Everything about Florence is different from my home Atlanta, Georgia. After traveling to a few other Italian cities like Rome, Venice, Siena, Pisa, Pitigliano, Cinque Terre, and few other towns, I have come to the conclusion that Florence is definitely my favorite. I am probably biased since I have spent the most time here because I have had the opportunity to not just explore and see the city but to live here. The means of commuting, shopping, and apartment living all add a unique aspect to the daily lifestyle. I am so intrigued with the unique day to day routines and the culture of living. This week I will talk about the different ways to get around the city and share a little behind of scenes of commuting in Florence as a local!
I have been driving since I was 15, the age you can get a permit in Georgia, because it’s basically the only way to get around.
When I came to Florence, I knew that I would be walking the majority of my travels; however, I underestimated the amount of walking I would be doing. I walk everywhere! I thought that maybe there would be a metro or bus that would assist me on my journeys, and while there is a bus, it is not worth the confusion and time as everything I do is within few miles of each other.
Florence is a fairly small city, so it doesn’t always appear that you are walking that much until blisters appear on your feat and the soles of your shoes are worn down! At this point, I have adjusted to the amount of walking and find it fun to check my mileage every once in awhile.
In September my daily walking average was 5.2 miles. The most I walked in Florence within a day was 10.4 miles, and the most I walked in a day in Italy was 12 miles in Rome.
To some that number may be small but to a girl from the south who drove everyday, that number is big!
Do you have an iphone? You can check your average mileage on the health app. This is how I keep track. Go to the app with the small pink heart in a white box, click on activity, and then you can see both step information and mileage. I am sure there are other apps you can download, and you may even have one of those snazzy fitbits! Either way, I suggest checking out how much you walk while in Florence because it may be more than you realize!
My only advice about walking in Florence is to have an idea of where you're going so you don’t get lost and wear the correct shoes for the journey! If you’re walking to Piazzale Michelangelo, I suggest you wear comfortable shoes.
Very few people in Florence own cars because of the small streets and close proximity of the city. The most fascinating thing about driving in Florence is that the laws and rules of the road are very loose. Cars always have the right away and somehow they manage to fit down the smallest of pathways. I drove in a taxi once and the walls were less than inch away from the car on the both sides. I have also witnessed a car trying to fit into a parking garage and it got stuck. Another common thing to witness are bikers running into the back of cars or almost getting run over. Cars will go in both directions on roads and drive in the middle of pedestrian market areas. It can be scary to walk around in Florence with limited driving rules so I can only imagine the stress of the driver. I am not sure why the driving rules are not enforced nor do I understand why anyone would want a car here.
To those driving to Florence, park outside of the city and walk to the city center. It will take three times as long to navigate the city in a car and find parking.
Probably the most fun way to get around Florence is by moped! They are everywhere. Mopeds line the streets. My favorite photos are the men in suits riding on their mopeds. It’s an iconic part of europe and I understand why they are so common after observing the driving here!
You can take a moped tour around Florence with a few companies like Alina Rental and Eco Rent. I am unsure whether I would do this because it seems like a funny touristy thing to do, but I kind of want to be “that” person. You know.. so I can say I truly immersed myself in the culture.
Biking is another very common way to get around the city for a local. If I were going to be in Florence for longer than a few months, I would definitely invest in a bike because it would make my commutes much faster; however, it might not make them easier. Bikers, like drivers here, do not follow the rules. They bike where ever they want to which can cause problems like running into cars or tourists. I have almost been run over by a bike about 10 times. They come out of nowhere and seem to always be headed right where I am walking.
An issue I have heard from a few locals is that bikes seem to get stolen quite easily here. One lady in my office told me she went through 5 bikes in a short amount of time because they were all stolen. She eventually gave up her hopes of riding her bike and she now walks wherever she needs to go.
I have not ridden a bike around Florence, but I did get the chance to bike around Chianti. It was by far my favorite thing I have done here. The experience was very refreshing. I went with Tuscany by Bike and the trip included an amazing lunch, wine tasting, olive oil tasting, a tour of a winery, and a 13 miles bike tour. If you want to experience tuscany by bike, but don’t want to deal with the craziness of Florence, I recommend this to everyone.
If you’re brave enough, there is an option is to rent a bike in Florence for a few hours or a day. The prices are reasonable usually around 4 euros an hour or 12 euros a day.
There is a bus system in Florence, but from my understand and observations the people who use the bus are usually those that live outside the city center and work in the city center. My only experience with the bus was a failed attempt. I was with my class up near Piazzale Michelangelo and we were going to take the bus down to the duomo instead of walking. We saw the bus coming down the street, the driver saw us, slowed down slightly, and didn’t stop for us!
The bus is a cheap option and somewhat reliable on their projected times, so maybe you can give it a try and tell me about your experience.
Another form of transportation are taxis. The taxi system here is very different than in the states. Waving down a taxi like you would in New York is not a thing here. There are specific locations where taxis’ pick up people. You can find a list of these spots online. What happens when you go to a taxi location and there are no taxis? You can call a taxi service. The numbers are: 055.4242 / 055.4390 / 055.4798 / 055.4499. You can call them to pick you up at a taxi location or an alternative location, however, if you pick the second option they may charge you for the time it takes them to get to wherever you are.
Awesome Fact: Visit Florence says that you can get a 10% discount off the fare if you travel alone between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. The discount isn't automatic, so ASK FOR IT!
While walking is my mode of transportation within the city of Florence, I take the train to other italian cities. This option is preferable over a bus in my opinion due to the surprising comfort and speed of the trains. Trenitalia seems to be cheaper compared to Italotreno, and the Santa Maria Novella train station may seem overwhelming but it is easy to navigate. There are many Florentine families who don’t have a car and only use the trains to travel!