Cultural Experience | Florence

City Guide to Florence, Italy

Wandering the Streets of Florence

Florence, Italy the city that still holds my heart, is located in Northern Italy in the Tuscan region (famous for their Chianti wine). History is overflowing the streets in this little magical city especially when is comes to royalty, art, and food. Florence was one of the homes to the most powerful Italian family, the Medicis. This 15th century royal family lived in the two different palaces in Florence the Pitti Palace and the Palazzo Vecchio. The Medicis were popes, dukes, and princes who ran the economy in Italy. Along with the Medicis Florence was also home to the royalty of art such as Michael Angelo, Brunelleschi, and  to the most well known artworks around the world. A trip to Florence isn’t complete without visiting one of their many beautiful cathedrals or monumental museums. I can’t even begin to talk about how a truly amazing the food in Florence is from a Florentine steak to simply impeccable pasta.

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What To Eat

Gusta Pizza: In Florence my favorite place to go for dinner was Gusta Pizza, it is the honestly most amazing place. Note to self though they aren’t open on Mondays trust me my roommates and I took plenty of trips across the Arno to find their doors closed. But any other day is good and they open at 7pm for dinner. You can eat in the restaurant or outside on the steps of the Santo Spirito with a bottle of wine. If you tell them is your first time at Gusta Pizza they will make your pizza in the shape of a heart. They are the nicest people, I love Francesco, Salvatore, and everyone in the Gusta family.

Lo Schiacciavino:  My favorite place to eat at for lunch was Lo Schiacciavino, which is over by the Santa Croce. The sandwiches are to die for; my favorite is the ‘E ci Credo’ delicious prosciutto, brie cheese, and cream of truffle on cibatta bread.

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La Carria: My favorite gelateria is La Carria, the gelateria is family owned by Roberto and his family who have two locations one is located down the street from the Santa Croce and the other is across the Arno. Luckily this was a minute walk from school and a 5 minute walk from my home so needless to say my roommates and I were always there. I would do anything for a “tre euro cono di yogurt e nutella”.

La Milkeria: The coffee is delicious just about anywhere you go in Italy. (This is just one of the biggest things I miss about living in Italy). My favorite place to get a really wonderful cappuccino and waffle with Nutella was La Milkeria.

After Dark

Viktoria: At night I loved to get drinks at Viktoria which is right down the street from Lo Lo Schiacciavino. The brothers who own the bar Paolo and Marco are the sweetest ever. I really enjoyed getting drinks here because they are very creative with the ingredients in each drink, I always tired a new one every time.

There are tons and tons of bars and clubs in Florence. The bars where we always found other students at were Red Garter, Lions Fountain, and the Irish Pub by the Duomo. But really just roam the city at night and you are sure to find the coolest bar. For the clubs it really just depends on what night you are going out because some clubs are more popular the others on different nights.

Secret Bakeries: You have to ask around town to get the location because they are secret but eating a Nutella stuffed pastry at 2 am is well worth the search.

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Top Places to See

Piazza Michael Angelo

What became my absolute favorite thing to do after school was to climb to the top of the Piazza Michael Angelo with my friends and a bottle of presco and just look at the cityscape of Florence because it is absolutely breathtaking. Fun fact they also have gelato festivals here and that is just heaven.

Il Duomo: Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

This is a must! This Italian gothic- renaissance cathedral began construction in 1294 under Arnolfo di Cambio and finished by Fillipo Brunelleschi. You have to see the view from the top of the Duomo plus you get to say you climbed the 463 steps to get to the top of the cathedral.

Uffizi & Academia

These museums carry some of the oldest most famous artwork known to man. Some artworks include The David by Michael Angelo, Birth of Venus by Sandro Bottecelli, and Carravaggio’s Medusa. For anyone who loves art history these two museums are literally paradise. Try to buy tickets online and make a reservation so you don’t have to wait in line.

Piazza della Republica

Piazza della Republica is the city square in Florence with a giant merry go round in the middle of the square. There is always something going on in this Piazza. It’s also fun to just grab a gelato and wander around.

Ponte Vecchio

This bridge is a staple to Florence. The Ponte Vecchio is lined with small shops on either side, people strolling, and unbelievable musicians.

Palazzo Vecchio & Palazzo Pitti

These palaces were homes to the most powerful family in Italy. Seeing these palaces really gives you a perspective on how the Medicis lived their lives.


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The train station in Florence is the Santa Maria Novella, the trains run on their own schedule in Italy so be prepared to either race to your platform or wait two hours because your train is delayed. I’ve done both and trust me you can never predict what is going to happen you just have to be ready to go. When it comes to the restrooms don’t be surprise if they charge you a fee to use it there wasn’t one restroom I used that was free, the average amount was about 50 cents.

If you are interested in traveling on the weekends while studying abroad in Florence check out these student travel agencies Florence for Fun and Smart Trip. I traveled with both of these companies on several weekends. The guides are really informed on the cities you visit, they take you on walking tours, and show you some amazing sites. These were always fun trips to go on because you meet other study abroad students in Florence, everything is figured out, and all you have to do is have fun.



Vianca de la Parra

California Polytechnic State University | 2 stories

Originally from San Diego and transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall. I am majoring in Art & Design with a concentration in Photography and Video. I love to travel, make new friends, and try to make people laugh. This past fall I studied abroad Florence, Italy, where I fell in love with the magical city.

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