I’ve been home from Florence for about a week now and I still cannot believe that my study abroad experience is truly over. I can honestly say that those were the fastest 3 weeks of my life. Applying to study abroad in Florence was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m having an extremely hard time adjusting to the fact that I now wake up, get in my car in -1 degree weather and drive to Starbucks for an iced coffee. This time last week, I woke up, walked outside in a light jacket, due to the fact that the temperature was always between 50 and 60 degrees, took a nice walk across the Ponte Vecchio, past the Piazza Mercato Nuovo, past the Duomo, and enjoyed my delicious caffe freddo made by the friendly baristas at Caffe Giotto. For anyone that plans on studying abroad in Florence, there are some things that you have to do/see/try. Here are my top three personal favorites.
1. Piazza Michelangelo
After climbing the many steps and hills, you arrive at the Piazza Michelangelo (winded and out of breath). You look to your left and you see the most amazing breath-taking view of Florence. You are able to see the whole entire Duomo and the Baptistery that faces it. The Ponte Vecchio is visible from the top and if you thought it was amazing at eye level, just wait until you see it from a bird’s eye view. You can’t help but be jealous of the pigeons (and believe me, there are a lot of them) that fly above Florence all day and experience views like these. But, one of the best parts of Piazza Michelangelo is the atmosphere at the top. People sit on the steps overlooking the city and sip on champagne with their loved ones, friends, and family. These people make such an overwhelmingly amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience seem so casual.
2. Take a bus to Chianti for a wine tasting and castle tour
My program was fortunate enough to have this included. It was definitely a very unique experience and since Chianti is so close to Florence, you have to do it! We had an amazing tour guide named Mateo that showed us around the castle and led the wine tasting. He showed us the barrels of Chianti and even the mini barrels of balsamic vinegar. At the castle, we had an extraordinary view of the acres and acres of grape trees. I can’t even imagine what it looks like during the spring and summer when grapes are actually on the trees! This is a wine tasting like no other and obviously no other wine tasting can compare.
3. il Panino del Chianti
This one is for the foodies, like myself. This may seem a bit bizarre because the picture is not too impressive. Panino del Chianti is just a small little sandwich shop and to be honest, I didn’t even think about going in for the first week that I was in Florence. One day after class, I was in a rush and needed something to eat fast, so I stopped in. Safe to say, I was completely addicted after just one visit. The sandwich that I had was the best sandwich I have ever had in my life and I can’t even count the number of times I got it after that first time; it was that good. They serve their sandwiches on a soft, oily focaccia bread and toast it to perfection. My personal favorite was the round bread with turkey, soft cheese (almost like a cream cheese), and the artichoke spread. The staff was so friendly and always initiated a conversation as they made your panino. After ordering my panini about five times, the woman that worked there said to me, “You come in so often. You deserve a discount!” She then gave me a discount on top of the already applied student discount. Since I’ve been home, I’ve called every grocery store asking if they carry “a soft Italian cheese” and of course the answer is no. I would do anything to teleport back to Florence just for one of these delicious panini.
I want to end this post by saying that I left a part of my heart in Florence and I would truly recommend the experience to anyone. I don’t believe that you can go to Florence and not fall madly in love with it. I truly consider that city to be my little heaven on earth and I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity to study abroad with AIFS.