My Florence Favorites
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
In case you hadn’t picked up on it, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and like every other study abroad student, I won’t shut up about it. That being said, I definitely went for more than just the Instagram photos… Trust me when I say these kinds of people exist.
Anyway, I realize no one is traveling to Italy anytime soon, but I’ve got nothing better to do than to relive my fantasy Italian glory days. Maybe once Covid ends you too can visit the magical land of Renaissance art, highly caffeinated people, and vistas that will capture your attention long enough for pickpockets to steal your wallet. (I’ve been reading too much Bill Bryson).
Without further ado, and in no particular order, I present to you five of my favorite spots in the one and only Florence, Italy—“FIRENZE” if we’re being technical:
1. Mercato Sant’Ambrogio
This is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for something that just feels local. Towards the end of my semester, I began doing the bulk of my grocery shopping here. Not only does this market have fresh produce from local farmers, but it gave me the chance to practice my Italian, too. The best part? Go inside and order an espresso macchiato for only €1.
2. Alberto Cozzi Antico Laboratorio Artigianale
Among many things, Florence is known for its unique marbled paper. Whether you’re looking for a keychain, a journal, or even a picture frame (any memento really), this shop has it all. The business is family owned and has been passed down through generations, continuing its legacy of creating this quality Florentine craft. A step into Alberto Cozzi is a step back in time.
While browsing the shop with a friend, the owner, Riccardo, was kind enough to show us how he dyes the paper. Flicks of paint here, swirling patterns created there, and a little bit of magic. Voila.
3. Dim Sum restaurant
Nothing reminds me of Italy the way that dim sum does. I realize how completely odd that sounds, but the beauty of experiencing another country and culture is discovering the idiosyncrasies that make that experience your own. Nearly every Thursday evening, my friends and I would leave our Travel Writing class and head to Dim Sum as a tradition. Looking back, it was the little rituals like this that turned Florence into home for me.
(On a side note, I recommend the classic dim sum and vegetable noodles. YUM.)
4. Tempio Maggiore Synagogue
I can’t tell you how many phone calls were spent slowly pacing the sidewalk across from the largest synagogue in Florence. It was here that I’d finish up phone calls with friends and family back home, feeling reflective and sometimes homesick as this underrated yet beautiful church stared down at me. Beneath its watchful eye, I bridged the gap between Florence and home and let this towering building comfort me with its quiet and constant presence.
Tourists never flocked to see its dome the way they did the Duomo. In fact, I was often the only one on its street, just perpendicular to my apartment. It was my own iconic landmark and I miss seeing its dome peak out above the buildings, reminding me I was home in Florence.
5. Biblioteca Oblate Caffetteria
At the beginning of my semester, I made it my mission to try out as many coffee shops as possible. I’m not sure whether I was seeking out the best coffee or the best atmosphere, but I found my favorite without even realizing it.
Like most places, the coffee was good (let’s be honest, it’s hard for Italians to make bad coffee) and the atmosphere was perfectly acceptable, but what kept me coming back was the picture perfect view of the Duomo. Clear as day and almost close enough to touch, the dome of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore could be seen from every window. It was hard not to be inspired with a view like that. Biblioteca Oblate is a convent turned public library, so in a way it’s the perfect representation of Florence—something historical turned new. How Renaissance.