Florence On a Budget
Makena, Fall 2023, Florence
November 29, 2023

Dreaming about studying in Florence but worried about the cost? I have good news for you! Studying abroad does not need to be as expensive as some people make it be. Many students spend every night at the bar and every weekend in a new country. However, this is not feasible for many of us, nor do I think it is worth it. Seeing new places is so amazing, but getting to know the city you are living in can be so much more rewarding and lends authenticity to your experience abroad. Here are some ways I saved money while living in Florence, Italy, while still making the most of my stay.

1. Student Discounts
As you will discover, student and youth discounts are much more common and generous in Italy. Some restaurants and sandwich shops offer student deals, and most museums grant discounted or even free tickets. In addition, concerts tend to have cheaper student prices—a whole classical symphony at Teatro Verdi cost me only 5€!

2. Museums
Florence has dozens of museums to choose from, with themes ranging from art to science to anthropology and more. I highly recommend checking out as many of these as you can, as they are generally very cheap (and sometimes even free) and have so much on display. The most well-known museums can be very crowded, so make sure you do not forget to look for other museums! The Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology is a particularly underrated museum.
In addition, many museums are FREE the first Sunday of every month, so I recommend marking your calendar to museum-hop every first Sunday with the locals!

3. Churches
I know churches do not sound very exciting, but they are among my favorite places to visit in Italy. Many churches are open to the public when services are not in progress, and most are free to walk into. I constantly try to poke into churches I pass on my walks in and outside Florence, and this almost always results in me spending much longer inside than I plan, staring at the incredible paintings and architecture and adding dozens of photos to my ever-expanding camera roll. Often the churches with the most humble outward appearances have the most incredible interiors—I am never disappointed! I tell everyone to always take a peek inside if you can!

I took this picture inside the Basilica di San Domenico, a beautiful church my friend and I entered for free during our day trip to Bologna.

4. Public Transportation

Public transportation can be a lot cheaper, faster, and more efficient in Europe than it is in most parts of America. Florence in particular has frequent buses and a great tram system just outside the city center that I love using. Tickets, maps, and timetables are easily purchasable on the “at bus” app. It costs only 1.70€ for one ticket (or 15.50€ for ten) which can be used for 90 minutes of transportation in Florence or 70 minutes in other areas of Tuscany. Just remember to validate or activate your ticket once you begin traveling!

5. Groceries
Groceries can be bought for slightly cheaper prices at Coop, a bigger supermarket just outside the historic center of Florence. There is a Coop by the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood as well as an even bigger location at the Nenni-Torregalli tram stop. Conad is nice for convenient grocery shopping close to home, but if you want more options and cheaper prices, I recommend trying Coop.

6. SAI Activities
Many students do not take advantage of SAI’s activities, which are always so much fun, and FREE! SAI even offers amazing day trips to towns outside of Florence, such as San Gimignano and Venice. Some of my favorite activities have been a hike in the hills above Florence, paper marbling, and opera nights.

7. Day Trips
So far, I have not been outside Northern Italy since arriving, but I have seen so many incredible places. I have been on day trips to Pisa, Bologna, San Gimignano (with SAI), Venice, Siena, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Montalcino and Pienza (as a field trip for my History of the Italian Renaissance class), and four of the Cinque Terre villages. All these towns are beautiful and unique and so worth visiting, yet do not require too much planning or even an overnight stay. I also went on a 2-day trip to Lake Como and Milan.

Even on a rainy day, the river at Colle di Val d’Elsa is breathtakingly vibrant. The park trail ends with a lovely waterfall and amazing pools to swim in on a hot day. This beautiful place is less than an hour from Florence, making it an excellent stop

8. Travel Apps
There are countless travel apps that can help you save money and compare prices. One app I use every time I want to figure out the best way to travel somewhere is “Rome2Rio.” This app shows you different ways to travel somewhere, comparing prices, lengths of time, and modes of transportation.

Here is the Florence tram at the Nenni-Torregalli tram stop on a rainy November day. I love the beautiful grass growing on the tracks!

9. Live Like You Would at Home
Finally, if you would like to prioritize saving money where you can while living abroad, I suggest that you maintain the money-saving habits you have at home. By limiting the amount of times you eat out, and not grabbing coffee and gelato every day, each time you do treat yourself becomes even more special. And if you save a lot, you can spend a little extra on something you feel extra passionate about when the time comes. Enjoy your time, live in the moment, and remember that you can always find wonderful things to do and see nearby!


Written by: Makena, Fall 2023 Florence student from Point Loma Nazarene University. 

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