So, you’ve made it to Florence, let me start by saying welcome to some of the best months of your life. I realize that that is a pretty big statement to make, and if someone had said that to me a month before I left for Italy, I probably would’ve laughed (or cried to be honest, I was very worried about homesickness). But here I am, three months into my own study abroad experience, and I can’t even believe how much I have done since getting here. But instead of sitting here and talking about everything I’ve done, I’m going to break this into sections.
First part? Advice. Just some things that I wish I had known when I first got here in the hopes that your transition to abroad life goes a little smoother.
- It’s okay to be homesick. It happens, you’re across an ocean from the things you’re used to and that’s hard to wrap your head around. The solution? Go out and take in what’s around you! Walk to get some coffee, go to a museum, sit in a Piazza and people watch – anything that could become part of your routine abroad. Once you establish a routine, it starts to feel more like home and less like you’re just a visitor here.Before you leave, come up with a plan for dealing with your homesickness so you’re ready when it happens, because it probably will happen!
- Speak Italian!! That is, if you know it. And even if you don’t, make it a personal goal to pick up even some basic words, you’ll be here for four months so you might as well learn something! The only way to actually improve your speaking skills is by trying – no one is going to make fun of you, and odds are people will understand you better than you thought.
- Try new things! Half of the abroad experience is made by food (or maybe that’s just me, I really love food) so don’t be afraid to try something that you’ve never had before. Even if you don’t like it (impossible!), you can say that you tried the real stuff from Italy!
- Don’t forget about travel inside Italy. So many people are ready to hop on the first plane to Prague or Barcelona or what have you, but there are so many beautiful places in the country you’re already living in that you really shouldn’t miss. Cover the big ones like Rome and Venice, but I would also highly recommend stopping in lesser-known cities like San Gimignano (best gelato you’ll ever eat), Siena, and Lucca (all in Tuscany). The best part about this is that everywhere is accessible by train, so you could make day trips out of any of these.
- Don’t spend all your money in the first few weeks! It’s easy to get excited by all the food and souvenirs that are around you when you first get here, but remember that you have four months abroad and not everything needs to be purchased right away. You’ll thank yourself when you have some money left to treat yourself later on!
Okay now part 2. This is the fun part really, the recommendations. These are just a few of the places that I have been to and things that I’ve done, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
My favorite place in all of Florence, this is the cutest coffee shop that feels both a little bit like home and a little bit like Italy. The menu consists of crepes, croissants, waffles, bagels (I know, bagels in Italy!), and so. much. coffee. I’m in here almost every other day, it’s the only place I trust to make me a caramel iced coffee that tastes like home!
Hands down the best pizza you will eat in Florence. They offer loads of different types of pizza, although the La Verace and the Mamma Napoli are the most popular. Most of the ingredients are shipped in from Naples (the birthplace of pizza), so you know you’re getting the real deal. The environment is super cozy and the staff is welcoming and friendly. With great food and good prices, this is definitely a Florentine must-go.
One of the best things to eat for lunch in Florence are the panini – quick, easy, and so so good. This is absolutely my favorite go-to quick fix lunch spot, they have the most delicious herb ricotta spread and zucchini cream for sandwiches served on fresh Tuscan foccacia bread.
Do yourself a favor and climb the freaking Duomo while you’re here. Apart from feeling like an accomplished athlete by the time you make it to the top, you will have the best view of Florence that you will ever have. Just do it.
So I know when you come abroad, you have all these fantastic ideas about all the places you’ll be travelling, but let’s be honest- flights are expensive and more often than not, you won’t be able to get to every place that you want to. However, companies like Bus2Alps offer pretty great deals on travel packages for weekend trips and even for fall/ spring break that allow you to make a dent in that travel bucket list. For my fall break, I traveled to 5 different countries with Bus2Alps and paid around 600 euros for the 10 days, so I would highly recommend the service! Word to the wise- it involves many long bus trips (I’m talking 13+ hours) so you need to be prepared for that if you use this service.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re here to experience the culture that Italy has to offer, so try not to stick only to the things and the food that you know. You never know, you could decide to turn down a different street one day and find your new favorite place to eat or shop! You’re going to have a great semester simply because you’re here, let yourself enjoy it!
Buon divertimento a tutti!