Fiesole Italy: What kind of Tourist Are You? By Alycia Oliver

When travellers are looking to come to Italy the first on their mind is Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan and maybe the Amalfi Coast. There are many hidden gems in Italy and Fiesole is most definitely one of them. The biggest benefit about Fiesole is that you can stay in the heart of Florence and take just a short 20 min bus ride up the hill to the magical countryside. If you are interested in taking this bus you must get on the number 7, which stops at the Santa Maria Novella railway station and Piazza San Marco.


First of all, I would like to ask you what type of traveller are you? You may be surprised to know that in fact there are different types of travelers. Here are your options:

  1. Organized Mass Tourist. This is the least adventurous of the bunch. You like you remain within the tourist bubble, and use the itinerary fixed by the tour operators and attend trips out of the complex and organized tours. This is the easy route that most families take if they have a lot of children they are traveling with.
  2. Individual Mass Tourist. These tourist also use facilities made available by tour operators but exercise greater control over their own itinerary. They will typically serve their hotel as a base and arrange private tours or hire a ca for further trips.
  3. Explorer. An attempt to get off the beaten track and experience new places is the main goal. They make their own travel accommodation arrangements and really enjoy experiencing new things.
  4. Drifter. These travellers scorn the tourist bubble and shun contact with mass tourism. They want to immerse themselves directly into the culture and seek for the local spots in their destination. They Actively seek new destinations and are prepared to take risks in experiencing new cultures and places.

I urge you not to be an organized mass tourist, work your way down the ladder and be comfortable with exploring new places! Typically, explorers and drifter tourists will populate Fiesole, as it is not as well known as other larger cities in Italy. Little do most people know Fiesole was an active community before Florence was, with very unique rules! It was said that the women had just as many rights as the men (at this day in age that was very unusual). They could go to the bank, pay for things, work just as hard, and sometimes the men even took care of the children while the women went out hunting for food.  All Florentine history originates in the hills of Fiesole.

This small town in the Tuscany region overlooks the entire city of Florence and was conquered by the romans in the III century BC. In 405 BC everything turned to chaos when the Stillcone defeated the Goths. The reason why this location was so valuable is because it was far enough way from the Arno River, the main form of transportation at the time. This would allow villagers to have a warning when any danger was near. The Ertuscan’s populated Fiesole and many of the remains are still present. With only an 8 euro ticket you are able to see the roman baths, the remains of the roman Etruscan temple, as well as the magnificent theater. What is really special is, to this day you are able to watch classic shows and operas in the roman theater! The capacity is up to around 3000 people. Some of it has been preserved however there are parts that are still untouched.


Fiesole is small enough to do in a day trip. Here are the main attractions I would jot down to see!

-The Etruscan wall

-Roman baths

-Roman Temple

-Parco Della Rimembranza (best place to enjoy the view)

-Cathedral of Fiesole

-Antique markets (only happen once a month!)


This list does not include the several points you can enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the view. There are also a couple very beautiful restaurants on the hill tops with the most amazing pasta you will ever taste!  Hopefully this has inspired you to go to the roots of Florence and experience history first hand! Happy travels!

5 Things To Do ‘For The Story’ By Alycia Oliver

When coming to Europe, it is truly impossible to not come back with stories for your family and friends back home. With the culture being so different (Click here for article about culture differences) you are bound to push your boundaries and try new things. For some this is a little nerve-racking while for others this is a complete thrill. The following are top five things to do “for the story”, and obviously the spontaneously good time you will most likely have.

1) Go into an Original Palace. Back in the day Florence was known to be one of the wealthiest places in Europe. A couple families were very well known, the biggest one being the Medici Family. There are a couple original Medici palaces in Florence, your goal is to befriend someone who can bring you to one. Yes, I realize this is difficult but if you are open to meeting everyone you never know whom you will meet. It is not impossible!IMG_0168

2) A Day with Someone Culturally Different. When travelling you will be surprised at how many new people you will meet in the span of one day. Here’s your task, spend a day with someone who does not speak your language and lives somewhere completely different to you. Although the language barrier might be challenging you will learn a lot! Being culturally aware and diverse is important in today’s world, so you might as well start while you are travelling!

3) Be a Yes Man. Has anyone ever thought about what it would be like to be Jim Carry for a day? His goofy personality makes him seem like he is having so much fun. For those of you who know the movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carry now is your chance! Be a yes man for the day. Here’s the rule: you are not allowed to say no… to anything (clearly with safety in mind). Be open and see where the day takes you.

4) Try a Food from a Different Culture. Apart of experiencing a new place is immersing yourself into their culture. You want to look, talk and eat like them…at least try for a day!  If you go to the San Lorzeno Food Market you will find many Florentine specials. IMG_5042For example, pig ears and  cow stomach are something people enjoy here. Although something may disgust you, be adventurous and try something unusual.

5) Take A Spontaneous Day Trip. It is this simple, go to the train station and get tickets for the very next possible train you can catch. Wherever the destination may be, plan your day trip on the train and wonder the new city completely blind. This could be really fun and you may find a place you have never even heard of to be quite spectacular.

Awareness in Florence: Top 10 Hints from an Insider

North American culture is quite different to the European culture in many ways. Although everyone is aware that culture varies depending on where you are in the world, travellers still seem to be shocked at the major differences between Florence and the United States. While I do believe spontaneity is key in Europe, you can never do too much research on the place awaiting your arrival. I am here to help you adjust to the everyday life in Florence by giving you a couple friendly warnings on obstacles you may encounter. The following is a list of a few things to be aware of before coming to Florence; this will save you time, money and a whole lot of stress!

1) Breakfast Food.  It is this simple- Italians want to fatten us up! Isn’t breakfast supposed to be an important, substantial and healthy meal of the day? In Florence it is next to impossible to find a café that serves eggs, fruit, toast, and/or bacon. Desert for breakfast anyone? 4.16.10-Pineapple-MojitoThere is a large array of fresh pastries lined up along shop windows each morning waiting to the devoured. Here’s my solution- get ahold of any fresh juice shops you can find to get your nutrients; there are a few around the city!

2) Crazy Traffic. Once you arrive in Florence your personal space does not exist. You must be careful in the crowded streets as people will walk in any and all directions, surely cutting you off. You must be extra cautious for the bikes, cars and buses motoring around the city. I often feel drivers are playing the mind game, “how many pedestrians can we scare today”. All in all, my story in Florence goes like this, Bus-1 Me-0. Don’t walk to close to the edge of the sidewalks or the side mirror will clip you!

3) A Late Start. This applies for many things such as store opening hours, dining hours and bar hours. If you arrive at a restaurant around 6 o’clock be prepared to be eating with the company of the people you are with and the staff. In Italy people are arriving for dinner at 9:30 to 10 o’clock. Do not make the mistake of going to a bar/club too early. You will most likely get there and leave before any Italians have even arrived! Between 1 and 2 is when bars begin to pick up.

4) No One-Stop-Shops. One girl came into the office looking for a Walmart. Although it is a funny question to ask in Europe, there is actually nothing similar to it! If you need to run errands allow yourself double the time you would in America. You will likely need to walk all around town and hit at least 3 to 4 shops.


5) Waving down the Bus. Who knew there was a specific way to hail a bus, isn’t standing by the bus stop sign enough! Here is the trick- you must hold you hand down low and wave. If you hold your hand up high, there is a good chance the bus will pass you. I know this is very technical, but it is something one must be aware of!

6) Coffee. Italians drink their coffees very differently. First of all, the coffee is never scorching hot. With the very hot weather you would think that they would serve iced coffee but Italians have something against cold milk. You will also not find any flavored syrups to add to your coffee’s- that’s right no caramel or vanilla lattes! A final tip, if you order a large coffee you will get one espresso shot and a lot of milk. You must clarify you would like two espresso shots.

7) Expression and Hand Gestures. If you are travelling to Italy for only a short period of time you may not have the desire to learn the language. Thus you may try to survive off hand gestures and tone of voice to understand the direction of the conversation. This in fact will only confuse you more! Italians may seem angry with their arms flailing in the air, yet they are simply debating on a very insignificant point.

8) Hours of Operation. If you are anything like me and have a very irregular eating cycle you should keep in mind the hours of operation of all cafes and restaurants in Florence. For example, the well-known Gusta Pizza is closed from 3 to 7pm each day! To avoid being a disappointed and hungry traveller, use the Internet to research the restaurant before you go.

9) Water. This will seem insane to most Americans and Canadians but yes, it is true, you have to pay for water everywhere you go. In a restaurant they will serve you large glass bottles that you can self- serve from at a cost of around 2 to 3 euros each. Wine is almost cheaper then water, but don’t let yourself get dehydrated!

10) Tipping. At restaurants here there is a cover charge of about 2 euros and up. This serves as the tip for your bill so you do not need to leave any extra money. Some people actually find it offending if you tip more, and this I do not know the reason for. Finally, if you are travelling as a group of students be aware that you cannot split bills. I suggest to always have cash on you in case you are going with a large group of people.

Fashion Forward Florence By Alycia Oliver


If fashion is something that sparks your curiosity, you may wish to experience Florence, Italy from June 18th to June 21st. Between these hot summer days, the Pitti Uomo is in full swing. One could also call this ‘The Beautiful People’s Club’. This renowned fashion week attracts models, designs, bloggers and photographers from all over the world. You know what this means- great people watching! As high fashion men and women stroll the streets bystanders are able to admire their impeccable, well-put together outfits.

fashion-show-pictures-1As the busy city gets exponentially busier, events get set up on the streets. An even bigger bonus- several events include free alcohol and are open to the public! This will be one of the only nights you will want to be wearing your high heels ladies (other than that the uneven cobblestone streets will guarantee you an ungraceful face plant). This is the best place to meet future contacts, especially if you are interested in the fashion industry. Shops are open after hours and DJ’s are brought in playing euro-trance tunes to keep shoppers happy. If you are planning a trip to Florence, this could be the right time for you to come. If you are already in Florence, enjoy every minute and absorb all the new fashion trends Europe has to offer!

Florence at it’s finest By Alycia Oliver

Firenze, Firenze, Firenze! This beautiful, romantic city is the only place I wanted to be this summer. A spontaneous trip from Canada to Italy has begun my summer with great people and great food (to say the least!). I am a student traveling with Global Experiences, a program that organizes Italian classes as well as internships. The Italian classes were challenging but rewarding once I was able to converse with others in the bar and shoo away unwanted strangers (girls, be cautious as men don’t know the meaning of no). After three weeks of classes I feel fortunate to be an intern at When In Florence, an advanced student services company. The friendly staff is able to help all tourists with almost anything that is needed during their stay.226175352_dae1a0d6ff_z Since being in Florence I have explored almost all routes and side streets that are lined with restaurants and shops. A piece of advice for all travellers- don’t stick to the main roads, the most unique places are hidden!

For all the girls out there, if we share a common interest in shopping the San Lorenzo Markets is where you should get your new handbag, wallet, coin purse and other leather goods. Since there are hundreds of stands around the city, there are a few things you must look out for, the Firenze sign engraving and the delicious smell of fresh leather. Additionally, the Santa Croce area and side street around the Duomo have affordable shops for students.  If you are looking for something a little more pricey shopping near Piazza Della Republica is your best bet. Happy shopping travellers! On another note, there is never a dull moment in Florence.1010910_10151638990702141_10201237_n Not feeling a club or bar? Don’t feel like staying in? As I am one of the most indecisive girls on the planet I always face the problem of what I should do. When in doubt, grab a bottle of wine from any store (or even stands on the road) and head to one of the several bridges crossing the Arno River. I can guarantee you a beautiful sunset, a great crowd and many talented musicians.

Last but definitely not least, travellers you must keep traveling! There are several stunning locations around Florence perfect for day trips as well as weekend trips. A few close cities are Lucca, Sienna, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Venice and Rome. Some places worth going for a weekend include: the Amalfi Coast, Croatia, Greece, Naples, and Sicily. There are several companies that will take students on these trips for very affordable prices, including When In Florence. I highly suggest taking some of these trips as you will not waste time getting lost in a foreign city and will be able to see everything you need in a short period of time. While enjoying every minute, take every opportunity that gets thrown your way and be open to the different culture and new people you stumble across. With this in mind we will share a similar experience, simply the best trip of your life!

The Perks of Studying Abroad – by Ségolène Guitton

Thinking of studying abroad, but not quite sure if you are ready to take that step forward? If you ask people who have studied abroad most of them will tell you it is a life-changing experience and that if anyone has the opportunity to do so, they should go for it. So for those who are still undecided here are my top reasons as to why you should study abroad and what you can get out of it:

1. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” Neal D. Walsch – That’s right, you will never know what life really has to offer if you don’t step out of your comfort zone and yes, I know how nice and comfy one’s comfort zone can be: it’s safe, you know everybody and where everything is but there is also very little space for experience and by the time you realise that an opportunity like this may not come again.

2. Studying abroad is the best and most effective way to learn a language – You are probably thinking ‘new country, new language’, well instead thinking of it as a problem, think of that language barrier as a positive aspect of your study abroad program ; that’s right! things may be a little hard when you first get there but trust me it will all be worth it when you are able to write down on your CV that you can speak a language other than English and you are able talk your way out of a bad situation because you took the time to learn your hosting county’s language. Trust me, learning a language is hard but by being immersed in a country where that particular language is spoken will make so much difference: you will be exposed to the language all the time, and you will unknowingly pick up few expressions right there and then, this will expand your vocab and by the end of your program, you will be surprised at how much you have actually learned just by being in a country where the language you are studying is spoken.

3. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to travel further than you thought – okay so you have decided to go study abroad for a semester in Rome, Italy well guess what? Rome and Italy are not the only city and country you will have the opportunity to visit. Italy is a neighbour to France, Switzerland and so many more countries that even though they may sound far away, they are so much closer than you think. Have you been dreaming of that view of Paris from the Eiffel tower or that trip to London? Well now you have the opportunity to experience it for real.

4. Expand your social network – let’s say that in a couple of years you’ve decided that you want to move across the world and start a new life somewhere new, well, at that specific time you will be glad that you studied abroad and made friends from all over the world. Study abroad programs are available all around the globe, that means that the people taking part in your destination’s study abroad programs won’t all be from the same country you will therefore meet people from each four corners of the world and as you live together for the next couple of months, you might end up making friendships that will last a lifetime. These friendships will be useful in the future if you ever needed advice while traveling or help if you end up in a foreign country. For example, as you travel through a new city you might be glad to have a friend from that specific city who can tell you all the great spots around the city that little to no tourist would know.

5. Experience a new education system – studying abroad will give you the opportunity to experience a new education system: it will give you a break from your current academic routine and it will also give you the opportunity to take courses that may not have been offered at your home campus.

6. Study abroad can enhance future employment opportunities – that’s right, when comes the time for you to actually find a job you will be glad that you took part in a study abroad program. Why? Because employers think of the people who have actually taken the step forward to studying in a foreign country to be self-motivated, independent and more able to cope with challenges thus setting you apart from the rest.

7. Ready, Set, Grow – traveling makes you grow as a person, in the sense that you learn to be on your own and more importantly to think on your own. You develop skills that will prove useful both in your personal life and your future career – while traveling abroad you will be exposed to the little challenges of your life that even though may be little, you will learn a great deal from. One thing many people learn while traveling abroad is  learning to navigate yourself, I know it may seem silly but you have no idea how many people in the world who do not know how to use a map. Yes, as of today we are able to access maps with GPS locators which you only have access to with the help of the internet, but using the internet on your phone while traveling abroad is pretty pricey so you will be bound to use an actual map at some point!

8. Change your view of the world – the world as you see it now in the comfort of your cozy little life is so different once you see all the things it has to offer you – by taking a study abroad program you experience the world outside of the classroom: no picture or story will ever amount to the feeling you get standing on top of the Eiffel tower or on the great wall of China. The only way you are going to experience the world the way it is is by actually being there in the moment, seeing it, touching it, experiencing it and taking it all in.

That being said, get out there and experience the world!