Knowing Florence’s public transportation system can be a lifesaver if you plan on exploring the city. Florence is a very walkable city but for people who have any joint or knee issues, the cobblestones can be rough. On those hot summer days, you will be thankful for the bus when out for an all day excursion. Buying tickets may seem like a no brainer but the information is not as accessible as you would think. The ATAF (transit operators) website is not very user friendly and can be difficult to navigate. The old fashion approach of just asking a bus driver only works if you speak Italian because most of them don’t speak other languages in my experience. Luckily, I have several tips which will make the highly efficient transit system easy to wrap your mind around.
First things first, where do we buy tickets and how much are they? There are several answers to both of those questions, lets begin with where to purchase them. The first place is pretty obvious; train stations have kiosk and ticket desk where you can purchase passes. All tram stops also have automated machines that sell tickets. Paid parking areas have boxes that sell both parking passes as well as transit passes. Two, not so obvious places to purchase tickets are news stands and tabacchi shops. Tabacchi shops are the more common places that you will find throughout the city and are easy to spot by the big “T” signs located in front. You can also purchase directly from bus drivers but this is not the best option. These tickets are slightly more expensive and they often run out of tickets. Your final option is a mobile ticket that you can purchase through text message to the ATAF direct. These tickets are more expensive and are not helpful if you have a foreign phone.
Tickets can be used for both the trams and buses. Prices can vary depending on the type you purchase. A single ride ticket will cost you 1,20. If you are planning on using transit multiple times, your best option is buying a carta agile. These cards come at 10, 20 and 30 euro a pop but the individual ride breakdown is much cheaper. The 10-euro card makes each ride only cost 1 euro. Since I live in Florence, I purchase the 30-euro card that provides 35 rides. It is important to know that not all purveyors sell these cards. You can find them at any of the train stations and select tabacchi shops.
Now that you bought your pass, you can get around town with ease. One great thing about the transit system here is that each ticket last for 90 minutes after it is scanned. This means that if you get on a bus at noon and validate, you can take unlimited rides on multiple busses or trams without validating again until 1:30. On each bus and tram, you will find a validation box. If you are using a card, tap the card to the front of the box to scan. If using a paper ticket, insert into the box following the arrows on the ticket that indicate which side to insert. 4 ride tickets are actually printed on a single ticket. On each end of the ticket, front and back, there are arrows indicating where to stamp per 90-minuted ride.
Unlike other transit systems, the drivers do not monitor people scanning their passes. Please do not let this tempt you to ride for free. Periodically, ATAF operators enter the bus in plain clothes and check passenger’s tickets. The fine is extremely expensive and they do not accept excuses. I’ve witnessed people in tears proclaiming that they didn’t know the rules or don’t speak the language, they still received the fines. Even if you did get away with not paying, you are essentially screwing over the residents of the city, whose taxes help pay for transit. Take advantage of the low cost transit system and explore the beautiful city of Florence in its entirety.