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Every time I come back to Florence I feel a rush of excitement for what lies ahead. Whether I’ve been gone for a day, a weekend, 2 weeks, 3 months, or a year, the feeling of joy when I see the city again never fades. Sure, over longer periods of time it’s more because I get to see my boyfriend after being apart. But even when we go on vacation together and come back, something about Florence makes me feel at home, and happy.
People frequently ask me why I keep coming back to Florence. If I love to travel, why don’t I live somewhere else for a while? I listen to their words, and I understand where they are coming from. Why am I, a girl in her early 20s, so drawn to Florence? Why do I keep coming back here? I love Barcelona, I could go there. Or stay in Edinburgh a while, or really anywhere. So why do I pick here?
My boyfriend is here so that makes things (and my decision) a lot easier. People say all the time not to move or change your life for someone, but when you love that someone and they’re in Florence, Italy, if you have the opportunity and the drive to go, and love in your hear to do it, who is anyone to stop you?
Taking all that aside, Florence is a place I would live regardless. I didn’t know Cristian (the bf), when I first came here, and I couldn’t have predicted the future of living here now. So what else would make me come back? Here is my list of why the Florence I love draws me back every time, and why this town, out of all the places in the world, makes me feel at home.
One of my favorite parts of Florence is that on any given day, I can be running errands, on my way to work, or just grabbing a coffee, and chances are I will see someone I know. Usually they are locals, but sometimes I see students I ran I trip for, or a couple I met while I was out during the evening. Florence is small enough to walk from end of historic center to the opposite in about 45 minutes tops. It’s a gift and a curse you either love or hate, and I love it. The ability to not have to rely on a car, a taxi, the subway, or someone else is a Freedom that I love in this small little town.
Florence is home to some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. I’m no architect, or history major by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love reading about history and looking at the stunning views brought up by the renaissance. Walking through the streets I honestly love to think about how incredible this city was during the 16th and 17th centuries.
It’s easy to conjure up the image of the bustling skirts, clopping horses, with men in fancy suits, while children run around in the streets. Its as if the architecture in the city absorbed all of the personality and character of those who lived here before. You can’t walk past the Duomo and not stand in awe at the view, you can’t stroll across the Ponte Vecchio without wondering about what was sold here in the past, and you can’t stand in Piazza Signoria without thinking of the stories behind all the statues.
The locals bring me back every time, and I’m not just talking about my boyfriend. It’s comforting to know that the gelato shop I eat in twice a week will always be the same lady and her husband. She knows I always get the café bianco, and if I’m feeling fancy, I add a scoop of strawberry prosecco. It’s nice to know the locals, find their spots, blend with their vibe, and practice my Italian. It offers a different view on Florence that so few people get to see because they aren’t here long enough. Not only is knowing where you are going comforting, but the locals will give you advice on new places their friends may have just opened, connect you with people in different cities, and challenge you in ways you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
Hiking in Chianti, cooking lessons, paddle boarding, operatic concerts, symphonies, museums, bars, festivals, parties, clubs, restaurants- you name it, it can probably be found in Florence. With such a melting pot of people comes a huge variety in hobbies and interests. This means that a hobby you enjoy, someone else probably does too, and theres probably a group, or club, or just a social niche that does that and wants to meet you and hang out. Even if you want to do something on your own, there are places around Florence to do whatever it is you’re seeking. If you want to go to the gardens, or just hang out at the pool, Florence offers those options too. You can never want for something to do in this incredible city.
Something I don’t get to see often enough, but is one of my favorite aspects of the city, is how quite it is during the low times. Not just when all the tourists leave, but at 5 am, when the bakers are rolling out fresh pastries, and there are a few straggling drunks going home mixed among the people who have to get up and work. I love Florence when everything is quiet for an hour or two, before the city turns to chaos again. This is my favorite time to really look at the Duomo, or any of the other amazing art, and really soak in the city. During the day I’m often too busy dodging tourists to be able to enjoy a walk (I’ve coined this #SidewalkRage), so these hours are important to me with this city.
The up-side of so many tourists? People watching is the BOMB. Seriously I can sit with some french fries and a beer on a patio outside in a piazza and people watch for hours. Listening to conversations, seeing how they dress, and just overall observing them. This might seem like a weird reason to love Florence, but if you’re a people watcher, this is your heaven.
On the more practical side of things, Florence is a great place to live because it is so centrally located. Within Italy, and within Europe. Ever heard the saying “All roads lead to Rome”? Well the same is true in modern ages for Florence. With a relatively large train station, and even bigger ones close by like Rome and Bologna, living in Florence makes it easy to travel. Direct flights from Pisa, which is just an hour away, can be found to Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, Berlin, and pretty much anywhere in Europe for pretty cheap. It’s a great place to be in Europe for traveling.
When I first left Florence, I was a little worried that when I came back, everything would be different and I would hate it. I was half right. Things were different, students were different, some businesses were different, and where the crowds go changed. But I quickly discovered that with Florence, it’s very easy to pick up where you left off. Though things come and go, the city itself never seems to age and is stuck in a timeless void. In a good way. Leaving for a year, or only two weeks, and though some things will be different, it’s easy to slip right back into your routine and feel at home again.
Similar to the never ending list of activities, is the never ending list of unique niches in Florence. When I say there is a crowd for everyone, I mean it. There are artists, techies, engineers, writers, philosophers, beer drinkers, club goers, and many different subgroups in each as well. It’s easy to feel at home here when you find a good group of friends, and Florence is one of the best places in the world to do so.
I’m not sure if I can sum up the atmosphere of Florence in a paragraph, which is why I saved this for last. The sheer aura of the city brings me back here time and time again, and it’s never something that I can lay a particular finger on. Yes, it’s all of the above mentioned things. But it’s also more than that. Being in Florence consumes you, and you start to feel for the city. The longer you’re here the better you can understand it. There is a vibe and a connection with a city you love this much, and if you’ve felt it here, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then you will. Maybe not in Florence, but if you love to travel, you’ll find your home away from home too.