These are many places I frequent in Florence. From a café, to one of the squares, I try to spend as much time as possible exploring this city that I have come to call my new home. It is crazy to think that I have been here almost three months and only have one remaining. These places are ones that anyone coming to Florence will come to love and appreciate as they spend time here:
1. Gusta Panino: This is my favorite sandwich place and it is right around the corner from where I live. Located in the square of Santo Spirito it has a great atmosphere and you can get an amazing panino for around three euros. Doesn’t get much better than that. Also, seeing that I go there almost every day the people who work there start to get to know you and give you free prosecco while you wait. So unless you hate sparkling wine and a good panino, I would recommend making this a regular stop for you.
2. Also, since you will be in Santo Spirito checking out Gusta Panino you can also stop in the square and check out the markets that start early in the morning until 1 pm (13:00). They are filled with fresh fruits (way better than from the grocery stores), clothes, flowers, books, and other items. It is a good way to practice your Italian and get to know the local venders. Now I at least know how to say I would like an orange, please (Vorrei un arancio, per favore). Also every other Saturday they have a specialty market that lasts all day where you can get jewelry, candy, soaps, antiques, or really anything you can think of.
3. My next favorite place is Piazzale Michelangelo. This view is amazing and something you just cannot miss. It is a little bit of a hike but if I can do it I believe you can as well. I say this because stairs are not my friend and I do not find it difficult. It gives you a view over Florence that you will not find anywhere else and if you go at sunset with a bottle of wine and maybe a plate of cheese, it is even better. On the way up there is a guy who makes these incredibly big bubbles that are just fun to watch him do and kids always love it.
4. This is a place that I just discovered but will easily become one of my favorites especially with this new warm weather we are having. Right on the Arno down a little ways is a small beach on the water where you can just lay out or take a book and read for hours. It is beautiful and lots of locals spend time down there with their dogs and allow you to pet and play with them. It is relaxing and if you are like me and from the beach gives you a sense of calmness and makes you feel at home. Digging your feet into the sand and having an afternoon just sitting around your friends is sometimes a good escape from the bustle that starts in Florence during the springtime with all the tourist. So if you need some time away this is a great place to visit.
5. There is this little café that SAI actually introduced us to that I have completely fallen in love with. It is called Andersons and it is a great place to relax and do some homework. Many places in Florence do not appreciate it if you bring your laptop and only order one coffee then sit there for hours doing work, but Andersons doesn’t mind. The people who work there are so warm and friendly and love that you want to spend your time there. Just the other night me and a few friends sat there for hours and ordered a coffee and contemplated eating dinner there and she brought us over a plate with a complimentary snack just because she thought we would like it. Also they have a sign saying cute boys frequent here so I mean why wouldn’t you go there too?
6. Another favorite restaurant of mine is Ristorante Rubaconte. Not only is it a favorite of mine because the owner, Fabio, is nice and gives us lemoncello shots after every meal, but also because you get a whole meal and unlimited wine for 15 euros. Yes you heard me right friends, unlimited wine. You get to choose 3 different pastas to share between the table and you also get bread with amazing olive oil, a plate of meats and cheeses that is to die for, and a serving of fried dough and a dipping sauce that just cannot be described with words it is that good. We probably go here at least once a week and I honestly do not know what I will do when I leave here in a month and have to live without it. Maybe I can convince Fabio to come back to South Carolina with me and open one up in Charleston… just an idea.
7. The Uffizi Museum is just something you have to do in Florence, and if you do not know what it is then you still need to go. It holds many amazing art pieces that have been around for centuries and really give you a sense of beliefs and styles from the time these pieces come from. When you go you should really give yourself around three hours to complete the whole thing. There is just so much to see and in order to really appreciate the art and views of the Arno and a couple parts of Florence from inside you need to a lot yourself plenty of time so you do not feel rushed.
8. Next up on my list of places I cannot get enough of in Florence, is the Mercato Centrale. On the ground floor of these markets are many vendors with fresh foods such as fruits, breads, and meats. It is a cool place to visit just to be able to see the hustle and bustle but also great for getting any and all ingredients for if you plan on cooking that night. If you aren’t planning on cooking you can head back to the markets and up the escalators. Here you will find a Food Court kind of area. They have pasta bars to wine bars and anything in between, including gelato. It is a great place to go just to have a coffee or drink with some friends and some nights you even get to experience the music played by local musicians while enjoying your food. I can honestly spend hours just sitting and talking with friends here.
9. One of my favorite areas is Santa Croce. It is right by one of my buildings for school and just has a gigantic square with shops and restaurants. Taking a book or my lunch there to just sit is one of my favorite things to do. Lots of people pass through here and I could just people watch forever. Lots of interesting people come through Florence and seeing them interact and just be in shock by the beauty and what is going on around them makes my day. I love when there is someone playing music or they have an event there. Sometimes they have races finishing in Santa Croce or little festivals (some including chocolate… yumm)!
10. Last on my list is Le Vespe. This place is just really unique and has some of my favorite food. First off their Wifi password is BaBaBlacksheep, which I just find amusing. They have the best home fries you will ever have in your life and it actually makes you very sad when you eat the last one off there place. They also have brunch that is an unusual thing in Florence. Most places have coffees and pastries and that’s what you live off of for breakfast but you start to miss the eggs, bagel sandwiches, and pancakes that you love and miss from the states. Let me just say I went two months without a bagel sandwich and when I had my first bite of one at Le Vespe I almost cried it was so good. This is when you know this is a place to hit on your list. They also have board games that you can play when eating with friends. This makes it a great environment and keeps me coming back way too often.
While I know many of my favorite things on this list include food, that’s okay. That’s one of the best parts of going abroad and experiencing different things. Yes I do love all the squares and people too and honestly I cannot get enough of Florence. Maybe I can convince SAI and my parents to allow me to stay through summer, because really it is my new home.
Ashley is a current student at University of South Carolina studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Spring 2016 term.