At 5.38am on July 16, a sleek silver tram set off on its full maiden voyage. It marked the inauguration of Florence’s new T1 Leonardo tramline, extending the service between Villa Costanza in the east to the main Careggi hospital in the north. Consisting of 26 stops, 11.5 kilometres and 1.50 euro for a single journey, Florence just got closer. But this is not the first tram network the city has seen.
A carriage service had been in service for some time when in 1873 a city commission presented plans for a circular tramline along the city’s ring roads designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, plus a web of radial lines that could be extended to outlying areas. The tender was awarded to the Bank of Brussels, with the specifications signed on June 11, 1874, although it took several years for work to get underway. The original tender was transferred to the Belgian Société Générale des Tramways (the country’s national rail company), while in 1881 the Società Anonima Les Tramways Florentins (TF), a spin-off of the SGT, merged with the Société Générale des Chemins de Fer Economiques (SGCFE), a Belgian company that operated in various European markets, such as France, Belgium and Italy. That Francophone connection continues today as Florence’s contemporary tram network is managed by GEST, a subsidiary of the French RATP Dev public transport company.
In the 1880s, Florence’s tram routes began to extend to outlying areas. Tram lines were introduced to the streets of Sesto and Castello, a steam-operated tram took passengers to and from Prato and trams became operational to Rovezzano, Bagno a Ripoli, Settignano, Fiesole and even Chianti. By 1895, 92.782 kilometres of steam-driven tram lines were in place outside Florence city centre and horse-drawn trams accounted for 27.895 kilometres: their management was split between Les Tramways Florentins (Signa, Prato and Poggio a Caiano) the Società per le Tramvie della Provincia di Firenze (Chianti and Fiesole).