Transportation around Florence is not all that necessary since everything is within a 15 minute walk, but occasionally it’s nice to leave the inner city center and experience the surrounding cities.
My first attempt at riding the city bus here in Florence: Called ATAF, each ticket only costs €1.20 and can take you as far as half an hour outside of the city. Being the adventurous tourists we are, Lauren (one of my roommates) and I bought two tickets with only an idea of where we wanted to end up. I quickly found out we should have researched how to use the bus system before arriving at one of the pick up locations. The train station area was chaotic and the ATAF bus drivers we ran across were not friendly. Luckily the tourist information booth was able to give us a map and answer all of our questions.
What I learned:
Research which bus lines will travel to the destination of interest before leaving for the bus pick up.
Purchase two bus tickets at any magazine stand, tobacco shop, or any store with “ATAF” stickers on the windows. Bus ticket to where? Nowhere, just a bus ticket… they don’t care where anyone is trying to get to. The tickets are cheaper than what the bus driver will charge, and the locals will appreciate it if the bus does not get held up by tourists trying to pay at the door.
When the bus arrives, act quickly and collectively. The locals waste no time getting on and off the bus and the bus drivers will not wait.
Use the front and back doors to enter the bus, and the middle doors to exit.
A ticket must be validated once on the bus. There is a machine that prints the time and date when a ticket is inserted. This is necessary if authorities check passengers for tickets; if one has a ticket but it’s not validated, he or she may be subject to a fine (often around 45-50 euro).
Lastly, tickets are only valid for 90 minutes. This means if taking a trip to anywhere that will last longer than this time frame, buy two tickets – one for the way there and one for the way back. It is possible to get off and onto different buses in the 90 minutes.
The Visit Florence website is extremely helpful for information regarding the bus system and everything else related to visiting and getting around Florence.
Another easy way to get around Europe is by train. Typically more expensive than a city or coach bus, traveling by train will save a lot of time. At first I was intimidated by the train station, but it’s really very simple and is now my favorite way to travel from place to place.
Here’s how it works: First, purchase the train ticket online or at the station from the ticket windows or the machines. Arrive 10-20 minutes early at the train station so there are no complications. A screen displays all of the trains destinations with the time of arrival and which platform to find it at. In the Florence train station, the platforms are clearly labeled and set up in numerical order, which makes finding the correct platform very simple. Attendants stand at the front of the train checking tickets before getting on, and again once the train has departed the station.