- Try something new every day, no matter what.
This is not to be taken lightly. It can be as small as walking a different route or as big as taking a day trip to a neighboring city. It can be easy to forget to step out of your traveling comfort zone when you set up a routine revolving around your classes, so make sure to go out there and experience what Firenze has to offer!
- Comfortable shoes are a must
I have seen many of my classmates with blisters and scabs on their feet due to bad footwear choices. Here in Florence you walk a lot, and by a lot I mean about 10-12 miles per day. So make sure to bring comfortable shoes.
Extra tip: carry band aids with you and a change of socks in case you need them!
- Make an effort on your outfit as often as possible
Something I have noticed a lot is that no matter how well you dress, more often than not you will still be under-dressed. People here are always really well dressed on a daily basis. So it would be a good idea to make an effort as often as possible to dress nicely. This not only makes you look and feel great, but can help you blend in and not draw unnecessary “tourist” attention towards you.
- What’s App location feature
As a person with no sense of direction whatsoever, I tend to get lost way too often for my own good, especially when trying to get to class or catch a train,etc. I have been able to get around with no problem using What’s App’s Location feature. If you ever find a new restaurant, a museum, or a classmate’s apartment you want to come back to in the future, simply stand in front of the location and send your current location to someone on the app. That way you can simply tap the message at any time and receive directions to that place no matter where you are.
- Buy your bus tickets/train tickets ahead of time
Although you can buy your train tickets at the station, some options may not be available or be more expensive. This is especially true of you are trying to plan a trip and make good use of your day – the times available might not be convenient for you.
If you do buy the ticket at the station just don’t forget to validate it. You can ask to be directed to a validation box or simply look for small blue or green boxes surrounded by people stamping their train tickets. Tickets are usually checked on board and not validating it can result in heavy fines.
In regard to bus tickets, sometimes you can buy tickets when getting on the bus but not always, plus they are more expensive. Preferably, try purchasing them at “Tabacchi” shops, which are all over the place. When you purchase your bus ticket, they are valid for 100 minutes starting the moment you validate them (which, by the way, you also need to validate bus tickets on the bus to avoid fines!) so you can buy a ticket today and use it 3 days later, for example.
- Purchase a tote bag!
When going grocery shopping, it’s a good idea to purchase a cheap tote bag somewhere considering that here in Florence they charge extra for each plastic bag.
- Never touch the produce!
Speaking of grocery stores, when purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables never touch the produce with your bare hands! You will definitely see some upset faces around. Always use the plastic gloves provided at the stand. Then once you choose what you want, take your items to the scale, select the number of the corresponding item, take the tag that will print out from the machine, and place it on your bag.
- People are nicer than you think
If you need directions, an explanation, or any kind of help people here are generally very nice about it. I had 10 people in a crammed bus help me validate my ticket! So don’t be afraid to ask, unless someone asks if you need assistance first!
- Take “culinary” risks
Food and eating out is definitely very different from the U.S. Usually the more aesthetic, larger, flashy places have the worse and more expensive food here. So try going into smaller family business and order something you have never tried before!
- Invest in a good water bottle
One of the biggest financial mistake I have made here is overspending on water. It is very, VERY hot here during the Summer, so water becomes more than a necessity. Definitely invest in a good water bottle since tap water is very safe to drink here.
If you are going to buy water, you should not be paying more than 1 euro for a big water bottle.
- Money exchange
A lot of places do not take card so carrying cash is crucial. And what is more crucial is carrying low bills. So when exchanging money make sure to only ask for 20 euro bills and below. You may bump into places that will not take your 50 bills and above.
- Restaurant tips
Tipping the waiter is not common in Florence. Waiters are very well paid here, it is actually a very honorable career! Plus, it is technically taken care of through something called “coperto” which is a fee you pay for sitting down to at versus taking your food to go. This is standard procedure everywhere.
Another important thing is ordering drinks. Water is not free at restaurants and any soda or other drinks are significantly over priced. Therefore, if you can purchase a drink ahead of time at a convenience store, do so.
- Learn key words in Italian
Most people understand and speak English but there are always some that do not. It would be a good idea to review key phrases and/or get a translating app. You never know when you may need to urgently communicate with someone.
- Streets do not parallel each other
When learning your way around, you might think you cut through a “parallel” street but this is not the case here. Streets change names every other block or so and curve sharply all the time, so there is no such thing as parallel streets! It is good to take this into account when trying to get around as you may get thrown off very quickly.
Aperitivo is a great deal when you’re on a budget. You pay a low price (usually around 5-10 euro) and you get 1 drink of choice and unlimited access to that day’s food menu.