Getting around Florence

Public transport

The best way to get around Florence is to walk as the city centre is so compact. However, there is a comprehensive bus network run by Azienda Trasporti Area Fiorentina (ATAF) (tel: 800 424 500; www.ataf.net) from around 0600-2325, though not on every route. Tickets are valid for 70 minutes, allowing the holder to change buses or make a return journey within the hour. Tickets are available for purchase at newsagents, most coffee bars at the Sala Clienti Ataf in Piazza Stazione and at automatic ticket dispensers. They are also sometimes sold on board the bus, but at a marked-up price.

Travellers must validate their tickets by punching them in the machine on board the bus. A number of bus passes are available, including a 24-hour pass and a three-day pass. These are also available at newsagents, coffee bars and automatic ticket dispensers.

Taxis

Taxis can be hailed on the streets, although they rarely stop. It is better for tourists to head for local taxi ranks (located outside the train station and at most tourist destinations) or telephone for one in advance. Taxis are operated by Radio-Taxi (tel: (055) 4242 or 4390 or 4499 or 4798). There are additional supplements charged for luggage (maximum four pieces), calling a taxi, night-time travel or travelling on a Sunday. A tip of 10-15% of the fare is customary.

Driving

Due to its compact size and severe traffic restrictions in the historical centre, there is little point in driving to Florence. Visitors staying in luxury hotels however are allowed to drive their car in but only for the purposes of parking.

For visitors making a day trip to Florence by car, you can park in the areas delineated by blue lines, but you'll need to pay. Watch out for scams by fake parking attendants. Sightseers determined to spare their pins but not their pennies could try the underground car park at Santa Maria Novella; check the Firenze Parcheggi (tel: (055) 5030 2209; www.firenzeparcheggi.it; in Italian) site for other car parks. Otherwise, visitors should park at Parterre, near the Piazza della Calza, or Oltrana near Porta Romana.

Car hire

Several major car hire companies have offices in the city, including Avis, (tel: (055) 3437034; www.avisautonoleggio.it), Hertz, (tel: (055) 239 8205; www.hertz.it), and Italy by Car, (tel: (055) 287 161; www.italybycar.it).

In order to hire a car, drivers must be at least 23 years old, depending on company policy. All drivers without an EU licence must carry an International Driving Permit. Despite the popularity of motoring holidays, car hire in Italy is expensive. Basic insurance is usually included in the price with further insurance an optional extra, although the terms of this should always be checked.

Bicycle hire

To blend in with the cruising Romeos, visitors can hire a scooter or moped from Alinari, (tel: (055) 280 500; www.alinarirental.com). The minimum age for renting a scooter or motorbike is 18 years. The company also has mountain bikes for hire.

There is also a Bici e Baci (tel: (055) 783 882; www.muoversiafirenze.it) bicycle rental scheme run by the local council. Bikes can be hired at various points in the city centre, including Santa Maria Novella train station. Hire times range from one hour to a full day.

Edited by Tina Banerjee
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