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Florence is a small and very walkable city, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never need a break from treading the cobblestone streets. Thus, visitors to Florence will benefit from understanding the city’s bus network.
Here’s a warning: it’s not easy, but it can be done. It’s always tempting to take the hop-on hop-off tourist buses, but if you don’t feel like shelling out €20, you should learn to travel like the locals.
The bus lines in Florence are pretty complicated, and they often change due to roadwork. The easiest thing to do is to pick up a bus map or ask the driver where the bus goes. However, it’s always best to plan out a bus trip beforehand so as not to get lost, as most buses continue outside of the city center. Route information can be found on the Florence bus Web site.
To catch a ride with the bus, you must first flag it down, as the driver only stops upon request. To get off at your stop, press the buttons on the railings or against the wall.
Tickets: Where (and why) to buy
Tickets cost €1.20 and are valid for 90 minutes. If you’re planning on taking the bus often, it’s more convenient to buy a Carta Agile for €10. The Carta Agile is an electronic ticket good for 12 journeys. You can buy one at any “tabaccheria” (tobacco store), which is marked by a large “T” over the door. In a pinch, you can also buy a ticket from the bus driver at the higher price of €2.
In Florence, bus tickets work on the honor system: there is a machine inside where you either time-stamp your ticket or swipe your Carta Agile over the sensor to validate it.
It is all too easy to ride without a ticket, but I would greatly advise against this. Tickets are being controlled more often and the ticket controllers don’t fall for the dumb/cute foreigner bit. You will leave with a minimum €50 fine, paid on site.
If you’re touring central Florence and can’t stand to walk one more bit, there are small electric buses that service the city center on weekdays. The buses A, B, C, and D stop in main tourist areas such as Piazza San Marco, Santa Croce, Piazza Repubblica, and the Ponte Vecchio.
If the weather is nice, try taking Bus 17 from San Marco or the train station out to the Cascine, the Central Park of Florence. You’ll find long green lawns, tree-lined promenades, and plenty of kids playing soccer. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and lovely views of the river.
A few main attractions in Florence aren’t easily reachable on foot. Among these are the Piazzale Michelangelo, a large square offering lovely, panoramic views of the city, and the gorgeous church of San Miniato just up the hill. To get there you can take either the 12 or 13 bus from the Santa Maria Novella train station. The trip takes about 30 minutes, but the views are well worth it.
And don’t forget the hilltop town of Fiesole which you can reach by taking Bus 7 to its final stop. (See our earlier post about day trips to Fiesole.)