Getting Arounf Florence

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The best way for one to get around Florence is to walk. The city centre is compact and most of the sites are marked by the clusters of camera-wheeling tourists. Tourists should invest in a good street map, although getting lost in the cobbled alleyways is a pleasure in itself.

But sometimes you need to either go further afield, or simply rest those tired feet!

Public Transport in florence

There is a comprehensive bus network run by Azienda Trasporti Area Fiorentina – ATAF (tel: (800) 424 500, daily 0700-2000; website: www.ataf.net). The bus network operates 0530-2400. Tickets cost €1 and are valid for 60 minutes, allowing the holder to change buses or make a return journey within the hour. Tickets are available for purchase at newsagents (shop signs with a capital T for tabacchi), most coffee bars at Box Ataf in Piazza Stazione and at automatic ticket dispensers. They are also available on board the bus but only between 2100 and 0600 and even then at a marked-up price of €2.

Travellers must validate their tickets by punching them in the machine on board the bus. A number of bus passes are available, starting with a three-hour pass for €1.80 and the 24-hour pass for €4 and rising to the more extensive two-day pass for €5.70, three-day pass for €7.20 and seven-day pass for €12. These are also available at newsagents, coffee bars and automatic ticket dispensers.

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Getting a taxi in Florence

Taxis can be hailed on the streets, although they rarely stop. It is better for tourists to hire them at 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; website: www.commune.firenze.it/tariffe/taxi/htm). The minimum fare is currently €4 but with a base charge of €2.50 and a running charge of about €0.80 per kilometre, this can mount up quickly. There are also additional supplements charged for luggage (there is a maximum of four pieces), night-time travel or travelling on a Sunday. A tip of 10-15% of the fare is customary.

Limousines in Florence

Luxury cars, chauffeured by English-speaking drivers, are provided by International Limousine Service (tel: (041) 520 6565; fax: (041) 520 8396; website: www.limointernational.com) and the Florence-based Mundocars (tel/fax: (055) 598 644; website: www.mundolimousine.com). A Mercedes 200 costs approximately €310 for eight hours of hire. Stretch limousines should be reserved in advance.

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Florence Bicycle and Scooter Hire

To blend in with the cruising Romeos, visitors can hire a scooter or moped from Alinari, Via Guelfa 85r (tel: (055) 280 500; website: www.alinarirental.com), just north of the market place. Scooters cost from €8 an hour or €28 a day. The minimum age for renting a scooter or motorbike is 18 years. Outdoor types, fond of scaling the Florentine hills, can hire a mountain bike from Alinari, from €18 a day. The less hardy visitors can freewheel over the Ponte Vecchio on a more basic bike, with prices starting at €12 for a day.

Florence by bike, Via S Sanobi 120-122r (tel: (055) 488 992; website: www.florencebybike.it), also hires out bicycles and scooters. A 50cc scooter costs €22.50 for five hours, rising to €143.25 for one week, while mountain bikes cost from€3.50 per hour to €44.45 for three days and city bikes €2.50 per hour or €30.50 for three days.

Driving in the City

With such a compact city centre, there is little point in bringing a car to Florence. Traffic in the city centre (centro storico) is severely restricted at all times, meaning that it is off limits to anyone who is not a doctor, a delivery man, a taxi driver, or anyone staying in one of the luxury hotels in the city centre. Visitors lucky enough to be staying in such luxury hotels are allowed to drive their car in for the purposes of parking only.

For visitors making a day trip to Florence by car, the best option is to park at the Fortezza da Basso, north of the train station. It is a brisk ten-minute walk from the city centre and parking costs €1 per hour – a veritable bargain by comparison to the charges demanded by the car parks further in. The length of stay should be calculated in advance and the attendant paid ahead. Sightseers determined to spare their pins but not their pennies, could try the underground car park at Piazza della Stazione, which costs €1.55 per hour – a special ticket is available for €72.30 for three days. Otherwise, visitors should park along the Arno at Zecca Vecchia – particularly convenient for visits to the Uffizi Gallery or at Parterre, near the Piazza della Liberta – where a tourist pass costs €10.30 for 24 hours. Information on parking in the city is available from Firenze Parcheggi (tel: (055) 500 1994 or 272 011; website: www.firenzeparcheggi.it).

Car Hire

Several major car hire companies have offices in the city, including Avis, Borgo Ognissanti 128r (tel: (055) 239 8826; website: www.avisautonoleggio.it), Hertz, Via Maso Finiguerra 33r (tel: (055) 282 260; website: www.hertz.it), and Maggiore, Via Maso Finiguerra 31r (tel: (055) 294 578; website: www.maggiore.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, costing around €245-542 a week. Basic insurance is usually included in the price with further insurance an optional extra, although the terms of this should always be checked.

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Getting to Florence

Situated in the northwest of Italy, surrounded by the wine-growing hills of Chianti, the city attracts rapture and frustration in equal proportions.

When's best to visit Florence?

It is best for visitors to avoid the peak summer months of July and August, when the weather can be unbearably sticky and the prospect of trailing around museums becomes unappealing. Early autumn, when the countryside glows with mellow fruitfulness, is the best time to visit, avoiding the heat and the queues and capitalising on the soft light, empty streets and the abundance of wild mushrooms and just-pressed olive oil.