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After being surrounded by the topics of study abroad and travel for the past nine months, it’s impossible to not constantly think of my time in Florence. As I advise students who are interested in going to this city, I’m always thinking of little tips and pieces of advice based off my experience that could help them prepare and feel more comfortable about their decision. Here are five tips that I want to share for future Florence study abroad students:
1. Explore the other side of the Arno
When I was abroad, most of the students on my program were placed in apartments on the side of the Arno closest to the city center. This made it easier to commute to the CAPA Center and explore a lot of the historical landmarks that are in the city. However, it’s a whole different world on the Oltrarno! This side tends to be a bit quieter, less touristy, and has a lot more authentic restaurants. While you should definitely visit all the tourist attractions and historical landmarks close to the city center, I also really recommend spending time on the other side of the Arno and seeing what it has to offer!
2. Immerse yourself in the culture
While you’re in Florence, really try to integrate yourself into the culture and live like a local. Go to the different markets to get your groceries, look up fun festivals and events that are happening, try authentic Italian foods (trust me, there’s more than just pizza and pasta!), and do your best to speak Italian when you can. There are so many ways to get involved in the city and the culture, and you’ll have a much more authentic study abroad experience if you take advantage of those opportunities.
Photo: by Rachel Epner
3. Step out of your comfort zone
Stepping out of one’s comfort zone means different things for everybody. Whether it’s trying new foods or simply speaking more Italian, Florence (and study abroad as a whole) offers so many different opportunities for you to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Take advantage of these opportunities- likely, those moments will lead to the best stories and the most fond memories!
4. Walk everywhere
I’m a huge fan of walking in general, but Florence had to be one of my favorite cities to explore by foot. It’s a small enough city that you can easily walk everywhere you need to go, without having to worry about public transportation. I really wish I had a Fitbit back when I was abroad because I would have loved to see how many steps I walked per day. By walking everywhere, you’ll feel more comfortable navigating the city, you’ll burn off all the carbs you’ll be eating, and you’ll find surprises around every street corner! Going along with this, another tip: make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes.
5. Talk to the locals
As I mentioned in my last post, this is something I wish I did a bit more during my semester in Florence. Florence is full of so many interesting people. Whether it’s a local street artist, someone who works at the cafe you stop at every morning before class, the waiter/waitress at your favorite restaurant, or even the CAPA Florence staff, take time to learn about these people. I’m sure they all have intriguing stories to tell and little secrets about the city that they can teach you.
Photo: by Rachel Epner
While I can go on and on with little tidbits of advice, I figured these were a few of the most important ones that I can share! I hope these help some future Florence study abroad students make the most of their time in this magical city.