As my time in Florence has come to a close, I have picked up a few tips along the way that will hopefully be of help to future students. First of all, something I’ve noticed throughout this whole semester is how polarizing the site is in general. One of my roommates affirms her hatred of Florence and longing to be home pretty regularly, while others can’t imagine parting with the city once the semester ends. I was at first part of the latter spectrum, but have definitely grown a little bit tired of the city’s catering to tourists, crowded streets, and smallness. I definitely have missed the vibe of New York while being here, but one of my reasons for applying to Florence was not only for the art history and Gallatin classes, but also a change in pace from the hugeness of the New York campus’ student body. I think I was looking for an experience of a real campus and being able to know most of the students (which laughably did not happen). But I wouldn’t let any of this deter you from studying abroad here.
Most of the friendships I made were with my roommates, so I would recommend living in an off-campus apartment, though they can be hit or miss location wise. I loved mine (Ricasoli 46) because of the location right near the Duomo and bus stop and the ability to meet other NYU students who lived in my building. If you aren’t looking for a true Italian immersion, this is your best option.
One of the great things about Florence is the ability to see so many other places in Italy. In fact, most of my traveling has been to places inside Italy. The whole first half of the semester I had only taken day trips by train to other Italian cities. At first I was weary of doing this because there were so many European cities I put as “must-sees” on my travel list. Although I never made my dreams of visiting Amsterdam or Berlin realities, I did get to see some incredible yet random cities that I probably would never go to after this study abroad experience. There’s still time in the future to come back to Europe, so don’t worry about not being able to see everything, because you won’t.
I ended up traveling pretty much every weekend and it became absolutely exhausting. The planning process is stressful and lengthy, so try to allot time with the people you’re traveling with to make all of your plans. Putting it off is very easy to do and usually just ends up making prices worse. Don’t be afraid to stay in Florence for a weekend, it might surprise you how much you need a break from traveling.
Last tip–I discovered the joys and pains of car rental and figured I would share some information that my friends and I wished we would have known beforehand. You can go to the Florence Airport via a shuttle bus that sells tickets by the train station, but you have to tell the driver or ring the stop button to make sure he doesn’t take you further to Prato (like what happened to two of my friends). At the airport you can take the shuttle bus (which you may have to wait 15 min for) to the car rental lot that has a couple of different rental companies. Policies differ from company to company, as some require a license for over a year and for the driver to be 21, while others may only look at the age and not length you’ve have a license, but it can be your American one, no international license is necessary. And some companies have an even older age restriction, so check that before you tell them what car you need and end up disappointed after you give them the license. Don’t go to the rental place in person unless you want to rent the car for that day, as my one roommate went twice on one day with different people because we weren’t sure who’s licenses would be valid to rent the car and it all ended up being unnecessary. Also, there are limited automatic cars, so definitely specify that you need one! We were so worried about there not being enough. Try to book in advance online, which for some reason we didn’t do because we assumed there would be cars, but over Easter weekend it ended up being a lot more expensive because so many people were traveling. Europcar pulled through for the two road trips that we took, so give them a shot if you have no other options. The road trips were some of my favorite memories from studying abroad, so I would recommend doing this at least once. I thought I would hate them since I get carsick, but I drove for a lot of the time and had a blast despite the crazy Italian drivers!