Every city has its vibe, the character that represents it the most. For Florence, it’s a mixture of both food and tourism. Despite that, Florence is still my favorite of the cities I have seen; from the great Italian food (obviously), being able to walk everywhere, and getting to see something new every day on the streets. And as much as I would love to make this a “best of” list of food for both Florence and all the other cities I’ve visited, I think that’s best saved for the end of the semester. However, there are a few things I would like to share about how to get from Florence to somewhere else in Italy or Europe.
All of the buses I’ve experienced so far in Italy have been almost incomprehensible. This may be because I can’t read Italian enough to follow any instructions, or because I have almost no public transportation experience from back home. So just ask someone, they might know or the bus might not actually exist; so you’re taking a chance every time you take a bus.
High Speed trains are magic. They do cost a decent amount of cash, but definitely less than you would spend in gas. A couple hours reading or napping, and suddenly you’re in Rome. Honestly they are just the greatest, and the fact we don’t have them in the United States makes me so mad.
There are super cheap flights you can find that will get you place to place in Europe, but they are normally at the worst possible times during the day or you will only be able to have one bag. Not a bag and a purse, just one bag. Also none of them actually fly to Florence, so have fun either taking a train or bus to Pisa or Rome.
Don’t pay for the horse carriage rides around the Duomo. My heart breaks every time I walk past them. The horses go from being bright and alert in the mornings and looking around at people, to not doing anything in the late afternoons and staring straight ahead or at the ground. The only breaks they get is when they’re eating, so please just don’t touch them or pay for them, they have to deal with noise, chaos, and tourists all day.
There are student tour groups that will take you to Italian cities, or some hard to get to cities outside of the country. Smart Trips, Bus2Alps, Florence4Fun, are just some of the tour groups you can use. They even do spring break trips and long weekends, and going with them can really bring down the cost of travel and housing. Sometimes they even have coupon codes that help bring down the price even more. Although, this is mostly through renting out rooms in a hostel along with spending ten hours on a bus with other college students, so use them at your own risk.
This is mostly all the information you need to get around Italy, at a most basic level. That and a good cell phone signal and Google maps. Mostly don’t be afraid to ask questions, or even to get lost. It’s not a good trip without a minor bit of panic. So have fun exploring, use the buddy system, and learn something new.