Where should I study abroad? Florence vs. Rome

By: Anthony Manzi

Anthony studied abroad in both Florence and Rome. Below is his take and what set each city apart as a cool place to study. We would love to hear your comments and reasons for one city over the other. 

Where should I study abroad? This question has been popping into the minds of college students more frequently as the years move on. As more students are wanting, able, or even have to study abroad, there are more questions about the international world, most notably Italy. I studied abroad for two semesters in Italy, once in Rome during the spring 2010 semester and another in the Florence during the spring 2011 semester. Whenever I have a conversation about study abroad, the most common question I am asked is, “which city is better, Florence or Rome?” My usual answer is naturally that they are incomparable, these two cities have so much to offer and they are so different from each other contrary to what people may think.

City Type & Size

When I studied abroad in Rome, it was my third time out of the country and second time to Europe, but I was young when I traveled before so it was just like traveling for my first time. Rome is a big city – traveling by bus everywhere, lots of hustle & bustle, lots of locals and of course its famous sights and scenery in the city center. When it comes to Florence, it’s a smaller city – everything is in walking distance, lots of artsy fashion forward people, lots of American students, and of course like Rome, its famous sights and scenery.

City Vibe & Culture

Each city has its own vibe and culture. Florence had more of a “medieval chic” vibe and the culture was a mixture of Italian and American. Rome had a more “European modern city with ancient Roman architecture thrown in the mix” vibe and the culture is more like that of a true International city with people hailing from all ends of the earth.

One reason I picked up these vibes from each city was just from my experiences of each city, like walking around, people watching, and schooling. Rome, which boasts a huge international hub for traveling and business, is a business forward city – lots of vehicles, a subway, and while walking on one of the busiest roads in Rome you could look to the right and boom, there’s a 2,000 year old Coliseum. Florence on the other hand feels like you’re walking through a city and the year is 1499 – Medieval castles, people hanging out in the piazzas and leather, everywhere. At the same time each city has its fair share of street vendors, luxury fashion giants like (Gucci, Prada, etc.), and their own types of cuisine.

Nightlife

Of course these feelings of vibes and culture I picked up from each city were also mostly due to the nightlife scenes. Just along Via dei Benci, straight across from a church no less, Florence has one of the greatest bar scenes around, playing all your favorite Top40 with the occasional European hits. At some times, Florence can feel like one giant college party when everyone is in town bar hopping like it’s their jobs.

Hidden throughout the small alleys and even inside a train station, Rome has a hard hitting club scene with nothing shy of great electronic dance music with a lot of beautiful women – Italian style. Rome also has Campo dei Fiori, which is a favorite among students of all backgrounds. Rome’s clubs are very high-end and you should dress to impress if you expect to get in, unless you’re a famous soccer player, which I’m sure you will see a couple while partying it up.

Cuisine

When we talk about the cuisine of Italy, it’s usually some the type of food and then where it came from, for example pasta Milanese and chicken Marsala. Pasta Milanese is pasta made the way people from Milan make it and the same for chicken Marsala. In the case of Florence, they are famous for Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or Florentine steak (bet you didn’t know Florence had one of the world’s best steaks). Florence is also famous for it’s wines (thanks in part to being located in Tuscan). In Rome they are famous for Spaghetti Carbonara, which is Spaghetti with eggs, cheese, and bacon. I highly recommend both dishes! Although the food in Italy is pretty great all around, due to the sheer size of each city it was difficult for us to find great restaurants in Rome which resulted in us cooking ourselves, whereas Florence had many local favorites. In Florence and Rome there are your typical tourist- trap restaurants, serving up some of the worst “Italian” food. Of course these restaurants are near the tourist attractions such as the Duomo in Florence and la Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). On the other hand, like most of anything of quality in Italy, you’ll have to travel off the beaten path into the tiny alley ways in order to find the best restaurants and gelato.

We encourage you to leave your comments and reasons for one city over the other. 

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2 thoughts on “Where should I study abroad? Florence vs. Rome”

  1. So I’m biased because I’ve only studied in one city but I’ve been to both and I honestly think if I had to choose again, I would choose Rome because of it’s central location in Italy compared to Florence. It gives an easy way to reach all of the following: the Almafi Coast, Naples, Sicily, Florence, Milan and Venice. You can pretty much see all of Italy if you are staying in Rome-and all for a great price! Also, Rome NEVER SLEEPS. I’ve been out literally at every single hour of the day/night and there are always people doing something. It’s phenomenal. I found that hard to find in Florence

  2. I honestly think it has to do with what you are most comfortable with. Florence is, as explained, a much smaller city than Rome, although it has some very moving scenery spots that I instantly fell in love with. I lived in Florence, but visited Rome, and personally if I were to do it again I would choose Florence. Although a smaller city is where my preference lies, that does not mean that Rome is not just as incredible. They are indeed both unique in their own ways, but like I said if you prefer a bigger scene, crammed space and movement, and something different to do each night than Rome is your ticket. Just prepare yourself well for pick pocketors through the city and especially on those metros. Other than that, it has some pretty incredible sights as well, and the food in both cities are phenomenal.

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