Florence is one of CAPA International Education’s longest running destinations and the second most popular. Here are our top 10 reasons why students continually return to Florence:
1. GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION. Florence is located at the center of Italy which means it's very easy to visit all of the major Italian cities (Siena, Rome, Bologna, Perugia, Milan, Venice) thanks to the new generation fast trains. It's also in the heart of Tuscany - useful if you want to visit some of the other important locations of the region (the Chianti area, the Versilia Riviera with all its stunning beaches, the wild Maremma in the South with its richest wildlife sanctuaries, the Tuscan archipelago with the Elba island and the endless number of Medieval villages where history is live and nothing changed since ages to name a few). Take a bus to Fiesole to escape the heat of the city. Nearby airports (Florence, Pisa and Bologna) offer a gateway to all major and most popular European destinations as well.
Check out the Walks of Tuscany blog for some day trip ideas!
Photo: Everywhere? by Marco Stellini
2. HISTORY. Florence is called the "Cradle of the Renaissance". The Renaissance can be perceived in everyday life just by walking through the center and looking around. The 10-15 men who actually “made” the Renaissance and therefore shaped our world as it is still were either born, or raised or worked here for the most relevant part of their artistic lives. Florence was also one the of the first Global cities in Europe, thanks to the fact that the banking system and banks as we now know them were established here by the beginning of the 14th century. Obviously, the circulation of money attracted people from all over the world. Florence is a free open air museum. Wander its streets and immerse yourself. No wonder that its historic center is a UNESCO world heritage site. Though touristy, Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia and the Duomo are two must see historic attractions.
Stay tuned to CAPA World blog for our recommendations on some (less touristy) historic locations to visit.
Photo: Duomo by Gareth's Pix
3. ART AND CULTURE. Florence had the first Museum in the world; the Medici family created the Uffizi Gallery to share the art masterpieces created by the masters they never stopped to subsidize. Florence hosts unique pieces of art by those Renaissance geniuses (Giotto, Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Leonardo, Della Robbia, Donatello, Michelangelo, just to names the big stars). Many independent and creative artisans still work in their traditional workshops - often with the same tools their ancestors used ages ago. Outdoors, you'll often see chalk artists drawing in the streets. Florence is also the birthplace of modern football (soccer) too. The so called Calcio in costume was a traditional sport, originated in the Middle Ages, a source of amusement for important Florentine nobles dressed in bright costumes, playing a game consisting of a mix of soccer and rugby. If you're after some live music, pop into Le Murate to escape the crowds. It's housed in an old prison and full of creative types. La Cite is another great option - a funky bookshop-cafe-live music venue.
Check out Girl in Florence blog for some other Florence nightlife options.
Photo: Florence Street Art by Julie Richards
4. RELAX. Florence is a city on a human scale. Given its relatively small size, it allows you to feel at home even if you're thousands of miles away from your comfort zone. Even if it's packed with visitors all year round, Florence has many secrets corners where you can relax. A favorite is the tree-lined Piazza Santo Spirito, surrounded by pavement cafes and great for people watching. As you'll see if you skip down to point number nine, you'll find many parks and beautiful landscapes where you can sit and watch the world go by or spend an afternoon turning the pages of a good book. If you're craving a bit of Italian pampering, it is very close to the major thermal bath resorts and spas of Tuscany (Chianciano, Rapolano, Montecatini, Saturnia), the Italian region that boasts the highest number of natural hot springs.
Watch the blog - some of our recommendations on good books based in Florence to come!
Photo: Blow in the Wind by Migliosa
5. DIVERSITY. Florence boasts one of the richest multicultural communities in Italy with many differences among the population in terms of ethnicity, religious beliefs, traditions and customs. In 1853, Leopold the II, the last reigning grand duke of Tuscany, abolished any kind of punishments for homosexuality. The city continues to hold on to an old tradition of respect towards the LGBTQ community.
Check out the Florence Queer Festival to get involved.
Photo: Queen by Ben Heine
6. LANGUAGE AND INTEGRATION OF LEARNING INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM. Florence is the ideal location to learn Italian. It’s where the Italian language was created by Dante eight centuries ago. Since Dante’s time Italian has changed so little that Italians are among the very few in the world to be able to read pieces of literature written hundreds of year ago with almost no struggle. Advanced language students will have the opportunity to travel a few miles outside of Florence to experience the variety of different Italian accents. Understand pizza, spaghetti, espresso, mozzarella, tiramisu, lasagna, and risotto? You’re on your way! Keep your eye on the Italian language blog for tips. Classes like "Analyzing and Exploring the Global City: Florence", "Understanding Modern Italy: An Anthropology of Contemporary Italian Society”, or "Writing Florence: reading and Creating the Global City” and all the survey and focused Art History courses are combined with many MyEducation activities (such as the visit to the Secret Rooms in Palazzo Vecchio, a field trip to artisans and craftsmen’s workshops, a boat trip on the Arno River, etc.) designed to help students explore and discover Florence. Integrated learning inside and outside the classroom is one aspect of international education that CAPA values highly. CAPA's position to be able to offer internships in Italian (one of few higher education organizations in the country able to offer with placements in prestigious companies and firms in many different fields) is another example of this. If you are an advanced student in Italian and sign up for an internship with CAPA Florence, you'll have a chance to work alongside real Florentines as well as discuss and expand upon that field experience with your peers in a weekly "Learning Through Internships" class.
Study abroad students can study beginner to intermediate Italian at CAPA and from advanced to proficiency level in our joint venture with the University of Florence.
Photo: Informed citizen by Guido Masi
7. FOOD. The word "Italy" typically rouses thoughts of “art”, “history” and “food”. Tuscany, and Florence specifically, has some of the most typical, traditional and oldest cuisines in the country. Tuscany also produces some of the best red wines in the world (Chianti, Brunello of Montalcino, Morellino of Scansano, etc.). There are plenty of wine tasting venues in the city or around the Chianti region. The combination of delicious food and wine will certainly be an everlasting memory from your study abroad trip to Florence! For gelato, try the semifreddo millefoglie at Gelateria dei Neri in Via dei Neri. 5 e cinque in Piazza della Passera and Vivanda in Via Santa Monica in Santo Spirito are great for organic food and vegetarian options. For breakfast on the go, grab a dolce con crema - a cream-filled croissant. More about Florence Specialties here on "Florentine Point of View" blog.
Florence Day and Night blog has some great Florence restaurant recommendations or try Trip Advisor's advice.
Photo: Linguini with Porcini Mushrooms by McPig
8. EXPLORING. Florence has plenty of quiet corners to discover, hidden away from the typical tourist areas. There are hidden frescos to find, urban beaches on the Arno river where you can sunbathe with Florentines, and a maze of intriguing cobblestone alleyways to navigate. Wander from Palazzo Pitti to Santo Spirito and pop your head into some of the artist shops along the way. Piazzale Michelangelo is great for panoramic views of the city. People watch at Piazza della Signoria. Florence is a walkable city, but rent or borrow a bike for an alternative way to get around. Here's some places to hire a bike and a map of bike paths. The best way to explore a new city is to venture off the beaten path!
Visit the Urban Travel Guide for Florence and scroll down to the locals section for more ideas or scroll through the Design*Sponge Florence City Guide.
Photo: On the Street at Sundown by Vasari's History
9. PARKS, GARDENS, LANDSCAPES. When it comes to gardens, the Boboli Gardens are the name on everyone's lips. Certainly one to visit, explore and enjoy, but don't forget about all of the other green spaces! Giardino delle Rose is a beautiful Rose Garden. The Villa Bardini reopened its 10-acre gardens in 2005 and it's now full of terraced vegetable and flower gardens and a wonderful place to people watch. The Giardino dell'orticultura is another beautiful park that will take you up into the hills for a nice view over the city. A smaller garden that features a dragon shaped fountain, the Giardino degli orti del Parnaso is also a lovely place to bring a camera.
Photo: Nel Giardino di Boboli by Angela Massagni
10. FASHION AND SHOPPING. Florence is regarded by some as the birthplace of the modern fashion industry in Italy. 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. Many of the most important haute couture designers were from Florence and some of them are still operating - Emilio Pucci, Guccio Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Fendi sisters, Brioni, Patrizia Pepe, Roberto Cavalli, Enrico Coveri. Window shop on Via de’Tournabouni to see some of their shops. Walk along the Ponte Vecchio, lined with shops along both sides selling jewelry and other goods, nestled among art galleries. If you want to venture away from the mainstream, join the locals at the San Lorenzo market off Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini.
More Florence fashion on Tumblr and watch CAPA World for some shopping suggestions.
Photo: First time at Pitti by Laura Comolli
Have you already studied in Florence? Are you considering it? For what reasons? Tell us why in the comments!