The Student Commute in Florence

Commuting to and from school every day in Florence is surprisingly similar to community to and from school back in Pittsburgh – for me, at least.  My school (Richmond, the American International University in London) is located on the south side of the Arno River, which splits Florence into the northern and southern areas.  I happen to live on the southern side as well, only a five minute walk from school.  However, some of my classmates live up to a thirty minute walk away from school – I guess you could say I’m one of the lucky ones (although we’re all incredibly lucky to be here in Florence).  I can leave my apartment and be comfortably seated in class, even after stopping to grab an espresso at a cafe on the way, in less than ten minutes.  This basically mirrors my commute at Pitt; for a city school, all the academic buildings are in close proximity to each other, making the walk in the bitter winter windchill a bit more tolerable.  Since Florence is such a small city, I haven’t really found the need to utilize the city’s public transportation system to get anywhere I need to go within the inner city limits, whereas in Pittsburgh I used the city bus system multiple times a week to get to various surrounding neighborhoods.

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I would definitely say that there are good and not-so-good (I won’t go to the lengths to say “bad”) aspects of my commute here in Florence.  One of the best parts is definitely the fact that my apartment is located so close to school; on those mornings where it’s raining cats and dogs or I just can’t get myself out of bed, I am motivated knowing that it is one of the shortest commutes in the city.  On the other hand, being so close to school means that I don’t cross over to the other side of Florence (where the Duomo, tourist attractions, and most stores are located) unless I go on my own time!  Sometimes I wish I had a walk to school that took me throughout the entire city of Florence, for the sole purpose of being able to see more of the city every day!  However, this inspires me to take at least thirty minutes each day to explore at least one new street in Florence, and possibly stop for gelato or a panini along the way!

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On another note, now that I have been in Florence for almost an entire month, I feel as if I am becoming a seasoned Florentine, and am well-equipped to provide some advice for other students who are either already or planning to study in the city!  Below are some tips I have for others:

  • Always have cash on you!  Florence is a “cash culture,” meaning that many restaurants and shops will begrudgingly accept your American credit/debit cards, or won’t even take them at all!
  • Sometimes the most amazing restaurants are the ones that least seem like it – go ahead and try those hole-in-the-wall trattorias that don’t have any English on the menu, they are sure to beat out the expensive tourist traps in central locations
  • You don’t have to travel to a different country every weekend to get the most out of studying abroad!  If you do, you’ll never get the experience of truly “living” in another country and immersing yourself in a foreign culture… there are so many things to do and sites to see within the city of Florence itself
  • Try to speak Italian to business owners and locals!! They will truly appreciate your efforts to assimilate into their culture and learn their language, and will most likely be much more willing to assist you with everything
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things, whether it’s shopping at an outdoor fruit and vegetable market rather than inside a supermarket, brand new foods, a new route to class or other site, or simply trying to interact with the locals

That’s all I can think of at the moment, so ciao for now!