Getting there & around
Taxis (055 42 42, 055 47 98, 055 44 99, 055 43 90) can be found outside Stazione di Santa Maria Novella and at other ranks around town. The flagfall is €2.54, on top of which you pay 82c per kilometre within the city limits (€1.47 per kilometre beyond). A cross-town ride will cost around €10, depending on traffic. Women travelling alone can (and should) ask for a discount from 9pm to 2am.
Of the four so-called night-bus routes, three operate only between 9pm and 1am. The only true night bus (autobus notturno) is bus 70.
Lazzi and SITA run buses to various destinations in Tuscany. Other companies also cover parts of the region, such as CAP (055 21 46 37; www.cap autolinee.it in Italian) and COPIT (800 27 78 25; www.copitspa.it in Italian), located next to one another at Largo Fratelli Alinari 9 and 11 respectively.
Buses leave from a variety of terminals scattered about Stazione di Santa Maria Novella. Eurolines (www.eurolines.com), in conjunction with local bus companies across Europe, is the main international carrier. Eurolines’ website provides links to the sites of all the national operators. In Florence, Eurolines tickets can be bought at Lazzi(055 21 55 55; www.lazzi.it in Italian; Piazza Stazione 3), on the corner of Piazza Adua, or at the BOPA ticket agency in the train station (platform 5). Buses run several times a week from London, Paris, Barcelona and other European centres. Lazzi also has one or two daily services to various cities around the country, as far afield as the Veneto in the northeast and Sicily in the south. The same company, through its subsidiary Sena (800 93 09 60; www.sena.it), connects Siena with destinations all over Italy.
SITA (800 37 37 60; www.sita-on-line.it in Italian; Via Santa Caterina da Siena 15) is just to the west of Stazione di Santa Maria Novella and also offers a handful of long-distance services, most to southern Italy and Sicily.
Flying to Florence for most people actually means flying into Pisa’s Galileo Galilei airport, which is 80 minutes away by train. Pisa is a central Italian hub and flights arrive from many European centres. A handful of European and domestic flights serve Florence’s smaller Amerigo Vespucci airport (which, in spite of its size, handles 1.7 million passengers a year). You could also fly into Bologna and then grab a train south. For most intercontinental air travel you will have to change flights at least once, in Rome, Milan or at another European hub.
Within Europe and especially from the UK, you should check the low-budget airlines. They work on a first-come, first-serve basis: the earlier you book, the less you pay. These no-frills airlines skip extras such as in-flight meals (although you can buy snacks). From the UK, Ryanair serves Pisa and EasyJet flies to Bologna.
Within Italy, air travel tends to be expensive. In the northern cities (eg from Rome, Milan and Venice) it makes more sense to go by train, as the time saving by air is rarely that great and the economic savings by train are considerable. Alitalia and Meridiana are the main domestic airlines serving Florence, Pisa and Bologna.
Most airlines don’t have shopfront offices in Florence, so you’ll need to either go online, call the following numbers or try a travel agent.
Alitalia (AZ; 848 865 641/2/3, 055 2 78 81; Vicolo dell’Oro 1; www.alitalia.it) The national airline, with flights to Florence from various Italian and European centres.
Meridiana (IG; 199 111 333, 055 30 81 64; Lungarno Soderini 1; www.meridiana.it) Flights from Amsterdam, Barcelona, London Gatwick, Madrid, Sardinia and Sicily to Florence. Also flights to Bologna from Sardinia and Sicily.
Ryanair (FR, 0871 246 0000 in the UK, 899 678 910, 050 50 37 70 in Italy; www.ryanair.com) Flights from London Stansted, Dublin, Glasgow, Liverpool, Barcelona (Girona), Brussels (Charleroi), Eindhoven (in Holland) Frankfurt (Hahn), Hamburg and Lübeck to Pisa.
Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci airport (055 306 13 00, international flight info 055 306 17 02; www.aeroporto.firenze.it) is 5km northwest of the city centre at Via del Termine 11. The main building serves as the departures (partenze) hall, while arrivals (arrivi) is in a smaller building just to the rear of the building. In the latter you’ll find a tourist office, a lost-luggage office, car-rental outlets and an ATM. There’s a bank in the departures lounge. There is no left-luggage service at this airport.
Pisa’s Galileo Galilei airport (050 84 93 00; www.pisa-airport.com) is the main gateway for passengers bound for Florence. The long, low terminal building is divided into arrivals on the left and departures on the right. There is a tourist office in the arrivals section at the end of the hall. It handles left luggage (€6 per piece per day; 8am-8pm) and you can buy bus and train tickets too. There is a bank with an ATM roughly where the arrivals and departures sections intersect.
Bologna’s Guglielmo Marconi airport (051 647 96 15; www.bologna-airport.it) has check-in desks on both the ground and 1st floors (departure gates are on the 1st floor). You’ll find a general information desk on the ground floor, and several ATMs and bureaux de change scattered about across the two floors. There is no left-luggage service, but a lost-luggage service operates on the ground floor.
Car-rental agencies are concentrated in the Borgo Ognissanti area. You will also find some motorbike and scooter outlets. Note that helmets are compulsory on all motorised two-wheel vehicles.
Alinari Scooters and motorbikes are available from €28 (50cc) to €55 (125cc) per day. Motorbikes (500cc) cost up to €75 a day.
Avis (055 21 36 29; www.avis.com; Borgo Ognissanti 128/r)
Europcar (055 29 04 37; www.europ car.it; Borgo Ognissanti 53/r)
Florence by Bike (055 48 89 92; www.florencebybike.it; Via San Zanobi 91/r & Via San Zanobi 120-122/r) Another outlet for rental scooters and motorbikes. Prices for a day’s rental are €31 (50cc), €65 (125cc) and €95 (650cc).
HappyRent (055 239 96 96; www.happyrent.com; Borgo Ognissanti 153/r)
Hertz (055 239 82 05; www.hertz.it; Via Maso Finiguerra 33/r)
Solo Giallo(055 28 39 14; www.sologiallo.it; Borgo Ognissanti 96) These dinky, electrically powered, canary-yellow buggies (two to four people; €18 per hour, €72 per day, €110 per weekend) are allowed anywhere in the centre and have a range of about 100km. More than 100 charging points (free) are scattered around Florence. They are based inside Garage Europa.
Thrifty (055 28 71 61; www.thrifty.it; Borgo Ognissanti 134/r)
Train is the most convenient overland option for reaching Florence from other Italian cities or abroad. For information on travelling from the UK, contact the Rail Europe Travel Centre (08708 38 20 08; www.rail europe.co.uk; 178 Piccadilly, London W1V 0BA). For travel within Italy, you can get information at your nearest train station or travel agent. Alternatively, contact Trenitalia (892021; www.trenitalia.it).
A wide variety of trains run on the Italian rail network. They start with all-stops locali, and regionali – both slow local trains. Interregionali cover greater distances and don’t necessarily stop at every station.
Intercity (IC) trains are fast services that operate between major cities. Eurocity (EC) trains are the international version. High-speed pendolini and other top-of-the-range services, which on high-speed track can zip along at more than 300km/h, are collectively known as Eurostar Italia (ES).
Apart from the standard division between 1st and 2nd class (prima classe and seconda classe; generally locali and regionali have 2nd-class seats only) you have to pay a supplement for taking a fast train (IC and up). You can pay the supplement separately from the ticket, so, if you have a 2nd-class return ticket from Florence to Milan, you might decide to avoid the supplement one way and take a slower train, but pay it on the way back to speed things up. You need to pay the supplement before boarding the train. If you know exactly which train you want, the supplement will be included in your ticket.
You can buy rail tickets (for major destinations on fast trains, at least) at the station (often crowded) and from most travel agents. If you choose to buy them at the station, there are automatic machines that accept credit cards and cash. You can also buy tickets on Trenitalia’s website (www.trenitalia.it) or look for cheaper tickets at www.trenok.com. You can also book over the phone (892021). On the same number you can also book for ticketless travel on ES and IC trains. You must book a seat on all Eurostar Italia trains. On other services this is optional and generally unnecessary.
Validate your ticket in the orange machines on station platforms. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in embarrassment and a hefty on-the-spot fine when the ticket inspector comes around.
Florence is an important railway hub, and from the city’s main train station, Stazione di Santa Maria Novella (Firenze SMN for short), you can get direct trains heading in most directions. Its line connects with Milan, Bologna, Venice and Rome. Trains also fan out to various parts of Tuscany, although buses can be more convenient for exploring the region.
The rail travel information office (7am-9pm), at the west end of the main vestibule has currency exchange bureaus, a bank (with ATM), phones and left luggage (deposito; €3.80 per item for first 5 hrs, then €0.60 per hr up until 12 hrs, & thereafter €0.20 per hr for total maximum of 5 days; 6am-midnight).
By 2009 a new station designed by Sir Norman Foster should be in operation for the high-speed train that will connect Naples with Turin, via Rome, Florence, Bologna and Milan. Located in the Belfiore area, it will be linked by tram to Stazione di Santa Maria Novella. The high-speed trains (Treni ad Alta Velocità, or TAV) will pass along 7km of underground track beneath the city.
Bus tickets should be bought at tobacconists or automated vending machines at major bus stops before you get on the bus, and must be validated in the machine as you enter. You can buy tickets and pick up a useful routes brochure at the ATAF information office on Largo Fratelli Alinari, just outside the southeast exit of Stazione di Santa Maria Novella.
Tickets cost €1 for one hour and €1.80 for three hours. A 24-hour ticket costs €4.50 and a four-ticket set (biglietto multiplo) costs €3.90 (each ride valid for an hour). You are supposed to stamp these in the machine when you get on your first bus. There are tickets for any number of days up to one week (€16). If you are hanging around Florence longer, you might want to invest in a monthly ticket (mensile) at €31 (€20.70 for students).
A new chip-card ticket, the Carta Agile (€10/20 for 12/25 rides, each valid for an hour) is a further alternative.
The fine for being caught without a ticket on public transport is €40 – in addition to the price of the ticket.
Cycling is a good way to get around central Florence. It’s not mandatory to wear a helmet, and many locals don’t bother, but most outlets can provide one. The city runs a public bike-hire service, known as Mille e Una Bici (‘A Thousand and One Bikes’, which is something of an overstatement) with bikes available at eight points around the city, including the main one just in front of the train station (7.30am-7pm Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm Sun, May-Sep). They cost up to €8 a day for nonresidents. Hours vary from one spot to the next, but many hire points do not operate on weekends. Other more regular rental options (which provide locks and, if you ask, helmets) :
Alinari (055 28 05 00; www.alinarirental.com; Via Guelfa 85/r; road bikes per hr/5hr/day/week €2.50/7/12/45; mountain bikes per hr/5hr/day/week €3/13/18/80; daily Mar-Oct, Mon-Sat Nov-Feb)
Florence by Bike (055 48 89 92; www.florencebybike.it; Via San Zanobi 91/r and Via San Zanobi 120-122/r; standard bicycles per day €13, mountain bikes per day €19, scooters per day from €31; 9am-1pm & 3.30-7.30pm Mon-Sat Nov-Feb; 9am-7.30pm Mon-Sun Mar-Oct)