Wellness in Florence

By Carly Erani | University of Maryland | ISI Florence 2023 – Global Leadership Program

With all the excitement of moving to a new country, it is unexpectedly easy for wellness to become an afterthought. I felt this when I first arrived in Florence for the semester. The healthy habits I kept in the US seemed to fly out the window as I was thrown off my regular routine. I’ve learned that you must be intentional about keeping up with your wellness while abroad, likely even more so than you have in the past. Here’s my guide to wellness in Florence to help you have the best possible study abroad experience!

Physical wellbeing
Drink enough water – You need to be intentional about your water consumption since restaurants do not give you free water, and there are fewer water fountains around the city. I have never been the type of person to carry around a refillable water bottle, but being so dehydrated here has pushed me to do this, as well as leaving a bottle of water on my nightstand and chugging it each morning.

Make sleep a priority – You will get so much more out of your classes and travel if you are well-rested!

Exercise – Working out is a normal part of my routine as a student in the States… However, exercising isn’t a big thing here, so do not feel pressure to do it! The way I see it, you have the rest of your life to work out if that’s what you’re into – it’s honestly been nice to take a long break from the gym while abroad. Plus, believe what everyone says; you’ll be walking a ton!

Diet – Sometimes it feels like the food groups here are pasta, pizza, and gelato. Because of this, you’ll most likely be eating very differently in Italy than you do at home. This was an adjustment for me, but I’d recommend embracing the culture here and releasing any worries surrounding your diet! As long as you feel good (which you most likely will, considering how fresh most ingredients are here), just eat whatever dishes look the tastiest!

Mental wellbeing
Moving abroad presents new challenges and adjustments that can be difficult to work through at first. I journal to work through uncomfortable emotions when I’m feeling down. Calling friends and family can also help provide comfort, support, and relief from knowing that people are there for you. All of this is especially powerful while you’re abroad!

Social wellbeing
It is common for people to come abroad with friends from home, which can make it a challenge to branch out and meet new people. If you are in a situation where you want to make new friends abroad, I’d recommend taking advantage of the first week of class when people are friendliest. I guarantee there will be people at your school looking to make friends; you just have to take a risk and put yourself out there!

Nature wellbeing
If you’re like me and you feel best when you’re outside, it’s important to be intentional about spending time in nature. You can explore the city and search for places outside to sit and do work, eat, or just spend time with yourself/friends. There are also beautiful parks in Florence, like Parco Delle Cascine (for walking/running/biking), Boboli Gardens, and Bardini Gardens.

We are all human, and sometimes we get lazy or overwhelmed and resort to doing less; exploring the city less, talking to strangers less, paying less attention in class, trying fewer new restaurants, etc. Your time abroad will zip by faster than you could imagine – to me, there simply isn’t enough time to do less! I’ve found that the best way to avoid this and get the most out of the semester is to stay on top of my wellness practices!