Florence, Italy is not an authentic Italian experience unless you make it one. I certainly wish I knew the diversity of Florence before coming, that’s certainly something I did not know much about and NYU wasn’t super clear about. I do wish I did a homestay sometimes, but I am not obsessed with Italian culture or set on being an Italian. My off-campus experience was perfect, gave me the freedom I needed at this point in time, and provided me with a sense of social stability that I’m glad I got to experience. Here are some of the best places I discovered:
- Trattoria del Carmine – Oh my god. I wish I knew about this place before it got cold. It’s pretty authentic, pretty decently priced. But the salmon pasta … Oh my, it’s just divine. Honestly haven’t eaten anything bad there, I recommend choosing a few dishes and splitting them with your friends. The desserts and house wines (both rosso and bianco) are great too.
- Trattoria ZaZa – Definitely talked about for a reason. Good food, good prices, some of the best service I’ve gotten. Not the most genuine experience, lots of tourists, but a great place to take family or try early on.
- Bar Perseo – Excellent coffee, gelato, and pastries. I lived just down the street from it and would order in Italian. It would make me feel like a classy woman. Make this a part of your routine if you’re closeby.
- Perchè No! – The oldest gelateria in Florence. I live next door, and I cannot recommend their lavender and white mint gelatos enough. (Sometimes they even have turmeric flavored gelato that is worth a try.)
- Le Murate – Excellent aperitivo, sometimes cool events. A great place to bring some friends to, meet Italian college students, and maybe even get some work done. I definitely wish I spent more time there, but it is a bit out of the way.
- Santo Spirito – This is the hip, fun area of Florence. Some nights it can be a bit much, but bar hopping and restaurants are fun to explore and great to get to know people over. This part is some nights a great representation of how wonderful Florence can be as a city.
Also, engage. My biggest regret from this semester is not getting involved in Florence as a city until later on, and by now it has gotten quite chilly outside. Do a volunteer activity that allows you to meet people, such as a tour guide with Duomo. (Sign up for Community Engagement with NYU Florence, they can connect you to so many rewarding, not-scary volunteer activities that will allow you to get to know the city and its inhabitants.) I honestly can’t stress this enough, it is pretty much the only thing I regret while here.
Before going, definitely ask yourself what you want out of your study abroad experience. Here, I’ve really learned the importance of planning things out. Also, book trips early on in the semester that you want to go on, then ask people you get close to after some time if they’d like to join you. Definitely leave some time for spontaneity, but if you really want to see places, you should take the initiative to see them without waiting for others.
But I don’t just mean in regard to travel, knowing why you are here and utilizing a city you will never get back is an important part of being abroad. You are just a passerby, so you must seize the moment. Hopefully you will, too, have the space to be reflective and focused this semester as well as spontaneous and free. Just enjoy it all, the world is here for you!