I studied abroad at Florence University of the Arts during the fall semester of 2017. My semester began by traveling throughout Italy with a man named Umberto (who had the most epic mustache I’d ever seen) and about 30 other adventure-seeking college students. When I moved into my apartment in Florence in early September, I had already gotten my feet wet in Italian culture and was so eager for all the travel to come.
Between September and December of 2017, I traveled all around Italy and internationally to Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Morocco, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. Since returning home from my semester abroad I’ve visited a few more cities, but no place will ever compare to Florence. Living there for four months was truly a dream come true, and I am so excited to finally be sharing all my recommendations!
For anyone currently in Florence or thinking about studying there in the future, I hope you find this helpful and feel free to reach out to me directly with questions!
Piazza del Duomo: You can’t miss the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral during your time in Florence (actually though- it’s huge!). This church was constructed in the 1300s and is the 4th largest church in the world! Aside from the church, there is a nearby bell tower and baptistery. The church is free to enter, but I recommend finding the nearby ticket booth and purchasing the ticket that will allow you to go into the baptistery, climb the bell tower, and climb the dome!
Basicilia di Santa Croce: Franciscan church in Florence, Italy with a large square in front for soccer games and Christmas markets!
Piazza della Signoria: Square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. This square is the political focus of the city and is where the original David statue once stood.
Ponte Vecchio: One of the oldest bridges in the world! It was built in the 1300s and stretches across the Arno River in Florence. Today there are several jewelry shops on it where I recommend treating yourself to something special! Just be aware of pickpockets here.
Piazzale Michelangelo: Located on a hill overlooking the Arno River and the city of Florence below, this was my favorite spot to hang out during my time in Florence! Be sure to plan accordingly so you have enough time to hike up, catch a sunset, and hear the live music that is usually performed.
Galleria dell’ Accademia: Home to Michelangelo’s famous David statue. This museum is pretty small, so you probably only need about an hour here, but be sure to buy tickets in advance!
Uffizi Gallery: Awesome art museum with a rooftop cafe. Get tickets online and in advance to see the beautiful frescos and statues inside! I recommend setting aside about two hours for a visit.
Don Nino: This cafe is first on the list, because it has the BEST cannolis in the city. It is located to the left of the Duomo and the workers will create your cannoli in front of you. To say I was a regular here would be an understatement!
Il Procopio: Amazing, authentic gelato. Our Italian RA, Lorenzo, introduced it to us, so it has guaranteed local flavor. Find it- you won’t regret it.
Gelateria de Neri: Another really good, authentic gelato spot. Be aware of any gelateria with pounds of gelato in the window- it isn’t real!
La Milkeria: Really good for breakfast if you are craving sweets. Great spot for crepes, french toast, or waffles covered Nutella.
La Ménagère: A french cafe located near the Basilica di San Lorenzo. Not only are the pastries and teas delicious, this was my favorite place to do work and blog during my semester abroad. The aesthetic is 10/10.
Centro Mercato: Above the Central Food Market near the Basilica de San Lorenzo is a food court that is definitely worth the visit. They offer some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, dumplings, and truffle pasta that is to die for. Truffle is a bit pricey, but I promise you, each bite is so worth the cost.
All’ Antico Vinaio: Arguably the best panini shop in the city. During peak hours, there are lines down the street! This shop got so popular that they had to open two, one on each side of the street. Each sandwich is 5 euro and is the size of your face, leaving you full and happy for hours.
Pino’s Sandwiches: Really good paninis with tables inside to stay and eat. The owner, Pino, loves study abroad students and will most likely have your school’s flag hanging in his shop. I miss him!
Gustapizza: This pizza shop is located across the river on the quieter side of Florence, but always had a line out the door! They are known for their heart-shaped, delicious pizzas that can be taken to-go up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a sunset dinner.
Osteria Santa Spirito: Located across the river near the Santo Spirito cathedral. Try their cheesy truffle gnocchi.
Ristorante il Paiolo: Upscale, candle-lit restaurant in Florence with outstanding service. My family and I went here when they visited me and got complimentary champagne, limoncello, and a pasta dish. You can’t leave Florence without trying the Fiorentina steak!
Tijuanas: Mexican restaurant located near the Duomo with build-you-own nachos and really good frozen margaritas. Eat here Monday nights!
The Lion’s Fountain: Bar in Florence catered towards American college students. Every college t-shirt imaginable is hanging from their ceiling (find your school’s and sign it!) and they serve school specific shots- the “Fairfield” was too good! This bar is located near a lot of the clubs making it ideal for pregaming.
Uncle Jimmy’s: Another fun, American-type bar to pregame at. If you buy their wristband, you get a free shot with every mixed drink you order.
Red Garter: Really fun karaoke bar located near the Santa Croce. You can’t leave Florence without singing a song on their stage!
Clubs to visit: YAB Discoteca, Babylon, Space Club, Bamboo Lounge & Club
- Visit a leather school to shop: Florence is known for their leather!
- Get a rooftop photo: Visit the apartment building on top of the Prada shop near the Duomo and snap a pic (like the one above!).
- Use Santa Maria Novella train station to take trains and buses out of Florence (walking distance from the Duomo)
- Watch a Fiorentina soccer game!
I hope these recommendations help you to enjoy everything that Florence has to offer! Florence will always feel like home to me, and I can’t wait to go back one day.