This guide to the main station in Florence/Firenze explains what to be aware of when departing from and arriving in the city by train.
Santa Maria Novella train station in Firenze/Florence is more frequently known as Firenze S.M. Novella or Firenze S.M.N.
And a big tick in the box for taking a train to and from Florence / Firenze is that it's main station is located closer to the heart of the city it serves, than any other main station in Italy.
Santa Maria Novella is therefore within an easy walking distance on level ground, of all the multiple attractions in Florence/Firenze city centre.
The station itself is also comparatively easy to use as all the platforms/tracks/binari are at street level, but what can be awkward are the crowds, particularly in spring/summer.
Also a decision has evidently been made to preserve the station's original character, so some clarity has been sacrificed.
There are noticeably a lot fewer signs to point travellers towards the facilities etc, than at other main Italian stations.
And on the main concourse some of the large signage, on the back wall of the main concourse, is now out of date - though it is eternally beautiful.
Six things particularly worth knowing about Firenze S.M. Novella:
(1) What can help navigate the central station in Florence are the plans to the station layout - which are on the walls of the concourse, by the entrance to the main ticket hall (the Salone Biglietti).
(2) The toilets are halfway along platform/binario 5.
(3) The left luggage office is halfway along platform/binario16.
(You don’t need to have a train ticket to reach either the toilets or left luggage office).
There are no left luggage lockers - so at busy times queues can build up to deposit bags at the left luggage desk.
If you don’t want to pay more than twice the usual charge to use a fast-track system - you can be in the queue for more than 45 mins.
Also allow at least 30 mins to pick up a bag before the departure of your train.
(4) If you’re changing trains at the main station in Florence, there is passage way half way along the platforms which provides a convenient short cut - but it isn’t step free.
Though it can be a short cut to the left luggage office on binario 16.
(5) There are no direct international DAYTIME trains from and to Firenze/Florence.
(6) The station building is a masterpiece of art-deco architecture.
Not many stations can boast of a permanent exhibition space dedicated to their design and construction.
Florence/Firenze has multiple stations used by long distance trains - including Firenze Rifredi station and Firenze Campo Di Marte station.
However, the city’s only station with convenient city centre access is THIS STATION - Firenze Santa Maria Novella (Firenze S.M.N. or Firenze S.M. Novella)
Firenze S.M.N. is a terminal station where trains that are passing through Florence/Firenze have to change direction.
Therefore some long distance trains to and from the city skip Santa Maria Novella and only call at Firenze Rifredi or Firenze Campo Di Marte stations.
These trains, which don't call at Santa Maria Novella include most of the Intercity (IC) trains that pass through Florence.
If your train is only calling at Campo Di Marte or Rifredi stations, the easiest access to the city centre, is to make connections to/from other trains which are calling at Firenze S.M.N. (Santa Maria Novella).
Here are nine things particularly worth knowing if you will be taking a train from Firenze S.M.N. station.
(1) Because it is a terminal station access to the platforms/binari from the concourse is step-free.
(2) Some Regionale trains use binari/platforms on either side of the main station hall, which are some distance from the concourse.
(3) When you’re on the near permanently crowded main concourse, looking towards the trains/binari, take care not to confuse the Partenze/Departure with the Arrivi/Arrivals indicator.
They’re the same size and beside each other.
(4) The number of the platform/binario that a train will be departing fromis often only confirmed around 10 mins before departure.
If you see a flashing orange light beside your train on the Partenze/Departure screens; run!.
The flashing light means your train is about to depart.
(5) Most announcements at Firenze S.M.N. station are in English and Italian.
(6) Most AV trains (Frecce and Italo trains) make only comparatively brief calls at Firenze S.M.N; the binario/platform/track number is confirmed just before the train has arrived in the station.
There are red screens along the platform/binario that will show where to wait for easy boarding - into the coach/carrozza in which your reserved seat(s) is located.
(7) Something else that can be hard to find at Firenze S.M.N. are the paper departure sheets; useful on arrival for working out which trains you need to take back following a day trip.
There are some near the platforms in the middle of the concourse.
(8) At busy times, summer mornings and at weekends year round, allow at least 30 mins to collect any bags from the left-luggage office for a stress-free departure.
(9) When walking to the station from the city centre along Via Panzani, there is a set of stairs on the left of the end of the street before the tram stop, and on the right, by the obelisk, there is a ramp.
Despite the lack of signage these stairs and ramp lead to a subway which provides a short cut to the station.
Because Firenze S.M.N. station is a terminus, all of the exits from the station are on the main concourse, beyond the front of the trains.
If you will be heading to Florence/Firenze on a Frecce or Italo train, a suggestion is to make use of the bathrooms on the trains before you arrive at Santa Maria Novella, there is a near permanent queue for the restrooms in the station.
There is also a near permanent queue for the left luggage office, If you don’t want to pay more than twice the usual charge to use a fast-track system , you can be in the queue for more than 45 mins.
The central station in Florence has a convenient location on the north west edge of the heart of central Firenze/Florence - so the best and often only means of accessing the main sights from Firenze S.M.N. is on foot.
The city has no metro and trams don't get any nearer the city centre than the front of the station.
On the main concourse turn to the left and go through the main side exit - follow the crowds.
Here you will find the main entrance to a subway, you’ll see the steps and escalators over to the, just outside the station
What can be easy to miss is that this subway is the easiest route to the city centre, because the street grid in front of the station is confusing and dominated by tram tracks, but the subway avoids it.
It has a staircase and a sloping ramp up on to Via Panzani, the street which leads to the cathedral and city centre
The main bus station, the Firenze Autostazione is steps away from Firenze S.M.Novella train station.
When you've reached the main concourse exit the station through the main waiting room the doors are under the sign 'Salone Biglietti'.
When you step outside the station, a small piazza will be in front of the station, it is the location of a tram stop.
Turn to the right (don't go straight ahead) and head down the stairs that you will see in front of you - the most direct route to the bus station isn't step-free.
The bus station is out of sight on a street named 'Via Santa Caterina di Siena' - it is the first building you will come to on the right-hand side of that street,
From the top of the steps on the other side of the tram tracks, you will see a building, 'Via Santa Caterina di Siena' is the street to the left of this building.
One particularly popular destination, that isn’t within walking distance of Firenze. S.M. Novella station is the Pizalle Michelangiolio – the main view point for looking down on the city.
However, the Pizalle Michelangiolio is a fairly straightforward bus journey from S.M. Novella.
Bus line 12 departs from the bus station immediately outside the main exit from the station - while bus line 13 departs from a stop on the other side of the tram tracks on street, the Via Valfonda.
Buses on both lines 12 and 13 depart every 30mins - there are electronic departure indicators on the stop used by line 12.
If there is no line 12 bus due for 15mins, it can be quicker to cross the street and take a line 13 departure.
Buy bus tickets before boarding, they can be purchased from the tobacconist counter on the main concourse.
You then need to stamp your ticket(s) in the machine on the bus as you board.
There are several Regionale Veloce (RV) trains per day (at least 1 x train per hour during the afternoon) that depart from Firenze S.M.Novella station heading to La Spezia Centrale.
These trains heading to La Spezia are the best option for accessing the leaning tower in Pisa by train from Florence/Firenze.
After they call at Pisa Centrale, these trains that are heading to La Spezia also call at Pisa S. Rossore station - and this station is much closer to the Tower than Pisa Centrale.
It is an easy 7 - 10 minute walk from Pisa S.Rossore station to the tower.
The alternative is to take one of the (much more) frequent trains from Firenze S.M.Novella to Pisa Centrale station and then from Pisa Centrale, either:
(1) walk to the tower - it will take around 25 mins OR
(2) take the bus OR
(3) take another train from Pisa Centrale to Pisa S. Rossore station - from where the flat walk to the tower will take around 8 mins.
Much more than our usual number of recommendations has had to be made for accommodation with easy access to Florence's main station.
The immediate vicinity of Firenze S.M. Novella is evidently a location where travellers are spoilt for choice - particularly if you're not on a tight budget.
As public transport connections in Florence are comparatively poor (not a big problem in such a compact city centre) staying within a short walk of Firenze S.M.N. station is a good option - as you will also have comparatively easy access to the all of the tourist hot spots in the city centre.
The other big plus staying near Firenze S.M. Novella is easy access to the station - if you want to use Firenze/Florence as a base for exploring the best of Tuscany by train.
Firenze/Florence is an ideal base for exploring the best of Tuscany by train, as Firenze S.M. Novella station is a hub for Tuscany’s Regionale train services.
Suggested simple itineraries for day trips by train from Florence:
It’s also possible to COMBINE multiple must-see destinations, on easy day trips by train from Florence/Firenze.
On MON-FRI trains operate at least hourly on all routes that are listed below - though note that these schedules can be more awkward to follow at weekends, when fewer trains will be operating.
When you arrive at a destination, check the departure time(s) of your next train before you leave the station.
To Siena and Pisa:
(1) Take the train from Firenze S.M. Novella to Siena
(2) Take a train from Siena to Empoli
(3) Connect in Empoli for a train to Pisa
If the train is heading for La Spezia don't leave the train at Pisa Centrale, stay on the train until at Pisa S. Rossore - the stop after Pisa Centrale.
(4) Take a train from Pisa Centrale to Firenze S.M. Novella
To Siena and San Gimignano:
(1) Take the train from Firenze S.M. Novella to Siena
(2) Take a train from Siena to Poggibonsi
(3) Take a bus from Poggibonsi to San Gimignano
(4) Take a bus from San Gimignano to Poggibonsi (or Empoli)
(5) Take a train to Firenze S.M. Novella from Poggibonsi (or Empoli)
To Pistoia, Lucca and Pisa:
(1) Take the train from Firenze S.M. Novella to Pistoia
(2) Take a train from Pistoia to Lucca
(3) Take the train from Lucca to Pisa S. Rossore - 10 mins walk from The Leaning Tower
(4) Take a bus* from the Pisa Cathedral complex to Pisa Central
*Or check the train departure information at Pisa S. Rossore carefully before exiting the station.
(5) Take a train to Firenze S.M. Novella from Pisa Centrale
There are trains from Pisa S. Rossore to Pisa Centrale, where you can connect for Firenze S.M. Novella - plus a few direct trains from Pisa S. Rossore to Firenze S.M. Novella.
On Mondays – Saturdays the Cinque Terre is an easy day trip from Firenze/Florence by train.
Take the 09:53 Regionale (R) train from Firenze S.M.Novella to La Spezia Centrale – this train does not operate on Sundays.
You should arrive in La Spezia Centrale at 12:20, the train will initially call at La Spezia Migliarina station, but take care not to leave the train there, you need to remain on the train until it arrives at La Spezia Centrale – the final stop.
There are 2 x trains per hour on from La Spezia which call at all of the Cinque Terre villages – Riomaggiore, Manorola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
They have been listed in order of which is closest to La Spezia, though Monterosso, the furthest north is only around 20 mins from La Spezia by train.
Buying train tickets:
You won’t save any money by booking in advance for this journey, so you may as well as buy tickets last minute at the station.
Though aim to be at Firenze S.M.Novella by 09:30 as the ticket queues, even for the machines, will be long at this time of day.
If you only want to visit a couple of these Cinque Terre villages, then the easiest ticket option is to buy return tickets to the town that is furthest from Firenze/Florence.
Then when you’re in the Cinque Terre buy a single track ticket to another village and then use the return ticket to travel back to Firenze, from your second location.
OR if you want to visit more than two villages, you may save money by first buying a return ticket to La Spezia Centrale in Florence/Firenze.
Then when you arrive at La Spezia Centrale, you can buy special rover train tickets at the Cinque Terre tourist desk in La Spezia Centrale station.
Though long queues can build up at this desk, so you may not be able to take the next train on to the Cinque Terre when you reach La Spezia.
Returning to Firenze/Florence:
There are USUALLY direct trains back to Firenze from La Spezia Centrale at 17:40 and 19:09 – though another option is to take a Regionale train (not a Frecce or Intercity) from La Spezia to Pisa Centrale and connect there for a train on to Firenze.
Thanks to the fabulously convenient city centre location of Firenze S.M.Novella station, most of the city's attractions can be easilly accessed from Florence's main station on foot.
So making day to Firenze/Florence by train can be worthwhile, even if you have to travel a fairly long distance in order to reach the city by train.
20 Amazing Things To Do (Time Out)
10 Things To Do On A Day Trip To The City (Visit Tuscany)
More Than 50 Suggestions (Lonely Planet)
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30 Things To Do (This Is My Happiness)
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.