Florence is centrally located in Italy, so there are great opportunities to travel. The Santa Maria Novella train station provides easy access to airports, and other cities within Italy. If you do not speak and/or read Italian fluently, always go to the train station or travel agency and purchase your ticket. Booking tickets online through the Trenitalia website (for national trains only) can be tricky, but the website is useful to get a sense of departure times and fares. Once at the station, most of the people at the ticket booths speak a fair amount of English, and there are self-service ticketing machines with English-language options, so you can be fairly sure that you will not find yourself with the wrong type of ticket. Please note that international tickets cannot be purchased on the machines.
Also, remember that the Office of Student Life offers trips around Italy, and that many classes take overnight trips around Italy - check out those options before booking your own!
Capri is a breathtaking island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, located close to Naples, Sorrento and the ruins of Pompeii on the Italian mainland. Capri features beautiful beaches, including the Marina Piccola, Ancient Roman villas and plenty of food and shopping. Take a boat ride around the island, making sure to visit the Blue Grotto, a sea cave illuminated with brilliant blue light from the sun's reflection. For more information, visit: http://www.capri.com
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia, a region of Italy located in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Considered the "greenest" Italian city because of its low level of smog, Cagliari features many beautiful parks, such as the Regional Park of Molentargius, and beaches, the most frequented of which is Poetto. The capital also features several popular sights, including Il Castello, the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, and two remaining watchtowers, named Torre dell Elefante and Torre di San Pancrazio. Sardinians speak Sardo, a separate language from Italian, and are known for their meat dishes, including suckling pig, goat and horse. For more information, visit: http://www.sardi.it/cagliari/en/index.htm
Cinque Terre is made up of five villages in the Liguria region of northern Italy: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. The towns are linked by train, ferry or a hiking path, Via dell'Amore, which provides breathtaking views of the sea. Each quaint village has something unique to offer, such as Vernazza's castle overlooking the water, but most people stay in Riomaggiore or Monterosso, where the main beaches are. Try a pesto dish in Cinque Terre; the region is known for it! For more information, visit: http://www.cinqueterre.it/info.php
Located in the center of Tuscany, Chianti features beautiful views of the region's rural landscape, including green hills, vineyards, olive groves and ancient walled villages. It is divided into many small towns, the most popular of which are Greve, Panzano and Castellina. While in Chianti, visit the medieval Church of S. Croce, the Castle of Panzano and the Etruscan tombs of Montevalvario. For more information, visit: http://www.chianti.com
Fiesole is a hilly, picturesque small town, located a short bus ride away from Florence. Climb to the top of the town to see a beautiful view of the town, Florence and Tuscany. Fiesole also has a large collection of Roman ruins, including an amphitheater and baths, as well as Etruscan tombs, the cathedral of Fiesole and the Palazzo Comunale. For more information, visit: http://www.yourwaytoflorence.com/tourism/toscana/fiesole.htm
Lucca is located in central Tuscany on the river Serchio. The city is known for its walls which have remained intact since the Middle Ages. Rent bicycles, go for a stroll, or take a horse and carriage around to explore all the city has to offer. Lucca has many churches, including the Duomo di San Martino and San Michele, and also features beautiful gardens, the Torre dell ore ("Clock Tower") and the Ducal Palace. For more information, visit: http://www.welcometuscany.it/tuscany/lucca/lucca.htm
Milan is Italy's second-largest city, located in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. While known for its fashions, Milan also features great arts and architecture, as well as beautiful parks and gardens. Visit the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper" painting. Also, check out the city's main square, Piazza del Duomo, to see the Milan Cathedral, the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery and the Royal Palace of Milan. For more information, visit: http://www.comune.milano.it/portale/wps/portal/CDMHome
Palermo is the capital of Sicily, a region of Italy located in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its rich culture of Arabic and Norman influences is reflected in much of the city's architecture. Visit the Palermo Cathedral and the Chiesa della Martorana, which features colorful mosaics dating back to the Middle Ages. Also, Palermo features Italy's largest botanical garden, and many palaces, including the Palazzo dei Normanni. For more information, visit: http://www.palermo-sicilia.it/english/
Pienza is in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany, and its entire valley, Val d'Orcia, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its beauty. Pope Pius II built the village as an ideal Renaissance town, featuring multiple palaces, including Palazzo Piccolomini, Palazzo Vescovile and Palazzo Comunale. Also visit the Pope's garden, the town's Duomo, and Bagno Vignoni, a nearby thermal-bath and spa town dating back to Roman times. For more information, visit: http://www.pienza.info/index.eng.php
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, on the mouth of the Arno River and the Ligurian Sea. The most famous site is its Leaning Tower, located in its Piazza dei Miracoli along with its Duomo, Bapitistry and Camposanto Monumentale. Visit some of Pisa's museums, such as the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, and palaces, including the Medici Palace. Take a stroll along the river, stopping at one of Pisa's beautifully architected churches, Santa Maria della Spina. For more information, visit: http://www.visitpisa.it/en/
Rome, the "Caput Mundi" ("capital of the world"), is located on the Tiber River in the Lazio region of Italy. Rome has a lot to offer in addition to its more famous attractions, like the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain. Walk through Rome's Imperial Forum, visit the some of Rome's many museums, including the Capitoline Musem, and be sure to see the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica. Rome has over 900 churches, including the Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Maria del Popolo. For something different, head over to the Cemetery of the Capuchin Brothers on Via Vittorio Veneto 27 to view mosaics made from the bones of actual monks—macabre, yet fascinating. The sign on your way out reads “That which you are now, we once were. That which we are, you will become,” which reiterates a valuable truth about Rome: the city is eternal. For more information, visit: http://www.turismoroma.it/?lang=en
Siena is located in central Tuscany, and its historic center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Siena's main attraction is its Duomo, constructed from pink and green marble with golden accents. Visit the Piazza del Campo, home to the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, as well as the site of the biannual Palio horse race. Sienese people have divided themselves by contrade (neighborhoods), each of which are named after an animal or symbol, and have their own colors, museum, baptismal foundation and motto. For more information, visit: http://www.terresiena.it/index.php?lang=en
San Gimignano is a medieval town located in Siena in central Tuscany. San Gimignano is home to Italy's medieval skyscrapers and has conserved fourteen formidable towers. Visit the Communal Palace, which is home to the town gallery, one of San Gimignano's many churches, like Collegiata, and its Museum of Torture, featuring some of the Middle Ages’ finest instruments of pain including the infamous Rack and an assortment of frightening spiked collars. For more information, visit: http://www.sangimignano.com/sghomei.htm
Trapani is a city on the west coast of Sicily, famous for its salt marshes. Trapani is a small town with an important fishing port. Visit one of the city's churches, including the Church of Sant'Agostino and the Church of Santa Maria di Gesu. Trapani serves as a gateway to the Egadi Islands, Marettimo, Levanzo, and Favignana, each of which has unique experiences to offer. For more information, visit: http://www.comune.trapani.it/
Verona is located in northern Italy, in the region of Veneto, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beautiful urban structure and architecture. Verona has preserved many ancient Roman monuments, including its Arena, theater, and the Porta Borsari. Visit the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore and the Santa Maria Antica to see beautiful Romanesque architecture. Verona is most known for its La Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House), the famous balcony on which Romeo professed his love for Juliet. For more information, visit: http://www.tourism.verona.it/
Vicenza is located in north-eastern Italy, in the region of Veneto, at the base of the Monte Berico. The city was home to Andrea Palladio, and his famous works have classified the city as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit Palladio's Basilica Palladiani, Palazzo Chiericati and the Teatro Olimpico, which is famous for its flawless acoustics and is still used today for plays and concerts. There are also many churches worth visiting, including the Cathedral of Vicenza and the Church of Araceli. For more information, visit: http://www.provincia.vicenza.it/home?set_language=en
Villasimius is a popular beach town, located close to Cagliari in Sardinia. This quaint fishing village comes to life during the summer, featuring Sardinia’s famous Peyote nightclub. Villasimius offers 10 different white sand beaches that give way to clear jewel-toned waters. If the water’s not yet fit for swimming, explore the town’s wildlife (including flamingoes!) while horseback riding through the region’s tree lined mountains or take in some sun while lying on a smooth beach-front boulder. For more information, visit: http://www.villasimius.org/e_home.asp
Venice is the capital of the Veneto region in northern Italy. The city contains 400 bridges and 150 rios (canals), and features narrow, car-less roads. Splurge on a gondola ride, or take a traghetto, a retired gondola that requires passengers to stand rather than sit, across the Grand Canal. Be sure to visit Venice's only piazza, Piazza San Marco, and its Basilica, as well as the Rialto bridge and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Travel to some of Venice's nearby islands, such as Murano, famous for its blown glass. For more information, visit: http://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/EN/IDPagina/1
Have an idea of sites you want to visit and things you want to do during your trip. Do some research on travel blogs and communities. You should ask friends and family who have traveled before about places they enjoyed the most. Read through site-specific guide books like Lonely Planet, Let's Go, Rough Guide, Rick Steves, or Frommers.
Book all travel far in advance. However, do not book anything until after the first week of classes. You may find there are NYU-sponsored trips already in place.
If you are planning weekend travel, then flying from city to city may be your cheapest option. With flights, the earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. Be aware that the taxes for the flight may be more money than the cost of the actual flight. Many of the cheapest flights leave very early in the morning from airports outside of the city.
In some places it can be difficult and expensive to travel to these airports at these very early times because public transportation may not run all night. If you go on a low-fare airline, expect to pay a fee for any stowed luggage you bring.
This is the main train website for Italy and is helpful to find out the times of trains; however it can be somewhat difficult to purchase tickets on-line; the train stations have very conveniant kiosks.
Railpass lists all of your train options and information about the trains for all the different European countries.
If you are planning on traveling (especially after your semester) you may find that Eurail is the best option. It is a train pass that gives you train travel within 18 European Countries. Not only is it a cheap, convenient way to travel around Europe, but also many Euro trains are super comfy! Buy your tickets in the US as they are more expensive in Europe.
Sita Bus is a cheap bus system that goes all around Tuscany. The station is across the street from Santa Maria Novella (on the left side if coming up from the Arno). A ticket to Siena or San Gimignano costs around €6.
If you take the bus every day, get a monthly pass (una carta mensile) at Santa Maria Novella for €34. Otherwise, get an electronic ticket (una carta agile – 10 rides for €10 or 21 rides for €20). Stamp your ticket every time. The ticket checkers come around every once and a while, but it’s better to pay less every time than a huge amount at the police station.
Busabout is designed for back-packers which makes it a great way to meet people, and a cheap way to get around—it may be more appropriate if you plan to do more traveling during the summer. Get more info at Busabout.