A Brief Guide to Life in Florence

Here are some tips and things I’ve learned while living in Florence:


  • Florence is a small enough city that everything is within a walkable distance. That being said – you will walk a lot, so wear comfortable shoes because the cobblestones are not always forgiving!
  • People will not move out of your way when you are walking. Europeans are kind of aggressive in this sense, and I’ve gotten shoulder checked on multiple occasions.
  • Italians are always walking their dogs around the city which is so nice to see.


  • The less you can see the gelato, the better it is going to be. I was told not buy gelato in the tall, colorful mounds with fruit on the side and stick to the gelato in silver tins, and I’ve never been disappointed.
  • Aperitivo is the greatest invention for college students on a budget! Many restaurants offer it from 6:30 – 9:30pm, and it is a time for Italians to meet up for drinks and have a bite to eat. Aperitivo ranges from €8-10 for a drink/cocktail, and then you get an entire buffet of appetizers (kind of like tapas) for “free.” Such a good deal, and always a good time.
  • Generally restaurants will leave out a basket of bread when you sit down, but I’ve been told that Italians don’t eat it until their food comes, but it doesn’t stop my friends and I from digging in if we get peckish.
  • Pizza isn’t as popular as I thought it would be. It is definitely served at many restaurants and designated pizzerias, but it’s usually not something the locals eat for lunch or dinner. Italians eat a lot of paninis – and these are easy to find on nearly every street.
  • For restaurants – appearance isn’t everything. Sometimes a hole in the wall has the best homemade Italian dishes.


  • Bars are interesting in that they are a multifunctional meeting place in Italy where you can order coffee and a croissant in the morning, and then drinks at night.
  • Coffee is so important in Italian culture that I decided to give it its own section.
  • “Latte” is milk in Italian, not a coffee.
  • Cappuccinos are for breakfast time only. Italians do not really drink milky coffee any other time of day.
  • Ordering water is generally not free in Italy and can actually be just as expensive as ordering a soda. 


  • People selling things in the streets or asking for money can be very verbally aggressive, so it is best to keep your head up and never make contact to be able to avoid interaction all together.
  • Everyone shops at Zara. (Try not to spend all your money at Zara.)
  • Italians dress for the season over dressing for the weather. This means that even if it reaches 70 degrees in mid-March, the Italians will still be wearing puffy coats and scarves. It’s not hard to pick out the tourists in shorts in a sea of winter jackets so if you are trying to blend in, keep this in mind.
  • Do as the Italians do and remember to bring reusable tote bags to grocery stores and markets.
  • There are so many cute and local shops all around Florence that it’s fun to explore new places.


  • There are a lot of transportation strikes, often at inconvenient times. I thankfully haven’t had any problems with these, but I know people who have gotten to their destination for a weekend trip and the city they travelled to was either inaccessible or essentially shut down during a transportation strike. Just something to keep in mind since unions have a much larger presence in Europe than in the US.
  • Know the main landmarks/areas of the city to be able to easier navigate. For someone who has no sense of direction, I am able to find things really well in Florence due to the abundance of landmarks
  • Do your research on the places you are going, but also remember to enjoy the experience!


  • I am taking an Italian class that meets everyday, and even though I’ve never taken an Italian class before I feel like I’ve already learned so much! Florence is such a popular tourist destination that mostly everyone has a good grasp on English, but it’s nice to at least know some basic Italian phrases.
  • Ciao = Hello.
  • Vorrei… = I would like.
  • Per favore = Please.
  • Grazie = Thank you.
  • Buongiorno = Good morning/day.
  • Dove e… = Where is…
  • Another interesting grammar thing I noticed:
    • In italian grammar, words that end in -o are made plural with an -i. So if you want a single “panini,” you would actually say “panino.” If you said you wanted a panini, Italians would get confused and ask how many you want. I’ve observed this same rule with cannolo and a few other words which I thought was so funny!


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