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10 Reasons to Study Abroad in Florence

Jun 15, 2020 9:37:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

If you're thinking about studying abroad sometime in the future but you're not quite sure where, check out this blog post to learn more about why Florence would be a great choice! 

Italys food, culture, history, art, and beautiful landscapes have long drawn students from across the globe to study abroad, and it comes as no surprise that GoOverseas has named the country one of the most popular study abroad destinations for Americans again in 2020. We have no doubt that CAPA Florence alumni would likely agree.  

So, why study abroad in Florence? Lets dive in 

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Study abroad in Florence because: 

1. FLORENCE HAS THE MOST INCREDIBLE FOOD. 

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Whats the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Italy? If youre anything like us, its probably food. 

First things first: coffee, right? A standard coffee in Florence is espresso, so ask specifically if you want something different. And there are rules” (or, rather, deeply engrained cultural norms and expectations) in cafe culture here. Do some research before you travel. Whether youre planning to drink your coffee standing at the bar like a local or you prefer sitting down, Culture Trip has cafe recommendations on the best bars (aka cafes) around. 

When it comes to eating, youll be pleased to hear that Florence has some of the most typical, traditional, and oldest cuisines in the country. One of the most famous dishes to try is Bistecca alla Fiorentina: Florentine steak. Pasta and pizza are obvious additions to your list. And add Robollita too, a popular Tuscan bean soup. Feeling brave? Give the local favorite Lampredotto a try. Thats meat from the fourth stomach of a cow, a treat often enjoyed from Florences street food stalls. We love this blog post sharing local blogger Girl in Florencerestaurant recommendations. 

And of course theres the biggest temptation for most of us when we visit Florence: gelato. Yes, you will probably want to eat gelato every day. Were not telling. Theres sub-par gelato and theres real gelato, so make sure to choose the real thing. CAPA staff will happily recommend their favorites; just ask.  

While were on the subject of food, markets are the perfect places to stock up on fresh, local ingredients to cook with in your apartment. This will help you save money too. Start with Mercato Centrale and Mercato di SantAmbrogio, but there are many others. 

Also, dont miss the pasta-making class thats part of CAPAs My Global City calendar! 

2. FLORENCE HAS A BUZZING ARTS AND CULTURE SCENE.  

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The Uffizi Gallery is one of Italys oldest and most important museums and one of the countrys most visited. Inside, youll find Sandro BotticelliThe Birth of Venus, and major works by Raphael, Caravaggio, and many artists. In galleries across Florence, youll find artwork by many of the Renaissance geniuses (Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo, Della Robbia, Donatello, and Michelangelo, just to name a few). 

Florence also has its share of contemporary art exhibition spaces. And if you walk around outdoors, youll catch chalk artists drawing in the streets, stumble upon famous sculptures, spot street art on the walls, and many of local artist Clets creatively altered street signs. 

If you love live performances, keep an eye on Teatro Niccolini (the oldest theater in Florence), Opera di Firenze (the newest big theater in Florence), Teatro della Pergola (which has a stunning interior), and Teatro Verdi (constructed on a 14th century prison). The city hosts a comprehensive calendar of events spanning opera, drama, orchestra, ballet, live music, and much more.  

In the world of sports, Florentines love to support their local purple-clad soccer team, Fiorentina, and in November, the city hosts the annual popular Florence Marathon.  

3. FLORENCE IS A SMALL GLOBAL CITY AND EASY TO NAVIGATE. 

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Yes, Florence is a bustling global city, and popular with tourists, butespecially compared to some of the larger global citiesit feels manageable for students. If you come from a small town and havent experienced life in bigger cities, Florence might be the perfect choice for you.  

Youll find plenty of excitement here, lots to explore, and all of the elements that shape it into a global city, but Florence has a relatively compact historical center. Its easy to navigate and has a small town feel. Large traffic-free squares are dotted throughout the city; there are romantic cobbled streets and intimate walkways to wander; and youll find other pedestrianized areas where you can relax, have lunch, listen to the buskers’ music, and watch the world go by for a while. 

For size comparison, Shanghaipopulation exceeds a whopping 26,000,000 while, when you choose to study abroad in Florence, youll be among a mere 707,000 residents. Its the smallest of CAPAs locations. 

4. FLORENCE HAS BEAUTIFUL GREEN SPACES.  

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Alongside the picturesque frescoed basilicas and charming old bridges, Florence is home to some lovely parks and gardens.  

One of the biggest green spaces is Giardino di Boboli, commissioned by the Medici family (a name youll become very familiar with when you study abroad in Florence). Look for the centuries-old cypress trees, Artichoke Fountain, Buontalenti Grotto which was handmade, and the Museum of Porcelain within the grounds.  

Wander over to Giardino Bardini and take a 15-minute uphill hike (worth it!) for fruit orchards surrounded by medieval walls, an Italian garden, and English woods. Theres also a restaurant where you can stop for lunch.   

Many of our favorite green spaces are clustered south of the River Arno near San Niccolò. Giardino delle Rose, the rose garden where more than 30 types of roses bloom alongside lemon trees and a Japanese garden, is right near the famous Piazzale Michelangelo and offers some incredible views over the city. Youll also find sculptures by Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon. At the other end ofPiazzale Michelangelotheres a stunning, tranquil garden full of irises (the emblem of Florence) where 250 endangered species of irises are planted. Its only open a few weeks of the year though; the best time to visit is in May.  

North of the river, visit San MarcoGiardino della Gherardesca within the grounds of the Four Seasons Hotel. Its manicured pathways and trees (including the citys first ever mandarin orange trees) were planted here in the 15th century.  

5. FLORENCE IS A FASHION TRENDSETTER. 

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Vogue called Florence the worlds fifth fashion capital after New York, London, Milan, and Paris and pointed out that Florence is the birthplace of several luxury powerhouses including Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci, Ermanno Scervino, and Salvatore Ferragamo.The Florentine "soirées" of the early 1950s, organized by Giovanni Battista Giorgini, were events where several now-famous Italian designers participated in group shows and first garnered international attention. Its also home to the biannual Pitti Imamagine Uomo, the renowned international trade fair for mens clothing and accessories, which began in 1972. Now, theres also Florence Fashion Week in April. 

Traditional craft has been kept alive by local artisans, and you can visit some of their workshops. Laudato is run by four brothers who make traditional Florentine-style leather sandals and clogs. Noi Gioielli makes contemporary jewelry in his San Niccolo workshop. Nearby is Argentiere Pagliai, a silversmith from a third generation family owned business. La Bottega degli Orafi makes jewelry from gold, silver, and iron, decorated with stones and enamel using the traditional Florentine techniques. Antico Setificio Fiorentino still uses original looms to produce silks. Those are only a few examples. 

Florence is something of a hotbed for new and upcoming designers, independent boutiques, and concept stores. Theres a good selection of vintage to browse too. More than 600 luxury retailers can be found near the San Lorenzo street market as well as on Via Tornabuoni, and more affordable fashion chains are clustered in the streets around Piazza Repubblica. You can also visit the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, where theres a collection of 10,000 shows on display dating back to the 1920s. 

6. FLORENCE HAS A RICH HISTORY TO EXPLORE. 

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Florence is bursting with history to experience. When you study abroad, you can start your exploration with the CAPA center itself, which is inside of Palazzo Galli-Tassi,a 15th century palacein the Santa Croce neighborhood. In some of the classrooms, youll even study beneath stunning frescoes painted on the ceilings. 

The center of Florence itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Youll find traces of the Renaissance everywhere. Visit the plaza Duomo, where youll find the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Giottos famous bell tower. Palazzo Medici Riccardi has Florences first Renaissance building, and not far away, you can see the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Be sure to spend some time in the Academia Gallery, which is home to MichelangeloDavid and many other important historical works of art. 

Over by via dei Calzaiuoliyoull find the citys historical political center, piazza della Signoria, where Palazzo Vecchio is located, and the Uffizi Gallery (which we mentioned above) just around the corner.  

Other historical sites in Florence that you wont want to miss are the Basilica of Santa Croce, Palazzo Strozzi, Palazzo Pitti, Santa Maria Novella, Pizzale Michelangelo, and a slow walk across the Ponte Vecchio to the Oltrarno area where youll spot many of those traditional artisan shops and workshops. 

7. FLORENCE IS THE PERFECT LOCATION TO LEARN THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE. 

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When you choose to study abroad with CAPA in Florence, youll have many opportunities to learn and practice the Italian language. It doesnt matter if youre a complete beginner, or if you have some experience in the language already.  

Learning may start in the classroom and reach far beyond its walls. Take beginners level language courses if youre starting from scratch or, if you're an Italian language major or have a high level of competency in Italian, enrol on our Advanced Italian Track. For this, weve partnered up with the University of Florences Cultural Centre for Foreigners and youll take language, history, literature, and art history coursesall taught in Italian.  

Internships are available for students who have completed at least four semesters of Italian language. This will help you connect with locals and understand the work culture of Florence while you practice your language skills, develop important professional skills for your future career, and build your resume. Other students may enjoy volunteering. 

All students are welcome to choose to live in a homestay with a local family. This will introduce you to life in Florence through a truly authentic lens; youll be offered breakfasts and dinners daily, so youll eat like a Florentine; and youll be able to spend time getting to know your host family and speaking with them too.  

The best way to learn a new language is immersion, and just being out and about in Florence, exploring, ordering meals, sitting in cafes, shopping, and taking in the many cultural attractions will give you many levels of exposure to the language. Youll find yourself picking up new words and phrases daily and your confidence will grow exponentially by the end of your program. 

8. FLORENCE OFFERS SOME UNBEATABLE VIEWS. 

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Heading up to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo should be on your busked list when you study abroad in Florence. The views are incredible, and so are the sunsets. 

In fact, there are quite a few places in Florence where you can find those stunning panoramic views over the city.  

Campanile di Giotto is another one. Youll have amazing views with a snippet of Brunelleschis Dome in your photos. Go early to avoid long lines and consider the climb to the top a morning workout. You can also climb to the top of Brunelleschis Dome itself, which is probably the most popular viewpoint in the city. Its 463 steps to the top! 

Palazzo Vecchio, where youll find a copy of MichelangeloDavid, also has a bell tower that you can climb, and it stays open late in the summer which means its possible to catch a sunset glow over the city.  

The Uffizi also has more to offer than the collection of art inside its walls; head to the top, river-side, and youll find the most breathtaking views along the Arno, including the famous Ponte Vecchio below. 

And studying doesnt mean you dont have to sacrifice the citys views; find yourself a spot at the Oblate Library where theres a cafe on the second floor overlooking the Duomo.  

Many of the gardens we mentioned above have beautiful views too! 

9. FLORENCE VALUES DIVERSITY.  

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Although the majority of people living in Florence are native Italians, recent years have seen an increasing number of expats moving in and enjoying the Italian lifestyle in this beautiful city. The most well-represented ethnicities here are East Asians, especially Chinese; those who come from nearby European countries, especially Romania and Armenia; and Americans, who now make up 1.4% of the population. 

When it comes to religion, 12% of the population dont practice a religion, but of those who do, the majority are Muslim (21%), followed by Roman Catholic (17%), Hindu (13%), Protestant (12%), and Buddhist (6%). There are also significant communities of Anglicans, Sikhs, Jews, and Bahais.  

Though it can be a conservative place, the LGBTQIA community is quietly strong in Florence and make a vital contribution to the citys creative and social fabric. Public opinion on LGBTQIA rights is increasingly liberal and Florence is generally very same-sex relationship friendly. While it doesnt focus specifically on Florence, the Gay Friendly Italy Guide is a great resource to bookmark. 

10. FLORENCE IS SET IN A CONVENIENT GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION.  

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If youre interested in exploring more of Italy, and other countries in Europe, Florence is a fantastic base.  

Outside of the city, youll be surrounded by the rolling hills of Tuscany, and theres the coast with its sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, medieval villages, historical towns with castles, country churches, the Apuan Alps, and spas dotted throughout the region.  

Some fun day trips include Pisa (of Leaning Tower fame); the ancient city of Siena where the entire town center is a UNESCO World Heritage site; San Gimignano, a picturesque village accessed by roads that wind through vineyards, ancient, rustic farms on hillsides, and olive groves; the charming Chianti region which produces some of the words best wines; and many other places. We love Culture Trips round up 

Head south along the coast to visit Rome, and Naples, or north for Milan and Venice. Italy has an excellent network of trains which make travel within the country convenient and relatively inexpensive. 

Hop on a plane for a short trip on a weekend or during break week to explore other parts of Europe; Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Croatia, and the Czech Republic are excellent choices.  

 

Why study abroad in Florence, you ask? Why not, we answer! 

 

Learn More about the CAPA Florence Program

Topics: Florence, Italy, Why Study Abroad