So, you’re looking to do a year abroad. Dream come true, right? A new country, with new people and new experiences. But where to do it? Here are 10 reasons why Florence is the best place to study abroad written by someone who’s “been there, done that”. La bella vita awaits…
The Uffizi Gallery / ph. Rachael Harper
It goes without saying that Florence is every art fanatic or museum goer’s dream, once home to countless Renaissance geniuses. Art fills the galleries, churches and museums, not to mention the streets of Florence itself. You’ll be amazed by piazza della Signoria, the square of sculpted statues and, if that’s not enough, just next door is one of the world’s oldest and most famous museums, the Uffizi Gallery, where you can find paintings like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and works by Leonardo da Vinci. Also make sure to get a glimpse of arguably the world’s most famous statue, Michelangelo’s David, in the Accademia Gallery.
When most people think of Italy, they think of good food and wine. And they’re not wrong. Food and wine are essentials of Florence’s welfare and economy, with Florence providing some of Italy’s most typical, traditional and oldest cuisine. The Chianti region lies south of the city where you can find some of the best red wines in the world, so why not take a tour of the local vineyards and savour those sumptuous Sangiovese grapes. You won’t go hungry either. Florence is known for its street food in the form of Lampredotto or Trippa alla Fiorentina (both essentially part of a cow’s stomach), which can be found from one of the many kiosks located along the streets. Other regional favourites include Panzanella (Tuscan tomato bread salad) and the world-famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak). The blend of delicious food and wine will certainly make your year abroad trip in Florence one to remember!
Known for being the “Cradle of the Renaissance”, Florence’s history is like no other. Just walking through the city centre, there is history everywhere you look, from the Cathedral, known to locals as the Duomo, with Brunelleschi’s gravity-defying dome and Giotto’s soul-stirring bell tower, to the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s only bridge to survive World War II. With its historic features seen all around in the city’s art, architecture and culture, Florence is a free-of-charge, alfresco museum, so it comes as no surprise that its historic centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
4. Language learning
If you’re studying Italian, Florence is the ideal place to learn and practise the beautiful language. After all, it is where the Italian language originated thanks to Dante eight centuries ago. Despite Florence being largely infiltrated by tourism, there is plenty of opportunity to practise in shops and restaurants where the Florentine people encourage and appreciate your efforts to speak their language. Just watch out for that tricky Florentine accent! There are also many language schools dotted around Florence, should you want a little extra practice or want to take up a whole new language altogether.
Florence is a vibrant city, known to be one of Italy’s richest multicultural communities. The population widely differs in terms of its ethnicity, traditions, religious beliefs and manners, making it an accessible place for people from all walks of life. Its cobbled walkways are filled with people from all over the world, but its hustle and bustle is balanced by the flow of the River Arno, its big brash piazzas and impactful beauty. You can escape the city crowds and unwind in beautiful gardens or look out over the surrounding Tuscan countryside in a matter of minutes, which provides a healthy, diverse year-abroad setting.
6. Geographic location
Florence is located in Central Italy, making travelling in and around the Tuscan capital very easy indeed. Visiting major Italian cities such as Siena, Rome, Milan or Venice can be done in a day thanks to the fast network of trains to and from Florence, as well as proving very useful for visiting other major parts of the Tuscan region, such as its beautiful beaches and ancient villages. Aside from Florence, Pisa and Bologna’s airports are also nearby offering an opening to all that Europe has to offer, meaning that new adventures are just a flight away.
7. Fashion and shopping
For many, Florence is regarded as the birthplace of the Italian fashion industry, attracting fashionistas year on year. As the home to fashion greats such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci, Florence’s streets can feel very much like the red carpet. Walk and window shop on the famed via de’ Tornabuoni to marvel at all the impressive boutique windows and luxury brands. Otherwise, search for some of Florence’s finest handmade fashion items, whether it be from one of the many jewellery shops lining the Ponte Vecchio or the highest quality Italian leather from one of the countless markets or shops.
Florence also offers the perfect mix of nightlife to suit everyone’s taste. Whether you’d like to spend your evening sipping a cocktail, enjoy live music outside one of Florence’s charming, laidback bars, lounges or restaurants, or dance the night away in a Latin club or karaoke bar, there’s always something going on somewhere, leaving plenty of opportunity to mingle with the locals and other international students.
The best way to get around Florence is on foot. Everywhere in Florence is within walking distance, which is convenient and relaxing, less overwhelming than an otherwise sprawling city like Rome. While it may be a walkable city, that certainly doesn’t mean that there’s little to do or see. The maze of intertwining side streets will lead you to discover something new every day and you’ll soon find yourself uncovering all its quiet, hidden gems and corners, away from typical tourist spots.
Florence boasts a whole array of recurring events every year, from fairs and theatrical productions to exhibitions and fashion shows. Maybe your time abroad in Florence will correspond with the Carnival in February or Easter Sunday’s unique event of Scoppio del Carro held in front of the Cathedral. Florence is festive all year round, but especially in summer with many outdoor concerts to choose from, and not forgetting the Calcio Storico in June, a medieval, Renaissance football tournament that is not to be missed!
Before you hop on the next flight to Italy, check out the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Italy travel advice page at where you can find all the country’s individual laws, customs and information. You can also follow @FCOTravel on Facebook and Twitter for further travel updates.