Want to learn more about Florence? Look no further. Explore below to learn more about this exciting city.
If you’re flying directly to Florence, you’ll land at Peretola Airport, located in the fifth quarter (that’s North) of Florence. The airport is about 10 km from the center of Florence, making the drive to your residence roughly twenty minutes, depending on traffic. Your Panrimo coordinator will meet you outside the landing gate, ready to bustle you around town.
Fortunately, Peretola Airport is relatively small (it’s not La Guardia), meaning that the layout isn’t very confusing. After exiting the plane, you’ll go through immigration and then customs. Follow the signs outside the exit terminal (always you’re best bet) to lead you to the checkpoints. After entering the immigrations area, your passport will be scanned and you will be asked to provide additional documentation for your visit. Bringing your SRISA acceptance letter and return flight information will make this process quicker. Waits vary depending upon peak times, congestion, and other factors. Expect an hour.
After immigration and passports, you’ll collect your luggage and head to customs. Then, you’ll be on your way out the door!
The cheapest transportation around Florence to the different districts is by bus, although city officials are planning new tramlines around the city. Line 82 will take you directly to campus, and stops will be clearly marked by orange signs. A standard bus tickets will usually run about € 1,20 for a 90 minute ride. Four-trip tickets can also be purchased for around € 4,70.
Student bus passes may also be purchased, and we highly recommend this option to save some cash. To apply for a student bus pass go to SALA CLIENTI ATAF c/o Stazione SMN – FIRENZE – Monday through Friday 7:30am-7:30pm, Saturday 7:30am- 1:30pm. Or call the info line (everyday 6:00am – 9:00 pm): from a fixed phone call 800-424500, from your mobile phone call 199-104245. Our coordinator is happy to assist with this process as well.
For a complete schedule and all bus lines, please visit ataf.net/en
If you’re interested in traveling outside Florence, there are train services that can transport you to different parts of Italy or outside Italy if you’re so inclined. More information about travelling by train can be found at http://www.italiarail.com/
Tips for using the bus:
- Board the bus using the front and back doors. The middle door is used to exit the bus
- Offer your seat to the elderly, disabled, a mother and child, etc.
- Don’t block the doors, you don’t want to deal with angry Italians
- To signal the driver for a stop, use one of the red buttons by the door (don’t walk up and bother the driver)
Italy, like many other countries in the Eurozone, has adopted the Euro as standard currency. Prior to using the Euro, Italy used lira, although the currency is not officially accepted as legal tender.
When using the Euro, you’ll find yourself with plenty of €1 and €2 coins. Unlike the United States, where substantial coins are despised (half dollar? Silver dollar? Sacagawea?), you’ll put these coins to use, so don’t pitch them like you would pennies. Grab a jar and collect!
In comparison to the United States and Canadian dollars, the Euro has fared relatively well, much like England’s pound. Because so many countries have adopted the Euro, the currency’s strength relies on the economies of the countries using the Euro. The Euro has managed to stay ahead of the US dollar, and coupled with inflation, you’ll be surprised how quickly money can disappear, making thrifty spending imperative.
To save cash, you’ll want to purchase groceries as opposed to eating out frequently. With breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, expect to spend about €15-20 per day.
Here are some basic guidelines when obtaining Euro in Italy:
- Avoid exchanging money at airports; they have very high rates
- Take out as much money as you can at one time at the ATM to avoid mounting transaction fees
- Plan ahead and call your bank, letting them know you’ll be using the card overseas
Florence’s official language is Italian, although prior to the Renaissance, Latin was the official written language. Italian may seem comfortable, sharing some vocabulary with Spanish (si si). While Italian and Spanish share a linguistic history and sound similar, the two clearly aren’t interchangeable, and Italians may be offended when you approach them speaking Spanish. Take the time to learn some Italian phrases; you’ll be better off and Italians will respect your garbled attempt before switching to English.
Florence is the epitome of the Mediterranean climate, with high temperatures and sunny days during summer and cool, damp days in winter. Because Florence is situated in a river valley among the Senese Clavey Hills, conditions can get very humid in the summer, especially considering the fact that Florence does not have a prevailing wind to carry the heat and humidity away from the city.
If you’re headed over during the summer, July and August bring the hottest weather: expect temperatures to stay around the high 80s to low 90s F. Shorts, short sleeves, and light materials are a must. In the evening, the temperature may drop into the low 60s F, so bring a light jackets just in case. Bring formal attire as well; you never know when it’ll come in handy!
If you’ll be in Florence during the fall or spring, temperatures will get cooler. Florence’s coolest periods can bring temperatures ranging from the low 30s F to the mid 50s F. Expect occasional heavy rains, and even icy winds, although snow accumulation is very unlikely (but not impossible!). Bring a warm coat, several pairs of jeans, a hat, gloves, waterproof boots, and other basic winter gear. Formal attire is also recommended in the winter, just in case.
Religion and Politics
While Italy does not have an official state religion, Christianity dominates the culture, with roughly 92% of the population identifying themselves as such. Of the Christians, 88% identify as Roman Catholic, primarily due to the influence of Rome, where the Vatican is located. There are also pockets of Protestants, Easter Orthodoxy, and other Christian communities. About 36% of Roman Catholics consider themselves active members, so if you’re looking to attend services, you certainly won’t feel isolated.
Outside the Christian contingency, there are also communities of Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, although they are relatively tiny in comparison. Interestingly, the largest “religious” community outside Christianity identifies as having “no religion,” claiming about 6% of the population. Clearly, Christianity has made its mark upon Italy, so don’t expect the demographics to change anytime soon.
Italy’s government was established in 1946, having formerly been a monarchy, among other systems (Mussolini ring a bell?). Italy’s turbulent political times resulted in the establishment of a republic headed by a president. Contrary to the political system in the United States, Italy also implements a prime minister, selected by the president. Considering this, Italy’s republic is much different than the democratic republic of the US.
The prime minister is much more actively involved in the nation’s actions than the president. The prime minister is responsible for determining national policy, as well as selecting members of the cabinet (usually members of Parliament). Together, the prime minister and cabinet are considered “the government.”
As a Panroamer studying in Florence, you’ll typically wake up before 08:00 and grab a light breakfast (“continental” style). Breakfast in Italy consists of caffè e latte (coffee with milk) and pastries, bread and spread, or biscotti. Then, you’ll grab a bus and head to campus for morning class.
When lunchtime approaches, many shops will close for a bit for the pausa pranzo (lunch break). While Italians have been stereotyped as enjoying excessively long lunches, globalization and modernization have resulted in shorter lunch breaks on the whole. However, Italians still consider lunch as the most important meal of the day. Lunch usually consists of 3 courses: a first course, second course, and then fruit or dessert. Italians may make their own lunch at home and often invite coworkers of friends to join them.
After lunch, hit the books once again, spend time walking the city with friends, or perhaps head to the market to grab groceries and supplies for dinner. Take in a few museum exhibits, or take the bus to a series of piazzas to enjoy the sculptures.
Dinner is not as important as lunch, but still heavily structured. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a traditional mean of nine courses, you’ll see how integral the combination of food and community are to the Italian lifestyle.
After dinner, grab some drinks with friends or hit the books before retiring. Spending a day eating so much can get exhausting!
Typical Fiorentini follow a schedule similar to yours, including the lengthy lunch. Parents will drop their children off for school or have them take the bus, considering how difficult the streets are to navigate in congestion. In addition, the historic center doesn’t allow cars to enter the area during the day. As a result, busses are a popular choice of transportation. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t feel so lost in the shuffle; you’ll have joined the dance.
Culture and Food
Up until the 16th century, Italy was the center of Western culture. The first university in Europe was established in Bologna in 1088 AD, as well as the first medical school. Formal education was essentially established in Italy, presaging the Renaissance, which in turn ushered in the European Renaissance. Italy has had a significant impact on virtually every aspect of life, including but not limited to science, literature, architecture, painting, sculpture, cooking, and music.
Sports are hugely popular in Italy, with football (cough, soccer) claiming most fans. The Italian national football team is one of the best in the world, having won four World Cups, coming second only to Brazil for most championships won. In addition to football, rugby is also popular, with many local clubs competing with each other, in addition to the larger national team competing in the Rugby World Cup. Cycling also has its share of fans, with the Giro d’Italia constituting one of the three Grand Tours (the other two are the Tour de France and Vuelta a España). Grand Prix also touts an impressive fan base, likely due to having the most successful Formula One team in history, with 15 championships under their belt.
Get familiar with your neighborhood and try to find local shops and markets for food, as opposed to large stores, of which there are few. If you really need the comfort of aisles and florescent lights, some supermarkets can be found in the immediate suburbs of Florence. The largest corporate supermarkets include Coop, Conad, and Esselunga.
Panrimo staff suggests starting the night out at a fiaschetterie (wine bar). These establishments are usually small, hole-in-the-wall places that serve little sandwiches and huge glasses of wine. If you’re in the mood for a more familiar feel, check out the pub scene, where you’ll find fellow students and younger Italians.
Another excellent resource to utilize is worldtravelguide.net/florence/nightlife. Here, you’ll find a comprehensive list of all types of night entertainment in Florence.
The music scene is thriving in Florence, with several establishments featuring live bands followed by DJs to keep the party going. Clubs will stay open until around 03:00, pumping beats out and keeping patrons in. Meccano is a massive nightclub, often hosting themed dress-parties, so make sure to find a particularly interesting outfit.
For pubs, check out the Lion’s Fountain, located in the small but extremely lively Piazza san Pier Maggiore. If you’re looking for Italian pubs, not the typical British/American fare, head to Giubbe Rosse or La Rotonda. Obviously, there are hundreds more, so explore!
Concerning areas to avoid, Florence is a relatively safe city, although there are some areas to avoid. Specifically, try to avoid walking near the train station late at night, where you’ll find pickpockets, prostitutes, and the homeless. Try and stay away from Santa Maria Novella as well, unless walking with a group (guys tend to whistle and cat-call over there). Cascine Park should be avoided after dark as well. Lastly, avoid the alley Via Sant'Orsola, located at the southern end of the Via Santa Reparata. It’s shady (literally and figuratively), and one block over is Via de'Ginori, which has lights, shops, and restaurants galore and is much safer to walk along than Via Sant’Orsola.
When first meeting people, Italians tend to be warm and enthusiastic, although not overbearingly so. When shaking hands, they look straight into your soul (i.e. they look into your eyes). Kisses on the cheek are exchanged between friends and family, although regional differences do exist, so try to avoid doing this immediately. When addressing someone, Italians consider it rude to call them by their first name, unless directed so.
Clothing is particularly important to the Italians. You will be judged primarily on what you’re wearing. Social status is connoted by clothing; you could be extremely wealthy, but if you wear shabby clothing, the Italians will judge you to be of a lower class or (even worse) that you have bad taste. At any rate, make sure to dress appropriately for the situation you plan on entering.
Concerning humor, Italians thoroughly enjoy a good joke (if you can tell it correctly and they understand you correctly!). However, this doesn’t open the gateway to uncouth, trite, or offensive humor. The Florentines tend to be a little dryer than the Romans and Sicilians, so a sharp wit and quick tongue are necessary (though use these with sense and caution). When in doubt, a quiet chuckle never hurts, but laugh too loudly, too often, and soon others will be laughing too (at you).
If you’ve come to appreciate Renaissance art, visiting the birthplace of the movement may help sate your thirst. From David to the Duomo, Florence proves that although the times may have changed, inspired art is timeless. Stroll through the Piazza della Signoria, debating politics with your professors, or marvel at Pitti Palace, built for the Medici family. You’ll find Florence’s vibrant history alive and well; stoic, yet constantly growing.