Florence The Ponte Vecchio, Florence by Jim Linwood

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 12th May 2010 and has been read 26080 times.

City of Culture In central Italy, among the rolling hills of Tuscany, lies the stunning city of Florence. Small but fierce, Florence is a great city to wander about by foot, as you can cover most of it in just under an hour. But don't be fooled by its relatively small size - it is heaving with things to do, masterpieces to see and good food to devour. Famed for its revolutionising artists, rulers and thinkers, Florence was, during the Renaissance period, THE powerhouse of Europe. Everywhere you look, you can see beautifully preserved medieval alleyways and bridges (take a stroll along the River Arno past the Ponte Vecchio or bicycle down the cobbled streets in the city centre).
Italian Culture Shock The Mole Diaries: Florence Read the latest issue of The Florentine online - the English-speaking local newspaper in Florence. Looking for accommodation? Studentsville's the place for you. Where to study and research in Florence: student-friendly spaces.
Why should I choose Florence for my year abroad?

You'll be overwhelmed by the amount of art to be found in this haven of a city, just like Stendhal (who had 'art blindness' syndrome named after him!), Chaucer and E. M. Forster were. You cannot afford to miss the great Galleria degli Uffizi, simply one of the finest art museums in the world, showcasing 15 rooms of some of the greatest masterpieces known to mankind (but be warned: book in advance or pay €40 to become an annual member of the Amici degli Uffizi to cleverly avoid 3 hour-long queues...).

Florence by msojkaThe Medici family, possibly one of history's most powerful and revolutionary dynasties, left its mark all across the city, most obviously on buildings, architectural style and patronage of artists. Plan a visit to their Palazzo Pitti to take in some of the many marvels that are on show. After taking in so much art and power, you might want to picnic in the Boboli Gardens behind, laid out in a gorgeous Mannerist and Baroque style (including fountains, statues and a stunning view over the city - enter via the back entrance further south down Via Guicciardini to avoid initial queues).

Florence being Florence, its people have been known to indulge in some serious gelato between a Botticelli and a Michelangelo, and trust us, you'd be a fool to miss out on the many different flavours of sorbet and ice-cream that abound (pear, profiterole, grappa and pomegranate are just a few of the exciting options on offer at Vivoli Gelateria - closed on Mondays, along with most other places!). You'll be happy to hear that Florence still holds an important place in the world of academia, with its home university as well as many art schools on offer.

The British Institute offers drawing, cooking, history of art and Italian courses to all, and it might even prove very useful indeed when the parentals come down for a wee visit, if you're at a loss of what to do. It's worth letting them know if you're bilingual, as all sorts of interesting job opportunities pop up - from recording voiceovers and appearing as a film 'extra' to interpreting for English-speaking journalists and invigilating exams. It can definitely spice up your year abroad!

Investing in a bicycle can help you fit much more into your day - two recommended courses and classes are:

La Pentola delle Meraviglie cooking school - learn Tuscan cookery skills in classes taught in Italian. Charles Cecil Studios 2-4 week traditional drawing courses in July/September, taught in English. Weekly cultural events at the British Institute.  
The nightlife here caters to all tastes and styles, ranging from refined restaurants to slick bars, through to the altogether more seedy haunts. A city that is literally bursting with flavours, history, art and influence, all within walking distance from each other. The perfect place for anyone interested in Renaissance Italy.

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