You don't need to take a traditional tour bus to get to Sienna, San Gimignano, or other neighboring cities. It is so easy and affordable to take the public bus. The buses are nice and comfortable and run on a fairly regular schedule. There are direct buses btw Florence and Sienna. And regular buses usually to San G only most of the time you need to stop to switch in Poggibonsi.
You could even do both of these cities in one day (if you just want a taste of each). I took the bus to Sienna first (about an hour and 15m ride for about 6 euros) and then after exploring for a while decided to check for buses to San Gimignano. There were quite a few and I was able to get another ticket (about 5 euros) from Sienna to San G. A little over an hour later I was there. The ride is pretty and bus really convenient. The only thing is on the way back to Florence (from San G) I needed to switch in Poggibonsi. I timed it perfectly so the wait was minimal but if you don't check the schedules carefully you could be waiting for a bit. The other thing when leaving San G the bus stop is a not clearly labeled. There are two waiting spots and at first I was a bit confused. Luckily, enough people speak English that I was able to get to the right one. Just leave yourself a little extra time just in case!
Check out my travel pages for more info and pics of San G and Sienna.
If you like to go to Siena or San Gimignano you have to take a bus at the SITA bus station. This is situated in via Santa Caterina da Siena; it is around 100 meters from Santa Maria Novella train station.
There are various buses to Siena every day. The journey should takes one hour to one hour and half to get there. Ask for a "linea RAPIDA" bus. These buses are faster than the ordinary ones.
As far as I know there aren' t any direct buses to San Gimignano. I had to take a bus to Poggibonsi. From there I took another bus to San Gimignano.
Most of the main sights in the city are within walking distance of each other, but you may be tired of walking or you have to go somewhere far from the city center; for instance to Piazzale Michelangelo.
Urban transportation in Florence is run by ATAF (Azienda Trasporti Area Fiorentina). It provides a network of bus lines that serves Florence and surroundings. ATAF buses run around the city from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m..
Tickets and bus passes are sold at tobacconists, bars and at many newstands. You can buy your ticket on the bus too, but you'll have to pay a bit more than the ordinary price.
Don' t forget to validate your ticket in a box inside the bus to avoid a steep fine.
You can easily walk all around Florence. For an inexpensive city tour take bus number 12 or 13. Each makes an hour long circuit through the city. It's a good way to familiarize yourself with the city.
You can also take the orange electric buses (routes A, B, C, or D) which are able to navigate Florence's narrow streets.
You must buy your tickets before boarding. You can buy them from newstands, tobacconists, or the bus termini. You can buy a daily pass or a ticket for four trips, which works out a little cheaper than single tickets.
More often than not the bus driver will only open the center doors if there is no one getting on the bus. That means that if you are getting off you must descend from the center. So if you are not there ready and waiting you may well miss your stop if the bus is crowded. When you are trying to go through the crowd to get to the door, use the word "permesso" otherwise, they may not let you through. In fact one woman got mad at me because I used the words "excuse me". She actually yelled at me for not saying permesso. I also missed my stop.
Terravision run coaches from Pisa airport to S Novella station (their timetables seem to tie in with Ryanair flights). It is best to book tickets online, because then you get priority in boarding (tickets are also on sale in the airport). It is an efficient service, costing 10 euro one-way (April 2011) and takes around 70 minutes. For an extra thrill, you can sit at the front and have a driver's eye view of negotiating Italian traffic. Although we were dropped outside Florence Santa Maria Novella station the return coach was parked some distance away. This meant a walk of about 5 minutes dragging cases etc; not so convenient, I'm afraid.
My second experience with Pisa Terravision was not good. The bus didn't turn up on time, and we were left standing around (damp and chilly) for 45 minutes. No apology or explanation was offered by the somewhat harassed young ticket-collector who was waiting with us. I decided to get the train for my flight back; not sure if I'd risk the bus to the airport again (from the airport is ok, as long as you are happy with potential delays). I had no reply to my complaint emails either.
So for the 2011 trip I used the train. It is cheaper at 5.80 euro one-way..and if you catch the direct airport train the trip only takes an hour. http://www.trenitalia.com/homepage_en.html
The city centre has some narrow streets, and in my opinion it's best to visit the town on foot. But there are public transportations going everywhere all the time, so it's very easy to use them. I especially liked the small buses that cover the whole medieval centre.
Buy a bus ticket a tobacco store anywhere in the city. You can purchase tickets by the hour or for a few days. For longer, go to the train station and buy a month-long pass.
Busses ride all through the city. One of y friends got all mixed up and lost and the driver was very nice helping her find her way home. Just stay away during rush-hour times or you'll never be able to push through the crowd to get off.
Our bus tour around Italy started in Mestre (continental part of Venice), continued in Verona.
Florence was the third Italian attraction.
We got to Florence by bus from Verona. The total distance is about 240 km (4 hours in the way). We started by E45, continued E35 to Bolonia (140 km, 2 hours and a half), and E35 (100 km, 1 hour and a half) to Florence.
I occupied a seat at the window and was taking a video.
You can watch my 1 min 33 sec Video From Verona to Florence out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
I've taken both cabs and buses to get between the airport and Florence city center. Cabs are of course the most convenient option but will cost btw 20 and 30 Euros. The bus on the other hand was also surprisingly easy and cost only 4 Euros. It goes from the airport to the Florence train station (which is in the center of the city). The only drawback is if your hotel is far from the train station you may need to catch a cab from there. Trucking luggage down some of the city streets (especially the narrow cobblestone ones) could be difficult.
In addition to the bus service Florence has a new tram line, aptly named line T1. The service started in 2010 and runs between the central station of Santa Maria Novella and the satellite town of Scandicci.
The ticket is the same as for the bus, that is you have to buy it in advance at the kiosk and then stamp it when getting on the bus. The ticket lasts one hour.
The wagons are very convenient and modern, of course and rides are frequent.
While Scandicci is hardly considered a tourist destination, the T1 can be useful for the tourist because it has one stop at the beginning of the Cascine, the vast green area on the west side of Florence.
So I suggest you: take the tram until the Cascine and then go west following the Arno River. After 500 meters there is also a swimming pool (Le pavoniere) where you can have a bath (entrance fee about 8 euros, something more on the w/e) or hire a bike and continue exploring the park by bike.
The site is open also after the sunset for dining and listening to music.
The administration is planning to build two more tram lines in the near future (hopefully) to relieve a bit the problem of the private cars traffic.
Although I prefer to walk everywhere around Florence, occasionally I need to get on a bus. To my chagrin, I have found many of the bus drivers to be rather rude and inconsiderate. Quite often I have had to walk to the opposite part of the bus, with a small child in one arm and a stroller in the other, to find an open door (why is it they don't open all three doors, beats me!)... Quite a few times the doors had tried to slam shut on me (the drivers always seem very impatient to get moving)... Also, a most irrational rule, safety-wise, is that you have to fold your baby stroller (imagine holding an often very fidgety or very fussy child in one arm and stroller in the other, and walking along the bus to get your ticket stamped, or to get to the one open door to get off!). Never count on the bus driver to hault for you or open the just-closed door for you; in fact, all too often people miss their bus because they were not quick or pushy enough to get on right after the crowds had gotten off...
The principal public transportation netwrok within the city is run by the ATAF and Li-nea bus company, with tickets available at local tobacconists, bars and newspaper stalls.
Trenitalia runs trains between the railway stations within the city, and to other destinations around Italy and Europe. The central station, Santa Maria Novella Station, is located about 500 metres NW of Piazza del Duomo.
The centre of the city is closed to through-traffic, although buses, taxis and residents with appropriate permits are allowed in. Within the city walls places can easily be reached by foot
One of the easiest ways to get from the airport to downtown Florence is to take the SITA shuttle. As you walk out of the airport terminal, turn right and head towards the line of taxis. Walk through the taxis and cross the street to the bus stop marked “Shuttle Downtown.” The blue SITA bus runs every half hour from the airport direct to the central train station (Santa Maria Novella) and drops you off in front of it. Buy your ticket (€5) from the driver – pay in cash.
I had done the research on this before heading to Florence and everything (books, website, etc.) told me that I would need to purchase the ticket in the terminal from a machine. But this was not the case – the driver sold the tickets. I looked all over the terminal and could not find the machine mentioned so I finally went to the bus and asked the driver, who sold me and everyone else the ticket.
You can use this same shuttle in reverse to get from the train station back to the airport as you are leaving Florence. It took about 15 minutes to make the drive. At the train station, wait in the same place where the bus originally dropped you off – on the side of the building near the overhang and the small bike parking and taxis waiting. The blue bus will come past the front of the station, passing all the city buses, and make the loop to the bus stop, which is marked by a sign that says “Vola in Bus” and has SITA in the top right corner. (Note: there are other blue buses – this one will say SITA on the side).
Our bus back the airport was about 10 minutes late (we waited 40 minutes) but once it arrived we learned why – the bus was packed full of people and they all had luggage, which is loaded under the bus, so it took longer to load than expected. The driver can help you load your luggage under the bus if you need help.
This was definitely the easiest way to go from the airport to the city center and back again.
Florence is a great walking city, but sometimes you need a little help. You can catch the orange ATAF buses for trips around the city that are just too long to walk (or if the weather is really atrocious!). They are easy to use – simply purchase your ticket from one of the newspaper vendors around town (you can purchase tickets on board but they are more expensive). Currently the rates are €1.20 for 90 minutes for a regular ticket, although they sell multiple day tickets as well.
As you enter the bus (preferably through the front or back doors – save the middle door for exiting passengers), be sure to validate your ticket in one of the little yellow machines. If you are caught without a validated ticket, you will be fined – not knowing the rules is not a valid excuse to avoid the fine!
And - keep your valuables close and in front of you. These buses can get crowded and pickpockets are around.