Cultivating your home away from home in Florence? You’ve chosen well! Florence is the perfect home base in Italy—not only for its Renaissance gems, rolling green natural beauty and access to the rest of Tuscany, but also for its thriving expat community. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll find it’s not hard to meet fellow Italy enthusiasts who have made the leap to the Bel Paese. To connect with like-minded individuals and make the most of your time in Florence, take advantage of these tips and resources.
How to Enjoy the Florence Expat Lifestyle
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Attend Concerts & Local Events
Situated in the Oltrarno neighborhood—and not far from our Maestro apartment—is the British Institute of Florence, which hosts educational, social and cultural activities for Florence’s international residents. Open to all, these include concerts, author meet-and-greets, afternoon tea and Wednesday Lectures on artistic and historical themes, followed by wine. English news magazine The Florentine publishes features on all things life in Florence—from the international dating scene to the city council’s latest moves—as well as about upcoming exhibitions, festivals and special events. Following Creative People in Florence is the best way to learn about craft fairs and local artisans, while The Local is the easiest place to read about Italy’s current events in English.
Join a Group Activity
Love fitness? Sing in a choir? Have a knack for arts and crafts? Chances are, the group-oriented activities you enjoy back home are available in Florence. When you’re not walking up to Piazzale Michelangelo, you can stay active in one of the city’s many workout studios. Movement IQ Strength Lab hosts pilates classes in Santo Spirito, San Lorenzo’s KLab offers everything from boot camp to Zumba, and Evolution is a locals’ favorite for group fitness outside of the city center. The Saint Mark’s English church welcomes newcomers to get involved with its choir, and the Florence Book Club meets regularly to discuss recent reads in English (often purchased with a members’ discount at Anglo American bookstore Paperback Exchange). Finally, the Leonardo Da Vinci Art School hosts lessons for all levels in painting, pottery, photography and more. And if you’re not sure how to find your “thing,” post in the Foreigners in Florence Facebook page and start something of your own!
Become a “Regular” in your New Home
The best way to foster a sense of home in a new city is to become a regular at a local business. This is wonderfully achievable in Florence, where service workers tend to stay in their jobs for decades and walkable streets make it easy to “pop by” your usual café, fruttivendolo or trattoria. Make a point to visit the same barista, shopkeeper or market vendor (Mercato Centrale and Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio are our favorites!) on a weekly basis. Learn their names and ask them questions in Italian, and you’ll likely have a new friend you can count on for the rest of your time in Florence.
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Learn the Language
It’s only fitting that Florence—where Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy in the very beginnings of the Italian language we know today—has a host of schools for foreigners looking to improve their Italian skills. Join other expats in rolling your Rs and tackling the infamous congiuntivo tense at the Istituto Michelangelo or Parola Language School, and you’ll quickly find your daily interactions with locals to be much richer. These schools also offer extra-curricular cultural experiences (think cooking courses and guided day trips), giving you plenty of chances to get to know your peers and instructors outside of the classroom. And if school isn’t your style, be sure to join the Foreigners in Florence Facebook page. Locals post there on a regular basis to propose English-Italian language exchanges for free—which could be the perfect way to learn a little Florentine dialect.
Be Open to Spontaneous Conversation
There’s no limit to where you can “put yourself out there” in dynamic Florence. Still, some places are especially suited to solo revelers hoping to spark up conversation with someone new. If you find yourself alone, pop over to lunch or dinner at Dalla Lola, a cozy trattoria in Santo Spirito where daily specials are written on a chalkboard, and you’ll be seated at a longer table meant specifically for solo diners to enjoy a meal together. The welcoming, convivial atmosphere is similar at old-school haunts like Alla Vecchia Bettola and Trattoria Mario, where shared tables make it especially easy to chat with your neighbors.