Florence is one of the few Italian cities where the train station is located in the city center. The train station is called Santa Maria Novella (SMN) and was named after the famous Florentine church, which is located opposite the station. Station is spacious, has eight platforms which are used for international, intercity and regional transport within Tuscany (platforms 7 and 8).
Within the station there are placed machines to buy tickets, and use is very simple because there are instructions in multiple languages. Once you buy a ticket, which has an limited duration, it must be verified in a small slot machine, before entering the train. If you check my pictures everything you need to do is well shown.
The journey from Pisa to Florence by train is very short and quite comfortable.Trenitalia is a dependable service and the chair cars are very comfortable.You may book your tickets right before your journey at the railway station because there are several trains each day and you can select an hour convenient to you.
We boarded our first Italian train in Rome a week to the day after we had arrived in Europe. We had purchased our tickets ahead of time and printed them out on our printer at home. I also had a spare copy of the email from trenitalia on my iPad. Just to be sure I went to the ticket window and asked if I needed to punch the paper with our ticket info and bar code on the bottom on the yellow machines and was told it was unnecessary.
We boarded our train and it left only 4 minutes late. A while later the ticket collector came through, scanned our tickets and the quick (just a bit over 2 hour) journey went very smoothly. We arrived at Stazione Santa Maria Novella about 5 minutes behind schedule. Not bad.
As we exited the platform area we learned some new Italian words - "Voi Siete Qui" - You Are Here from the McDonalds Welcomes You To Florence sign in the train station. As Sue looked at a couple of the station shops I took a picture of a young man wearing a Chicago Blackhawks hat, followed by a shoe store that had Caterpillar Tractor shoes (what!! am I back home in Illinois)? We then exited the train station and looked at the local map outside the station to figure out where our bed and breakfast was located.
Understanding the Billboard Train Times in the station.
The photo shows the train number, the time it leaves and where it makes stops. They are all listed by the 24 hour clock time.
Listed in the photo is the medium priced with some stops, the cheaper one that takes longer and then the fast train that costs more. Notice they are in different colors.
The track is called binario and is listed on the right side in a blue circle. Be sure and check the televsion monitors overhead in the station to see if your train might be changed to another binario.
Also, at the bottom of the listing you might find dates that the train does not run, or changes to another binario.
You can also see the time that the train is supposed to arrive at each new station, right after the name of the stop.
I tried to change my ticket reservation from 3pm to an earlier one at Firenze SMN so to deal with the tax refund stuff and this rude, unhelpful and uninformative station staff talked to me in Italian when I stated I don't understand the language and he was so rude and sarcastically asked me if I wanted to go for the 1am train when I asked him to tell me what time the trains will be available between 1 to 2. Noting that I was copying his staff number, he even attacked and torn off my paper and threatened me that he would cancel my reservation (No reservation means No ride or be fined)
The worst thing was I tried to file a complaint at the station and the train staff there showed no interest in dealing with it and told me 'No complain, no complain!'
So, I tried to file a written complaint at their formal website, and again, it was hopeless because there is a technical error in inputting the date in the calendar for the complaint form and so the complaint can never be submitted. The most ridiculous thing is the complaint form is only available in Italian version.
I guess this is the main reason why Italians can be so rude.
If you want to have a pleasant journey, unlike mine, jot down his staff no. and stay away from one of these rude customer service officers if you ever have to come to this station.
Cannot actually state if the train system is efficient or covers all Italy, but can say that the train stations we used were well laid out, the train compartments were clean and the seats comfortable. And most important, the several times we used the trains, they were on schedule.
Also the train station we used near Poggio alla Croce, a small village station, had one of the most interesting bathrooms (loo, WC, head, whatever you want to call it) I have ever seen. It is a totally enclosed system and at a given signal the outside door closes, sealing it off (you can see the rubber seal around the door frame) and then the entire interior is sprayed down and totally cleaned. The entire interior being either ceramic tiles or stainless steel.....
Now THAT is clean ^O^
Some trains going through Firenze don't stop at the main station Firenze Santa Maria Novella [Firenze S.M.N.], but rather at Firenze Campo di Marte.
For example, many overnight trains to/from places like Sicily, Vienna, Munich, Nice, Geneva, Zurich, and Paris stop at Firenze Campo di Marte instead of Firenze S.M.N..
Also, some fast day trains to/from Roma, Venezia, Trieste, Milano, Genova, and other places to/from Firenze stop at Firenze Campo di Marte instead of Firenze S.M.N.
Don't let this discourage you from taking one of these trains to/from Firenze.
Trains go between Firenze S.M.N. and Firenze Campo di Marte about every 15 minutes, even early in the morning or late in the evening. And, the journey takes only about 8 minutes.
Also, bus#12 stops in front of the Firenze Campo di Marte station and goes to Firenze S.M.N.
Upper right corner of map shows Bus#12 route at Firenze Campo di Marte
[tip created 1/07, modified 1/09]
You have several transport choices if you land at Pisa, including the Terravision bus (which is fine).
But taking the train is very easy indeed, and cheaper than Terravision at 5.80 euro one-way.
A few trains go direct from Pisa airport to Florence (the easiest option) but in most cases you will have to change at Pisa Centrale. The ride from Pisa Aeroporto to Pisa Centrale takes about 5 minutes, so don't get too comfortable!
http://www.trenitalia.com/homepage_en.html will give you train times, details and fares in English. No need to buy tickets in advance; there is a ticket office in the terminal building (to the right of Arrivals and easy-to-use ticket machines with English language options at Pisa Centrale station.
If there is no convenient train from the airport you can take a 10-minute bus ride on the LAM Rossa bus, which will drop you at Pisa Centrale station. Buses run roughly every 15 minutes. Tickets can be obtained from the machine at the airport bus stop (directly in front of Arrivals..see photo) but you can also buy them from the bus driver for 1.5 euro(April 2011).
Or you can just take a taxi from the airport to Pisa Centrale station.
Journey time from Pisa Centrale can be as little as an hour, but can be 1h 25 mins or so...it depends on which train you catch. It is easy to work out which trains go when, as there are electronic departure boards on the platforms as well as in the main station entrance. The Italian for platform is 'binario' ('bin).
You may need to lift your bags up a step or two onto the train (see photos) but there is plenty of space to store them once on board.
All trains stop at Florence Santa Maria Novella station, which is in the historical heart of the city. Don't be tempted to get off at Florence Rifredi (Firenze Rifredi) station...you will be a long way out!
Whether you use train or bus do *not* forget to validate (date-stamp) your ticket at the start of your journey. There are yellow validation machines on station platforms and inside buses....and on-the-spot fines for non-validation. And yes, guards and inspectors do check.
Italy like most of Europe is best travelled by the train. Florence has more than one train station but the biggest one is Santa Maria Novella. Florence in Italian is called Firenze so when looking for train timings etc look for Firenze.
The train connections are pretty good and I guess from Rome there is a train every hour or so.
I reached Florence by a local train from Pisa which cost about 5-6 Euro. It takes about one hour from Pisa and the local train is not too crowded. Theres free seating so just enter and find a seat for yourself. I think the express trains would be costlier(obviously)
I took a Eurostar from Florence to Venice which cost about 28 Euro in 2nd class with pretty comfy seats and nice window seat. Its a three hour journey from Florence
The website of Trenitalia below is in English and one cannot book local trains here. For that you would need to do so at the station. Unlike my home country(India), I dont find getting a train ticket in Europe that big a problem. But for long distance its always better to book early.
I hadn't pre-booked my ticket, instead I turned up at Santa Lucia in Venice, to buy a ticket for the next train from Venice to Florence, I'd tried to purchase a ticket the previous night from one of the automatic Ticket Machines but wimped out when the info went from English back to Italian as I was about to make my payment.
While waiting in the queue at the ticket office (I got there early as I'd seen the length of the queues earlier in the year!) we were informed that there was a problem with the computers, so purchasing from the machines was recommended to save time.
I followed the man who had made the announcement to the nearby ticket machine, and asked for his help in selecting my ticket. He had some problems completing the procedure, but eventually my Venice to Florence return ticket was dispached. The cost was 42 Euros each way. The machine accepted Bank notes, coins or credit card - Change given - Check this before purchasing because I've noted some take either notes OR cards, and some don't issue change (just a 'credit note')
My train was due to depart in nearly an hour, so plenty of time to have a coffee and stock up on snacks for the journey. I hadn't realised at previous visits that there was a shop in the station buffet with a selection of food and drink.
I still can't get used to the idea of having to pay for your coffee at the central till, then take the receipt to 'claim' your drink.
The toilets are on platform 1 - 80 cents -no change given, but there are change machines at the turnstyle.
Train times, train number and platform details are posted on electronic boards on the platform, as well as on posters (pic 5). All the platforms at Santa Lucia are on one level, and are adjacent to each other so it's very easy to find your train. Platform 1 is at the right side -I think there are 12 platforms.
The train was waiting at Platform 10 (It had been there quite a while, and I had been impressed to see a team of cleaners sprucing up the carriages)
Before boarding, I validated my ticket in the yellow machine at the end of the platform-this is a legal requirement. Hefty fines are issued for non-validated tickets.
I'd already checked which carriage I was in- The number is on the door. I had been a bit disappointed that it wasn't one of the double decker trains, but it was comfortable.
We set off on time, and we were soon heading over the Ponte Libertie to Mestre. We also stopped at Padua and Bologna. The last part of the journey was mainly through tunnels, with fleeting glances of the Tuscany countryside.
In the carriage was an information board showing the train and carriage number and stations we'd be stopping at. Announcements were in Italian and English.
The 2 hour journey had sped by, and we were soon pulling into the Stazione di Santa Maria Novella-Florences Central Station.
Outside the station is a taxi rank and bus station.
There is a Tourist Info Office and hotel booking desk in the station.
Exiting the station the church to the right with the distinctive tower (Santa Maria Novella) there is a helpful Tourist Info office, where I was given maps, directions to my hotel and a print off of events in Florence for Christmas Eve.
The night before my return to Venice, I checked my ticket, and was puzzled to see that although the time was correct, it had the date as 24th December- the date I'd travelled TO Florence. I was annoyed with myself for not checking the ticket at the ticket machine, but as one of the station managers had done the transaction, I'd not thought about this.
Apparently after purchasing your train ticket you have One Hour to correct any errors!
Luckily I'd saved my old ticket too, which verified the time of departure from Venice etc (If I hadn't, I don't think that I could have proved that it was a genuine mistake
I had to purchase another ticket, then reclaim my money in Venice. I was assured that there wouldn't be a problem, as it was obvious that this was an error - I would have been leaving Florence before I'd arrived!
Arriving in Venice I managed to reclaim my 42 Euros without any difficulty-phew!
First class train from Florence to Milan bought in advance was cheaper than 2nd class. My seat was dirty (crumbles and wet table - a pool), I had to clean it myself, there was no space for my luggage as it was to heavy to lift and the place for luggage at the end of the carriage was not informed to passsengers nor was signaled...
I think one of the things I liked the most about Florence was how easy it was to get around by train. The Santa Maria Novella train station is located close to the city center, which makes it possible to pick a hotel located within easy walking distance from both the station and the downtown attractions. There are multiple daily trains connecting Florence to most Italian cities (Rome, Venice and Bologna are very easy to get to, for example), and daytrips to Lucca and Pisa are also easily done - you don't even need to book your ticket in advance! The Santa Maria Novella station was built in the 1930s and on top of the platforms you'll find several cafes and a small shopping centre in the basement. Tickets can be bought at the ticket booths but also from ticket machines that provide instructions in several languages. The intercity ones (Rome, Bologna, Milan...) accept most credit cards and allow you to reserve a seat, while the regional ones (Lucca, Pisa...) only take cash.