(Updated September 21, 2021 for changes to the Tiemme web site.)
It is common to visit Siena from nearby Florence (Firenze) by taking the train or bus, and I highly recommend either to avoid the hassles of driving (for those not used to it). While either approach works fine, the bus drops you directly at Siena’s main bus station, Piazza Gramsci (sometimes labled Via Tozzi, for the street it’s located on). This is within easier walking distance of Siena’s historic center (centro storico) than the train station, which is below and outside the city. This post provides basic information about the rather obscure bus station in Florence and how to navigate the Tiemme regional bus system, whether you are headed to Siena or elsewhere. After you’ve mastered the bus system once, you’ll be off and running anywhere the Tiemme bus goes.
Firenze Bus Station Location (not always obvious for newcomers)
Basically the bus station is located one block left of the train station (Firenze S.M.N.) but is poorly signed if one is not right in front of it. When looking at Google Maps or an equivalent map app, you can type in either Autostazione Busitalia Srl or Busitalia SITA Nord Autostazione. You will see the bus station (or terminal) located as shown on my screenshot of the map below. There should be various images of the facility to the left of the actual (Google) map online, so I suggest scrolling through those to gain some visuals. Buses essentially enter a building facade through a hole in the wall, with a smaller pedestrian entrance just to the right. (This confused me so much, I wrote a story about it in my book, Living the Palio). Here’s the location per Google Maps (below). The front of Firenze S.M.N. is to the right on the map. The larger red dot indicates the entrance to the bus station to the left across the street.
Ticket Purchase, Schedules, and Boarding
From the street entrance, the bus ticket counter, convenience store, snack bar, and restrooms are to the left, where many of the regional buses park. Each bus stall is numbered above the space. For the bus to Siena or any Tiemme buses, you can purchase the ticket(s) right before your trip if desired, though give yourself an extra 15 minutes in case of a long line at the counter during high times. Also, there are no assigned seats, and buses rarely, if ever, fill up entirely–if that happens, grab the next bus, only 30-60 minutes later during the day. I’ve never seen it happen during summer, but my sample is small).
If you are doing a day trip to Siena or elsewhere (or multi-day round trip), you can purchase your return tickets at the same time. Keep them somewhere safe, and you won’t need to worry about purchasing tickets twice. (Price one-way between Firenze and Siena is about 8.40 euro, or thereabouts.) When you board the bus, nobody takes your ticket. Be sure to validate your ticket by inserting it into the stamping machine. This provides it with a (very small) time/date stamp. Keep that handy during your ride, as sometimes the police come on board to check tickets. You can be fined (and frowned upon) if you are caught without a validated ticket. (NOTE: most buses from my experience have a second stamping machine near the rear (side) entry. You can enter through that side entrance as well. The driver doesn’t care, since they don’t take your ticket. Pretty cool system indeed!)
Below is a sample schedule of buses from Florence (Firenze) to Siena. The schedule finder (timetable) web site for Tiemme is here. (The home page is here, which also has a schedule finder on it.) The site is naturally in Italian, so you need to enter the Italian city names, Firenze and Siena. For each destination, a drop-down menu will provide numerous choices. For Firenze and Siena, choose the ones listed in the sample screenshots below. This example is for buses after 9:00am on Sept 23, 2021 from Siena to Firenze.
More solutions are available at the bottom of the actual timetable page if you want to see later buses (click Cerca Soluzioni, or it might be in English for “More Results”). For details about each scheduled option, click the arrow for each option to the right of each scheduled time. This also provides you with the one-way ticket price somewhere down below. Note that in this case they leave Firenze as frequently as 20-30 minutes apart during mid-day. “Via 131” means the Route 131 bus. The “Via 131R” is the “Rapido,” which takes about 20 minutes less to reach Siena or Firenze. Either one will work well, however. You do not need to change buses (hooray!). Buon Viaggio, and enjoy the convenience of the bus in Tuscany!
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