How to Make the Most Out of your Florence Experience
Once you understand the culture of Florence and how to fit in as a Florentine, now it is time to get involved. Be a part of something here in the center of Florence that you will remember. This is your opportunity to grow and to broaden your horizons. By immersing yourself within the culture, you get a taste of what everyday life is like for the locals and experience community in a new way. You may even check something off your bucket list. You never know until you go out there and try it. So drop all the usual things people do in America, pick up a newspaper and mark your calendar of all the highlights happening in Florence.
Events in Florence range from Gelato Festivals to piazza markets to music festivals to charity runs to soccer games. The list is endless. Common places to find these events are restaurants. They have flyers promoting local events that you can take home with you. These are great because the restaurants usually update the flyers when new events are promoted.
An event that was advertised in the cafe was a music festival called Holi. Many students attended the Holi festival where they would pour multi-colored powder all over you while you danced to a DJ. The festival contained hardly any English speakers or tourists. It consisted of local young adults enjoying a good time, jamming to some great music. This festival was a great way to interact with the Florentines while having an intrepid experience. It is definitely an experience you will remember when you think of your time abroad in Florence.
Another great festival to attend is the Gelato festival. The Gelato festival is a festival where multiple gelato vendors come together to advertise different flavors of gelato. It is located in a Piazza within Florence so it is easy to locate. You start by buying a 12 euro card that lets you try up to 5 different flavors of your choice. Trust me, 5 gelatos is a lot to eat. You will be lucky if you have enough room in your stomach to fill the entire card. It is a wonderful way to mingle with locals and be involved with the food industry. Plus, who doesn’t like a night dedicated to gelato eating? You could check off “eating so much gelato till you drop” off your bucket list.
There is a popular market in the Piazza Santo Spirito that is worth taking a Sunday morning to go see. The piazza is consumed with vendors of fresh produce to handmade merchandise. You won’t ever have to go to the grocery store again; the fruits and vegetables at the market are much cheaper and grown locally. The craftiness of the merchandise is also quite interesting to stroll through. People have little booths selling hats, clothing, natural soap, wine, wooden bowls, jewelry, you name it. Piazza Santo Spirito is not a common piazza that tourist know about so lucky you; you get all the locals to yourself. Try engaging with the vendors and take the opportunity to ask them about their farm or their company and talk to them about Italy. They are extremely friendly and love to talk to young travelers such as you!
Being overseas makes it hard to participate at footballs games, so why not live the “football” game! All American colleges come together to create a fun soccer tournament for all the students studying abroad. Each team needs to have at least 5 players on the field and at least one girl on the field at all times or else the opposite team’s points will count more. This is a great opportunity to be active and play sports. What’s that, you don’t play soccer? Who cares! Most of the students who play in the tournament have never played soccer before. Students get out on the field and have a great time as a team. If you are set on not playing on the field, the players always need some school spirit to hype up the games. It really is a fun night to have with your fellow classmates. You bond with each other outside of class and better yet, eat a delicious meal for your victory party. Move out of you comfort zone and try something new.
Volunteering is another great way to truly be a positive part of the community. By volunteering, you get a free opportunity to engage with the community and lend a helping hand to someone or something in need. Grabbing drinks with some friends you met on the street is great but taking time out of your day to care for someone really makes an impact. Not only are you assisting others, you learn new things you didn’t originally know before. A common volunteer location is San Palomino’s, also considered to be a halfway house, where people go in times of trouble to help them get back on their feet. The children are in need of attention and the mothers and workers are in need of time to work without the children distracting them. When you give to others, you may not realize that they give you something back in return. A student described that by volunteering at the halfway house and spending time with the children she learned some Italian, the roles the parents and the children play, and how to appreciate what you have. The Italian children don’t speak English so it impels you to try to communicate with them and helps you to learn words, phrases, and pronunciation. It is also great to see how families live and the different roles they play compared to American families. The mothers give scope to the children to play on their own which gives the children responsibility to take care of themselves rather than relying on their parents all the time. By observing their actions, she saw how the children cared for each other and how they made the best out of their situation even if they weren’t in the greatest financial situation. Other students have reported how rewarding their impact has been on the half-way home. One student described how the children requested them not to leave because the children loved having them around. This showed the physical impact the volunteers have on the kids and how much they appreciate the volunteers. Another student discussed how their service gives the mothers and the people that work at the house everyday a break. There is so much energy put into the children so the gratefulness of the volunteer’s company is hard to miss. The impact is incredible and definitely worth the trip. Make your study abroad experience focus on other elements besides yourself.
If none of the events interest you, a simple walk throughout Florence alone will give you plenty of entertainment as well. Creativity and talent flourish throughout the city; it will make your hometown feel so humdrum. As you walk, alluring artwork is displayed along the streets. Most artists draw their artwork on the spot and sell them for reasonable prices. It’s pleasant to observe them and the differences between the artists. As you continue to walk, there never fails to be music playing somewhere. You will find crowds gathered around to listen. The music ranges from guitar, to accordion, to violin, to even a didgeridoo, yeah a didgeridoo in Florence. Some are worth stopping for a minute and taking in the music. It is especially pleasant at night to start or finish your night out. There are also puppet shows displayed which are enjoyable to watch. They bring out your inner child, I mean who didn’t love Pinocchio? Fun fact: Pinocchio was also created in Florence, Italy so lucky you! Some people will put on little shows within Piazzas such as a mime show or clowns. They are easy to spot because of the crowd they lure in. These little shows are extremely fun to watch. However, be careful, they might ask you to volunteer or pick on you in front of the crowd and embarrass you but don’t worry, you and your friends will laugh about it afterward. I understand college students don’t exactly have money to openly hand out to people but if someone on the street makes you stop, the least you can you is reward them for grabbing your attention and provide a small donation. Even a single euro is appreciated. Overall, every night is different and you will never know what you will come across.
After all that, it is obvious that you are going to make plans tonight. Your studies are important, keeping that GPA high is a must, but don’t forget where you are. Socializing and becoming a part of the community of Florence will teach you things you would never learn in a classroom; manage your schedule so that you have time for studies but also time for real-life. As Jack Hanna states, “The world is the true classroom. The most rewarding and important type of learning is through experience, seeing something with our own eyes.”
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