College Tourist Student Guide to Florence, Italy
With this guide, you will master Florence in no time!
By Caitlin McConnell, Marist College
Florence, Italy’s rich historical background includes the birth of the Renaissance and the creation of infamous artists such as Michelangelo and Dante. This medieval age city offers frescoes, sculptures, churches, palaces, and other monuments that are a must – see. Not only is it a city filled with art, but also with picturesque views that will take your breath away and shopping that explains why they are among the top fashion cities of the world. This enchanting area is in northeast Tuscany in central Europe. It is crossed by the beautiful Arno River, which is covered by famous bridges such as the high- end, jewelry hot spot called the Ponte Vecchio. Florence’s charm is everlasting and when people visit they find a plethora of hidden treasures, romantic occasions and impeccable wine from the Chianti valleys. This city has a unique combination of both nature and culture that forms an eye opening experience.
- Piazza Del Duomo: This famous cathedral dome is the heart of the city and a triple threat providing surreal views, historical works of art and religious masses.
- Ponte Vecchio: A bridge crossing the Arno River with medieval architecture that creates a stunning image. It is where any tourist can purchase a souvenir from a jeweler or art dealer before they depart.
- Palazzo Pitti: This palace was home to the notorious Medici family and includes beautiful architecture and the Boboli Gardens, where a visitor can finally find some green to relax on.
- Piazzale Michelangelo: After a short hike, Piazzale Michelangelo is a destination with a sumptuous, panoramic view of the city.
- Uffizi Gallery: A museum that is home to some of the most famous works of all time by artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Botticelli.
Off the Beaten Path:
Some of the less famous, but equally great activities to do around Florence include visiting the town of Fiesole, which is just a short bus ride that brings an adventurer to one of the most scenic and memorable views of the city. Also, another hidden gem is visiting Le Cascine, a park filled with greenery at the edge of the city.
Fun for Free:
Believe it or not, this expensive city has many things a student or just a typical traveler can do for free.
Try visiting the San Lorenzo leather market that stretches down a few blocks and offers a fun day of shopping and mingling with the locals. This market will lead to another treasure, the Central Market, where one will find the freshest food they have ever seen.
Some museums have discounts for students so always remember to ask! On special nights such as Bianca Notta, which is the celebration of spring, museums will be open for everyone. There are also many festivals and events that are perfect for a day of exploring.
Eat and Drink
Students often frequent both local and international places to eat. When it comes to missing home, some popular places to go are:
- Astor to fulfill that iced coffee craving
- Diner where one can indulge a nice, greasy burger.
As for being local, there are many more options! Any osteria, trattoria or family owned restaurant is usually a cultural and delicious experience.
- Osteria Santo Spirito is on the local side of the city and has true Italian dishes.
- Pino’s For a quick meal, it is always a good idea to grab a juicy panini with a friend at Pino’s
- Gusta Pizza for a mouth-watering slice of pizza
Some ‘Cheap Eats’ places are anywhere that has what they call an “appertivo.” Many restaurants have this from the hours of 7- 9 p.m. and it is around the inexpensive price of 8 Euros, including a drink and an unlimited buffet. This is a perfect way to not dig a hole in that wallet and be guaranteed to have a full stomach! Places such as Moyo and Kitsch have good quality appertivos with a variety of choices.
On the other hand, if a student’s parents are visiting or a tourist wants to have a fancy dinner for a night, La Giostra is a beautiful restaurant filled with white lights and delightful waiters that greet their guests with champagne as they come through the door. With that champagne, comes a delicious Italian meal of anything from the spinach and cheese gnocchi to the fresh ham salad. Famous people have dined here and given appealing reviews.
If anyone is craving a nice hunk of meat, definitely make sure to visit another classy restaurant called Acqua al 2, which has a tasteful blueberry steak that is to die for.
For anyone with an audacious stomach, head on over to the Central Market and grab a tripe panini, also known as cow gut…
Florence has a booming nightlife. Be sure to check out these places when visiting:
- Lions’ Fountain: This Irish pub has student discounts and a great playlist to dance to. They have college t-shirts hanging down from the ceiling and everyone loves to grab a sharpie and sign their name on their school’s shirt!
- Twice: A trendy nightclub that is perfect for anyone looking to dance the night away. A good DJ, black lights and lounging areas create a modern vibe and a late night.
- Space: This is for anyone looking for a crazy night in a warehouse club with multiple, crowded floors, bright lights, dance worthy music and well dressed people.
Florence has a variety of transportation options. . The train station located across the street from the Santa Maria Novella piazza can take people all around Italy. This is good for anyone looking to take a day or weekend trip to Rome, Venice or Milan. There are also locale buses and taxis in Florence. The taxis are more expensive and the buses are more crowded and smelly, so the decision is up in the air! Many locals ride bikes around the city, so if anyone wants to act like a local, rent a bike. Outside from these means of transportation, walking is the most prevalent. Walking is the norm in Florence and the best way to get around. It is a small enough city to be able to walk wherever you need to in a reasonable amount of time.
- Many shops close from the hours of 2 to 5 p.m. for a siesta, so make sure to manage your time around that.
- Do not look an Italian of the opposite sex directly in the eye for too long, they may take it as an invitation…
- Buy shoes with thick soles because the cobblestone will tear them away.
- Water and bread is not free all of the time like it is in America, so think twice before digging into that basket of bread in the middle of the table.
- Italians walk slow, so leave behind that New York City state of mind.