I definitely have some of my favorite spots to go to in Florence. Whether it is for eating, relaxing, and self-reflection, I have found some great places through the help of friends, locals, and exploring.
For groceries, I definitely have been fond of Conad. It literally is a giant supermarket grocery store that has a huge selection of goodies. It reminds me of the grocery store I go to back at home, Kroger. For produce and fruits, though, I definitely prefer the Mercato Centrale. This huge market is set up much like a flea market, with many different vendors selling all different types of things. Every time I go, I have a few vendors that I am loyal customers to. I am glad that I have a vendor for my poultry items, Italian sausage, bread, and fruits and vegetables. The vendors I get my fruits and vegetables from know me by name and always give me a clementine as a token of my loyalty. Just recently I was in Spain for a week so when I came back to Mercato Centrale to restock up on fruits and vegetables, they were happy to see me and greeted me with a hug. How awesome is that! Although there is a significant language barrier, they seem to always understand what I need. They are the sweetest group of gentlemen that I will dearly miss when I go back home.
Eating out can be quite costly so I try to keep it at a minimum. Some of my favorite places to grab a bite vary and are located all around the city. Mesopotamia is the best spot to grab a doner kebab. The owner, Mustafa, is also very chatty and makes you feel right at home. Gusta Pizza is a local favorite among my friends and I. The brick-oven pizzas are to die for… same with the pizza crust! It is located near San Spirito, so it’s the perfect pairing to grab a pizza and sit out in the plaza to people watch. One of my friends suggested I try Royale Indian and I’m so glad I did! I didn’t realize how much I missed ethnic foods here in Italy. I highly recommend the Chicken Tikka Masala if you ever get the chance to go. Everything is decently priced as well! Fedora has also become a favorite of mine for a caffe and pastry. Maybe because I am a pastry student studying at Apicius, but the caffe and pastries there are bomb! They also sell sandwiches that are very tasty.
One of the locals I’ve met here suggested me go to the Rose Garden right below Piazza Michaelangelo. Even though the rose buds aren’t in bloom yet, it is a great place to unwind with a book, write in my journal, or even nap! I like to go there to just relax on a sunny afternoon or evening. I can’t wait to see what the garden will look like when everything is in bloom. I also like to sit along the river and reflect while I listen to music. I wouldn’t recommend it for those afraid of heights, but just watching the water is so relaxing. Sometimes it is nice to get away from the busy city and be by yourself. I would highly recommend both of those places to anyone who is looking to chill out and escape the stress from midterms or finals.
I only have less than two months here and yet have so much to explore! I haven’t been to many museums or any mass services yet, which is really upsetting, but I will soon. Even though Florence is small, there are so many hidden gems within the city. I can’t wait to see what I find next!
Christina is a student at University of Houston studying at Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in Italy during the Spring 2014 term.