Cooking Class in Florence: By Hailie G.

Just got my hands messy making some home made raviolis with spinach and cheese, with an artichoke quiche appetizer (not sure if that’s what it was called) and panna cotta with chocolate for dessert. Mmmm!

(Don’t tell my mom that I am learning how to cook.. or that I know how to cook. )
We had to meet on the middle of the Ponte Vecchio (view shown below). This is that bridge with all that snazzy gold on it *sparkle in my eye*

Anyway, that isn’t the topic. So from there we went to this little restaurant/caffe called In Tavola where we were learned to make this lovely meal.
The chefs were amazing! They were very funny and totally entertaining. The main one, Francesco loved my friend Melodie’s name. He even started singing to her a little bit *chuckle.*
I just threw this one in here because it was cool.

I am not sure what to say about this other than it was such a good experience. I had never made raviolis before, let alone home made pasta. It was quite the accomplishment! We didn’t use any egg white or water to close the ravioli either like you see on tv, but still it tasted marvelous! We had to use a lot of team work though because once we got the pasta rolling everything sped up. We had a little assembly line going. I am getting a little sick, so in all honesty everything was a bit of a fog, but luckily they gave us the recipes so I can continue to make it when I get home. Yay! So, take a look at our wonderful food and be jealous 🙂


Adjusting to Italian Life: Week Two of Study Abroad

It has been about two weeks now that I’ve been living here in Florence. I’m getting around the town pretty easily and don’t get lost as often. Already, there are a few things I love about living here.
I love waking up each morning, sticking my head out the window andlistening to Florence wake up. A vendor sets up his fruit market right below my bedroom window and soon the chatter of Italian starts.
I love hearing the accordion, violin, and chiming bells as I stroll through the city.  I love how the citizens of each city are so proud of their home and distinct history and culture. They gladly will boast about the famous people who were born, lived or died in their cities.


And, of course, I love the food. I have a meal voucher plan through AIFS for a number of restaurants in the city; so far I have eaten at three of them: Il Teatro, The Diner, and Osteria de’ Peccatori. The food is delicious and the portions are large, keeping me full and happy. Back home I don’t eat red meat, but I decided that I couldn’t experience Italy without tasting all of its amazing dishes that include red meat; so I have been eating just about whatever here. There are so many great dishes and a few strange ones. At the AIFS welcome dinner I had pate, chicken liver, which is a local specialty! Tortellini in cream sauce, thinly sliced prosciutto, nocciola gelato… I don’t think I could ever tire of this cuisine.
In my classes I learn about so many different pieces of art and architecture that are within walking distance, it’s amazing. Just a couple of minutes from my apartment is Il Duomo, Piazza della Reppublica, and many more monuments. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so much art and history.
Last Saturday we had the chance to go on a day trip to Pisa and Lucca. In Pisa we toured Piazza dei Miracoli, including the Cathedral, Baptistery, and of course the Campanile (Leaning Tower of Pisa). Inside the cathedral there are numerous paintings, mosaics and beautiful things to gaze at. I was awed by all of it and am unable to truly express what a rewarding experience it was.  Hearing and seeing the history and art of Pisa was a wonderful. A short bus-ride away in Lucca we strolled through the streets and along the city walls. The surrounding area and top of the large wall itself are so green; it was a welcome break from the city-feel of Florence to see nature and take a leisurely walk through, what felt like, a pretty quiet town. I plan on taking my mom to visit both Pisa and Lucca when she flies over.

I really enjoy the fresh market in Sant‘ Ambrogio square. It’s a little bit of a walk from my apartment, but now I have the path down and it’s definitely worth it. There are a lot of fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses and other items to choose from at good prices. I’ve even gotten to know a couple of vendors.
I’ve been trying to use Italian where ever I can, but I often have to say “Parla Inglese?” or resort to hand gestures and motioning. I can’t wait until I can communicate easily with the locals!
Last night I explored the other side of Florence across the Arno River with some students. The Ponte Vecchio bridge and Florence was lit up by shining lights. The day had not been rainy (finally!) and the clouds made for a beautiful sunset.
Until next time, arrivederci!
Brigitte F.

The Hunt for Italian Shoes: By Fiona O.

Like most people visiting Florence, I wanted to buy some nice Italian shoes. I went online and simply googled “10 best shoe stores in Florence,” and after some clicking around I ended up on, where I found two promising shops.
The one I decided to visit first is called Goccia, which is on Via Pellicceria in Florence (really close to the Piazza de Repubblica). It’s a pretty tiny shop, but it’s worth finding for sure! I was there during the last few days of their winter collection sale. (The TripAdvisor review that convinced me to go)
I bought 3 pairs of shoes there!
Petra, me and Nino. They’re both very nice, and speak English really well. They’re really helpful; just tell them what you’re looking for and they’ll be able to assist you.
My roommates Elizabeth V. and Kat L. tagged along, and they both bought shoes there too. Elizabeth V. ordered this style of shoes to be made for her.

First Week in Florence: By Elizabeth M.

Ciao! It’s been about a week and a half now that I’ve been in Florence, and it’s hard to believe that it’s still only the beginning of the trip! I feel like I’ve done so much already, and there’s still so much more for me to do! This is a photo of the pizza that I made yesterday (and ate half of right then because yum, it was delicious) and a lovely glass of complimentary wine! Today I have a wine tasting class after our ILC (Italian Life & Culture) class, and I’m so excited to try out all the delicious wines!  🙂image
Kaitlin and I have been wandering around trying to find the best gelato, and so far we have found two delicious places! The first is located across the Ponte Vecchio and is named Gelateria della Passera. It’s located at Via Toscanella, 15R, and has an amazing Earl Grey flavor. Plus, it’s only 1 euro for a scoop in a cup, and yummmm. The second place we found is called Le Botteghe di Leonardo and is located on Via Valori, 12. We got a scoop in a cone, and it was SO delicious. This is Kaitlin’s scoop of nocciola (hazelnut) and she said it was amaaazing.image
This is us at a lovely pizzeria in Lucca. I ordered the ‘fortuna’ pizza and it was delicious, I ate the entire thing, and it was a large pizza!
And a ‘lovely’ photo of me and my roomies in front of the leaning tower of Pisa! Hahaha!
We’re all enjoying Florence so much, hope you’re all doing well! xo
-Elizabeth M.

Best Study Spots in Florence

We know, we know…as fun and exciting as it can be to study abroad, there comes a time in every study abroad student’s life where they actually need to…you know, STUDY.  While some people are perfectly fine studying at home, others seek the quiet refuge of a library or a good cafe in order to get their learnin’ on.

We’ve scoured the city and come up with a list of the best study spots in Florence.  Let us know if you’ve visited any of them & what you thought, or if you have a study place to add to our list!

1.  Biblioteca Oblate

Close to: the Duomo
Via dell’Oriuolo 26 |  Tel. 055 261 6512
Hours: Mon. 2pm-7pm, Tues-Sat. 9am-Midnight (Closed Sundays)

This library is one of the best kept secrets in Florence–in fact, the incredible view of the Duomo from the second floor might make it hard for you to study at all! Fully equipped with internet access, quiet areas, and a cafe for those late afternoon snacking needs.  Be warned that outlets tend to get snatched pretty quickly, so come prepared with a full battery on your computer.

2. Caffe Letterario
Close to: Piazza Beccaria, Via Ghibellina
Piazza delle Murate |  Tel. 055 234 6872
Hours: Mon-Sun. 9am-1am
Set in a quiet courtyard of a former prison, Caffe Letterario is a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. With both indoor and outdoor space, you’re guaranteed to find a nice secluded place to crack open your books.  Also, don’t miss out on the live music that happens in the courtyard in the warmer months or the Sunday brunch specials!
3. Arnold Coffee

Close to: Santa Maria Novella train station
Via degli Avelli 8/Second entrance on Via Panzani
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, Sun. 9am-8pm

If you’re looking for the Italian equivalent of Starbucks, look no further than Arnold Coffee.  This cafe has American-sized lattes, flavored macchiatos, bagels, sandwiches & more, plus the added bonus of free-wifi and a downstairs area with plenty of tables and chairs.

4.  Brac

Close to: Piazza Santa Croce, Ponte alle Grazie
Via dei Vagellai 18R | Tel. 055 094 4877
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 12pm-12am, Sun. 12pm-8pm
While it may be hard to find on the first try (the front door is quite plain and can be easily mistaken for just another storage building) this small architecture studio/cafe/bar is a hidden gem tucked away on one of the side streets surrounding the Santa Croce area.  If you walk past the bar in the front, you’ll come out into a lovely courtyard decorated with hanging streamers and comfy cushions and chairs surrounding the interior.

5. La Cité

Close to: Santo Spirito, Ponte Carraia Borgo San Frediano 20R | Tel. 055
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 7:30 am-1am, Fri. 7:30am-2am, Sat. 10am-2am, Sun. 3pm-1am

Definitely more of a “hipster” location than its counterparts, La Cité is located on the Oltrarno side of Florence and reminds us of many of San Francisco’s independent bookstore/cafe/art studio combos.  There’s plenty of space to spread out, have a coffee, surf the internet and generally just chill out and take your time with those homework assignments.

6. The AIFS Study Center!
Piazza dei Peruzzi 1
Hours: Mon-Thurs. 8:30am-6:30pm, Fri. 10am-4pm, Closed weekends

While you’re here, you might as well take advantage of our AIFS study center.  All computer and printing materials are of course free of charge, plus you get the additional bonus of our awesome AIFS Staff to keep you company and answer any questions for you while you’re doing your homework!

Fun Facts About Florence, Italy

Now that all of our students have settled into the swing of things here, we thought we’d brighten up this grey and drizzly Wednesday afternoon with some fun facts about Florence.  That way the next time someone asks you about your new home, you can say “Well, did you know that….?”
Without further ado, the top 5 fun facts about Florence…
5. Did you know that the Duomo is the largest brick dome EVER constructed? Hats off toFilippo Brunelleschi for winning the competition to design Florence’s most impressive landmark. It houses the Cathedral of Florence, which is the second largest church in Italy (coming behind St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome).
4. Piazzale Michelangelo is famous for being one heck of a lookout spot (the piazza overlooks the entire city), but if you head even farther up the hill from Piazzale, you’ll stumble upon theChurch of San Miniato, home to some real live monks! If you head up to San Miniato around 4:30 pm you can catch the monks doing their daily Gregorian chants inside the church (in the summer, chanting is done at 5:30 PM).
3. Underneath Piazza della Signoria lies an entire ancient Roman amphitheater!  Excavation of the Roman ruins of the ancient city of Florentia finished in 2010, where archaeologists discovered not only the remains of an amphitheater but also evidence of wells, building foundations and other edifices. Tours are available and reservations are a must (Tours are in Italian language only).
2. Carlo Lorenzini (also known as Carlo Collodi), the writer who created the infamous children’s character Pinocchio, was born in Florence.


1. Florence is considered to be the birthplace of the modern Italian language, thanks to Dante Alighieri!  Dante used a mixture of his native Florentine and southern Italian influences in his poetry collection The Divine Comedy, which was read throughout Italy and eventually used to standardize the Italian language.
So now you know 5 interesting facts about Florence, Italy!

Spring Semester with NCSAC is here

Last Sunday, 97 students from Northern California jetted across the pond to join us here in bella Italia for a semester of studying, traveling and discovering everything there is to know about Italian culture and how life works here in Firenze.  Throughout the semester, we’ll be having guest posts from some of our AIFS students.  In their own words, they’ll be showing you what it’s like to study abroad in Florence, Italy.

Meet our student ambassadors and check out their individual blogs to see what its like to be an American student living in Florence:
The Abroad Guide

Make the Most of Study Abroad

Numinous Lands

Providing Study Abroad Programs around the world since 1964.


Food . Fashion . Florence

Napoli Unplugged

Providing Study Abroad Programs around the world since 1964.

Burnt by the Tuscan Sun

Providing Study Abroad Programs around the world since 1964.

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Providing Study Abroad Programs around the world since 1964.

ISA Study Abroad Student Blog

The World Awaits...Discover It.

Fiona in Florence

A college student studying abroad in Florence, Italy (Spring, 2014)

Tonight in Florence...

Providing Study Abroad Programs around the world since 1964.

Adventures with Brigitte

Studying abroad in Florence, Italy Spring 2014

photography, expat tales and short stories from a wandering waitress

Providing Study Abroad Programs around the world since 1964.

Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life: passionate about food & wine | random moments | and travel

AIFS in Florence

Providing Study Abroad Programs around the world since 1964.

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