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Life in Florence

Computing and Library Access

Students have access to a computer cluster with Apple computers, a laser printer and scanner. In addition, most homestay families offer wireless internet access.

The Florence center houses a small, highly specialized library with approximately 7,500 volumes. Main subject areas include Art History, Cinema, History, Political Science and Italian Language and Literature with various sub-categories in each field. The excellent collection of books and films at the Florence Center serves as a good starting point for academic research.  

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Health and Safety Services

A highly qualified physician regularly works with students on the Florence Program. Staff are reachable by cell phone and are available to assist students during emergencies at all times.

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FAQs: Student Life

Is it possible to get involved in a public service activity?
Yes and students are encouraged do so. The Florence Program has excellent working relationships with a number of different organizations mostly dealing with immigrants, children, healthcare and the environment. See the Volunteering Section for more information.

What is the weather like in Florence?
The best local weather website is Consorzio LaMMa, where Florentines go to check on the weather forecast.

How does Stanford select host families?
We pride ourselves on the fact that we have worked with many of our families for several years. Most of our new families come to us by word of mouth and usually come highly recommended by our “old families”.  We screen our host families very carefully and look for hosts who are welcoming, accommodating and open-minded. We also look closely at their homes and pay great attention to details such as students’ study space, cleanliness, storage space and the general comfort level of the home. Their homes must be in safe neighborhoods and easily accessible to the Stanford Center by foot or public transportation.  We always try to group our students in small clusters in the same neighborhoods. 

When do I learn to which home-stay I was assigned?
You will learn about your home-stay upon arrival in Florence. This is not to be secretive about it, but is simply the procedure we have in place and helps us to avoid possible problems or misunderstandings. Say, for example, we give you all the information about the family which will be hosting you a month prior to your arrival and then something happens within the family and they are no longer able to host a student for that particular quarter. In the meantime, you will have set your mind on a given family and will find a totally new and different, albeit comparable one, when you get here. You can be assured, however, that we read your housing form very, very carefully and do our best to match you with the "right" family for you. We also try (and very often succeed) in accommodating you with whichever student you requested as a house-mate.

What type of food will I be eating in Florence? What sort of traditional Tuscan specialties can I expect to eat at my homestay?
Florence’s cuisine is primarily focused on pasta dishes, vegetable and bean soups, and meat (typically prepared roasted or grilled). Tuscan bread is made without salt, so it is quite different than what you may be used to. Salted bread is also readily available, just ask for schiacciata or pane salato.

Some of the specialties include: pasta e fagioli (a type of bean and noodle soup), ribollita (very thick vegetable soup), pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), tagliatelle al ragù (fresh pasta with meat sauce), ravioli di spinaci e ricotta (fresh pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese) and bistecca alla fiorentina (a thick steak served very rare). However, do not be surprised if you discover some more exotic dishes for the American palate such as: insalata di polpo (octopus salad), trippa (stomach), lampredotto (intestines), crostini al fegato (toasted bread with liver paté), or crostini al lardo (toasted bread with cured lard).

I am thinking about communication once there, and I am not so sure of the best method. What can I do once in Italy? For instance, should I bring my own cell phone and contact my company about the trip? Should I purchase a SM card or cellular phone upon arrival? What about renting a phone?
You have a few options once you're here: The most expensive thing to do would be to use your U.S. number. You will pay a fortune in roaming fees so we don’t recommend that at all. If you bring your cell phone you can remove your U.S. SIM card (that's the little card inserted near the battery, the "brain" of your cell phone. It contains your U.S. number and all of your phone's information), buy an Italian SIM card, and use a "pay as you go" system (this will work with many but not all phones). This involves simply "recharging" your phone with money as you use it/need it. You do not need to set up any sort of contract. You can also buy an Italian SIM card and an Italian cellular phone and use the same pay as you go system. Many students are using Skype so that should also keep your cell. phone costs down. You will not pay to receive phone calls while in Italy. You will pay roaming fees, however, if you leave Italy and go to another country in Europe, for example.

Rentals also can be economically convenient and there is a fairly competitive market here in Florence so you might find a very reasonable rental especially if other students in the group rent out phones. In some quarters students rent, in others they buy. It's a bit hard to predict but all students will likely want to do the same thing and usually end up going to do it together.

How will I get around the city? Is everything pretty close by so that you can walk everywhere?
Walking or by bus most of the time, taxis only in certain situations (we will discuss at length during orientation). Florence is tiny and very easy to navigate.


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