Bubble bubble bubble bubble!

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 8. Bubble, Florence, Places by Isabel2 Comments

I have found that the biggest bubble I’ve come across in Florence has been the NYU Florence campus. We have our own Villa, so it is very much it’s own little bubble, about a forty minute walk from the center of the city. Therefore, it is definitely a little safe haven from the rest of the city, and the spot where freshmen are required to live. I have to say, I’m quite thankful that I live off campus in the center. I like that I’m able to have the juxtaposition of going to class in a peaceful villa to going back on transit to where more people are. Even so, another bubble I find myself enclosed in is being on my side of the river; the Duomo side, with the Uffizi and the Galleria Dell’Accademia. It is this side of the river that gets the most tourists, since it houses the tourist attractions, including a well known sandwich shop called All’Antico Vinaio. Outside of this shop you’ll find tourists and locals alike, which to me is the equivalent of going to a classic foody place in New York City. Though you know it attracts tourists and their instagrams, you can’t help but go as well since it’s so good. Tourist attractions become such for a reason; they’re worth it (normally.)

If anything, I find that in this bubble of my side of the river, I am more surrounded by English speaking locals, businesses, and street acts. There’s simply nothing like walking through the Duomo Piazza at night, listening to an Italian man sing an English rendition of “Hallelujah”. It is also on this side of the river that you’ll get immediately spoken to in English at any sign of tourism. It’s always interesting for me to go into an establishment and see what language I get greeted in, and after I speak the initial “ciao”, what language continues to get spoken.

Another spot I often find is something of a bubble is certain bars and clubs that are dominated by international students abroad. It is in these clubs that the same songs, normally “Wild Thoughts” and “Swalla” are played on repeat like the world depends on it. In these sorts of spots, students can meet other study abroaders, though do you really meet if you’re surrounded by blaring music and a million other people? Regardless, in these sorts of places you’ll find bartenders who speak english, American music, and mostly American young adults with a few sketchy locals sprinkled in. It’s common knowledge that some locals will go to these spots since they hear that American girls are “easy”, so I’m not sure how much of a safe bubble these can be so much as an American bubble. But it’s a bubble that I see a lot of people get comfortable in; the same four clubs are very popular among abroad students and though people try to find new spots that have “real Italians” in them, many of us stick with what we know. It is comfortable in that way; you know the crowd, you know the music, and you know what to expect.

So if I’m being honest, Florence itself is a bubble. It’s a tourist city, yet one that does house lots of locals and a language type of their own. And though there are many places and ways to create these safe bubbles, I have the most fun when I break out of them and find spaces that the locals love, and more importantly, that I love.


  1. Isabel! I totally feel everything you’ve said here, I think everyone studying abroad here in Florence can say the same. I really like your observation of the way bars and clubs operate here, and the way people stick to what they know when exploring Florence nightlife. In that homogeneity, the differences seem more apparent. There’s also an interesting juxtaposition of the original Italian culture and art that forms in Florence, but the removal of that by tourism. Like you said, I think the most important thing in exploring a city is finding out what you love, not where “the locals” or “the study abroad kids” hang.

  2. Hey Isabel,

    It was interesting reading your post because I actually considered going to Florence this semester instead of Prague, and the biggest reason why I chose Prague was because of Florence’s campus. As you said, it’s supposed to be a gorgeous villa but it’s removed from the city center which means that the NYU bubble is pretty bad, and I really didn’t want that! So I’m glad that you live in the city center and have a little of the best of both worlds.

    I totally understand being in a tourist bubble though and that’s something I hadn’t considered. Obviously it’s hard to escape it because we’re not locals! I think a large part of not being able to escape the tourist bubble–as hard as we try–is that NYU seems to intentionally place its campuses and/or dorms in areas prone to having tourists. I don’t think NYU does it to keep us in a bubble; these are just optimal locations because they’re in the heart of the city. For example, my campus in Prague is literally next to Old Town so we have to push past tourists to get to class. The campus in Paris is by the Latin Quarter and Notre-Dame, so it’s kind of the same thing. I guess you lucked out with the villa! Although my dorm in Prague is in a residential area removed from the center, it’s in a pretty hip and more “modern” area that seems to have a growing foreign population.

    I guess it’s just up to us to try to escape these bubbles!

    P.S.: I’m so sorry local straight men think American girls are “easy,” ugh, that’s so gross. Why is the patriarchy universal??!!

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