in Florence :: Omg, You’ll die.
3. Weekend Trips You Gotta Take
4. Night Out On the Town :: The Best Bars / Clubs
5. Shopping :: The Best Leather store in town & more!
6. A fun little Compilation Video of my time in Italy / France / Monaco !! ( Go – Pro is a must-bring )
So, Here goes some stuff you need to know to help you : 1) stay afloat monetarily ( nearly, impossible.. FYI ), 2) know what to expect.. its not all butterflies & rainbows ( you’ll miss some things about the US ), 3) get around town, 4) Etc. Etc. Etc.
Tipity-Tips ( in no particular order ):
1. Cash is your BFF. Because of international transfer charges, using your credit card ( most cards, at least ) is more expensive overseas because you are charged extra. Florence is an expensive city already, so you don’t wanna waste money because you’re too lazy to hit up the ATM.
2. Exchange your money at a bank / post office for the best exchange rates. I had to exchange my American money right when I got off the plane in the airport, and they rip you off big time. Convenient but brutal. So, either get a handful of euros from your bank before you leave ( good idea ), or find a bank or post-office in Florence to exchange your dolla-dolla-bills. Bringing a good amount of cash with you & limiting your trips to the ATM ( get more money out than you think you need ) will save you money on ATM fees as well.
3. Before you go, at least try to learn a few Italian phrases. Only one of my friends did this, so we found ourselves leaning heavily on her for vocabulary. A lot of people speak English, but you’ll run into your fair share who don’t. And its frustrating. So, learn some simple phrases before you go; it’ll help you out A LOT. Plus, You get major brownie-points with Italians when you at least TRY to speak / respect their language. Don’t just expect them to speak English… apparently it can be considered rude. ( Mostly what happens :: you try to speak Italian and they look at you like “oh, what a cute little American” and then they will turn to English because they don’t want to have to hear you butcher another Italian word )
4. Also:: Before you go, Plan ahead for any medication you take ( sometimes you can’t get the same meds over there ) & make copies of all your prescriptions. Its just a good idea to have copies of these for proof that you got your meds from a real doctor and not illegally. I left some medication on the plane on the way to Florence, and I was able to tell a doctor there exactly what it was / how much I needed / etc. Very handy if you lose everything, all the time ( me ).
5. Wifi. Wifi. Wifi. So, if you aren’t planning on spending a bijillion dollars on an international plan, wifi is your best bet. Most restaurants / bars have wifi for customers ( they give you the password when you order ). This is basically how I stayed connected with the world.. thank God for iMessage.
6. Save money on dinner :: Aperitivo. This will save your life. Food can be kind of expensive in Florence / Italy in general, so we went out for aperitivo around dinner time most nights. Basically, around dinner, restaurants have a time where you can order a drink or two, and get access to a yum-o little buffet ( which differs slightly from place to place :: find my favorite places in a post soon-to-come ). This is what they call “Aperitivo.” So, its free food with the drinks you are obviously going to buy ( its Italy, live a little )… AND you can go back to the buffet as much as you want. What could be better?
7. While on the subject, when ordering wine at a restaurant / bar ( which you have to do ), ask for the House Red / White. First of all, its usually reaaaal cheap. Also, it is SO much better. Italians take pride in their locally-made stuff ( ex: truffle oil, olive oil, wine, etc <<< gotta try it all ), and with good-freaking-reason. Its amazing.. as most locally-grown / fresh stuffz is. Also, you’d be surprised how many things that we add to food / drinks in the US are actually illegal to put in food / drinks in Italy ( & the rest of Europe :: article here ). Yeah, gross. Local is a huge thumbs up.
8. Citronella Candles are your other BFF during a summer in Florence. Those bugs will eat you alive.
Things to Prepare For / What You’ll Miss About Home
1. Free Water :: Florence is pretty toasty in the summer time, and as an American, you’ll want COLD, ICE WATER, because thats what we’re used to. Nope. First of all, water usually costs money, and they bring your whole table a tiny little wine-sized bottle of lukewarm water… seriously. They don’t do ice. People who have told you that sometimes “water costs more than wine” are NOT lying. BUT, you can order tap water at a lot of places for free, so I highly advise that. Considering the amount of wine you’ll probably be drinking, you are going to be feigning for some cold h20 in the morning, so going to a cheap little store and grabbing a huge water bottle MULTIPLE times a day is perfectly the norm. You’ll look obviously American, but oh well, stay hydrated my friends.
2. Air conditioning :: Also, as an American ( living in the most consumption-crazy country that ever existed ), we expect AC in the summer ( or always, if you’re from Texas like me ). Also nope. They aren’t really into the whole air conditioning idea. So, expect to be a tad sweaty, and plan your clothes accordingly. Hey, its Europe, people kinda smell… at least you’ll blend in with the locals. Its a culture thing.
3. Huge, greasy plates of food :: Europeans are in good shape.. I mean, really. More than half of the girls in Italy look like they could be high-fashion models. Besides walking a lot, they eat smaller portions of food. Obviously, the United States is kinda known for fatties ( its a fact ) & our fatty-fat portions of food & our fatty-fat hamburgers, fried chicken, & french fries ( <<< BTW: when you miss the salty-goodness of fries, you can always hit up McDonalds or The Diner… sounds gross, but sometimes you miss all that greasy goodness ). Hungover me missed being able to go grab some chips & queso, fried chicken, b-fast tacos, or whatever other nasty thing I end up convincing myself I need in the morning.
4. Not being confused :: You’ve never really been lost until you’re lost in a Foreign Country.
5. Driving :: Oh my god, I missed driving on big, US roads. We took the train most of the time. Its cheap & convenient, but not the cleanest or most organized system in the world. I missed my car.
6. Cleanliness :: Alright, Florence is a pretty clean city, but its still a City. It gets a little messy at times ( even though they clean the streets completely at night … which I heard from my bedroom every. damn. night. ) Also, Europeans aren’t as germ-a-phobic as we are in the US, and they definitely don’t shower as much. I can see how that is a wonderful & freeing way to live, but I’ve been conditioned otherwise.. I can’t help it. So, be prepared for that.
7. A LOT less Cat Calling / Annoying Street Vendors :: So, you know when you’re walking in the mall and those annoying kiosk vendors bombard your life to ask if you want your hair curled or if you want to try some dead-sea scrub / lotion? Yeah, no thanks. Its awkward & invasive & annoying. Florence street vendors are 10x worse. Basically, you just have to ignore them. Its not rude to do that there, so don’t worry. Also, when those old men yell creepily at you from the bar patio… do as the Italian women do & ignore, ignore, ignore.
8. Large & open spaces :: Everything is smaller in Florence. Cars, streets, rooms, people ( I noticed people are generally shorter / skinnier ), portions of food, etc. Its quaint, but sometimes got a little too claustrophobic for me. I mean, HOW DO THEY DRIVE ON THOSE ROADS WITHOUT DYING??
9. Obviously, I missed my family / friends / my dog. Duh.
10. Did I say AC? Good God.
Now, don’t let all the little things you’ll miss distract you. I’m just warning you, so you can know you AREN’T alone & that you’ll live without all of these things. So, soak up the culture, buy a mini fan, keep some ice in your fridge, & get over it.
Read my other posts on Florence here !!
Until nexxxxxt time, k?
[ PS ]