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Most of you will lament this article now that summer is over and you’re confined to dreary autumnal Lancaster for the next ten weeks (trips home aside), but a bit of wanderlust never hurt anyone and it’s never too early to start planning for next year, right?
This summer I was lucky enough to do quite a lot of travelling and one of the places that I most enjoyed was Florence. Located in the Italian province of Tuscany, Florence is a city famed for its’ history; it is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of Renaissance and was once at the center of medieval trade. Packed with culture and historical artifacts, the place is a history student’s dream, but I’m no history student and I definitely don’t plan my holiday destinations based on where I could get the best essay content. I loved Florence for the food, drink and general atmosphere – the history was a nice bonus.
Travelling on a student budget (read: a small one) is never an easy task and Florence isn’t renowned for being particularly cheap. Thankfully, when you know where to look there are some real bargains to be had and I was travelling with some serious Florentine experts. Rather than splurging on a swanky hotel, we stayed on Campsite Michelangelo in the hills just south of the surprisingly small center. A three bed tent (yes, actual beds) set us back as little as £7 per night, which was well worth the pain of having to use shared toilets and showers. As well as being a great deal, the campsite had a lovely outdoor bar with some really amazing views over the city and an awful lot of cheap beer.
Our campsite was only a short walk from the Piazzale Michelangelo, a square atop the hill famed for its amazing views over the city. Watching the sunset over Florence from there was truly magical and something I would recommend to anyone visiting the city. If you don’t fancy braving the walk up the hill to the top there’s a really easy bus route and a ticket valid for 90 minutes will only set you back just over 1€.
In the city centre, exploration is key; every street has its own amazing historical features and discoveries to be made. The Ponte Vecchio is a definite must-see: literally translated as “Old Bridge” it spans the river Arno at it’s narrowest point and features some ancient and pretty precarious looking shops across its’ length. While it’s definitely worth crossing and browsing, the area is a bit of a tourist trap so it might be worth saving your Euros to spend elsewhere. Even in the most popular tourist spots, the city never feels busy like some others do – there’s always a nice sense of people milling about and everything feels very relaxed. It’s this that makes visiting Florence a real delight: it always feels like a holiday, no part of it is even remotely stressful.
While exploring the city I happened upon a wealth of restaurants and cafés but my favourite has to be I Ghibellini, a traditional Tuscan restaurant hidden in a square a few minutes from the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence’s largest cathedral. The food in Florence was generally brilliant, but I Ghibellini in particular took relatively simple dishes and made them mind-blowingly delicious with some really fresh ingredients and brilliant cooking. When in Italy, don’t be afraid to order simply – it can really pay off.
So, would I recommend travelling to Florence? Absolutely – for a little weekend break, while Interrailing or as a whole holiday, Florence is a great place to spend some time. It’s packed with culture, the atmosphere is amazing and you can definitely get by on a tight budget.