I have lived in Florence, Italy, for just about a month now, and I have fallen in love with all the incredible sights and activities this city has to offer. Although I cannot say I have experienced everything yet, here is a list of my 10 favorite things to do in Florence thus far.
1. Visiting Piazzale Michelangelo.
Fortunately for my roommates and I, we live a very short distance from Piazzale Michelangelo. The Piazzale Michelangelo is a beautiful lookout spot across the river from the city center. Once you climb the flights of the stairs to the top of the lookout, you have panoramic views of the entire city of Florence. My roommates and I love to make this climb at sunset with a glass of wine to watch the colors of a beautiful Tuscan sunset encircle the entire city.
2. Walking through the Mercato Centrale.
Another perk of living in Florence is that there is a huge market in the center of town full of fresh Italian delicacies. As you walk down each isle rainbows of fresh fruits and vegetables welcome you, and the smell of fresh baked bread fills your nostrils. Not to mention, there is a large cafeteria upstairs with several stalls that serve fresh Italian meals. Just yesterday, one of my roommates and I decided to have lunch in the cafeteria upstairs. It was hard to choose, but after looking at every food stall, we decided to eat fresh pasta made and served right there in the market. This is a perfect place to pick up fresh ingredients for cooking at home.
3. Walking along the Arno River.
I personally love to exercise. One of my favorite places to run is along the Arno River during the day. There are many fun sights and views to see as you walk along the river walk, including spectacular views of the Ponte Vecchio and other bridges in town. In addition, you are never alone because many other Italians are out walking, running or riding their bikes on the same path.
4. Visiting the Piazza di Santa Croce
Another one of my favorite things to do in Florence is to walk by the Piazza di Santa Croce on my way home from class. This square is always full of people enjoying the view of the Basilica di Santa Croce and stopping to eat lunch with their friends. On special occasions, there are even festivals that take place in this square which are very fun and entertaining to watch!
5. Trying as many new restaurants as possible.
Florence has some of the best food I’ve ever had. With so many different places to eat, I have tried my best to visit as many restaurants as the budget allows. Whenever I get the chance, I will stop by local Italian restaurants with my roommates to try a variety of different Italian foods. Also, along my walks to class, if I see a sandwich shop that catches my eye, I will make an effort to stop in for a quick bite to eat. Let’s not forget about the gelato, too. Florence has some of the best gelato shops in Italy, and with so many different local companies, it is impossible not to treat my sweet tooth. Whenever my roommates and I get stuck and don’t know which restaurant to try next we have asked local residents of Florence, including our teachers and other residents in our apartment buildings for recommendations. Everything we have tried has not been disappointing!
6. Visiting the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
As we like to refer to it, the Duomo in the center of Florence is one of the most jaw-dropping architectural structures I have ever seen. Words escape my mouth every time I walk past the Duomo, and I can’t help but to wonder how this magnificent building was created. The area around the Duomo comes to life everyday. Tourists walk by and stare at the Duomo in awe (just as I do), vendors display their beautiful art work and clothes to sell, and residents of Florence stop by on their breaks from work. Entering the Duomo is just as captivating as seeing the outside of the cathedral. One of my favorite things to do is to enter the Duomo and learn more about the significance of the building and how it was built. There are free tours once you enter, and I highly suggest doing this to anyone who wants to learn more about the Duomo.
7. Walking down new streets
Yes, I know this sounds very simple, but one of my favorite things to do in Florence is to walk down a new street everyday. Each day I try to take a slightly different route to class just to try to walk down a street I’ve never been down before. Each street has many fascinating shops and restaurants to offer. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to learn about the city and become more familiar with it!
8. Walking across the Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is one of the most famous landmarks of Florence. It is a beautiful bridge from one side of town to the other. As you walk across the Ponte Vecchio, several luxurious jewelry stores sparkle and catch your eye. The Ponte Vecchio offers a perfect place for you to stop and take a picture, and you may even hear local artists playing music for you! I love walking across this bridge because it is lively, vibrant, and full of people truly delighted to be in the city of Florence.
9. Window Shopping
Florence has many intriguing shops down every street. One of my favorite things to do is to peer into all the shops as I walk around the city. There are several designer brands here in Florence, so it is fun to peek into the windows to see the new collections they release at the turn of every new season.
To conclude, one of my favorite things to do as I study abroad is to travel to other places. Fortunately, Florence is in the central to many other destinations. This makes traveling by train, plane, or bus very easy to do. During my time here, I have enjoyed taking trips to various other countries, but I have also really enjoyed taking a short 1-hour train ride to other Tuscan villages. Lucca has been one of my favorite small towns I’ve visited, and I plan on seeing many others before my time here ends! Traveling by train is my favorite way to travel because you have the opportunity to see several smaller Italian villages on your journey.
Like I mentioned before, Florence is an incredible city full of many fun new things to explore. I know I have much more to go do and see before I leave.
Madison is a spring 2017 SAI Florence student from Washington State University.