Why Every Aspiring Photographer Needs to Study Abroad in Florence

Lauren Ahern is a student at Liberty University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.

Florence is a photographer’s dream. With its artistic history, this is a city that naturally foster’s a person’s creative drive. For the foodie they have an abundance of picturesque food. For street and portrait photographers’, people are always out doing something crazy. Finally, for the landscape photographers, the Tuscan hills look like something out of a movie. One of the biggest bonuses of Florence is that the city is extremely walkable. So much in fact that in about 35 minutes, one can get across the  city. This makes photographing an entire city of people an accessible feat. No matter the day, there is always something going on in Florence. If you are studying abroad in the spring, you will be here during the season of carnival. Mardis gras here is celebrated as carnival. Many Italian towns will be having parades with crazy costumes and huge floats! During Easter, Florence has a huge celebration around the city center including a cart that shoots off fireworks. Even when there isn’t an event going on, one can simply sit in one of the many piazzas, Santa Croce is a great choice, and photograph the life going on around them.

Every first Sunday of the month, all government owned museums are free. Tourists, study abroad students like myself, and locals line up to visit these museums. These lines are quite long, so those who want to see as many museums as possible line up as early as an hour before they open. The Accademia line to see the statue of David is ridiculously long. One Sunday, I waited in line for two hours before entering Piti Palace and Boboli gardens. While in line, I captured others waiting in line alongside me. Though the wait is long, it is absolutely worth it, especially for those who are trying to see all the sights and save money in the process.

The carousel in La piazza de Republicca is one of the most photogenic pieces to shoot during an evening in Florence. The floating horses and the antique lights give onlookers a nostalgic feel. Here I took a long exposure—capturing the movement of it as children sit atop the horses. Two women, watching their children, show very little movement as the magical ride spins.

Piazzale Michelangelo is a popular hangout spot for people wanting a panoramic view of Florence. I have been to Florence two other times before studying abroad here, and I didn’t realize what I was missing out on. The view from the Piazzale is arguably the best view in Florence. Not to mention, it’s free! For sunset chasers, this is the perfect place to catch sun setting over the city. Hoards of people claim seats on the steps facing the west side of the city to watch it set. I was able to capture a loving moment between a couple sitting a few steps above me. The girl rested in his arms as the sun lit them up, bringing out warm oranges and reds in their clothing and drawing my eyes towards them.

Ditta’s Artiginale is one of my favorite coffee shops around Florence. It is quite similar to Starbucks, given that it has WiFi, and more variety in the coffee. Many of the coffee shops here have Wifi, however it isn’t super typical to find Italians working on their laptop inside a café. Normally, they walk up to the bar, take an espresso and pastry, then leave. This is why I am quite fond of the work friendly atmosphere at Ditta’s. In the back of the café are a few seats that onlook the kitchen. Because of this set-up, many times my homework in Ditta’s is accompanied by the entertainment of an employee preparing orders for people.

Dogs always bring a smile to my face. After being in Florence for a while, I started to notice how well behaved the dogs here are. Most owners don’t keep their dogs on a leash, yet the dog almost always walks with them. I say almost always because I have seen a few dogs make a run for it. This is quite entertaining as an onlooker when the dog thinks the owner is playing a game of tag. Many Italians simply have one dog. However, when I found out that one of my neighbors owned 14 Foxhounds, I was over the moon. Every day they take the dogs out for exercise, loading the 14 foxhounds into their huge white van. My advice to anyone who wants to practice street photography, or for anyone who wants to better their photography in general is this: always carry your camera. The only reason I was able to capture this photo, and many of these photos is simply because I always had my camera around my neck. Florence has a lot of photo opportunities to offer, one just has to take advantage.

Cigarette smoking is prevalent throughout Florence. In America, smoking cigarettes has been mostly replaced with e-cigs, vapes, or juuls. I have been asked for a lighter several times over my course of being here. Even though I don’t personally smoke, the lifestyle of it interests me on a level of curiosity. Maybe the Fault in our Stars quote from Ansel Elgort struck my fascination, “It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do it’s killing”. One night after class, I followed a friend of mine out for a smoke break. The city lights lit him up as he smoked his cigarette, all helping to create a beautiful photograph.  

By the Arno river, there is always an abundance of couples sitting atop the wall that lines the river. Typically, couples sit atop the wall during the day enjoying lunch. One night I happened upon a couple enjoying an evening chat as the tourists who flood the city by day had headed in for the night.  It captured my eye as I strolled by, I wanted to capture the intimacy of the moment in the quiet of the evening.

Just as Florence is quiet in the evening, it is also quiet in the mornings. Each morning, around 7:30am, employees will be setting up their restaurants for the day, unloading their shipments, and locals are heading to work. As a morning person, I enjoy getting up early and taking in everything that the morning has to offer. Strolling around Florence on a February morning is quite cold but, the photos make frozen fingers worth it. During my morning photo walks, before I knew how to get around the city, I simply followed the morning light as is rose above the buildings. This led to some of my favorite photos, as there is something mesmerizing about Florence as the sun begins to light up what the night once hid beneath its veil. One particular morning, I was able to capture a Florentine man out for a walk with his dogs, just as the sun began to rise. Even if you aren’t a morning person, if you want neat shots, take a few mornings to just walk around and enjoy the calm of the city. I promise that the rays of sun streaming through the city will make your lack of sleep absolutely worth it. You can always nap later after editing your stunning photos.


Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.


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