- Where to get a manicure:
If you are looking to get a quick manicure while in Florence there are various options throughout the city. Nails and Beauty Lounge Bar is one that has a friendly staff and they speak english very well. It is located near the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo. If you are looking to be papered and get a little “me time” for relaxation, this is the place to go! Another great option for a manicure is Maniboo which is located close to Piazza della Trinita. The staff is friendly and will take good care of you. Keep in mind that the going prices for nail treatments are higher than the prices you would pay back home, the average price is around 40 euro for a gel manicure. Regardless of which salon you end up deciding on, be sure to call and schedule an appointment ahead of time to ensure that they will take you. Walk-in appointments are not very common in Florence.
- Where to buy a swimsuit:
Walking through Florence you will notice stores and boutiques scattered all over the city center. When shopping specifically for a swimsuit there are a few stores to keep in mind that you will find all over Florence. Some you will recognize such as Zara and H&M. At H&M you can currently find bikini tops and bottoms starting at 4.99 and a one-piece starting at 14.99. At Zara bikini tops start at 17.95, bottoms start at 15.95 and a one-piece starts at 29.95. If you are looking for something different than what is offered back home there are various Italian stores that offer a wide range of swimwear. A few that you can find throughout Florence are Yamamay, Calzedonia and Subdued. At Yamamay you can find bikini tops starting at just 19.95, bikini bottoms starting at 12.95 and one-pieces starting at 39.95. At Calzedonia you find bikini tops starting at 20 euro, bikini bottoms starting at 15 euro and one-pieces starting at 39 euro. At Subdued you can find a bikini top starting at 15 euro, bottoms starting at 12 euro and a one-piece starting at 22 euro.
- Where to buy the basics (toiletries, home necessities, etc.):
Well first thing’s first, you should arrive in Florence with a couple days supply of the basics (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant) because after all those hours of travel the last thing you’ll want to do is run errands. After you have settled into your cute new apartment and the jet lag has faded you will need a few things, here are some places that will be helpful! Tiger is a store you will become very familiar with as there are various locations throughout the city. It is a discount store that sells many odds and ends, such as, office supplies, toiletries, kitchen supplies, workout gear, etc. I find it is comparable to a Five Below (I don’t know about other cities but there are many around the Chicago area). My roommates and I relied on Tiger for random things we needed for the apartment or school, such as drinking glasses, notebooks or calculators. Another favorite of mine is the 99 cent store, which are ALL OVER Florence. Being a college student I know we are all rolling on a budget and we would rather spend our money on other things (cough cough, beer) that’s why the 99 cent store is a BFF. Just like any Dollar Tree/Dollar General/Dollar Store back home, they have everything you can imagine from laundry detergent to toilet paper to wine glasses. One of our light bulbs gave out mid-semester and I was able to easily find a replacement at the 99 cent store. You also can’t go wrong with any grocery store such as Pam, Conad City or Sapori & Dintorni. At any of these you can find basic household necessities. Sadly there is no Target in Florence (I know some of you may need to start mentally preparing in advance).
- Money. Do I bring it? Do I exchange USD to EUR? Do I withdraw from an ATM?:
Money in Florence can be tricky because you don’t want to be losing money on huge fees and commission. My first recommendation would be to exchange some dollars to euro back home before arriving to Florence because you will get the best exchange rate at your home bank (My bank does not even take out any commission so 100% of the money I exchange goes straight to me in euros).IF however you do need to exchange dollars to euro while already in Europe PLEASE DO NOT DO IT AT A LOCAL MONEY CHANGER as they take a large percent of commission on top of the normal fee rate so you will be losing a lot of money by doing this. Instead go to a bank to change your dollars to euros if need be.Do not bring all your saved money for the trip in cash, you never want to have too much money on you at once especially while traveling. The best way to get ash while you’re already abroad is through your ATM/Debit card. ONLY WITHDRAW FROM AN ATM ATTACHED TO A BANK… you will see ATMs scattered all throughout the city many attached to small businesses however the exchange rate may not be the best and there could be hidden fees, your best best is by withdrawing from a bank ATM. The only fees that you will have by withdrawing from an ATM/Debit card will come directly from your own bank and not the Italian bank. That being said, check with your bank before leaving to see what fees you will have on your cards while abroad.It’s a lot to consider, I know but it really is not too bad of you do a little research and come prepared. My overall suggestion would be to exchange some dollars to euro back home to have for the start of the semester, bring an ATM/Debit card with you and withdraw money from a bank ATM in Italy when you need to but use your credit card to pay where you can (if you have a good travel credit card that has no fees for international transactions).As far as credit cards go… I am no financial advisor but I know a few things from experience. I went ahead and opened a Capital One Quicksilver for my semester abroad because my other credit card had a 3% fee on every international transaction. I use my card every chance I can because that way I save my euros and it had 1.5% cash back on every purchase as well as 0% fee on international transactions.
- My favorite thing about Florence:
You can walk EVERYWHERE. There is so much to love about Florence it’s really difficult to choose a single favorite, but the convenience of walking within the city is one of my favorite things. If you are like me, and are use to the convenience of driving everywhere back home, it can be an adjustment not having a car in Florence. Not going to lie, during my orientation week my feet HURT. It is definitely an adjustment but you will get use to it and you will LOVE that you can walk anywhere your heart desires. Besides, the best way to see a new city is to explore it by foot!