Getting Around Florence
Getting Around Florence
From bikes to buses, there are countless ways you can travel and explore in Florence and throughout Tuscany while studying at SACI.
With approximately 380,000 inhabitants, Florence is a relatively small city. Most of the activities that constitute the Florentine lifestyle take place in the city's historical center. SACI's two Renaissance buildings are located in this area, and the student housing options offered by SACI are also either within the center itself or on its immediate outskirts. Florence has a variety of transportation services available.
The first thing you will need to know is that the center of Florence is not a large area, and a perfectly reasonable approach is to simply go out and explore it. Finding your way around Florence is much easier than it might seem. A useful tip is to use the Duomo, the largest cathedral in Florence, as a reference point, because its dimensions allow it to be seen from most streets of the central area.
Because Florence’s center is dense and closely packed with fascinating things, you can easily get around on foot. In fact, you’ll probably want to, since it’s the best way to meet people and see the culture face-to-face. Also, a large portion of the center has now been made into a zona pedonale - a pedestrian area - where no vehicles are admitted. A good map is a useful idea at first. We provide students with one in the orientation packet. You may also want to pop into a bookstore to purchase a larger one. Useful tip – the best maps have a street index.
The one thing to remember about walking in Florence is to look for the pedestrian crosswalks (striped white lines on the pavement). Always watch out for traffic – the Italian style of driving can be quite different from that in the United States and many other countries.
Bus Service (ATAF)
Florence’s bus system spreads a huge network over the city, and buses run frequently. You can get to or near any location simply by using the bus. Especially useful are the small buses C1, C2, C3, and C4, which never leave the historical center of town, so you can use them to get just about anywhere you need, and you will never be carried too far from home! Bus stops are marked by large orange signs (FERMATA) indicating which buses stop there. Some bus lines run only during the day, but night buses (indicated on the signs in black) often take over their routes.
Bus schedules are available at the ATAF office in Via Alamanni 20r on the west side of the Santa Maria Novella train station, and open from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, Monday to Saturday (closed Sundays and holidays). Another ticket point can be found inside the train station at ticket lines 8 and 9, open 6:45 am to 8:00 pm.
To take the bus, you need to buy a ticket and validate it in one of the yellow boxes on the bus when you first get on. Please do remember to buy and stamp your ticket! If one of the ATAF inspectors catches you riding the bus without one, you’ll be required to pay a large fine. For complete information (even in English!) on routes, strikes, etc, use the web site: www.ataf.net
You can buy bus tickets at most bars, magazine stands, or shops with an ATAF sticker. There is also an ATAF ticket booth at the SMN train station that sells all types of tickets. Standard tickets are valid for 90 minutes. Once stamped, these tickets give you 90 minutes to use as much of the bus system as you wish. Alternative ticket options and combinations are also available.
If you have an Italian cell phone service (TIM, VODAFONE, WIND and 3 ITALIA), ATAF also offers a service that enables you to purchase a bus ticket by simply sending a text message from your phone. Send the word "ATAF" to 4880105 and you will receive a reply indicating that the ticket is valid for 90 minutes from the time indicated in the message. €1.80 will be deducted from your phone credit (plus the cost of the text message). The message must arrive before you board the bus. Be ready to show this message to the ticket inspector if you are asked.
It is very convenient to purchase a bus pass. If you want to obtain a pass that will enable you to ride buses at less expense throughout your stay in Florence, bring your SACI I.D., passport, and one passport-size photo of yourself to the ATAF bus company’s main location at main train station - SMN (Tel. 055 5650642). This location is open Monday through Saturday from 7 am-8 pm. You will be asked to fill in a form with the exact numbers of the buses you’ll need to ride to reach SACI from your apartment. You’ll only be allowed to use this card on those bus lines.
Because each bus has its own schedule, you can go to the ATAF booth on the northern side of the train station and pick up printed schedules for your particular bus number. Schedules are free; you should also get holiday listings. Or use the timetables search at: www.ataf.net
You can now catch two convenient trams just outside Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station. The T1 takes you to the Cascine Park and to other stops along the way as far as the Florence suburb of Scandicci. In the other direction, you can reach Careggi Hospital. The T2 goes all the way to Florence's Peretola Airport including stops in the Novoli shopping district. The tram departs approximately every 4 minutes. The costs and tickets for the tram are the same as for Florence buses. Useful tip: tickets can be bought from automated ticket machines which can be found at each tram stop (the display language can also be set to English). As when riding the bus, don’t forget to stamp your ticket once you’re on board the tram. For more information about Florence’s tram, visit www.gestramvia.it.
In Italy, taxis are quite expensive, and night time rates include an extra fee. Going in groups is one way to cut the cost.
Keep in mind that in Italy you can’t just flag down a cab as you may be used to; you must call for one via phone or go to a taxi stand (in front of the train station, in Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza San Marco, behind the Duomo, etc.). Give the address where you need to be picked up and wait for the operator to give the name of the taxi which is coming to pick you up (e.g., “Parigi 23”). The operator will also tell you how long before the taxi arrives, which usually is within three to five minutes. (Remember, in Italy you don’t have to tip the driver.) Women travelling alone in a taxi are entitled to a 10% discount between the hours of 9pm to 2am. There is also a discount of 15% for hospital destinations between the hours of 1pm-3pm and 7-9pm. Be sure that these discounts are applied when appropriate.
Calling a taxi in Florence is easy. Use the following phone numbers to reserve a taxi from any location in the city.
Learn more about living in Florence with these helpful tips from SACI alumni.