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Everyone you know has been to Florence at least once in their lifetime, and given the abundance of great architecture, food, art and shopping the city boasts, it’s easy to understand why. However, you can only be considered a true Florence expert and earn the title of local if you have done these 17 things.
Let’s be honest, you cannot consider yourself a Florence expert and not speak Italian. It maybe not be the most easy of languages, especially for first-time new expats, but understanding and speaking the local language is essential. Of course, we’re not saying you should be fluent in Italian but don’t be one of those people who has lived in Florence for years and the only Italian words they use is when they are ordering a coffee or a glass of wine.
Mercato Centrale of Florence is the most famous fresh food market of the town and it’s also hands down the most crowded. Crowds have increased after the recent renovation as the market is not only the best place for locals to do shopping but it is also now the new hot spot for lunch and dinner thanks to the restaurants located on the first floor.
Every 24th of June, the city hosts one of the most highly anticipated celebrations of the local cultural calendar: Fuochi di San Giovanni. This night-long street party sees fireworks and hosts public concerts while local bands play music late into the night.
Located in Santa Croce’s neighborhood, Vivoli is one of the oldest and most revered ice cream shops in Florence. This small gelateria is the most famous of Florence and sells heavenly flavors such as pistachio, stracciatella and exquisite chocolates.
Let’s be honest, traffic in Florence is worse than hell. So, if you have lived long enough here you will surely have owned a bike. If you haven’t experienced day to day life in the city on a cycle, then you haven’t really experienced the city at all.
This is something you can only do if you’re not a vegetarian: bistecca alla fiorentina, a grilled steak typical of Florence, is the most famous meat plate of the town. If you’re a Florence expert, you know that you have to avoid the touristic restaurants and ask Italians if they can suggest some places where you can eat the authentic fiorentina.
Another remarkable feature of the Florentine culture, calcio storico is an early form of football that originated in the 16th century in Florence. This sport is played also today in Piazza Santa Croce and the final match is played on 24th of June for St. John’s Day. A white line divides the field into two identical squares, and a goal net runs the width of each end. For decades, this match has resulted in severe injuries, including death. However, due to often fatal injuries, any violation leads to being expelled from the game.
Florence is like paradise for fashion lovers. It is one of the European capitals of fashion and it has many elegant shops selling haute couture as well as stylish boutique filled with artisanal designs. However, Florence is also full of flea markets and vintage shops.
Florence is full of interesting museums but only experts and locals know the Specola, the museum of zoology and natural history. This eclectic museum hosts collections that can be traced back to the Medici Family and it is known for its assortment of wax anatomical models from the 18th century. Only a few people know that this is the oldest scientific museum in Europe.
Even though there are many places to have fun in Florence, many locals choose to hang out at Santo Spirito. Located on the left side of the Arno River, the neighborhood is a lively spot with plenty to see and do. This area is great for meeting locals and hosts some of the best restaurants and bars in Florence.
A big part of a typical Italian’s day is the aperitivo. One of the most famous drinks enjoyed as an aperitivo is the Negroni cocktail now consumed worldwide but born in Florence, at the Giacosa Café. So, after strolling around the historical city centre, the best thing you can do is enjoy and relax with a glass of this famous Italian drink.
La Rinascente is Italy’s answer to the British concept of a department store. It was founded in Milan in 1917 and later located in a few Italian towns, including Florence. Here you can buy clothes, shoes, bags and also home design. La Rinascente also hosts a cool terrace with a terrific view of Florence, the perfect spot for a drink or a coffee.
It may not be as famous as the Venice Festival, but Florence hosts a cinematographic event that takes place every year from October to December in the city centre. 50 Giorni di Cinema is a big event which includes various festivals, such as the Florence Queer Festival, River to River Indian Film Fest and France Odeon. During the event, you have the chance to watch premieres of important movies and meet the directors and actors.
Let’s face it: Piazza del Duomo is fabulous but if isn’t your first time in Florence, you can’t spend your whole time here. It has historic buildings, stunning churches and the unique bell-tower but it is too touristic, so try to cut out this square from your route into the town at least a few times.
Dominating the horizon of Florence, San Miniato is one of the oldest churches in Florence located on the surrounding hills. Every tourists know Piazzale Michelangelo, indeed it is the most famous belvedere of the town. But for those who want to avoid crowds, San Miniato is the perfect spot. You can reach it by walking or you can take the bus N.12 from the train station.
Florence is a welcoming town but if you have spent enough time in the city, you’ve probably caught yourself complaining about tourists (even if you are a tourist yourself!) on at least one occasion. Tourists in Florence are too many and you can hear locals say that this may deteriorate the city’s cultural authenticity.
Being an expert of Florence means knowing more than just the city itself. The town’s surroundings host underrated gems such as Fiesole, Pistoia and Prato as well as smaller villages and natural areas like Montagna Fiorentina or Parco Nazionale Foreste Casentinesi. You can’t consider yourself a Florence expert without exploring them.