There are few things as exciting and eye-opening as travel. You can see things from a new perspective and have experiences that you could never even imagine when only sticking to the locales that you know. Once you begin to see the world, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to have adventures in Italy, France or Spain.
Whether you are relocating to study at a university, take on an internship or begin a career in a vibrant new city, you’ll find the perfect accommodation, make new friends and learn everything you can about how to achieve your personal or professional goals.
However, even once you begin to feel adjusted to your new home-away-from-home, there will be times when you yearn to feel a little more like a local. After all, this isn’t a weekend getaway, and you don’t exactly fall under the category of “tourist.”
If you’ve decided to move to Florence, there are a lot of things to learn that can help you acclimate to this city and feel a bit more “in the know” when it comes to some of the little things.
So, let’s dive right in and see just how quickly you can feel like a Florentine. You’ll know where to go, what to eat and how to use public transportation to get from Point A to Point B in minutes!
1. Avoid eating near the Dome
Florence is known for its art and its monuments, which means that the city center can be full of tourist traps. The worst thing is to pay for what you think is a nice meal, and then find out that you could have had the authentic version for half the price a few blocks down the street.
Therefore, it’s really easy to draw a line when it comes to where you’ll sit down for dinner in Florence. Stay away from any of the areas between the Dome and the Central Station, including Piazza della Signoria. Not only will you find the prices higher, but you may also be waiting a while for a table, especially when a tour group all wearing the same t-shirt are taking up over half of the restaurant.
However, if you do find yourself in the city center and need a quick bite, you’re not completely out of luck. The Central Market is a large building that is packed full of local restaurants and food artisans. You can expect meats and salamis, fresh fish, buffalo mozzarella, cheese, chocolate, pasta, wine, ice cream, lampredotto and much more.
If you have the urge for some famous Florentine pizza, like at O’ Munaciello, cross the river to the South Frediano area. Not only known for pizza, this up-and-coming hot spot for foodies is typically home to new restaurants that all of the locals are trying.
2. Be picky about your gelato
If you take just a 15-minute walk throughout the city, you’ll more than likely see more than 20 gelato stands selling the picture-perfect gelato that you see on postcards in the souvenir shops. Sadly, there may just be a reason this gelato is so pretty. Many of these gelato options are just flavored powder that is mixed with milk. This gives it the eye-catching color, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do too much for the taste.
When you are on the search for the gelato that the locals indulge in, try looking for the small ice cream shops that only use the freshest ingredients to blend this tasty treat. The gelato may come in smaller bowls, but this is definitely a situation of quality over quantity.
One parlor to look out for especially is actually near Central Station, and one of the rare exceptions to this area. Don Nino is located on the ground floor and will quickly become your new favorite spot for something sweet.
3. Buy your museum tickets in advance
Florence is such a popular tourist city that there isn’t really a “tourist season” as there is in many cities. For example, if you show up in London after September, chances are that you’ll walk right into the museum of your choice, rather than standing in the two-hour-long queue that you’re likely to run across in mid-July.
Once you’re living in Florence, it would be a real shame to miss some of the museums that some people travel thousands of miles and cross four time zones to experience. It only takes a few good tips to make sure that doesn’t happen, especially when it comes to the Dome and Uffizi.
Formally called Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, this popular museum complex is comprised of several different sections, including the Cathedral itself, the Bell Tower, the Dome, the Baptistry and the Crypt. To make sure you don’t miss a thing but still have a bit of money left in your wallet, visit Museum of Florence, where you can buy a combination ticket to cover all of the attractions. Just remember that, to avoid what is probably going to be a long line, you can select the time for each visit. Also keep in mind that each year on September 8th, the door at the top of the Dome is opened so that the terrace can be accessed, so prepare for crowds!
Another not-to-be-missed museum is the Uffizi Gallery, where every day typically boasts a two-hour line and hundreds of visitors. However, you can get an early ticket here so you can skip the line. Just be sure to purchase a few days out, as that these tickets can go fast!
4. Money exchange
If you are coming into Florence from the United States or another country where the euro is not the currency, you may find that you’ll need to exchange some of your money for the euro. Keep in mind that, since 2010, money exchanges are no longer under the control of Italian banks. Therefore, many can charge extremely high commissions — some as high as 20 percent.
While there isn’t an exact formula for finding the cheapest money exchange, it’s best to avoid those in the City Center or the Central Station. Additionally, you can also exchange banknotes directly at the bank for a much lower percentage.
5. Don’t pick a touristy neighborhood
When you’re trying to decide where to live when you need accommodation in Florence, you may be tempted to stay where all of the action is. However, if you’re thinking about finding an apartment or sharing a room anywhere near the tourist attractions or in the hotel zone, you’re not only going to pay a premium, but you’ll need to quickly get used to traffic and crowds. That may not be your scene.
Try to focus your search on more residential areas when looking for housing in Florence. You’ll not only find that the prices are much more affordable, but you’ll be able to shop where the locals find the good deals and eat the best authentic foods in the city. Plus, if you love the idea of making some Italian friends in Florence, hanging out at the local bars on the weekends is a great way to really immerse yourself in the culture of the people — and enjoy the best drink specials.
6. Getting from here to there
When you need to get to the university or to your new place of employment, there are several modes of transportation that are not just impractical but can be quite costly. Let’s take a car, for example. If you decide to bring your car to Florence with you, you’re going to have to pay to park, almost everywhere you go, whether it be at your apartment, near the university or when going into the City Center to go to nightclubs with some of your new friends. Parking is expensive, as well as often difficult to find. Plus, you’ll have to battle the traffic in certain areas of town, even if you’re just trying to get to the supermarket.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get just about everywhere on foot. Many people make the mistake of thinking that Florence is a huge city, but it’s actually quite compact. And as with most places in Europe, riding a bike is almost stylish. You can opt to rent from the bike-sharing schemes, or it can be really inexpensive to purchase a bike and then put it up for sale when you’re ready to go back home.
Florence also has an excellent bus system, where you can hop on and off for rates as low as €1.20 for 90 minutes. You can also easily check out the timetables to make sure you’re choosing the right bus at the right stop.
Now that you know a few ways to act like a true Florentine, it won’t be long before you’re hanging out with the locals and giving tourists directions to the art museums. Just remember that living abroad is a spectacular adventure, and explore everything that you can. Florence is a city that you’ll never forget. In fact, you might even decide to make it your permanent home. Just don’t forget to brush up on your Italian!