Public transport in Italy is a true cultural experience on par with any other - though that’s not to say an entirely pleasurable one. It is fair to say however, that the further north one travels, the better things get, and though Florence is a densely populated city, it’s also surprisingly small. It’s possible to walk from the main train station, Santa Maria Novella, down to the Ponte Vecchio which spans the River Arno, in under half an hour. For this reason, our number one tip for transport essentials in Florence is: Just walk!
Due to its modest size and the fact that all the touristic places of interest in Florence are in one concentrated area, there is no metro system. This is also probably down to the fact that the city sits upon over 2000 years of buried ruins, and as anyone who’s been to Rome knows, this means that underground development and archaeological excavation are two industries that are forever bonded in a matrimonial battlefield. Progress is invariably halted by new discoveries of ancient artefacts, and while such discoveries would be regarded as precious and invaluable in other countries, well, just don’t mention them in the same sentence as the state of public transport.
The city is served by a network of bus routes which also serve the surrounding areas. The local transport authority is called the Azienda Trasporti dell'Area Fiorentina or ATAF for short and you can find out more abut specific routes on our Gettng Around page.
Now, here’s a piece of useful information that will both astonish you and save you much frustration on your arrival: In Italy, you do not buy bus tickets on the bus, you buy them in advance from tobacco stores. Please do not ask us why. Tickets, at time of writing, cost €1 for a 60-minute journey anywhere in the city. You get on the bus at the front or back door and stamp your ticket in a small machine. There’s no need for any kind of interaction with the driver except occasionally to ask where you are or where to get off.
You can also buy tickets that last until midnight - for €4 at the time of writing. On your travels you may frequently see people getting on and off the bus without stamping a ticket. This could be because they have a daily or monthly pass, and therefore do not need to stamp it for every journey, or it could be that they simply don’t feel like paying for this particular journey. Inspectors are rare, but if you do happen to get caught without a valid ticket, do not pay a fine on the spot - it will go straight into the pocket of the lucky inspector! Remain unfazed by their threats of locking you in a cell or being forced to pay double at a later date, simply stay calm and insist you don’t have any cash on you. A conscientious tourist can always choose to pay the fine by post or in person at the office.
Finally, a sober note of advice for Brits and Americans: Only take taxis in Italy if you have absolutely no choice and always badger the driver for an approximation of the price before you set off. Never pay more than what it says on the meter, regardless of the excuses offered, and always carry a map so that you can track your journey.