Living in Florence
- Size: 102.276 square kilometers (63 mi)
- Population: 367,062
- Time Zone: Central European Time (CET)
- Climate: the highest temperatures can reach up to more than 35°C (95°F) and the lowest temperatures can go below 0°C (below freezing).
The historic center of Florence has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Florence’s Cathedral (Duomo) is the fourth largest Christian Church in the world, after St. Peter in Rome, St. Paul in London, and the Duomo of Milan.
Leisure in Florence
Florence is a lively city, and on any given day of the year it is possible to find a variety of entertaining events. Whether you are looking for cultural events, unique restaurants or fun places to hang out with locals, there is always an array of happenings within the city center. Please refer to this guide below to help plan your free time in Florence, and don’t hesitate to stop by Student Life for detailed information and advice for leisure time and outdoor activities.
Shopping & Day to Day
General norms and tips while shopping:
- Saying buongiorno (good morning) or buonasera (good afternoon/evening) when entering a store, office or restaurant is a way for you to integrate into Italian culture through common courtesy. Courtesy is much valued in Italy and people will appreciate being acknowledged before starting a conversation.
- Returning or exchanging an item is uncommon in Italian stores and usually only possible if you return the item new, with a receipt and a tag within 14 days. In that case, you might still not receive a refund but a coupon (buono). It is impossible to return items without a receipt or a tag, items that have been used, or if packaging is open.
- Bargaining is NOT practiced in regular stores.
- Some shops close between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm. Others might be closed on weekends. In Italian this afternoon closing is referred to as a pausa o chiusura, not siesta, which is actually a Spanish word meaning “nap”.
- Not all businesses will accept credit cards or break a large bill for a small purchase.
Florence has several open-air markets known for their local produce, meats, cheeses, and fish. These inexpensive markets contain some of the staples for everyday life in Florence with fresh and classic Italian flair. The three main markets are:
Mercato Centrale San Lorenzo
Piazza San Lorenzo: A portion of the market is housed in an enormous Liberty- Style art nouveau building and is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, cheeses, dry goods, and more.
Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio in Piazza Ghiberti, near Piazza Sant’Ambrogio: There are a few excellent and inexpensive places for lunch located inside as well.
Mercatone delle Cascine Viale A. Lincoln to Viale Lecci, Tuesday mornings. Numerous stalls that extend throughout Viale A. Lincoln that include fruits, vegetables, clothing, leather, food, flowers, antiques, and local crafts among other things.
Mercato di Santo Spirito In Piazza Santo Spirito, Monday-Sunday mornings
In the city center there are many grocery stores with a selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other essentials. In the outskirts there are also several supermarkets with a larger selection of packaged and frozen foods and household supplies. Although hours vary, most supermarkets close around 8:00 or 9:00 pm. For those of you who wish to venture out of the center by public transportation, there are also supermarkets located inside the local malls just outside of Florence.
For gluten-free diets, there are several options available in Florence. Gluten-free food may be purchased both in supermarkets as well as pharmacies. Important: look for the words “Senza Glutine” and/or the green Green gluten-free symbol (Crossed Grain Trademark).
There are also a few specialty stores that have a well-stocked selection of vegetarian and vegan options.
In the city center, you can find everything from high-end designer clothing in the area of Via dei Tornabuoni and Via della Vigna Nuova, to less expensive boutiques and chain stores in the area between the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. If you are looking for artisan leather goods, the open markets and the area around Santa Croce and San Lorenzo are great places to start your search. There are also three department stores in downtown Florence where you can find housewares and beauty supplies, as well as clothing to fit different budget needs.
Just outside of the center, Via Gioberti is a very popular shopping area among Florentines. A short bus ride from the center, you can also find a large shopping mall called “I Gigli” in via San Quirico 165, Campi Bisenzio (FI), with clothing stores, electronic stores, and a large supermarket. To reach I Gigli, bus tickets may be purchased at the bus station.
For small items such as hairdryers, radios, or coffeemakers, you will find shops selling household appliances, or elettrodomestici, within the city center. Converters and plugs can also be purchased in these stores. Some electronic devices can also be found in larger supermarkets and department stores around the center.
In various points throughout the city center, you will find coin-operated laundromats. These points are called some variation of “Wash & Dry Lavarapido” and are typically open for the majority of the day.
For dry cleaning service, bring your clothing to a “tintoria” or a “lavanderia”. Some lavanderie also offer full-service wash and fold as well as dry cleaning. There are several located throughout the city center.
General home and cleaning supplies can be purchased in both small and large markets as well as in casalinghi and mesticheria stores located throughout the city center.
Although you can usually find a basic supply of notebooks, pens, and pencils in larger supermarkets, the best place to shop for school supplies is a cartoleria, a stationery store. Here you can also find souvenirs, such as postcards and traditional Florentine paper. For inexpensive school essentials and small items, check out the “99 cent” stores located throughout the city.
Copy centers are scattered around the city center. If you need color copies for a class or large quantities of photocopies, it is best to have these done at one of the local copy shops. Please note that the school Internet points do not offer color printing options.
For printing options on campus, please check out our student life website.
Electronic payment methods are widely accepted in Italy, but cash transactions are still commonplace. You should always have a small amount of euro with you for small daily transactions. However, we strongly suggest that you do not carry large amounts of cash with you while in Florence, elsewhere in Italy, or abroad. Only take with you what you need according to your plans for the day, and make sure the rest of your cash is kept somewhere safe.
ATM, or Bancomat, can be found outside most banks. Some locations may require entering by swiping your card through a reader as a safety precaution.ATMs are also available at the post office/ Le Poste Italiane.
Exchange Services And Wire Transfers (Cambio Denaro)
There are several exchange offices in the center of Florence. Most are open seven days a week and offer both currency exchange and cash advances. If you need to have money wired to you while in Florence, the best way to do this is through services such as Western Union or Moneygram. You will need to use your full legal name as it appears on your passport.
Cellular Service Providers
For non-European citizens, the main phone companies operating in Italy are Vodafone, TIM, Wind/3, and PosteMobile. Most monthly plans vary between 15–30 EUR for a combination of minutes, SMS, and data, PLUS the one-time cost of the SIM card (approximately 10- 30 EUR). Although websites are mostly in Italian, staff on site will be able to help you in English.
Transportation and Travel
The best way to get around the center of Florence is by foot, although there are times when you may want to use public transportation. If you are planning a trip outside the city center, regional buses and trains are a great, inexpensive way to travel.
We do not offer luggage storage services, and students cannot leave their luggage in their apartments or at school between sessions for any reason. Please contact the Student Life Department for a current list of locations that provide storage services.
In Florence, taxi rules are pretty simple: taxis may not be hailed on the street, and there are no unregistered taxis/black cabs. In fact, there are only two taxi companies, known by their phone numbers: 4390 and 4242. Their full numbers are +39 055 4390 – +39 055 4242
Some things to remember:
- Taxis may only be reserved up to 24 hours in advance. Once the car is booked, you must be outside your front door 5 minutes before the reservation time.
- Most drivers will take credit cards, but please check before getting in the car.
- Women needing a taxi during the night may also use the Taxi Rosa (Pink Taxi). Just send a WhatsApp or a normal message with the word “rosa” to this phone number: +39 334662 2550.
- Need a car on the go? Stop by one of the many taxi stops located throughout the city. Taxi ranks are convenient. Tipping is included in the fare
- Drivers may refuse to take you somewhere if you are under the influence.
- Late at night, always take a taxi, especially if you are unfamiliar with the neighborhood or if you are alone.
The Florence bus system, Autolinee Toscane, has a broad network throughout the city, and buses run quite frequently. Autolinee Toscane buses are the large gray buses as well as the smaller electic buses that run only in the city center. (C1, C2, C3,D). Most buses pass by the SMN train station at regular intervals. Once on board, validate your ticket in the machine. The ticket is valid for 90 minutes from the time it is stamped, which will appear on the top of your validated ticket. You can change and transfer buses as many times as necessary within the 90 minute time limit.
IMPORTANT: Tickets must be validated the first time you use them and must always be carried with you, along with a form of ID (copy of passport). Instructions for validation are also posted in English aboard the buses. Fines are very expensive if you are caught without a validated ticket. It is also possible to buy a ticket directly from the driver, paying a surcharge and preferably with small bills or coins. However, it is highly recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance as there is no guarantee bus drivers will always have tickets available to sell or have appropriate change.
The tramway line runs from Via Alamanni (SMN train station) to the nearby town of Scandicci. You can purchase regular Autolinee Toscane bus tickets to use on the tramway. Line 2 runs from the Florence Peretola Airport to piazza dell’Unità (close to the SMN central train station). Line 3.1 runs from the SMN central train station to Careggi Hospital.
Trains are an excellent way of traveling throughout Italy and Europe. In Florence, tickets can be purchased directly from the SMN train station and from most travel agencies. We recommend that you check first with the agency if any booking fees are included in the cost of the ticket. Important: if you buy a paper ticket, you must validate your ticket before boarding on train. Ticket-stamping machines are located at the beginning of each track to validate your ticket, and if you forget to do so before you board, the conductor will make you pay a fine, in cash on the spot. Online tickets are not subject to validation requirements.
BUSITALIA and CAP bus companies have routes outside of the Florence city limits. Both bus terminals are located near the train station.
SITA is located in Via Santa Caterina da Siena, 17 and has buses that depart for Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, the Chianti region, etc.
Cap is located on Largo Fratelli Alinari and serves Prato, Calenzano, Poggio a Caiano and Impruneta.
The easiest way to get to Florence airport is by taxi or tram from the central train station. For Pisa airport, the best way is by shuttle bus or by regional train, both of which leave from the central station.