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Florence, Italy  City Info
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Approximately 380,000. Visitors: over 3 million annually.

Time Zone:
Greenwich Mean Time plus one hour: (plus two hours in summer) Time in Florence is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in New York.7 hours ahead of central time in Chicago, etc.

Newspapers & Magazines:
International Herald Tribune and USA Today can be purchased from almost any newsstand . The Wall Street Journal Europe and the London Times, along with Time and Newsweek magazines are available at most larger kiosks. There's a 24-hour newsstand in the train station.

Passports & Visas:
All U.S., British, and Canadian citizens, even infants, need only a valid passport to enter Italy for stays of up to 90 days. A Visa is not required.

The country code for Italy is 39. The area code for Florence is 055. When calling from abroad, the 0 should be left out. Example: a call from New York City to Florence would be dialed as follows: 011 + 39 + 55 + phone number.

Long Distance:
Hotels tend to charge very high rates for long-distance and international calls. It is best to make such calls from Telefoni offices, where operators will assign you a booth, help you place your call, and collect payment when you have finished, at no extra charge. Telefoni offices are designated "Telecom." You can make collect calls from any phone by dialing 172-1011, which connects to an English-speaking operator. Rates to the United States are lowest round the clock on Sunday and 11 PM-8 AM, Italian time, on weekdays. When calling from pay telephones, insert a 200-lire coin (which will be returned upon completion of your call).

Operators & Information:
For general information in English, dial 176. To place calls from one European country to another via operator-assisted service, dial 15. To place intercontinental telephone calls via operator-assisted service (or for intercontinental information), dial 170 or long-distance access numbers. When calling from the United States, dial the international access code, 011, then the country code, the "city code," and the rest of the number.

Telephone Country & City Codes: The country code for Italy is 39. What used to be Florence's city code of 055- is now an integral part of every phone number. You must always dial it--including the initial zero--even when calling to another number from within Florence itself. Additional numbers are expected to be issued in Florence that start with numerals other than 055-.

Currency is the Euro (EUR). The notes are in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 euro. The denominations of coins are 2 euro, 1 euro, 50 euro cent, 20 euro cent, 10 euro cent, 5 euro cent, 2 euro cent, and 1 euro cent. The easiest method of securing cash at the best exchange rate is to make withdrawals using a US credit card from the ATM machines found at the major banks and stores.

Customs Regulations:
Telephone 055: 06 49711 for information.

Average Temperatures (In Fahrenheit):
High Low
January - March 55F 32F
April - June 79F 48F
July - September 82F 61F
October - December 63F 36F

When to Go:
The main tourist season runs from April to mid-October. The best months for persons wishing to avoid crowds are from fall to early spring. April, May, June, September, and October, are generally pleasant and not too hot. The hottest months are July and August, when brief afternoon thunderstorms are common. Winters are relatively mild but always include some periods of rain. Tourists crowd Florence at Easter, when Italians flock to resorts and to the country. From March through May, busloads of eager schoolchildren on excursion travel to Florence. If you can avoid it, don't chose to travel in Italy in August, when many store and restaurant owners close for a vacation., especially around Ferragosto, the August 15 national holiday. (Of course, with residents away on vacation, there are fewer crowds.)

The weather is considerably milder in Florence than in the north and central United States or Great Britain. In summer, take clothing that is as light as possible, although a sweater may be necessary in evening. Brief summer afternoon thunderstorms are common, so carry an umbrella. During the winter bring heavy clothes, gloves, hats, and boots. Central heating may not provide consistent warmth, and interiors can be cold and damp. Take wools or flannel rather than sheer fabrics. Bring sturdy shoes for winter, and comfortable walking shoes in any season.

Italians dress neatly and dress well. They do not usually wear shorts in the city. Men aren't required to wear ties or jackets anywhere, except in some of the more exclusive hotel dining rooms and top-level restaurants, but are expected to look reasonably attired. Formal wear is the exception rather than the rule at the opera, though people in expensive seats usually do get dressed up. Dress codes are strict for visits to churches. Women must cover bare shoulders, but no longer need to cover their heads. Shorts are not acceptable church attire for men or women. Take your own soap if you stay in budget hotels, as many do not provide it or else give guests only one tiny bar per room.

IVA Value-added tax (IVA), is 12% on clothing, 19% on luxuries. On most consumer goods, it is already included in the amount shown on the price tag, whereas on services, it may not be.

To get an IVA refund, when you are leaving Italy take the goods and the invoice to the customs office at the airport or other point of departure and have the invoice stamped. (If you return to the United States or Canada directly from Italy, go through the procedure at Italian customs; if your return is, say, via Britain, take the Italian goods and invoice to British customs.) Under Italy's IVA-refund system, a non-EU resident can obtain a refund of tax paid after spending a total of 300,000 lire in one store (before tax-and note that price tags and prices quoted, unless otherwise stated, include IVA). Shop with your passport and ask the store for an invoice itemizing the article(s), price(s), and the amount of tax. Once back home-and within 90 days of the date of purchase-mail the stamped invoice to the store, which will forward the IVA rebate to you. A growing number of stores in Italy (and Europe) are members of the Tax-Free Shopping System, which expedites things by providing an invoice that is actually a Tax-Free Check in the amount of the refund. Once stamped, it can be cashed at the Tax-Free Cash refund window at major airports and border crossings.

National and Local Holidays:
Jan. 1 - New Year's Day
Jan. 6 - Epiphany
Good Friday and Easter Monday dates vary each year - Mar. or April
April 25 - (Liberation Day);
1st Mon. of May - Labor Day
Many businesses and shops in Florence may be closed on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, the city's patron saint.
June 29 - SS. Peter and Paul's Day
August 15 - Feast of the Assumption; also known as Ferragosto
November 1 - All Saints' Day
December 8 - Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Dec. 25 - Christmas Day
Dec. 26 - St. Stephen's Day, Boxing Day

Electricity: To use U.S.-purchased electric-powered equipment, bring a converter and an adapter. The electrical current in Italy is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC); wall outlets take plugs with two round prongs.

For emergencies, dial 112 for the Carabinieri (police). To report lost property or passport problems, call the questura urban police headquarters at 055--49-771.

Emergencies: Dial 113 for an emergency of any kind, dial an ambulance at 118, and report a fire at 115. All these calls are free from any 055. For car breakdowns, call ACI at 116.

Tourist Medical Service, Via Lorenzo il Magnifico 59, north of the city center between the Fortezza del Basso and Piazza della Libert` 055--475-411, is open 24 hours; take bus no. 8 or 80 to Viale Lavagnini or bus no. 12 or night bus no. 91 to Via Poliziano. Socialized medicine enables a person with an illness that is not an emergency to receive care at most Italian hospitals, speedily with no insurance questions asked, no forms to fill out, and no fee charged. A prescription is dispensed by medical personnel. The most central are the Arcispedale di Santa Maria Nuova 055--27-581, a block northeast of the Duomo on Piazza Santa Maria Nuova, and the Misericordia Ambulance Service 055--212-222 for ambulance on Piazza del Duomo across from Giotto's bell tower.

For a free translator to help you describe your symptoms, explain the doctor's instructions, and aid in medical issues in general, call the Associazione Volontari Ospedalieri (AVO) at 055--425-0126 or 055--234-4567 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 4 to 6pm and Tuesday and Thursday 10am to noon.

For pharmacy information, dial 110. There are 24-hour pharmacies also open Sundays and state holidays in Santa Maria Novella train station 055--216-761; ring the bell between 1 and 4am; at Piazza San Giovanni 20r, just behind the Baptistry at the corner of Borgo San Lorenzo 055--211-343; and at Via Cazzaiuoli 7r, just off Piazza della Signoria 055--289-490.

Luggage Storage/Lockers:
Travelers can leave bags at Santa Maria Novella train station for a fee per bag for each 12-hour period; deposit payable up front. It's open daily 4:30am to 1:30am.

Getting Around:

By air
The city is served by two airports: Amerigo Vespucci is a few miles northwest of the city center, and Galileo Galilei (for international flights) in Pisa is about 46mi west of the city. Galilei has regular connections to London, Paris, Munich and major Italian cities.

Aeroporto Amerigo Vespucci
Via del Termine, 11 - 055. 373.498

Aeroporto Galileo Galilei
Pisa 050-500707

A city bus runs every 20 minutes from the main train station to Amerigo Vespucci airport. There is frequent train service between the main station and Galileo Galilei airport.

By Train
Trains from all over Italy arrive and depart from Florence's Santa Maria Novella Station. The pendolino (rapid intercity trains) uses Florence's Rifredi Statiion. There are many passes that can be purchased to effect great savings on rail travel. Always buy a ticket before you board the train, as there is a surcharge for purchasing on the train. Telephone reservations are not accepted, but many trains require advance booking. There are often long lines at the ticket window. The solution is to have the reservation booked by a travel agent. There are Eurail and InterRail cards that can be purchased before you depart the United States. These may still require a supplemental fee. Tickets for local rail travel can be purchased at news stands. Italy's State Railway (FS) has a train for every type of journey. Florence is connected by train to Rome, Milan, Venice, Trieste, Verona, Bologna and Pisa.

By Bus
There are also two bus stations. For international services, which go all over Europe, you need the Lazzi station - buses to Rome also go from this station. For domestic services to Siena, Arezzo, Castellina and all over Tuscany, go to the SITA station. Buses (autobus) are useful only to reach outlying destinations or to get to your hotel with luggage. Florence is a walkable city, and many first-timers coming from Rome or Milan misjudge distance and hop on a bus only to find themselves in the suburbs or hills within minutes.

The train station is the city's bus hub, and many buses pass through Piazza San Marco as well, but the pedestrian zone historic center isn't well serviced, though the new electric minibuses A, B, C, and D do go into it. A single ticket is good for 60 minutes. There are also a 3-hour ticket, a 24-hour ticket, and a 3-day pass. You can ride unlimited buses within the time limits: just stamp one end in the orange box on the first bus you board. Tickets are available at newsstands and tabacchi tobacconists shops, marked by a white "T" against brown.

Ask the tourist office for a bus map. Regular buses run daily between 5:30 and 8am to between 7 and 9pm. Night buses include nos. 67, 68, and 71 running 9pm to 1am and no. 70 running 12:30 to 6am from the main train station through the center to the suburban Campo Marte station where some express and night trains stop. For more information, contact the ATAF at Piazza della Stazione and Piazza del Duomo 57 055--565-0222;

By Bicycle
Though traffic can be heavy on the narrow streets, the city is mainly flat and not bad for biking.

By Car
Trying to drive in the centro storico is a frustrating, useless exercise. Florence is a maze of one-way streets and pedestrian zones, and it takes experience to know which laws to break in order to get where you need to go. You need a permit to do anything beyond dropping off and picking up bags at your hotel. Again, Florence is a walking town, so park your vehicle in one of the huge underground lots on the center's periphery and pound the pavement. If you're traveling by car, you can take the A1 to Bologna and Milan in the north or Rome and Naples in the south.

By Motorcycle & Moped:
Motorini mopeds are the Italian way to get around and can be especially useful for exploring the hills

By Taxi:
Taxis aren't cheap, and with the city so small and the one-way system forcing drivers to take convoluted routes, they aren't an economical way to get about town. Taxis are most useful to get you and your bags between the train station and your hotel in the centro storico. There's a taxi stand outside the train station; otherwise you have to call for one a Radio Taxi at 4242, 4798, or 4390.


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