One of the best things about living in Florence is its size. Especially for those living in the city center, it is large enough to be bustling with activity while still sufficiently small for all distances to be walkable. Nonetheless, on a frosty evening (or a sweltering afternoon), the walk from piazza San Marco to piazza Santo Spirito can seem interminable. Here are a few tips on using public transportation in Florence.
Editor’s note, August 2022: For an updated version of this article, see Transport in Florence: how to move around.
Buses can be a great resource once you get the hang of them. ATAF’s new City Lines, also known as bussini, are the electric mini-buses that run through the city center. This service is particularly useful if you’re looking to visit one of the beautiful towns just outside of the center such as Fiesole.
ATAF (www.ataf.net) tickets can be purchased ahead in most tabacchi shops or at newsstands. If you have an Italian cell phone, buy a ticket for 1.50 euro by sending a text message with the words ATAF to the number 4880105 or simply purchase them on board for two euro (you must have exact change). ATAF sells tickets in a variety of multiples. Unless otherwise timed, each ticket is valid for 90 minutes. You must validate your ticket on entering the vehicle. Ticket ‘controllers’ make only sporadic appearances, but don’t let this fool you—the day you forget to punch (validate) your ticket is the day they will show up.
ATAF also operates a shuttle bus, called VolaInBus (6 euro), which runs every half hour between Florence Peretola airport and Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. If you are flying into or out of Pisa airport, a number of private bus companies, such as Terravision, also provide services between Pisa airport and SMN, as does Trenitalia.
Taxis in Florence can be relatively expensive considering the short distances. They can be useful when travelling in larger groups and late at night, however. You do not hail cabs on the street in Florence: you call for service or head to one of the many designated taxi stands around the city, such as one of the most popular in piazza della Repubblica. For a taxi, call either 055/4242 or 055/4390 (note that these are not toll-free numbers). But if you find yourself calling for a taxi late on a Saturday night, be prepared to learn the theme songs by heart as you may be on hold for some time before reaching a dispatcher. If you are taking a taxi somewhere important like an airport or train station, it is a good idea to call in advance.
If you need a ride in the early morning, it is a good idea to call the night before to reserve one. In addition, Florence’s taxi services offer a number of discounts, such as those for women travelling alone at night or for trips to the hospital.