Studying abroad in Italy means that I can easily get to several other Italian cities thanks to some great (and mostly reliable) transportation systems. This past weekend, I took the opportunity to get out of Bologna for a weekend and head to Florence! Although it only takes 30 minutes by Frecciarossa (the express trains in Italy), my friends and I decided to go the cheaper route (we spent less than 20 euro roundtrip on trains!) and take the regional train that stops in several cities. You might be thinking, “Why would you not take the fastest one?”
Well first of all my wallet said “Nope!” but it was also to look at the landscapes on the way there and relax as our train was really early in the morning. Alas, we finally got there, and this is how the weekend went!
Weather: Gloomy, rainy, cold
Fiesole – This is a small city right outside of Florence that overlooks all of the red roofs that Florence is known for and has a great panoramic view to take pictures, walk around, and relax. I had never heard of this city before but it was recommended to me by a friend and I was surprised to find out that there are huge stones that make up the Etruscan walls there along with remains of Roman baths and a Roman amphitheater.
Although I did not have the opportunity to get to the museum, we did walk into some churches and even stumbled across a cemetery.
The best way to get up here is by taking a bus – my friends and I purchased a 24 hour bus pass for 5 euro and it was the best expense ever. We took the bus several times going in different directions and because the weather wasn’t cooperating, it was easy to search several bus options with Google Maps.
The Airbnb. I’ve used this site quite a few times and rely on it to get inexpensive lodging wherever I go. Although our place was a little out of the city, we got there by bus as well. If you’re headed to Florence and want to save money, book your stay somewhere outside of the city center and you’ll be good to go! Our host was very nice and spoke English (as did every other person we encountered in Florence) and even let us check in early.
The city center. Most of what you want to see in Florence is located here and is super easy to get to. With umbrellas in our hands and good walking shoes, we decided to get lost in the center and see it all.
Before all of this, we had to stop somewhere for lunch! We heard about a great place called Osteria All’antico Vinaio. We waited in one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen to get a sandwich for 45 minutes but the wait was so worth it! The sandwich was super big and only 5 euro. Although there is no place to sit down and eat your delicious sandwich, you can eat as you walk. Nearby is a piazza where you can sit and admire all the beautiful buildings and the Santa Croce church.
So then we simply walked around, and because the weather has holding us back, we decided to find an activity indoors after stopping for a quick cappuccino.
The Gucci Garden museum. If you’re a student, just show them your university ID and you get to go in for $FREE.99! It was so cool to see how Gucci fashion has evolved over the years and to read up on some fashion history. Although small, we spent about an hour in the museum. Afterwards, you can walk into the store and look at everything they’re selling. A phone case was over $100! I spent some time looking but obviously didn’t buy anything!
Later, we grabbed some dinner and for dessert, we obviously went for some gelato! Crossing the Ponte Vecchio, we found a gelateria called La Carraia! This is some of the best gelato I’ve had since I started studying here in August. I got the 2 euro cup and chose to have a scoop of hazelnut and chocolate along with a scoop of their cookies flavor! It was so good, I am still dreaming about it.
Then we headed back to the Airbnb to relax for a while!
Wake up early, friends! Although you’ll want to sleep in and snooze your alarm clock just a little, there is much to see in Florence and you don’t want to miss a thing!
The first thing my friends and I did was head to the Duomo ticket office to see if we could still climb up to the top. Unfortunately, we could not because there were no more spots available so I would suggest to book your tickets in advance! We ended up getting a ticket that lasts 48 hours that gave us access to the Baptistery, Bell Towers, Duomo, and Museum. We obviously didn’t get to take full advantage of the ticket because the Duomo was booked but we went up the Bell Tower. Early bird gets the worm so we were amongst the first visitors to enter the baptistery and also to climb the tower.
What a view! Just take a look below – it was unexplainable. Maybe because I was out of breath from all of the steps I climbed – ha!
After coming back down, we met up with a friend studying in Florence and she took us to the best restaurant ever, Signorvino. They are known mainly as a wine shop, but they have a couple of tables inside and outside overlooking Ponte Vecchio where you can go and get a really good plate of food! I had my first salad since coming to Italy while my friends got pasta and everything was amazing! They also allowed us to choose a wine bottle off their shelf and we were able to add it to our bill which was awesome.
Later, we took the opportunity to go to the Uffizi museum which is a must see! It cost me about 8 euro to get in but if you’re studying fine arts, you get a free entrance as long as you can prove it with a transcript or university ID card. We spent a lot of time in there admiring Da Vinci’s works and several other works of art that I have been studying for the past year. The rain didn’t let up and by the end we were so tired that we decided to go back home to Bologna.
We will be back, of course, when the weather is a little nicer, but for an introductory view of Florence, I fell in love even with the bad weather!
Have you ever been to Florence? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!
*Never stop exploring*