Getting around in Florence is reasonably easy, and its smaller scale and more relaxed atmosphere lend themselves well to leisurely exploration. Often viewed as the Renaissance jewel, Florence contrasts starkly with the sprawling, bustling nature of Rome. For expats and tourists alike, the city's size means that much can be enjoyed on foot, through strolls along its picturesque streets.
For those looking to venture beyond the city's central area or to commute with greater speed, Florence offers a range of public transport options. These modes of transit not only cater to local travel within Florence but also provide connections to destinations outside the city, embodying both convenience and efficiency.
Public transport in Florence
One would think that public transport in Florence would shine thanks to the scarcity of cars, but it’s actually quite limited in the city itself. Florence does not have a metro system due to its compact size and concentrated activity within a 10-block radius.
The city’s public transport is notably affordable, and travellers can economise further by opting for bulk ticket purchases, such as the 10-journey option, which is more cost-effective than single-trip tickets.
Florence's bus and tram systems are particularly noteworthy for their extensive coverage and frequency. These services offer a practical and economical way for residents and visitors to navigate the city and its outskirts.
Managed by Autolinee Toscane, the bus network in Florence extends over 100 routes, ensuring comprehensive coverage of the city. Tickets for the buses can be conveniently purchased from authorised outlets, including coffee shops, tobacconists and newsagents, as well as online or through mobile apps. Automated ticket machines are also available at key locations like the Santa Maria Novella Station and Piazza San Marco, along with the Autolinee Toscane booth at Piazza Stazione.
Passengers validate their tickets when they get on the bus; being caught with an unvalidated ticket will result in a fine. The buses, which are air-conditioned and equipped with wheelchair accessibility, provide a comfortable and accessible means of travel, especially during the warm summer months.
See the official Autolinee Toscane website for more on bus routes and fares in Florence.
Florence's tram system, featuring three active lines, offers an efficient and equally affordable alternative to buses. The tram line extends from Via Alamanni to Scandicci, integrating seamlessly with other transport modes for journeys outside the city. The tram service is frequent, and its routes can be easily tracked using digital tools like Google Maps.
Additionally, the tram system is particularly favoured for its connectivity to the Florence airport, providing a quick and cost-effective option for travellers.
For more information on Florence's tram service, see the Gest website.
Florence's integration into the national railway network, operated by Trenitalia, further enhances its connectivity. The Santa Maria Novella station serves as a vital hub for both bus and train travel, linking Florence to various national and international destinations. Additionally, the Campo di Marte station, located near the city's outskirts and the football stadium, is a crucial node for accessing broader travel routes.
For detailed information on train services and connections, visitors can consult the Trenitalia website.
Walking in Florence
La Bella Florence is a city designed for pedestrians, making it ideal for exploring on foot. The city's compact size and historical centre, largely closed to vehicular traffic, create an inviting atmosphere for both locals and tourists to walk. In Florence, the streets teem with life, offering a unique blend of historic charm and vibrant modernity. While popular areas around Il Duomo can become crowded, they provide a glimpse into the bustling heart of the city.
The city's intricate network of side streets and alleyways invites exploration and discovery, but navigating these charming yet confusing paths can be challenging, so using a reliable map app is advisable. These hidden gems often reveal unexpected treasures, from quaint shops to local eateries, adding to the allure of wandering through Florence.
While walking is a delightful way to experience La Bella, it is essential to consider the weather in Florence. The city experiences extreme weather conditions, with sweltering summers and chilly winters. During summer, staying hydrated and protecting oneself from the sun is crucial. Carrying an umbrella for shade and water for hydration can make the experience more comfortable.
Florence is generally safe, as the main streets are packed with people at almost all hours. Caution is advised when walking around less frequented areas like the San Lorenzo Markets and Santa Maria Novella Station late at night or early in the morning. In such instances, opting for a taxi is a safer alternative.
Additionally, pedestrians should exercise caution when crossing roads, as Italian driving culture can be unpredictable, with drivers often assuming the right of way even at pedestrian crossings.
- For more tips on walking in Florence and to access walking tour itineraries, visit the official tourism website of Florence.
Taxis in Florence
Unlike in many other cities, passengers cannot hail taxis directly from the street in Florence. Instead, taxis must either be called via phone or found at designated taxi stands located at key points across the city. These stands are conveniently situated at major town squares, transport hubs such as the Santa Maria Novella train station, and the airport. Recognised taxi ranks include Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Piazza San Marco, and Piazza della Signoria.
Another feature of the ride-hailing landscape in Florence is the dearth of international ride-sharing services like Uber, Bolt and Lyft. This is due to strong legislation to protect licenced taxi drivers. As a result, the only Uber service available is Uber Black, which can run much pricier than hiring a standard taxi.
When using a taxi in Florence, asking for an estimated fare before beginning the journey is prudent. There is an initial fee, and the total cost of one's ride will include metered charges based on the distance travelled. Notably, the base fare varies depending on the time of day, with higher rates applicable on Sundays, public holidays and during night hours.
For those preferring digital convenience, several taxi apps operate in Florence. AppTaxi and itTaxi are popular choices, offering features like ride estimation, selection of specific vehicle types, and direct in-app payment using credit cards or digital wallets like Satispay. SIXT Ride is another app available in Florence, providing cashless payment options and live tracking of the ride.
It's worth noting that in busy periods (e.g., during tourist season), securing a taxi via these apps might be challenging. It's advisable to have alternative transport options in mind.
- More information about taxi services in Florence, including phone numbers for taxi companies and details about taxi apps, can be found on the official websites of Taxi 4242 and Taxi 4390.
Cycling in Florence
Contrary to popular belief, Florence has been gradually embracing a cycling culture, especially within its historical centre. Although the heart of the city doesn't boast extensive bicycle lanes, its pedestrian-friendly areas make cycling a practical option for navigating around. This is particularly true as many parts of the historical centre are closed to motor traffic, offering a safer and more enjoyable cycling experience.
Beyond the city's core, Florence boasts over 90km of dedicated cycle lanes, predominantly along the picturesque banks of the Arno River. These lanes provide both leisurely rides and practical routes for daily commutes. Plans to expand this network further enhance the city's commitment to promoting cycling.
For those without bicycles, the Mille e Una Bici programme run by the Florence City Council is a work in progress that offers a convenient bike-sharing scheme. Rental stations are strategically located throughout the city, including key spots like the central railway station and Piazza Ghiberti. This scheme and other bike-sharing services like RideMovi provide an eco-friendly and flexible alternative to traditional transport modes.
Outside the urban landscape, cyclists in Florence can also indulge in scenic rides. Routes like Fiesole and Monte Morello and the Chianti Classico area offer a blend of beautiful landscapes and challenging terrains, catering to enthusiasts and leisure cyclists alike.
- For more information on cycling routes and bike-sharing services in Florence, visit the official websites of RideMovi, and the Florence City Council's cycling programme.
Driving in Florence
Driving in Florence presents unique challenges, particularly in the historic city centre. The city's architecture, originally designed for foot traffic, results in narrow and congested roads that can be daunting for drivers. Parking in the vicinity of tourist attractions is not only difficult to find but also tends to be costly.
A key consideration for drivers in Florence is the Zona a Traffico Limitato (ZTL), or Limited Traffic Zone, which encompasses much of the city centre. Access to this zone is restricted and monitored, with entry permitted only to vehicles holding a ZTL permit. Non-permitted vehicles are prohibited during certain hours on weekdays and Saturdays, making it imperative for drivers to be aware of these regulations to avoid fines. Visitors are advised to park in designated areas outside the city centre and explore Florence on foot or by public transport.
For those wishing to experience the city on two wheels, renting scooters, Vespas, or motorcycles is a popular alternative. While these vehicles offer more flexibility in navigating the city's streets, holding the appropriate licence and being mindful of the traffic rules is important. Although scooters are less restricted by the ZTL, riders must still adhere to the city's traffic regulations.
What do expats think of Florence's public transport?
"The public transport in Florence was good. There are buses, not metros like in other cities, though honestly, I walked everywhere." Find out more about transport and getting around the City of Lilies in Hope's expat interview.
►See Lifestyle in Florence for more on the Florentine way of life
►For more information about getting around the country, read Transport and Driving in Italy
Image credits: Blur – Train Arriving in Florence by Karsten Winegeart, People Walking in a Florence City Square by João Reguengos, Cyclist in Florence by Serge S, Line of Motor Scooters by Nick Belanger, all on Unsplash
Are you an expat living in Florence?
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