Florence Ponte Vecchio

Diversity in Florence

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CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location.
The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email inclusion@ciee.org. We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location.
No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues.



Students in Italy, particularly in Florence, have reported feeling observed for how they present themselves. Italy, in general, is known for being fashion-conscious, and people can be quite discerning about their clothing choices and overall presentation. Italians, speaking very generally, are often petite, and the limited space in various settings, such as chairs, rooms, public transportation, and cars, may feel smaller and more closely packed compared to the US. It's worth noting that these perceptions are gradually changing as cultural norms evolve, partly influenced by social media.

In Italy, clothing is typically well-kept, and most young people prefer to avoid wearing short shorts or leisure wear when attending classes or going into the town center. Flip-flops are generally reserved for the pool or the beach and are not typically worn in place of shoes or sandals. Understanding and adhering to these cultural nuances can contribute to a smoother integration and positive experience for international students in Italy.



On a theoretical level, Italy and Italians express support for accessibility and champion the rights of all. However, in practical terms, the commitment to preserving city centers in their historical form, often dating back hundreds or thousands of years, can pose challenges for accessibility. While arrangements can be made, the ease of access and mobility may not meet the standards typically found in the US, and, in some cases, accessibility features might be lacking altogether.

For neurodiverse students, accommodations are generally provided, mirroring the support they receive on their home campuses. It's important for students to be aware of potential challenges and work closely with relevant authorities to ensure their needs are addressed during their time in Italy.



Generally, Italians hold a progressive attitude toward gender roles and expectations, evident at legal, cultural, and social levels. This is especially true in cities like Florence and among younger generations.



Italy and the United States share strong ties, and many students come to Italy with the hope of connecting to their Italian heritage. This connection often involves visiting remaining family members or exploring the towns and cities where their relatives originated. Similarly, many Italians have relatives residing in the United States and are sometimes eager to share their experiences with visiting students.

However, it's important for heritage seekers to set realistic expectations. Finding people and resources, such as birth records, can be challenging, especially as some records may be kept only in paper form and are difficult to locate. Local staff is available to assist students in managing their expectations and providing advice when needed. This guidance can be valuable in navigating the complexities of heritage exploration and making the most of the experience in Italy.



Florence has been at the forefront of legislative efforts to acknowledge and formalize the presence of immigrants in Tuscany, making it one of the first Italian cities to do so. The nearby textile town of Prato hosts one of the largest Chinese populations in Europe. Over the years, several generations of people of color have been born on Italian soil. In Florence and Tuscany, individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds are generally integrated into the working fabric, holding seats in local unions and government.

However, on a national scale, the debate on immigration in Italy continues, with the government denying Italian citizenship to children of immigrants. Similar to the United States, immigration is a contentious issue in Italy, occasionally leading to heated conversations among Italians. Despite this, Florence is evolving into a multi-ethnic and tolerant city, attracting people from various countries and cultures. U.S. citizens are generally viewed favorably, and past CIEE students of diverse races and ethnicities have not encountered significant problems. It's worth noting that African-American students have reported instances of being confused for Sub-Saharan African immigrants. In Italy, citizenship is primarily transmitted by blood, meaning that even if born on Italian soil, citizenship is not granted unless one of the parents is Italian. The term "race" is not commonly used in Italy, and differentiation is primarily based on citizenship rather than racial categorization.



Florence is home to a small yet beautiful and vibrant Jewish community. The Sephardic synagogue in the city is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Europe. Additionally, there are a few kosher shops and restaurants catering to the needs of the Jewish community. Inclusivity extends to other religious communities as well, with Halal shops and an important mosque located in the center of Florence, serving the Muslim community. Furthermore, Florence hosts an active Quaker community that conducts its practices in English, showcasing the city's diverse religious landscape.



LGBTQIA+ rights in Italy have experienced changes in recent years, though challenges persist for the community. Public opinion is generally becoming more culturally liberal, and same-sex unions have been legally recognized since June 2016. Various attempts by different governments to protect LGBTQIA+ people in law have been made, but some have faced suppression or undermining. Presently, there is an ongoing debate on a long-awaited law addressing discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ individuals. The current government in Autumn 2023 is notably conservative on LGBTQIA+ rights and aims to repeal some previously made progress.

From a social and cultural standpoint, there are signs of improvement. While homophobia still exists, attributed in part to the patriarchal roots of Italian culture, the country has made strides. Although the LGBTQIA+ community may encounter hostile remarks or incidents, particularly from older generations, these instances are on the decline. CIEE staff are available during orientation and throughout the program to offer advice and support on these matters.



For students in Florence seeking an authentic Italian experience on a budget, exploring less-trodden paths is key. Opting for outdoor markets in neighborhoods over tourist-centric ones and choosing local neighborhoods for a night out rather than establishments catering to tourists can enhance the experience while being more affordable. Learning to cook with fresh, seasonal, local ingredients offers a cost-effective way to stay well-fed and nourished compared to spending in the US.

Additionally, planning weekend travel to the numerous small towns and villages in Tuscany, as opposed to heading to European capitals for events like Oktoberfest and St. Patrick's Day, can result in significant cost savings. Embracing these tips allows students to immerse themselves in the richness of Italian culture without breaking the bank.



While the Government of the USA issues passports with an "X" gender identifier, it's essential to note that this designation may not guarantee entry or transit through Italy. As of now, Italy does not have specific policies in place for "X" gender markers, which could potentially result in entry being denied. This situation is likely to be similar in many Mediterranean countries. Travelers with "X" gender markers should carefully consider and research the entry requirements and policies of the specific countries they plan to visit to ensure a smoother travel experience.

Programs in Florence