Once bustling with Florentines purchasing meat and butchers eagerly ready to sell their finest cuts, the Ponte Vecchio holds a long-standing tradition in Florence- literally. The current bridge we see crowded with tourists today was built in 1345, but the history spans far before to documentations early as 996 in coordination with Roman occupation of the city. Crossing the narrowest point of the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio, or "old bridge", has truly stood the test of time, and the trials of it. Swept away completely by floods in 1117 and 1333, the current bridge was nearly destroyed 50 years ago in the 1966 flood. Since then a dam has been built to prevent further destruction to this essential artifact and grace to the Florence landscape.
But if you walk across the bridge today, you'll notice something pretty key- the streets are no longer deigned with the shops of butchers and leather makers. The only shops, whether new or old, are solely goldsmiths and jewelers. The reason for this is Cosimo di Medici really hated the rank smell on his walk to work, so he decreed all butchers removed from the bridge, and enacted it into law. From then on out only jewelers and goldsmiths could line the cobbled street and this tradition is carried through today.
One of these jewelers is gioielleria Miniati, next to the Pandora shop, who have been crafting handmade gifts on the Ponte Vecchio since the 1800s. One of my favorite gifts of all time, given to me this Christmas my my wonderful (and so thoughtful!) boyfriend is a hand made golden giglio, the symbol of Florence. Dainty and ornate, this golden flower hosts a world of memories, and a sentiment value unmatchable anywhere else.
Some Other Tidbits
There are a few other neat tidbits of history about the Ponte Vecchio, such as the Vasari Corridor. After building the Palazzo Vecchio, Vasari built a passage heading above the crowd so the Medici family could go from work to home (Palazzo Pitti) without having to step a foot outside. There is one mishap in the corridor though. One of the original families owning a tower on the Ponte Vecchio refused to leave to allow the Medici to build their tunnel through it. So instead, there is a small kink in the passage, making it's way around the tower, instead of through it.
Climb the Duomo & the Bell Tower.
Do aperitivo, and love every amazing second of it.
Eat an entire pizza to yourself (bonus points when it's from Gusta Pizza!)
Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Visit the Boboli Gardens.
See the inside of the Santa Croce (Dante’s Tomb!).
Hike up to Fiesole.
Visit the Academia and see the David.
Take a photo on the triangle sides of the Ponte Trinita looking at the Ponte Vecchio.
Eat as much gelato as possible.
Walk across the Ponte Vecchio.
Have dinner in Santo Spirito.
Take a cooking class.
Check out the artwork in the Uffizzi.
Marvel at all the sculptures and statues in Piazza della Signoria.
Eat Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Eat as many panini as possible.
Visit Dante's house.
Deal with the Florence post office.
Have a full four course meal with antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti, and dolce paired with several bottles of wine, the first being prosecco. Then end the evening with a café and grappa or limoncello.
Meet the locals. Like the actual Florentines, not just people who live here.
Tour the Palazzo Vecchio.
Visit San Miniato al Monte.
Struggle through not having a split check, and accepting that it will all work out by the end of your stay here.
Visit Giardino Bardini, another beautiful area on the oltrarno.
Rub the nose of the Porcellino.
Go to the pool in Cascine Park. (Hint they also do food truck rallies here throughout the year and they're AMAZING)
Figure out what your favorite pasta is through lots of sampling (aka eating pasta every other night).
Stop worrying about the time- everyone is going to be late anyway.
See the tomb of Galileo
Ride the carousel in Piazza Repubblica.
Check out the latest exhibition going on at Palazzo Strozzi (right now it's Ai Wei Wei)
Watch a movie at the Odeon.
Have a capuccino at News Café.
Get really lost in the spiderwebbing streets.
Wear out at least 1 pair of shoes.
Soak it all in!
Also posted on Campus Florence
The best way to document your study abroad experience in Florence is through pictures, right? Here are 7 spots you must photograph in Florence that are guaranteed to take your Instagram page to the next level.
THE DUOMO (CATTEDRALE DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE)
Whether you're rocking a selfie stick, posing with a fresh scoop of gelato, or just snapping of pic of the intricate architecture, the Duomo is arguably the most beautiful monument in Florence. Taking the right photo is sure to make your friends jealous (and get a lot of likes). Bonus points if you include a polaroid!
PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
TOP OF HOTEL CAVOUR
SAN MINIATO AL MONTE
VIEW FROM THE TOP OF GIOTTO'S BELL TOWER
BASILICA OF SANTA CROCE
Whether you will gain or lose followers as a result of all your incredible photos abroad, you'll always have memories of these beautiful sights! (Anyone who unfollows is just jealous that you're having the time of your life)
Last, but definitely not least, the perfect view from Piazzale Michelangelo. Check times, schedule a date, and get your butt up there about an hour before sunset. Because if you don't get that perfect photo of Florence did you even study abroad here?
Follow me on Instagram at @the_bohotraveller !
I've said it before, but no matter how many times I leave Florence and come back, I fall in love again. Just something about this town brings me back to it, and it will always be another home to me (I'm slowly accumulating these all around the world). I'm never going to forget my way from the Duomo to Pinos, and the amazing balsamic at El Gato e la Volpe, or just how stunning the never-failing view is from Piazzale Michelangelo. Read on for my 7 reasons why Florence will forever be my second home!
You're going to have so many friends on the European side of the world now.
If you leave Florence without having made friends with at least a few of the locals (we're talking about actual Florentines here), then you've done Italy wrong. Being able to call up a friend on Facetime wen you're on opposite sides of the world just to tell them that you've booked a flight back to Florence is a feeling like nothing else. Even better, sending Snaps to everyone else who will be jealous/excited and getting their response. Having friends abroad gives you places to stay, a home base, people to get dinner with, and a great time out. You'll never loose these friendships, and though you might not talk for months, or even a year or so, there will always be FB messenger to shoot them a message and get a real-time check up on Flo-town.
You're always going to remember where your first European Apartment was.
My first Florence apartment- I still miss it and love it (even though my current apartment is INFINITELY nicer) was right above Star Chicken. There was a man named Davide who lived across the street and would always be out on his balcony drinking beer in his tightey-whiteys.
We would be pre-gaming (oh to be young again) and singing and getting ready for the evening and trying to brokenly communicate with him.
Then on the way home we would drop kebab french fries (well I would at least) all the way up the stairs. The next morning on the way back from glass we would giggle as we were hungover about all the french fries.
3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and in an old amphitheater, this apartment will always be one of my favorites I'll have spent my days in. Like a first college apartment, or a first apartment or home with a partner, the memories will last a lifetime. Not to mention I had the best roommates I could have asked for, in the best city in the world.
You're going to crave the pizza, pasta, panini, and gelato.
Not to say you won't be happy to get back to American food (*cough, cough, ranch, cough, cough**) but after a few weeks you'll start to miss walking straight out your door into the arms of your favorite gelateria, strolling down the street to eat the world's freshest pizza, and having amazing espresso all the time.
You'll be missing Florence sooner than later, and like you crave your favorite hometown food truck while you're away, you'll crave Gusta pizza while you're back home.
You will have loads of jokes only your "Italy Friends" will understand.
I won't bore you with the list of amazing (and hilarious) inside jokes between me and the amazing people I studied abroad with...but man if you had been there your sides would hurt from laughter.
But these "Italy Friends" will become your best friends for life.
The group chat is still strong, and over a year in action. No, we don't talk as much as we used to, but I know they're all living vicariously through me...now only to get them over here to Florence for a reunion.
When I'm coming back home, they're the first people I tell apart from my family, and they're the one's most jealous to see me go back. I still face time with them all relatively frequently, and we've even had a few group FB messenger phone calls (yeah...that's a thing now..).
The friends you make here will understand how you deal with extreme lack of sleep while visiting 3 countries in a weekend, only to return to Florence with 3 exams and a paper due by Thursday you haven't started. They'll have seen your homesickness, and seen you at your peaks, taken your golden Instagram shots, and also seen you drunk and lost in a foreign country. They know you on a different level than anyone else, so be sure to thank them for putting up with you daily! (:
You'll be able to give solid, real, advice to friends and family who travel to Florence.
Since you lived here for so long, you'll know exactly what to tell them to do! Whether it be recommending your favorite panino place, or you're favorite patio to sit out on and drink a prosecco, you'll be the guru of all things Florence (and probably Italy) for friends coming to visit!
When you finally come home to Florence, it will be like you never left at all.
Whether it be 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years, as soon as you step off the airplane that rush of excitement will hit you again and you'll realize you are back in your favorite place in the entire world. Florence is always going to hold a piece of your heart, but I'm pretty sure you're OK with it.
A born pumpkin baby, fall is my favorite season. At the beginning still warm enough to catch some end of season beach rays, then comes the turning of leaves with cooler weather. Halloween is just around the corner to be followed by Thanksgiving, and street vendors selling roasted almonds and chestnuts. Here are my 6 favorite things about fall in Florence!
The Amazing Weather
It's been said again and again, people have written novels about it, and yet it remains true. Who doesn't love fall weather? Being from Florida I never really experienced a true "fall" in my hometown, and it amazes me how fast the weather cools off in Florence. It's now pleasant to walk around during the day, even if I am a little cold at night, I'll suck it up to not be sweating in the heat. With the dry climate and perfect temperatures, Florence in the fall is a weather gem.
The Street Food Gets Even Better
Swap your gelato out for roasted nuts because they are back in season! Chestnuts, almonds, and more lie in wait for those wandering around Florence on these crisp autumn days. The smells will draw you in and hook you from the very start. Once you get yours, your insides will be warmed and you be happy as a squirrel. Don't forget, fall is truffle tim! There's not a better way to experience this delicacy than in Florence.
Fashionable in Florence
Lets talk about layers! We all know Italians love their scarves, and wear sweaters and jackets in August, so why not take this time to play with your wardrobe and get into the Italian fashion vibe? Break out those layers and rock some tights and booties, throw on a cute hat and catch the European fashion flow. It's fun, cute, and who knows, you might just find your Romeo looking so cute.
The Tourists are More Manageable
As opposed to summer when the city is bursting to the limits with tourists, fall is a time where the city slows down (at least just a teensy bit) and you actually hear more Itaian in the street than English. Tour group numbers are lower, and while there are still tourists in town, it's not as packed as the hot summer months.
Fiorentina Soccer Games
The start of fall means the start of soccer, or for you Europeans, football. As a huge college football fan (go Gators), heading over to the Fiorentina stadium to watch a match and have a beer is almost like being at game day back in the states. Almost.
Time to Enjoy That Cappuccino
Get warm in the mornings on your way to work or class by actually being able to enjoy your cappuccino without sweating to death. Head over to News Café for the cutest coffee in town!
Every time I come back to Florence I feel a rush of excitement for what lies ahead. Whether I've been gone for a day, a weekend, 2 weeks, 3 months, or a year, the feeling of joy when I see the city again never fades. Sure, over longer periods of time it's more because I get to see my boyfriend after being apart. But even when we go on vacation together and come back, something about Florence makes me feel at home, and happy.
People frequently ask me why I keep coming back to Florence. If I love to travel, why don't I live somewhere else for a while? I listen to their words, and I understand where they are coming from. Why am I, a girl in her early 20s, so drawn to Florence? Why do I keep coming back here? I love Barcelona, I could go there. Or stay in Edinburgh a while, or really anywhere. So why do I pick here?
My boyfriend is here so that makes things (and my decision) a lot easier. People say all the time not to move or change your life for someone, but when you love that someone and they're in Florence, Italy, if you have the opportunity and the drive to go, and love in your hear to do it, who is anyone to stop you?
Taking all that aside, Florence is a place I would live regardless. I didn't know Cristian (the bf), when I first came here, and I couldn't have predicted the future of living here now. So what else would make me come back? Here is my list of why the Florence I love draws me back every time, and why this town, out of all the places in the world, makes me feel at home.
The Small Town Feel
One of my favorite parts of Florence is that on any given day, I can be running errands, on my way to work, or just grabbing a coffee, and chances are I will see someone I know. Usually they are locals, but sometimes I see students I ran I trip for, or a couple I met while I was out during the evening. Florence is small enough to walk from end of historic center to the opposite in about 45 minutes tops. It's a gift and a curse you either love or hate, and I love it. The ability to not have to rely on a car, a taxi, the subway, or someone else is a Freedom that I love in this small little town.
Florence is home to some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. I'm no architect, or history major by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love reading about history and looking at the stunning views brought up by the renaissance. Walking through the streets I honestly love to think about how incredible this city was during the 16th and 17th centuries.
It's easy to conjure up the image of the bustling skirts, clopping horses, with men in fancy suits, while children run around in the streets. Its as if the architecture in the city absorbed all of the personality and character of those who lived here before. You can't walk past the Duomo and not stand in awe at the view, you can't stroll across the Ponte Vecchio without wondering about what was sold here in the past, and you can't stand in Piazza Signoria without thinking of the stories behind all the statues.
The locals bring me back every time, and I'm not just talking about my boyfriend. It's comforting to know that the gelato shop I eat in twice a week will always be the same lady and her husband. She knows I always get the café bianco, and if I'm feeling fancy, I add a scoop of strawberry prosecco. It's nice to know the locals, find their spots, blend with their vibe, and practice my Italian. It offers a different view on Florence that so few people get to see because they aren't here long enough. Not only is knowing where you are going comforting, but the locals will give you advice on new places their friends may have just opened, connect you with people in different cities, and challenge you in ways you wouldn't have thought of on your own.
The Range of Activities
Hiking in Chianti, cooking lessons, paddle boarding, operatic concerts, symphonies, museums, bars, festivals, parties, clubs, restaurants- you name it, it can probably be found in Florence. With such a melting pot of people comes a huge variety in hobbies and interests. This means that a hobby you enjoy, someone else probably does too, and theres probably a group, or club, or just a social niche that does that and wants to meet you and hang out. Even if you want to do something on your own, there are places around Florence to do whatever it is you're seeking. If you want to go to the gardens, or just hang out at the pool, Florence offers those options too. You can never want for something to do in this incredible city.
The Peacefulness of the City in the Low Hours
Something I don't get to see often enough, but is one of my favorite aspects of the city, is how quite it is during the low times. Not just when all the tourists leave, but at 5 am, when the bakers are rolling out fresh pastries, and there are a few straggling drunks going home mixed among the people who have to get up and work. I love Florence when everything is quiet for an hour or two, before the city turns to chaos again. This is my favorite time to really look at the Duomo, or any of the other amazing art, and really soak in the city. During the day I'm often too busy dodging tourists to be able to enjoy a walk (I've coined this #SidewalkRage), so these hours are important to me with this city.
The Distinct Ability to People Watch
The up-side of so many tourists? People watching is the BOMB. Seriously I can sit with some french fries and a beer on a patio outside in a piazza and people watch for hours. Listening to conversations, seeing how they dress, and just overall observing them. This might seem like a weird reason to love Florence, but if you're a people watcher, this is your heaven.
Central Location to Everything
On the more practical side of things, Florence is a great place to live because it is so centrally located. Within Italy, and within Europe. Ever heard the saying "All roads lead to Rome"? Well the same is true in modern ages for Florence. With a relatively large train station, and even bigger ones close by like Rome and Bologna, living in Florence makes it easy to travel. Direct flights from Pisa, which is just an hour away, can be found to Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, Berlin, and pretty much anywhere in Europe for pretty cheap. It's a great place to be in Europe for traveling.
It's Ability to Constantly Change, yet Always Stay the Same
When I first left Florence, I was a little worried that when I came back, everything would be different and I would hate it. I was half right. Things were different, students were different, some businesses were different, and where the crowds go changed. But I quickly discovered that with Florence, it's very easy to pick up where you left off. Though things come and go, the city itself never seems to age and is stuck in a timeless void. In a good way. Leaving for a year, or only two weeks, and though some things will be different, it's easy to slip right back into your routine and feel at home again.
The Many Different Niches
Similar to the never ending list of activities, is the never ending list of unique niches in Florence. When I say there is a crowd for everyone, I mean it. There are artists, techies, engineers, writers, philosophers, beer drinkers, club goers, and many different subgroups in each as well. It's easy to feel at home here when you find a good group of friends, and Florence is one of the best places in the world to do so.
I'm not sure if I can sum up the atmosphere of Florence in a paragraph, which is why I saved this for last. The sheer aura of the city brings me back here time and time again, and it's never something that I can lay a particular finger on. Yes, it's all of the above mentioned things. But it's also more than that. Being in Florence consumes you, and you start to feel for the city. The longer you're here the better you can understand it. There is a vibe and a connection with a city you love this much, and if you've felt it here, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then you will. Maybe not in Florence, but if you love to travel, you'll find your home away from home too.