Florence is an amazing city, with history everywhere you go, important sites for Western art and culture, and beautiful that rivals any city in Italy. However, there are a lot of things in the daily life in Florence that a foreigner wouldn’t necessarily think about. Here are ten facts you should know before you travel to Florence:
- Florence is actually not a huge city, compared to other famous cities such as Rome and Milan. This is due to its location in the basin of a bunch of hills, so in ancient times the city couldn’t expand very much outside of these areas. Although the city has a smaller square mileage, it makes up for it with narrow streets and stacked houses.
It’s small area makes it incredibly walkable. You can get almost anywhere you need to go in Florence by foot. Expect to walk a lot every day if you are visiting, or rent out a bike or Vespa!
- Florence has a LOT of mosquitos. Due to the calm Arno River running through the city’s center, mosquitos have an ideal breeding ground and are very prevalent. Make sure to wear lots of mosquito repellent and be mindful of open windows in the evening, especially during the warmer months.
- Piazzas and churches are some of the hearts of life in Florence. Almost every church has its own piazza, or city square, that regularly hosts any number of activities, such as farmers markets, swap meets, musicians, and, surprisingly, hangout and drinking spots!
- Grocery stores are much smaller here, and people tend to shop smaller. Don’t expect to find your favorite Walmart or Costco here. Instead, there are much humbler grocery stores tucked in on the first floors of buildings, like most of the stores here. The choice of ingredients is a bit more limited, and you won’t find things here in huge bulk. However, you’ll never have to drive to get you groceries, as there will always be one a short walk from your apartments! Also, instead of buying a large amount of groceries for the week, people tend to buy less groceries, more frequently.
- Smoking is still very popular in Italy, even with the younger generations. You will often find people with either a box of store-bought cigarettes or with little pouches of tobacco that people roll themselves, and tabaccherie, or tobacco shops, can be found frequently on the streets.
- Florence is a very safe city! I have not heard of any instances or muggings or crime while I have been here, and it is ranked with a very high safety index. However, because it is a top tourist destination, one should still be wary of pick pockets.
- Because Florence is such a touristic destination, you will find a majority of Italians speak English here. Sometimes it can be frustrating for those trying to learn Italian because shop keepers often respond in English to those who don’t appear Italian. However, most of the time its very helpful.
- Florence is a dog lover’s paradise! Walking along the streets at any time of day, you will find people walking their dogs. Small dogs are very popular here, as apartments tend to be smaller, but you will see dogs of all shapes and sizes!
- Lastly, Florence provides great accessibility to the rest of Italy. Being a major economic center of Italy and a major tourist destination, one can easily find land transportation to cities all across Italy, and even the rest of Europe, from Florence’s train and bus station Santa Maria Novella. Florence also has its own airport, Florence Peretola.
Happy and safe travels!
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