The Florence City Guide gives you an insider’s look at the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Florence was the home to the likes of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Donatello, Dante Alighieri, and the Medicis. It was also the site of my four-month long study abroad in 2011. While people go about Florence on a sightseeing spree, this city guide presents Florence from the viewpoint of a student who did her fair share of exploring the city, usually by foot and by word-of-mouth. Take your time to enjoy ‘la dolce vita‘ (the sweet life) here in Italy’s beloved Firenze.
IF YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR MONTHLY ALLOWANCE IN ONE MEAL
- PERCHE NO! – My friends and I splurged on a Thanksgiving dinner consisting of turkey, mindblowingly creamy mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and sauteed asparagus for €60 per person. The pricetag for the meal was quite steep given the fact it was only one plate but for anyone feeling a bit homesick, this is one of those justifiable splurges. (Via Tavolini 19r)
- ACQUA AL 2 – While I haven’t been here personally, its been recommended as a favorite dining spot and judging by its great reviews, its worth a mention. (Via della Vigna Vecchia 40/R, 50122)
IF YOU’RE A POOR, HUNGRY STUDY ABROAD STUDENT
- OSTERIA IL GATTO E LA VOLPE – The osteria is always packed with groups of study abroad students getting together for family-style dinners and with a huge menu at very affordable prices plus cheap, cheap wine, it completely makes sense to eat here when the funds are low and the hunger is real. (Via Ghibellina nr. 151/R, 50122)
IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO MAKE MARGARITA MONDAY A WEEKLY THING
- TIJUANA – With wooden walls covered in Mexican-style religious iconography, such as Spanish crucifixes and Our Lady of Guadalupe paintings, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the other side of the border. Monster-sized margaritas in a plethora of flavors, an unlimited serving of chips and salsa and satisfying plates of Mexican food make everyone happy! (Via Ghibellina 156r, 50122)
IF YOU NEED TO PREGAME ITALIAN STYLE
- ‘Aperitivo’ was my favorite Italian experience. One could compare it to the American tradition of “happy hour” where its all about value and quantity. In Italy, they serve small amounts of appetizers such as olives, cheese, salads, and cold cuts while you socialize with a glass of wine or spumante in hand. Regularly, the windown for aperitivo is between 6-9 pm, so if you’re looking for a light dinner, this is a great option. The best places for aperitivo are Oibò (Via dei Benci, 53, 50122), MOYO (Via dei Benci, 23/r, 50100), and Kitsch (Via S.Gallo 22).
IF THE WEATHER IS COLD OUTSIDE
- HEMINGWAY’S – In Oltrarno, this ‘cioccolateria’ has a tempting selection of chocolate beverages prepared the only way it should be (ie. spiked hot chocolates: think nutella blended with Bailey’s for an ultra rich, heartwarming drink. (Piazza Piattellina, 9, 50124)
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE HYPE OVER ‘BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA’ IS ALL ABOUT
- BUCA MARIO – Not all bisteccas advertised in Florence are the real deal. Skip the tourist traps and the disappointment for a positive memory of a frequently botched dish. (Piazza Ottaviani, 16r)
IF YOU’RE RUNNING LATE TO CLASS AND NEED A QUICK CAFFEINE FIX
- CORONAS CAFE – Don’t come here for the gelato but for the best coffee in Florence. Everyday on my way to school, I would stop by for the usual breakfast fare in Italy, uno cappuccino and cornetto. It was comforting to have a place that I felt familiar with in a city I was just getting to know. (Via del Corso)
IF YOU WANT TO PERFECT YOUR ITALIAN PRONUNCIATION
- GROM GELATERIA – The topic of gelato is a sensitive one for locals and tourists alike. Every shop offers gelato but if you’re looking for THE PLACE to have that ‘wow’ moment, there is a chain shop in Italy that has the creamiest, most delightful servings of gelato you could ever imagine. Try the straciatella, which is a more impressive version of the basic chocolate chip order with big chunks of dark chocolate instead of those measly little milk chocolate bits. (Via del Campanile)
IF YOUR DREAMS OF ITALIAN PIZZA NEED TO BE REALIZED
- GUSTA PIZZA – One of the misconceptions most newcomers have is that you can find pizza everywhere in Italy. Correction: you can find shitty pizza everywhere, the good stuff is usually in Southern Italy. That being said, if you want something as close to the real pizza napoletana (Neopolitan Pizza) as you would get down south, then Gusta Pizza is the only place to do it. And leave a note in their table so you can boast to your friends that you have left something besides your heart in Florence. (Via Maggio, 46R, 50125)
- SPERA PIZZERIA – Another recommendation from a friend who argues that their pizza is better than Gusta’s. I hold her opinion in high regard so it’s on the list. (Via della Cernaia, 9)
IF A SANDWICH IS GONNA CUT IT FOR LUNCH
- PANBRIACO – This was my go-to dining place in Florence; I was here maybe here 3-4 times a week. Located at the intersection of Via Faenza and the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the inconscpiciousness of the eatery only adds to its appeal. It is simple food at its finest. Build your own sandwiches and salads or choose from their pre-made menu. You can never ever go wrong with their prosciutto, mozarella, and tomato panino. (Via Faenza 13r)
IF YOU HAVE A CRAVING FOR CRAP COFFEE AFTER A LONG NIGHT OUT
- THE DINER – A stack of pancakes and watered down coffee in the country where coffee is not just a drink but a lifestyle may seem like a sin, but there’s a reason why diner food is so popular in the USA. For nights where there was really too much red wine, the only way to make the world right again is sometimes a side order of greasy bacon. (Via dell’Acqua, 2)
IF YOU NEED A BREAK FROM THAT PASTA GRIND
- PINGUSTO – For people more concerned about quantity and not quality, this is the place to go! All you can eat buffets at €10 for lunch and €20 for dinner. It’s an Italian-Asian fusion restaurant but most go for the unlimited amount of sushi. Also, a fresh grill option is available during dinnertime. (Largo Annigoni, 11, 50122)
IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A MOMENT TO YOURSELF
- CAFFE’ LA TERRAZA – To escape the tourist traffic on the ground, take an escalator all the way to the top of the department store to have a surprisingly inexpensive lunch given the view and privacy*warning: there will be pigeons.* (Bar at the top of the Rinascente department store in the Piazza della Repubblica)
IF YOU’RE ALL ABOUT “D.I.Y”
- MERCATO CENTRALE – While the city’s central marketplace may have limited working hours (it’s closed on Sundays and after 2 pm), its hihgly recommended that you go buy some fresh, premium products from local farmers and butchers and make your own lunch. (Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123)
LOOKING FOR THE PARTY?
- Tenax (Via Pratese, 46, 50145)
- Yab Glamour Club (Via dè Sassetti, 5-r, 50123)
- Space Electronic (Via Palazzuolo, 37, 50123)
- Club TwentyOne (Via dei Cimatori, 13)
- The Lion’s Fountain (Borgo degli Albizi, 34, 50123, 57r, 50122)
- The Blob Club (Via Vinegia, 21/r, 50122)
Interested in studying abroad in Florence? Here’s what you need to know:
👉Have you ever been to Florence? Share your tips for seeing the city in the comments below!
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