Public transport in Tuscany, how far does it take you?

Lizet Wesselman - 28/03/2024

Public transport in Tuscany, how far does it take you?

Lizet Wesselman - 28/03/2024

Tuscany is probably my favorite region in Italy. But as a license-less train traveler, it is unfortunately not the easiest region to travel around. Although the train network in Italy is generally very good, with many routes and long trains taking you from one side of the country to the other, Tuscany lags a bit behind unfortunately. I had hoped that the bus network in Tuscany would be very good then, but it seems there is a reason Tuscany is such a popular road trip region. Still, train travel through Tuscany is not impossible and you can get around quite nicely by bus as well. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about public transportation in Tuscany.

Traintravel in Tuscany

Public transportation in Tuscany is limited to trains and buses. Only in Florence will you find some trams as well. If you look at the map of train routes in Tuscany, it looks quite extensive. The larger cities are easily accessible by train, such as Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Grosetto and, of course, Florence. So with Siena in the middle of Tuscany, it seems you should be able to get everywhere. But in reality it’s quite dissapointing. In the end, train tracks have to be built, and they ended up going around Tuscany, with about three connections to Siena in the middle.

You can go along the coast from Pisa to Livorno and Grosetto (and on to Rome). That’s really the only route on the west side and really runs directly along the coast. From Pisa to Siena is via Empoli, which is actually almost as far east as Florence again. From Siena (or Florence) to Rome you then go east along Tuscany, really on the border with Umbria. Finally, there is a connection between Siena and Grosetto, which brings you back to the coast.

Small towns as pitstops

Of course, there are also a lot of small villages you can stop in between. All in all, there are still quite a few towns and villages in Tuscany with a train station and with quite a bit of puzzling, you can really get pretty far. But then comes the next drawback: the focus is not on those locations. Italy really does champion long-distance trains, with super-fast direct connections from North to South and East to West. From Milan to Rome? No problem. In fact, from Milan in the northwest to Lecce in the southeast, a direct train goes several times a day, taking you across the entire country in just under 8.5 hours.

But somewhere it has gone a little wrong with the regional trains that are supposed to connect precisely the small villages with larger cities. The connections are there, but very limited. That train from Siena to Grosetto, for example, both of which are reasonable towns, only goes once every 4 hours. And that is a fairly common route. Other routes might just go only on weekends or only on Mondays and Thursdays. I have not been able to find the logic behind it.

In short: it’s possible to complete the route, but it requires a tremendous amount of planning and puzzling. One ride within Tuscany is doable, but as soon as you have to change trains you encounter many obstacles. The connections do not connect, so you either have an extremely short transfer or have to wait hours for the next train. Or your transfer train only goes once a day, exactly at the same time as your first train. So then you have to book an extra night’s stay, because there is simply no travel route possible in 1 day.

All the ideas I had for my Tuscany train trip fell through for that exact reason, so I ended up going to Montepulciano with a train/bus combination. A lot of other beautiful places I had fortunately already seen during a previous road trip through Tuscany.

Tuscany by bus

So what about the bus in Tuscany? Frankly, that’s already not much better. Fair is fair: I’m not a fan of buses myself anyway. Buses get caught in traffic jams and therefore, in my experience, are often late. Flixbus is still my favourite then. But despite claiming to connect small villages where trains don’t go, Flixbus’ options in Tuscany are even more limited than the trains.

But local buses do offer options to a limited extent. Again, I just wouldn’t recommend planning very complicated routes. Bus schedules in Italy are just guidelines and bus drivers show up when they feel like it. Most buses do run, but you may find yourself waiting for an hour or they may take a longer route which will take you much longer. So again, it is not recommended to plan a route with transfers, but for example, a half-hour to an hour ride at the beginning of the day, is perfectly feasible.

The Tuscan villages that are reasonably easy to reach by bus, as well as being great fun to visit, are:
– San Giminano: about half an hour from Poggibonsi, a little place about halfway on the train route between Siena and Florence. You can also catch a bus directly from Florence or Siena.

– Montepulciano: reachable from Chiusi-Chianciano in about an hour, to “Montepulciano Autostazione”. Montepulciano does in fact have a train station, but it is about 10km from the town. For some reason, there is no bus from there.
– Montalcina: accessible from Buonconvento on the route Siena – Grosetto and takes about half an hour.
– Volterra: reachable from Pontedera, just east of Pisa, on the route from Pisa to Florence. This bus takes just over an hour.
– Chianti Region: Several villages in the Chianti region, such as Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti, can be reached by bus. This is the famous Tuscan wine region south of Florence. The choice of vineyards for wine tasting is huge, so you can choose your favorite vineyard. For example, you can choose a sustainable vineyard, whereas with an organized wine tour you just have to see what kind of place you end up at.

Does this all sound like too much hassle? Then, of course, you can opt for an organized tour. As I said, Tosane is very popular among tourists, so there are plenty of options for day trips, both private and with a group. You can do a lot of day trips especially from Florence, for example to the vineyards, but also to different towns. Below are some suggestions that you can book.

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Practical tips for public transport in Tuscany

Trains Tuscany
The trains in Italy are almost all managed by TrenItalia, so that’s where you can buy your train tickets. Every inimini station has a ticket machine, although some only accept cash. You must stamp these tickets before boarding the train! Don’t forget, because the fines are expensive.

You can also buy train tickets online or in the app, these too you must activate before your trip! Even though you buy them for a specific day and time. On the travel day you can activate them.

For intercities, you must reserve a specific seat when booking (or if you are traveling with Interrail, these are the trains that require a seat reservation). Intercities are the fast trains between major cities, so for example from Milan to Florence. At the doors of the train you will see which compartment it is and at the stations you will see shortly before departure where on the platform your compartment will stop, so you can already stand in the right place and board immediately. For regional trains you do not need to reserve a seat, you can simply sit anywhere.

Luggage storage
At the larger stations you can drop off your luggage for the day for about €5, so you can go somewhere quiet for lunch, for example. In small villages this is not there, but you can possibly find luggage storage at a store or hotel through apps like Radical storage. I advice you to check this beforehand, because hotels aren’t often willing to store your bags if they aren’t part of these platforms. And shops might be closed on Sundays and holidays.

Bus tickets
You can buy bus tickets at bus stations, tobacco shops or online through Autolinee Tuscany’s website. If you take the bus from a train station, there is often a café there where they also buy tickets. Sometimes that’s just a stamp ticket, in which case I recommend you buy an extra ticket for the return trip right away. Then you just have to stamp that one. Then you just have it, because if you don’t happen to leave from a bus station, sometimes it’s a little unclear where to buy tickets.