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  • Writer's pictureCaylie Poola

Florence, Italy: The Ultimate Guide

I spent 3 life changing months in Florence, Italy last semester.

I discovered a love for travel, fashion, food, history and everything in-between. I learned more about myself and my goals, I found peace in the uncertainty and possibilities that come with graduating college and entering a new chapter of life.

Studying abroad during my senior year of college was a difficult decision, but now, I cannot imagine where I would be had I not decided to take the chance and go.





So, if you're going to Florence for a trip, studying abroad there (I'm jealous) or just curious about what life is like in one of the most charming, interesting and beautiful cities in the world, here it goes:


Welcome to my Florence must-do, must-see, must-eat blog post.


ARRIVING IN FLORENCE: Culture shock, mannerisms, safety, the language and more


What I loved about studying abroad in Italy is the challenges that comes with being in a country where English is not the first language. The cultural and social norms here are different then anywhere I have been before. Lucky for me, my study abroad program put us in daily Italian lessons that not only taught us the language, but how to use it appropriately and fit in with the mannerisms of the Italian culture in Florence. Generally speaking, Florence is a very popular study abroad destination, and in many ways study abroad students help support the local businesses and community in major ways. On the other hand, we are guests in their beautiful city, and while I like to think I "lived in Florence" I really just had the pleasure of a super long stay. Don't forget while you're there, no matter how comfortable and at home you feel - that you are visiting and it is so important to respect the people, culture, and everything in-between that you may encounter.


Culture Shock


With a supportive study abroad program, culture shock is sure to feel less intense, but it does exist. For some of my friends, it hit later in the semester when they felt homesick or encountered something strange, or for others (myself included) it hit soon after arrival and then faded completely. Florence does not have heat and air conditioning the way we do in the US, and when I arrived in September it was HOT. Seriously. Very hot. Most apartments do not have AC, including the one I stayed in, and many restaurants and businesses may not have it either. My school did not have AC and it was difficult on some hot days wearing masks to feel comfortable. I found a local electronic store and was able to buy a fan that I put in my room which made all the difference, so if heat is a problem for you, I would suggest the same. And if you're going to Florence when it's hot out, beware of mosquitos. Unfortunately my semester was not complete without at least 20 bug bites on my legs and arms during the warmest weeks. We soon learned this is a problem in the city and although it is easy to find sprays and wall plug-ins to help with the problem, it never went away completely. I found that this was because we kept our apartment window open most of the time, due to of course, the lack of AC.


In the winter however, our program warned us that the city of Florence controls the heat and they were absolutely right. It is hard to imagine coming from the US where I can change the thermostat in my living room if I am too hot or too cold, but this is not the norm for many Florentines. Our heat would turn on high at random times in the day, and sometimes it wouldn't turn on at all. Overall, it always felt warmer then it did cold, but it was definitely something I did not expect.


The Language & Mannerisms


I probably said the word ciao a million times last semester. It came out more naturally then saying hello! Ciao is probably the easiest Italian word to learn because it can virtually be used for any greeting, hello, goodbye, a friendly exchange. As you learn the basic Italian greetings you will learn words such as "Buongiorno (good morning), Buena sera (good evening), Buenanotte (good night-means literally goodnight I am going to bed, not to just say if you are leaving a restaurant at night). These are great to remember, especially if you are interacting with someone significantly older than you. It is seen as most polite to use these greetings when speaking with an elder in the Italian culture. For instance, I may say Ciao to a teenager working at a gelato shop, but say Buongiorno while entering a coffee shop in the morning to an older man working. It took probably a month in Florence to understand which of these phrases to use where - and to who. The Florentines will NOT be offended if you say ciao to them, but it's nice to be thoughtful and makes anyone happy to be in their home using their language correctly!


Food.

Food is probably the most exciting part about visiting Italy for most people, right?

Well, luckily for you, Italians love food just as much as you want to try it. Food overall is a major part of the Italian culture, and something they look at as an art. A great restaurant in Florence is one that probably takes 2-3 hours to order, serve and eat. In the US, slow service is looked at as a lazy or unproductive thing, where in Italy, it is considered a great pleasure to cook and create beautiful dishes. Don't be alarmed at the slower productivity in restaurants, just enjoy it! Spend the quality time with new friends, embracing where you are, and eating delicious cheese boards with an aperol spritz in hand. And make sure to keep in mind, in Italy, the customer is NOT always right and the wait staff does not work to accommodate changes to the menu and dish you want to order. Waiters/waitresses in Italy have a completely different mindset then the US when it comes to restaurant service. Be polite and they will reciprocate that! Try your very best to order what is on the menu without holding/changing things - look at it is a privilege to be enjoying such high quality food! In general, dinner is a later event in Italy than in the US. Most restaurants will not serve dinner until 7 and even then, you may be the only ones in the restaurant. If you're used to eating early it may take a little getting used to but I soon was accustomed to going out to dinner at 8PM, it felt like the normal thing to do!


Tipping

This is so important that I felt it deserved its own section. In the US we are essentially programmed to tip 20% after a meal, beauty service, virtually everything & anything! In Italy (and most European countries) tipping is not expected and does not need to occur after every meal! This is mostly because people here are paid better wages and tipping is not how they make their livelihood. If you have absolutely amazing service and feel inclined to leave a few euro on the table, go for it! More then likely it will make the servers day. However, these individuals know you are American and will not say anything if you do tip them, why would they? In a few cases my friends and I tipped when we shouldn't have and felt taken advantage of and naive. This is why I say, even though it feels awkward/wrong, just don't tip 95% of the time. I promise it's super normal!



Coffee.

Coffee is UNREAL in Italy. US coffee will never compare. However, if you only liked iced caramel swirls from Dunkin, prepare to mature your taste buds as soon as you land. While some of the trendier coffee shops in Florence have delicious iced lattes, almond milk and fun drinks, most local places will offer the basic coffee drinks. As a girl who is almond milk all the way, I had to become accepting of the fact that I just cannot get it everywhere. If you REALLY can't do dairy, ask for "soya" in your cappuccino, which will be soy milk. Soy milk is pretty much the only non-dairy option that is carried at every coffee shop. And don't forget - Italians will take you literally so if you say "Latte" they are going to give you one, and "latte" to them is a cup of milk" so make sure to add that it is "con latte" (and milk) not just latte.

Maybe in the US I'd order a coffee at 4 PM because I'm craving it, but in Italy, (how shocking is this...) it is actually normal just to get coffee in the morning, or maybe a shot of espresso in the afternoon. I'm not saying people won't serve you coffee later in the day, they just might be wondering why you possibly want it.


You with me still?



Safety


I am truly so happy to say that while in Florence I felt very safe. After a few weeks I understood the city, and I became familiar with the walking routes to the places I wanted to go. I walked alone at night, (carefully), and honestly enjoyed going to explore places on my own. This being said it is a city, and as a blonde hair, blue eyed American, I didn't stand a chance at blending in.


I had heard the catcalling in Florence was extreme, and when I arrived I realized that wasn't the case. However, I was catcalled a few times, most of the times pointing out my blonde hair, or the fact I was not from Italy. I noticed it was when I looked completely unaware of my surroundings (even though I was not), such as being on FaceTime with a friend, or looking down at my phone to put a podcast on. If you are catcalled, just keep walking! Don't look back and you will be fine! When I was catcalled I never feared for my safety, but it did remind me that I was in a city that was new to me, and even at moments where I knew my way around I should always, ALWAYS remember that.


"Can I call an Uber?"

No unfortunately, you can't. Florence doesn't have Uber and is primarily taxi based. I felt safe and comfortable in the taxis that I took, alone, or with friends. Most of the time I didn't even need a taxi and could walk to my destination, but getting to the airport or somewhere late at night I called one! If I could not find any on the street I used an app called "app taxi" which is like a less user-friendly version of Uber. I had my credit card info in the app and could schedule a ride in advance if I needed an early morning pick-up to the airport. I recommend you get this app so you always have a way to find a ride! Additionally, when you enter a taxi make sure to check that they accept credit card if you do not have euros. Some taxi drivers do not accept credit card which can make for a very uncomfortable drop off if you do not have enough euro on you.


Lastly, if walking home from a night out in Florence, don't walk alone! This should be obvious, but when you get comfortable somewhere, even if the walk is short, wait for a friend. While this isn't meant to scare anyone, there was an time I walked home and I was lucky enough that a friend walked with me, however, she was going to a different apartment and waited behind as I made it to my door. She soon noticed a man following after me, as did I. I was smart, and got inside, my friend and I were both safe,. However, it was a huge shock to especially because of how safe and respected I felt in Florence. This can happen anywhere, any college town, any city, but it hadn't happened to me before that time. Most of the time, a result of feeling unsafe in a new city, wherever I was while abroad, is dropping your guard because YOU feel comfortable. To most locals, they can tell you are more then likely a study abroad student. They know you are new to the area, don't know the language fluently, and can be naive. As long as you keep this in mind you will have a happy and safe time in Florence (or anywhere else for that matter)


FOOD, FOOD, FOOD!


During my time abroad I visited over 11 beautiful countries. In each of these countries I embraced trying the popular cuisine, however, nothing was quite like the food I had right in front of me in Florence. In order to keep this blog post informative, helpful and not 100 pages long, here is a list. Print it out, right it down, tattoo it to your arm - do what you have to do, but make sure to try these places while visiting Firenze!


My top Florence foodie finds:


  • Pino's Sandwiches - Salumeria Verdi Don't listen to what anyone else say. Pino's is the BEST panino place in Florence. My order? The Kasey Rose Special with prosciutto instead of Ham and add on the truffle sauce! (Thank me later)

  • Trattoria ZaZa This is the restaurant I ate at the most by far, this last semester. I brought anyone who visited me for dinner there and the experience was always great. The menu is probably the biggest I have seen in Florence, so big they literally have an entire menu dedicated to dishes with truffle (my dream) You will want a reservation for this place pretty much any night, so call ahead.


Dinner at ZaZa!

  • Acqua Al 2 Hands down one of my favorite dinner spots, great, kind people, atmosphere and the food is one of the best around! Had the best tiramisu of the semester here. If going on a weekend call ahead and make a reservation!

  • Melaleuca bakery + bistrot Situated right next to my school, Melaleuca was a part of my daily routine. I studied here, enjoyed iced lattes on hot days, and my friends and I could not get enough of their food. If you come here you have to get their breakfast sandwich and cinnamon bun. Yeah you heard me right, a cinnamon bun. They make the best cinnamon bun I will probably ever have in my life, not to be dramatic.


The best cinnamon buns in the world

  • La Giostra Not only is the food great, but this is probably one of the most beautiful restaurants in Florence. I ate here many times because it is situated in a side street close to where my apartment was, but it was a fan favorite amongst my friends and family who visited too! (Make a reservation for weekend)


La Giostra, Florence

  • Base V Juicery Sometimes, you need a break from all the pasta OK? Base was one of my go-to stops for an acai bowl, green juice, and a chill place to study in-between classes!

  • Sophia Loren Restaurant Trendy vibes, modern aesthetic, but most of all THE BEST PIZZA! If you come here, narrow in on the pizza even though the menu has it all. It was one of the best I had tried all semester.

  • Sbrinos Gelato This place was recommended to me and let me tell you it did not disappoint. I was told to order the Speculos (yes like the cookie butter) flavor, so I am going to tell you the same thing.

  • Rinascente Rooftop This rooftop is situated right on top of the Rinascente (like a huge Macy's in Florence) (If you're in a pinch they have nice bathrooms that are open to the public too). This was a great spot for amazing views, apertivos and vibes. I came here a few times like on my birthday or when my best friend visited - seriously recommend!


The view makes an overpriced cocktail worth it

  • Rooster Cafe If you're looking for a hearty, American-like brunch, check out Rooster Cafe. They had hearty meals, all the basics, and we could have probably sat their for hours just talking and enjoying the food.

  • Pizzeria O' Vesuvio If you're a Jersey Shore fan, or even if you're not. Try this pizza place! I originally went because it is the pizza shop where Snooki & her crew worked while filming the Florence season of Jersey Shore, however the pizza was fantastic and I brought all my friends back to try it. It's just a classic, family owned pizza place and it's delicious.


Chefs kiss

  • Don Nino Prime location near the Duomo, great cannolis and *a lot* of late night dessert runs.

  • Ditta Artigianale Throughout this semester Ditta became one of my favorite places to grab coffee and a snack while studying. They have 3 locations in Florence and have some of the more "trendy" coffee drinks as well as the classic ones.

  • Shake Cafe A study abroad students heaven. Shake is pretty much funded by study abroad students (at least that's how it seems) but rightfully so. They offer healthier options like wraps, salads, smoothie bowls, while also having great coffee and other drinks. Additionally, they have completely accommodated towards students who want to do their work inside, so it's a great environment!

  • Gusta Pizza Great pizza, what else is there to say?

  • John Borno Cafe Probably my favorite "local" coffee shop. This place is the real deal! Don't ask for an oat milk latte, but be sure to grab a cappuccino and croissant.

The typical Italian breakfast from John Borno


  • La Milkeria One of my favorite places to grab a cappuccino on the go, and if you're hungry - they actually make really good pancakes.


Things to do & see in Florence


  • Climb the Duomo! Buy tickets to climb the many, many stairs in order to get to the top of the Duomo! It is a workout but the view is absolutely incredible and it was a must-do for me while I was in Florence, but prepare to sweat.


Best people, best views

  • Watch Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo The best view in Florence, I swear. Grab a few friends, put some sneakers on and walk up-hill in order to watch the most spectacular sunset you've ever seen. The vibes are 10/10.


Best sunset spot in the city

  • Visit Mercato Centrale My weekly grocery runs were not complete if I didn't make my way over to the market to grab my favorite dried fruit (from the sweetest man ever), fresh pasta, produce and flowers. I absolutely cherished every trip I made to the market. Florence has 2 markets, but this one is the absolute best and I think anyone who studied abroad in Florence with me would agree. There is also a food hall in the upstairs of the market which is a super fun place to grab a quick bite, try all kinds of food, and hangout with friends! I would suggest bringing euros with you to the market, as most of the downstairs are filled with local vendors who rely on and appreciate the euro payment, or may not take credit card.


I ate this dried fruit like it was my job

  • Ride the Carousel in the city center OK, here me out. This is incredibly cheesy but after a few weeks in Florence you will have likely passed this carousel 50 times and just like I did, on our last week, we bit the bullet and went for a ride. (Looking absolutely ridiculous but having so much fun).

  • Take a Chef Factory cooking class I was lucky enough to have this set up for me by my study abroad program, but Chef Factory is a great location for a fun private/group cooking class (of course you eat at the end), we made Gnocchi and Tiramisu, 10/10.


Chef Factory class!

  • Sit in front of the Arno River and just take it all in No explanation needed.

  • Visit the Uffizi Gallery Before arriving in Florence I had never heard of the Uffizi Gallery, and I didn't appreciate the significance of it. Book your ticket and go! Appreciate the art and the importance it has on Florence and our world. Take in seeing artists works who beforehand you may have only seen in history books.


A girl who appreciates the arts

  • Visit Michelangelo's Sculpture David at the Galleria dell'Accademia Probably the most famous sculpture in the world, so go see it! Buy your ticket in advance to skip the line and enter the Galleria pretty much to stand and look at David for 15 minutes & leave but definitely worth it!

  • The Boboli Gardens A beautiful spot to check out on a sunny day with friends, walk around, take it all in, have a picnic - whatever you want!

  • Basilica of Santa Maria Novella A beautiful church!

  • The Lions Fountain Classic college bar but situated right in the middle of Florence!

  • The Gucci Garden Museum Did you know Florence is where the Gucci headquarters is located? This museum is absolutely girly and overhyped but so fun, unique and photogenic at the same time! They also will discount your ticket with a student ID!


Gucci Gardens, Florence

  • Get a beautiful art print to take home You will soon see that Florence is filled with talented street artists! During my last week I visited the different booths throughout the city and purchased a few prints which she kindly wrapped up and packaged for me to take home. Not only are you supporting a local artist, but you are taking home a piece of this beautiful city! The picture is now framed in my room and reminds me of this amazing chapter in my life.

Easy Day Trips To Make From Florence


Lucca, Italy

Lucca is a beautiful quaint city in Italy, and just about an hour bus ride away from Florence! I spent a day there with my study abroad program and absolutely loved it. It felt out of a storybook with a beautiful park wrapping around the interior of the city. We rented bikes and did laps around the park taking in the beautiful scenery, little interactions of families and ending our day with a great meal.


Pisa, Italy

For obvious reasons, Pisa is a must-see while in Italy. Pisa is the town where the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa is located and it is basically just that. Don't have too high of expectations, this town is basically a tourist hotspot for the Leaning Tower of Pisa only. So many souvenirs, photo-ops, and crowds waiting to get their shot. It was really cool to see the tower in person, so for that reason I would make the trip if you can! It is just over an hour to get to Pisa from Florence.


"Hey mom! Look where I am!"


Chianti, Italy

Chainti is a beautiful part of Italy known for the iconic red Chianti wine, and beautiful vineyards. If you are going to go wine tasting in Italy - do it here. As someone who doesn't like wine, I thoroughly enjoyed my day trip to Chianti and learning about the process of making wine. Don't forget that Florence is in the region of Tuscany which is probably the most well known spot in the world for wine, wineries and everything in-between, so don't miss out!


A day in Chianti


Siena, Italy

Siena was the first trip outside of Florence I made with my friends in the beginning of our semester abroad. Just about a 1 hour, 30 minute train ride away - it was a very easy trip to coordinate and a fun day to explore! Siena is incredibly unique because it looks extremely medieval. It was fun to walk around, visit some museums and churches, and see a new place in Italy! Definitely a nice day trip if you have the time, but you don't need more then a day there.


Cortona, Italy

My friends and I visited Cortona, Italy, before my birthday for a night of true rest and relaxation. Nestled in Tuscany, the town of Cortona is out of a fairytale. Beautiful windy, narrow roads and scenic views. We stayed at an old monastery that is now a spa hotel and enjoyed their amenities as well as enjoying a delicious 3 hour dinner at a local restaurant. Cortona was great because there were almost no tourists! We were surrounded by locals on the train, in the town, and everywhere else we went! This was a great trip because I was able to enjoy true quality time with my friends while seeing somewhere completely unique and different to Florence that was just a train ride away.


View from my beautiful room in Cortona


Venice, Italy

In just over a 2 hour train & ferry ride you can be in Venice! Venice was my first weekend trip of my semester and I wrote about it in detail in a previous blog post. Overall it is a beautiful place that I am SO happy to have visited. Make sure to check that the gondolas are open when booking a trip because when the weather gets colder the water rises and Venice essentially floods for a few months of the year! We went in September and it was perfect.


Rome, Italy

I talked about all things Rome in a previous blog post so check that one when planning your Rome trip! Rome is just over a 1 hour and 30 minute train ride from Florence, and everything about Rome is worth seeing! I absolutely loved seeing the colosseum in person and exploring! Rome is SO different than Florence, in many ways they feel incomparable, so it is definitely interesting to visit both. I wonder which you'll like more? (I am forever biased towards Florence)


Packing: Tips, Tricks, What I Recommend


Keep In Mind

When packing for a fall semester in Florence I envisioned, well, Fall! Breezy air, warm afternoons, moderate temperatures. I was wrong. If you are visiting Florence in the summer or fall pack for a hot vacation! Shorts, tank tops, etc... Especially with a lack of AC you will want these options. However, keep in mind packing some more modest options if you plan to visit any religious location/church. Some of these places in Italy mandate wearing something over your shoulders, and generally, just dressing appropriately. Overall, Florence has so many study abroad students I don't think the locals are truly shocked by any outlandish American outfit, so have fun with packing but make sure you really check the weather first.


You are more than a Pinterest board

I struggled with this myself, so I hope I can help someone reading this from doing the same.

I packed a little unrealistically for abroad, overpacked and shopped while I was there. I pinned and saved outfits for months leading up to my semester and purchased unique pieces that I was sure would make for the perfect photo-op. And while in some cases, I did get a great photo-op and loved my fun outfit, I spent most of my semester relying on my favorites of each category of clothing (my most comfortable shoes, the dress I feel most confident in, the jeans that fit the best, the coat that is best for the weather) Don't invest in statement pieces, but buy nicer versions of something you think you will wear a lot more!


Be Realistic

As someone who LOVES working out I could not wrap my head around not working out everyday while abroad. And while I did workout - it was less frequent and I had way more workout clothes than I needed. Florence and Italy in general has a smaller emphasis on working out / athleisure culture. You will probably rarely/never see a Florentine wearing leggings and a workout tank, unless they are going for a run. Overall, people dress casually/nice in Italy and after some time in Florence I didn't feel natural wearing leggings to class everyday like I do here. Trust me, there were days I was a complete bum - but most of the time I was in jeans. If working out in Florence is something that is really important to you, it's not impossible to find but boutique fitness is not really a thing there. You won't find a spin studio, let's just say that. However, while abroad I felt really healthy anyway! On an average day I walked at least 8 miles!



The occasional yoga or pilates class!

My Cellphone


I have a Verizon plan at home and found that their international plan was extremely overpriced and not a great option. The day after I arrived in Florence I went to a "Vodaphone" store and received an Italian SIM card which gave me an Italian phone number and data plan. I paid monthly for this plan, about 14-20 euro a month (so VERY affordable) and had service in all of the countries I visited. Vodaphone is a HUGE chain throughout Europe so I was able to access a Vodaphone where I needed. I had one time throughout the semester where my phone stopped working and getting service in London, which was fixed when I returned to Italy. Each month I returned to the Florence Vodaphone store and paid for my next month of data! If I forgot to do this, I would lose data - so as long as you remember this is very easy to do! When I arrived back in the US I put my original SIM card back in my phone and everything was back to normal.


Something I wish I did: I used vacuum seal bags from Target to pack my luggage, however on the way back with more in tow, I did not have a vacuum accessible to reuse the bags! My roommate bought vacuum seal bags from Amazon that come with a portable pump so she was able to reseal her bags easily, and next time I travel I will definitely do that!


Something I am glad I did: I checked 2 bags with me for abroad, in addition to my roller carry on which came with me on the plane. That is 3 rolling bags! However, I still knew that I would be shopping while in Europe and likely need another bag to bring with me on the way home. While I have heard many people buy a new bag before leaving, I wanted to save the money in advance! I packed a weekender bag and left it completely flattened and empty at the bottom of one of my checked bags. On the way home, I checked it! It was nice during the semester to have the option to use the weekender or roller carry on as well, depending on where I was going.




Italian streets are your luggages worst nightmare

Statement Pieces I Brought For Abroad (that you should get too)

  • A high quality sweatshirt and sweatpants set (I got mine from Aritzia and it was perfect)

  • High Top, Black, Lugged Converse (I swear this version of Converse are the most comfortable and I could wear them for 12 hours and not notice - also extremely versatile)

  • Black Booties (I bought mine in Italy because I wanted leather ones!)

  • A Peacoat (How European right!?) (My suggestion - wait until you arrive to buy a coat. I didn't and ended up buying a second because European coats are SO much cuter and once I got a taste for the fashion I wanted to join in on the trend!)

  • A black crossbody purse (Literally used this 24/7)

  • A basic pair of black mules or heels

  • A sturdy tote bag (I got the Marc Jacobs tote bag and it was perfect for travel)

  • A cozy pajama set!

  • A few bodysuits that are easy to create outfits with (I got mine at Aritzia and Zara!)

  • A matching workout set! (Can wear together or separate, workout in it or wear it for travel, I got mine from Set Active!)

  • A pair of athletic sneakers that were basic/I didn't care if they got dirty

  • A leather shacket/blazer

  • A travel jewelry bag (mine is from Beis and I LOVE it and use it all the time still!)


Caylie's ULTIMATE Florence Packing List

(Keep in mind I was in Florence from September - December so I packed for multiple seasons!)

  • 3 pairs of jeans: I went with 2 blue denim, one ripped and one normal and a pair of black jeans

  • 2 pairs of leggings (or biker shorts if visiting in the summer)

  • 1 pair of joggers or yoga pants

  • 3-4 workout tanks

  • 2 pairs of sweatpants

  • 1 hoodie

  • 1 zip up sweatshirt

  • 1 pair of sweat shorts

  • 2 sets of pajamas

  • 2 basic tees / tshirt's

  • 2 pairs of "fun" pants

  • 1 pair of denim shorts (If going abroad in the summer do one less pair of jeans and one more pair of shorts)

  • 1 pair of "fun" shorts (basically just not denim)

  • 2 skirts

  • 1 maxi dress that is appropriate

  • 2-3 dresses

  • 8-12 fun/statement tops

  • 5 basic tanks/t-shirts/long-sleeves/layering shirts (collectively)

  • A pair of tights

  • 14 pairs of socks (2 weeks worth is reliable, right?)

  • 14 pairs of underwear (I love the 2 week rule)

  • 3 sports bras, 1 normal bra, 3 bralettes/comfy bras (this is definitely personal preference - bring what you wear most!)

  • A light jacket that is good for layering (a corduroy or shacket)

  • A denim jacket

  • 1 pair of athletic/running sneakers

  • 1 pair of cute sneakers (converse, nikes, new balances - for everyday wear)

  • 1 pair of heals/mules

  • 1 pair of easy flip flops (always good to have)

  • 1 pair of platform sandals (I brought doc Martin black platform sandals!)

  • 1 pair of cute sandals (I got a pair from NastyGal but they did break halfway through the semester, oops)

  • 1 pair of booties

  • 1 pair of cheap slippers

  • A baseball cap / hat

  • If visiting in winter - beanie, winter hat, scarf, gloves (trust me)

  • 2 bathing suits (you do not need more. I promise your Almafi Coast weekend trip will be perfect regardless)

  • A towel / face cloths

  • Italian adaptors

  • Makeup (but no need to overpack, there are 2 Sephoras in Florence if you need a refill!)

  • Razor and shaving cream (bring extra shaving cream, this was harder to find for some reason)

  • Buy shampoo & conditioner after arrival but pack minis for the first few days so you don't have to rush as soon as you arrive

  • After shower products/hairbrush/skincare

  • Pictures of friends and family / wall safe tape! This really helped my room feel like home

  • A book or two! (Unsurprisingly, Italian bookstores have books that are, well, in Italian! So stock up if you like to read!)

  • A journal

  • Extra but glad I packed some granola bars, liquid IV's and random small snacks! Florence grocery stores will NOT have niche food brands that you may like at home/and it was nice to have something to pack with me for weekend trips, although they did not last me all semester


Don't forget - Italy has a different plug and wattage then we do in the US. This means even with an adaptor, our hair heat tools will not work or will break if we plug them in. Leave your straightener or Dyson at home! Many of my friends purchased affordable straighteners to use through the semester that worked perfectly fine and they were able to travel with them.


Medicine/Vitamins

I would say one of the most unique parts about studying abroad in Florence was that the pharmacy was unlike anything I had seen before. When you're sick in Italy, it is common to go to the pharmacy, explain your symptoms and they will give you a product. However, when you cannot speak fluent Italian this is hard to do. Italy does not have the basic Tylenol, Advil, Tums medicine that you may want. If they do, it is labeled differently and harder to recognize. While they have similar products, it can be hard to navigate what to buy. My friends and I found ourselves stocking up on these products when visiting other countries that had pharmacies with English labels. So if there is one thing you overpack - let it be vitamins, toothpaste and medicine!


The 3 Things You Need To Do To Have The BEST Study Abroad Experience.

I lived by these rules during my semester abroad and I truly believe it made the experience so much more fulfilling. I got my friends onto it and I hope you'll give it a try too. In each place I visited for a weekend trip or break, I made sure to do at least one thing in each of these categories:

  1. Something Historical: This can be an important museum, monument, site, guided tour - really anything that has historical significance unique to the place you are visiting. (EX: In Amsterdam we went to the Anne Frank House and in Paris we went to the Louve!) This is probably the easiest category to conquer.

  2. Something Cultural: This can be a show, experience, adventure, cooking class, a local tradition - really anything! (EX: In Barcelona we saw Flamenco dancing, in London we went to high tea, in Germany we went to a historic beer hall!)

  3. Something Foodie: A HUGE part of travel is enjoying the cuisine of the country you are visiting. We made it a point to make reservations/wrote down famous spots for an authentic meal/snack in each place. We often did research beforehand to map out what food was popular and significant to each place - it was also so fun to do! (EX: In Paris we tried escargot, in London we had Fish and Chips, in Copenhagen we had kanelsnelge, in Germany we tried pretzels, beer and schnitzel!)

Things I May Have Done Different

There isn't a lot I would do different, and I honestly had trouble thinking of anything. In reality I wouldn't change a thing because part of the semester was about figuring it all out on your own, learning and growing. These are just little things that I would recommend to someone going abroad that I didn't do myself!

  • I wish I spent a few more weekends in Florence! I was SO excited to travel and visit as many places as possible that I had just a weekend or two in Florence. While 5/7 days a week I was there, it would have been nice to see the city on the weekend more often!

  • I wish I took a solo trip! In September 2021 I would have laughed at the idea of a solo trip, but your confidence with travel grows throughout abroad and I saw some of my friends take little trips by themselves. I KNOW I could have done it confidently and safely. My advice would be to research places that are safe to travel alone, especially as a female and plan accordingly. Even just a day trip could have been fun! I think there is so much to be said about spending time alone and enjoying it.


Final Thoughts


I truly believe you cannot go wrong with WHERE you choose to go abroad. Each place has its own unique set of pros & cons. The experience is what you make of it and if you're reading this in preparation for your semester, I am so excited for you! Florence specifically is unlike anywhere I have ever been before. The people are so incredibly kind and understanding. Florence is a great place to study abroad because it is a city while still being small enough to get around without public transportation. I walked SO much during my time in Florence, and got to see so many different places of the city. I used google maps as my main source of directions and found it to be really helpful! I eventually stopped needing it, which was a great feeling. I added photos, string lights and a few candles to my room which helped make it feel like my own. I learned to say YES to trips and places I wanted to do and NO to things I did not. Be open to meeting new friends and people. The way I got to know the other students in my program was in a different way then friends at home because abroad makes you vulnerable in different ways! Having a wide support system is everything, and I met all but one of my friends after I arrived in Italy! I stayed true to myself and because of it had a great experience. This past semester was a challenging, and incredibly rewarding time, I am thankful and SO happy I got to live out that dream.



Saying goodbye to our school on the final night













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