- Don’t be afraid to travel alone! it’s such a fulfilling experience to find a place on your own. And, if you go to smaller, more unique cities it’s usually very safe. Don’t miss out on one of your bucket list places just because you can’t coordinate with your friends.
- Travel before the semester starts. You’ll get over the “shock” stage quicker and ease right into living in your place. Also, you will know how to use the trains and airbnbs by then.
- Get a eurail pass. You’ll feel much more comfortable about traveling every weekend when the train tickets are either free or only 10 euro. Also, don’t buy your train tickets ahead of time. get to the train station 20mins before your train and buy at a kiosk. Then you won’t be locked into a time if you decide you want to stay in a place for a few more hours than you planned.
- Do the group processing for the visa! Don’t be like me and pretend like you can do it on your own, and then when you can’t get an appointment at the consulate, stress out about it and beg the OGS to help you…
- Come to Florence and live in a homestay! All of my friends in apartments can’t speak Italian, and have spent SO much money on having to eat out every night because their kitchen is always too messy to cook in.
- Take a semester of language before going to your abroad site. It will help a lot.
- Travel around Northern Italy in the winter. It’s supposed to be cold there. If you go to Capri or Sardegna when the weather isn’t good for getting in the those beautiful clear waters, you’ll be disappointed.
- If you do go to Sardegna (which you definitely should) either know someone with a car or rent you own (although you would have to know how to drive stick). There is basically no public transportation there and you definitely want to see things like Alghero, Neptune’s Grotto, Gorropu, and Stintino. Also, car rentals are very cheap in Italy.
- Try and visit thermal hot springs (acqua calde). They are all over Italy and some are in really beautiful settings. It’s a nice way to relax without going to an expensive spa or something.
- Speaking of spas, it’s so expensive to get your nails done in Italy! Try to bring your own supplies to do that at home.
- bring an extra suitcase, or have your parents bring one when they come to visit, so that you can have space for all of the random stuff you are going to buy. But, you can also buy a cheap one while you are abroad.
- go for “aperitivo”. If you order a drink you get free access to a whole buffet of yummy food. So pretty much a free dinner. But definitely order a Spritz.
A list of some of my favorite things in a few cities:
-Vino, Pane e Salame (for great paninis and wine)
-Camilo (great for dinner with typical tuscan food done well)
-Osteria del Milione (a 15 minute drive outside of the city for great food)
-The Blue Shop (amazing print shop)
-Parri’s (genuine florentine and exitice leather. Really nice stuff)
-Le Sorelle (cool store in l’oltrarno with soaps and reuseable bags)
-Massimo Dutti (an Italian fashion brand one step above Zara)
-Farmacia Santissima Annunziata (really pretty old school pharmacy and not touristy like S.M.N.)
-Ara (amazing Sicilian pasticeria with some of the best gelato in Florence, but get a cannoli too-best I ever had)
-Helianthus (where to buy natural face and body cosmetics all made in Italy)
-The Bench (Brooklyn-y coffee shop with great pastries and real breakfast menu)
-La Piola (same chef as Michelin star restaurant “Piazza Duomo” but more casual and cheaper) (get the fresh pasta with shaved truffles..worth every penny…)
-Tartufi Ponzio (buy everything truffle here)
-try to get on a truffle hunt here! during white truffle season in the Fall
Emilia Romagna (this is a region not a city, but the whole thing is worth it)
-Parma Food Tours (Laura knows everything about Parmigiano, Balsamico, and Prosciutto and takes you to on an amazing tour through the area)
-MAMbo (amazing contemporary art museum in Bologna)
-La Sorbeteria di Castiglione (by far the best gelato I had in ALL of Italy, must go!)
Antonio Viva (been making hand-made leather sandals his whole life, amazing)
-Taormina (no specific things here, but would highly recommend to stay here in the smaller town instead of Catania. It is so picturesque and much more charming and quieter. Take a day trip to the bigger city instead.)
-Stromboli (instead of going to mount Etna, take a couple of days to go to this volcanic island-less touristy)
-Eat all of the arancini you can, order everything with pistachios, and get a dessert called cassata
-B&B Mich&Letti (do not stay anywhere else, people are great and the B&B looks like the NY apartment I want but will never have)
-Bottega (great for a glass of local wine and meat platter)
Badia a Passignano:
-Osteria di Passignano (expensive, but an amazing meal in the Tuscan countryside on the Antinori vineyard)
-Fonte de Medici (an agristurismo that offers a great hands on cooking class)
-Baratti e Milano (ITALIAN HOT CHOCOLATE)
-Restaurant David Toutain (make reservations for lunch. 12 courses, 3 hours, enough said)
-Merci (really cool concept store with a cute cafe that you’ll want to go to breakfast at before shopping)
-Roellinger Spices (amazing spice shop)
-Dos de Mayo (great tapas)
-Petit Cafe (best butter-cake of life)