(Updated May, 2022 for transition from Tiemme to Autolinee Toscane bus service.)
It is common to visit Siena from nearby Florence (Firenze) by taking the train or bus, and either is recommended 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 Autolinee 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 regional Autolinee buses go.
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.) as you face the front, but the bus station (Autostazione Sita Firenze) is poorly signed unless you are right in front. When looking at Google Maps or an equivalent map app, you can type in either Autostazione Busitalia Srl or Autostazione Sita Firenze. 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 the 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 buses fill up, even 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 (Ask for “andata e ritorno” in Italian). Keep them somewhere safe, and you won’t need to worry about purchasing tickets twice. (Price one-way between Firenze and Siena was about 8.40 euro in 2019, 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 trip planner (timetable) web site for Autolinee Toscane is here. (The home page is here, which also has the schedule finder on it.) The site is naturally in Italian, so you need to enter the Italian city names, Firenze (Da – from) and Siena (A – to). However, the strange-looking icon to the right of “Firenze e Toscana” at the top of the planner will allow you to translate to your own language. For each destination, a drop-down menu will provide numerous choices.
You will then see various options for bus routes (sometimes with numerous buses or transfers, similar to airline or train schedules). For the simplest route between Firenze and Siena, scroll down and choose the box for Route 131R (R = “Rapido”). See the screenshot below (circled with my red oval):
Buses between Firenze and Siena are numerous each day and sometimes even depart every hour from both directions (such as mornings or afternoons). Keep playing with this schedule finder (it takes some getting used to), and you’ll be able to find departure times for any bus route and destination. In this case, you do not need to change buses (hooray!). Buon Viaggio, and enjoy the convenience of the bus in Tuscany!
(End of Post)