florence for free’s back to school basics

A fresh college-ruled notebook, the smell of old books in the library stacks, triple checking your course schedule and room numbers before the first day of classes–Meg and I love school. I’m talking truly, deeply, should I give up my steady paycheck and return to a life of term papers and spaghetti-Os? love school. We realize that few match our enthusiasm for the back to school season, but if you’re headed to Florence this semester, then it’s time to change your tune.

Beautiful, walkable, historical Florence is one of the most popular European cities for American students’ semester abroad. Every year, crowds flock to Florence to study art, architecture, literature and find a few adventures while they’re at it. Well, before you hop on the back of Riccardo’s vespa and ride off into the Tuscan sunset, you’ll want to get a handle on a few basic rules for surviving in Italy, so you can spend more time living in Italy.  Look no further than right here, future Florentine students. We’ve rounded up a few of our most fundamental posts for a seamless transition to la vita bella.

6 Spots to Know for Starting School in Florence

It’s hard to enjoy Florence without money, or cellphone minutes, or knowing where to buy an iced coffee when you’re feeling homesick. In this post, we start with the basics.


Oblate Library, by Andrea

Supermarkets in Florence’s City Center

Botticelli and Brunelleschi are way less interesting on an empty stomach. Knowing where to buy a quick sandwich while out or pasta for dinner on your way home may not be top of mind as you prepare for the semester, but will surely be one of the first things you think about when you touch down in Florence.

grocery store deli section

Deli in grocery store, by ImipolexG

Florence’s Best Markets by Neighborhood

As you graduate from grocery stores, we encourage you to take part in some of Florence’s many food markets to try fresh Tuscan specialties. Each has unique days and hours of operation, so we recommend you take notes on this one. If you’re feeling adventurous, you should also visit one of Florence’s flea markets to peruse what are sure to be your favorite finds of the trip.


Market, by rain city

Faking It: 10 Tips to Acting Like a Local

Florentines love to point out the missteps of tourists. Here’s your cheat sheet to proving them wrong. Brushing up on a few basics, such as how to order your cappuccino, tipping etiquette and rules for buying your produce (yes there are rules), will save you countless dirty looks. Trust us.


2015 Calendar of Free Events

My biggest regret of my first summer abroad was not being aware of the countless free events, festivals, concerts and openings constantly happening in Florence. This city is begging you to dive into the local scene by offering amazing cultural opportunities every day (most of them for free!). Please make up for my mistakes and take a look at our calendar for the latest goings-on around town.


Faking It: Know Your Florence Skyline

So mom and dad are coming to visit, and they can’t wait for you to show them the city. Although you have been spending day and night laboriously studying the art and architecture of Florence (cough cough), you may not have every tower that dad asks about memorized quite yet. Look like a Florence pro with our CliffsNotes to the city skyline.

Album Florence 2011 - 114

Florence skyline, by Romain Cloff

Freccia-whata? Understanding the Italian Train System

While we hope you maximize your days in Florence, we understand that the hills of Tuscany and ruins of Rome are calling. Understanding the trains is vital to navigating the country with ease. If there is a mistake to be made on the train, Meg and I have made it. Please make those mistakes worthwhile by taking a few tips from our blunders.


secret bakeries

If you spend a semester in Florence and don’t make it to a secret bakery, you’ve done it all wrong. Open in the wee hours of the morning, tucked in alleys behind unmarked doors and only marked by wafting scents of warm dough, secret bakeries are just as mysterious and magical as they sound. After a semester of these piping-hot pastries at 2 a.m., your late night fast-food run will never cut it again.



Once you’ve mastered the bancomats and can flawlessly order your morning espresso, we hope you pay this site another visit for our free walks and guides to seeing the city beyond your classroom and travel book. Whether it is the food, the art or the lasting friendships you’ll make, this semester is sure to change your life. Our recommendation: let Florence steal your heart and never stop returning. It’s working for us!

Now, I think Riccardo is waiting…


One comment

  1. Steve Denison · · Reply

    Hannah…I now know why the eyes were rolled back when I ordered my cappuccino! But then again, I, as a tourist in July, was in the majority!

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