My Florence Favorites

Written by Presley Privitera (Colby College), Student Correspondent for CET Florence, Spring 2024

I could not be sadder that my semester in Florence is coming to an end! It feels like just yesterday I was arriving at the Florence airport with a bundle of nerves, excited to meet my roommates and get settled into this new city. As a way to reflect on my time here, I thought it would be best to recap a list of my favorite things about my study abroad experience.

Favorite Gelato in Florence

I love gelato. Something that I love more than just eating gelato is spending time with my roommates. Together, we have tried what feels like almost every gelateria in the city.  To start my list, I could not just choose one gelateria. So, here are my three favorites: Gelateria dei Neri, Gelateria Artigianale La Sorbettiera, and Badiani. My favorite flavors to order are fiordilatte e cioccolato fondente. Sometimes when I’m feeling a little adventurous, I will try other flavors like tiramisu, cremino di pistachio, and caffè.

Favorite CET Trip

My favorite CET planned activity was a hike and aperitivo excursion that we did last week. We hiked up to Castello Nipozzano in Tuscany. Although the hike was a bit strenuous, the views of rolling hills and vineyards were so beautiful that it made up for it. After the hike, we ate a delicious spread of meats, cheeses, spreads, and juices at Il Quartino-Frescobaldi.  I particularly liked this activity because we were able to be outside in nature and get some exercise while seeing more rural parts of Tuscany.              

Favorite Church

My favorite church/monastery that I visited in Florence was Santa Croce! Aside from its beautiful facade, this church was my favorite to visit as it houses the tombs of many important Florentines throughout history. Galileo Galilei, Machiavelli and Michelangelo funerary monuments are all inside Santa Croce and many more. 

Favorite Sandwich Shop

Florence is very famous for their Schiacciata panini. There are many famous sandwich places like Antico Venaio and Pino’s. Although these shops are good, the best sandwiches are from the less well-known places. My favorite sandwich shop, which I have written about before, is I’Ritrovino de’Servi. I brought my family here when they visited me last month in Florence, and they agreed that the panini were fresh and delicious. 

A CET Florence student and her family smiling while in front of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy
My family in front of Santa Croce

Favorite Restaurant

My favorite restaurant for dinner in Florence was L’ortone, a recommendation from one of the professors of the Food and Culture class offered by CET. This restaurant is in the city’s Sant’ambroggio area, which is less touristy than other parts of the city center. I am typically somewhat of a picky eater, but I decided to try the agnolotti con pigeon at L’Ortone and it has remained my favorite pasta I have eaten while being in Italy. I could not recommend this restaurant enough. I tried each of my roommate’s dishes, including veal, duck, and squid-ink pasta. All of them were so delicious.

Favorite Hobby

One of my favorite things to do when I am not in class is to just walk around different areas of Florence. I try to go on a sunset walk everyday to get some fresh air and hopefully see some pretty views. One thing I am going to miss most about Florence is its walkability. Some places I like to stop along my walks are on Ponte Santa Trinita, as there is a wonderful view of the Ponte Vecchio, the Loggia in Piazza Della Signoria as well as the Uffizi courtyard. I really enjoy reading and people-watching around these popular tourist areas.

A CET Florence student posing with a view of Ponte Vecchio behind her on a cloudy day
View of Ponte Vecchio from one of my walks around Florence

Favorite View of the City

My favorite view of Florence is from the Cafeteria within the Uffizi Gallery. Perched on top of the Loggia, I like to sit up here, order a cappuccino and read my book with a stunning view of iconic Florentine landmarks like Palazzo Vechhio, Bruneleschi’s dome and the Bell tower. The menu is a little pricey, and you have to purchase a ticket to enter the gallery to get there, but it is a beautiful spot to take in Florence’s beauty.

Favorite European Place I Visited

I have been so fortunate to have seen so many places while studying abroad, both in Italy and other areas of Europe. I traveled to six new countries: Portugal, Spain, France, Monaco and the Netherlands, and even made it to my dream destination of Sicily. Every trip is unique and amazing in its own way, making it hard to choose just one to call my favorite.

A CET Florence student and her friend standing in front of a tulip field in Amsterdam, Netherlands
My friend Kate and I at the tulip fields in Amsterdam

With that being said, I will give my favorite trip to Amsterdam. I loved the architecture and character of Amsterdam; with the canals and canal houses. It is one of the most well preserved places I have visited, which I found charming and special. In addition to spending time in the city, I was able to see the famous Dutch tulips in bloom. The tulips were much prettier than I could have imagined. Definitely add visiting the Netherlands in the spring to your bucket list if it isn’t on there already. 

Favorite Day-Trip

I went to Cinque Terre this past week with my roommates, and I can only describe the day as perfect. We left Florence at 6 am and caught a train to the first town, Riomaggiore.  Ambitiously, we planned to hike through all five of the Ligurian fishing villages and return to Florence by 10 pm that night. The hike was definitely more strenuous than I had anticipated, but the views were just phenomenal. Hiking is an activity I enjoy participating in with my friends back home, so this was a wonderful reminder of home. We ended up hiking through four of the villages and finally training to the fifth. Once in the fifth town of Monterosso, we hopped in the Ligurian sea and shared a wonderful authentic dinner of trofie al pesto and Cinque Terre wine.

Honorable Mentions

Last week, I visited the Florence Synagogue with my Renaissance Art class. I was in awe at how beautiful and ornate the architecture and decorations were both inside and outside.  I would highly recommend visiting the synagogue, as it is regarded as one of the most monumental in Europe. It features a unique combination of architectural styles, with a dome on top like a church and arched pillars that are more similar to mosques.

The leather markets! Florence is famous for its leather. There are two leather markets in Florence. One is by the Cinghiale near Piazza della Signoria and the other is by Mercato Centrale. I like to walk around the markets and browse all the available leather items. I tried my hand at haggling and bought a leather purse, which I am really excited to use when I get back home to the US.

A must try while in Florence is Pappardelle al Cinghiale (wild boar ragu). I was apprehensive about trying this authentic Tuscan dish at first since I am not the biggest fan of meat ragu sauce. But, it has quickly become my go to order while in Florence. This dish can be found at almost every trattoria in Florence. Freshly made pappardelle noodles with rich wine and boar sauce are a must-try!

I cannot recommend studying abroad enough! I have learned so much about Italy, art history, culture, and myself.  I’ve also been lucky to have the best roommates anyone could ask for. I cannot imagine my life without them. I have made so many amazing memories and seen so many incredible things while abroad. Living in a foreign country forced me out of my comfort zone in so many ways, but it has taught me many lessons that I would never have faced without being in Italy. I have learned how to manage my time between studying and traveling, as well as navigating life in another language. This experience has truly been invaluable, and I am so grateful for every second I have spent abroad.

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