Frequent Asked Questions
Italy Tours, Transfers and Accommodation - read this before your trip!
Your first Question
YES! Artviva The Original and Best Walking Tours is a fully licensed and bonded tour operator. In accordance with European laws License Number 516411
Insurance Policy Number is Unipol No 065032357144
Travel Warning: Unfortunately it is easy to set up a web page and purport to be a tour operator without any real consumer protection. When travelling to Italy make sure that any company you deal with respects Italian and international laws designed to protect tourists. Any company legally based in Italy must have a registered chamber of commerce travel agency number. Unregistered tour operators operating illegally in Italy do not have appropriate insurance
Integrity in Travel
Q: Is this Company registered and licensed under Italian Laws?
A: Yes. The Original and Best Walking Tours in an ASTA registered company based in Florence, Italy respecting national and international laws and regulations regarding tourism. Chamber of Commerce Number 516411
Q: How do I know this is a good company?
A: We are listed by just about every major guide and provide services to the worlds best Tour Operators.
Q: What about suggestions for particular holidays?
A: Save time by browsing our suggestions for romantic getaways, historic residences, palace and castle stays, beautiful views, good value vacations, classic Tuscan country holidays, top sights, and the best shopping and restaurants in Florence and Tuscany
Q: Is there a number I can call?
A: Yes the contact details are listed in the CONTACT US page on the menu on the left. Our office phone number in Florence is +39 055 264 5033. You can also email us at email@example.com
Our More Frequently Asked Questions:
What is appropriate for tipping in Italy?
In Italy tipping is not as common in restaurants as it is in North America. You will see on your bill that a “coperto” or service fee is already included. In the past it was customary not to leave any tip at a restaurant while now most people leave a small tip, of 5% or less. With taxis, it is customary to give a small tip when drivers help with loading and unloading luggage.
What is appropriate to tip our guides?
If you enjoyed your tour and would like to give your guide a token of appreciation, tips are happily accepted. When asked, the office staff recommends whatever amount you feel comfortable with giving.
What is appropriate dress attire for tours?
Please make sure that shoulders and knees are covered for entrance into tours that involve entering churches (Original Florence Walk, Original Rome Walk, Original Venice Walk).
Also: Please note that if you are taking this tour on a Sunday, there is mass being held inside the Duomo during the hours of our Original Florence Walk. Therefore, we will not be entering that church. However, the Duomo is free to enter and will open later in the afternoon so that you may visit it on your own.
More details: Italian churches, though they may be attractions for tourists from around the world, are very much still in use and should be viewed as sacred buildings. In Italy it is proper for all people to take off hats before entering the church. Women must have their shoulders and knees covered at all times and men should (although it is not always obligatory) have on long pants. In Florence, any women wearing tank tops, shorts, short dresses and skirts will be turned away from the church at the entrance. If you happen to forget a sweater or scarf and will be taking the Original Florence Walk that enters the Duomo, the office in Florence usually has a limited number of scarves that can be purchased for 2 Euros.
When is a good time to visit Florence?
Florence has a fairly mild climate and is beautiful for different reasons throughout the year. While some prefer to visit in the Spring when the city is just warming up and restaurants are beginning to move their tables outdoors for evening dining, others may prefer the long days of fall when the olives and grapes are in harvest. There is never a bad time to visit Florence but certain points should be kept in mind:
- June and July are typically very hot in Florence and not all hotels are equipped with air-conditioning or elevators. These are also the busiest times in the city; you will see it bustling with tourists and locals alike.
- August is traditionally a month in which Italians take their summer holidays, especially the weeks surrounding August 15-17. You will find some stores and restaurants that close for one, two or even four weeks during the month of August.
November is a beautiful time to visit the city, but be sure to pack an umbrella. Florence can receive a good amount of rain in the late fall.
Where are the closest restroom facilities that I may use before a tour?
Unfortunately we do not have public restroom facilities in our offices, but you may use the restrooms in any of the bars in the immediate area, as well as designated public restrooms that can be found around Florence, Venice and Rome.
It is best to find facilities to use before you come to start your tour.
There are a few public restrooms in Florence that cost 60 cents to use.
Here is a list of several in Florence:
- at the underpass in the train station, Santa Maria Novella
- in Via della Stufa, 25 near the San Lorenzo market
- at the corner of via Filippina and Via Borgognona, near Santa Croce
- in Borgo Santa Croce, 29r, near Piazza Beccaria
- at Piazza Ghiberti, inside the San Ambrogio market
- in via dell’Ariento, 14 at the central market
- on viale Galilei, up at Piazzale Michelangelo
- Alternatively, if you buy a small coffee, bottle or water, or even pack of gum, most bars in the city centre will allow you to use their facilities.
Closest restroom facilities available near our offices in Florence:
-Piazza della Repubblica http://maps.google.it/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=it&q=&vps=1&jsv=170f&sll=41.442726,12.392578&sspn=175.04947,360&ie=UTF8&geocode=FZXmmwIdRLerAA&split=0
Other public Restroom facilities in Florence http://maps.google.it/maps?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:it:official&hl=it&tab=wl
Railway Station http://maps.google.it/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=it&q=&vps=1&jsv=170f&sll=41.442726,12.392578&sspn=175.04947,360&ie=UTF8&geocode=FZXmmwIdRLerAA&split=0Other public restroom facilities in Venice
How do I get around Florence on bus, on foot?
Florence is a wonderful city to explore on foot, with its winding streets and diverse, breathtaking views of the Duomo. Because so many streets in the heart of the city are pedestrian or one way, it is easiest to get around on foot. There are also many city buses that offer transportation into the centre from areas in the surrounding periphery of Florence, run by ATAF, the official city bus company.
How do I use the bus system in Florence?
For complete information visit www.ataf.net. Bus tickets are sold at Tabacchi stores (indicated with a large T sign) and cost 1.20 euro for one ticket or 4.60 euros for four-ride ticket. Your ticket is valid only once it has been stamped in the machine inside the bus (near the front and rear entrances to the bus). Each ticket is valid for 90 minutes from the moment you stamp it on as many buses as you ride in that time period. You do not need to re-stamp your ticket if you switch buses, but everyone travelling with you must have a stamped ticket. If you do not, you may be subject to a fine.
How do I get to the Walking Tours office in Florence from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station?
It takes about 15 minutes to get from the train station to our office, follow these exact directions:
From the train station, walk along via Panzani which then becomes via Cerretani. Take a right onto Via Vecchietti, you will see the Best Western Hotel Laurus on your left as you turn. Via Vecchietti becomes Via Sassetti, our street, so keep walking straight. You will walk past the Fendi store (heading south) and walk 75 meters until number 1. Our offices are located above the Odeon cinema in the back left hand corner of the building. We are on the second floor. You can take the lift or walk up two flights of stairs.
What if I need to drive into Florence? Where can I park?
We strongly recommend NOT driving in Florence. The entire historical city center of Florence is a limited traffic zone, called ZTL. This means that if you enter the zone without authorization, a camera at your point of entry takes a photo of your license plate and sends you or your rental car company a ticket, sometimes up to a year later. The ticket can vary between 80 and 100 Euro.
If you are staying outside of Florence, we recommend you park your car at your nearest train station and take the train into Florence. See the walking directions to our office from the train station above.
If you absolutely must drive into Florence, here is a link to a map that shows where the ZTL cameras are, and a link to all of the available parking garages.
How do we buy train tickets?
Train tickets for travel in Italy and even other countries in Europe may be purchased either at train stations or at small travel agencies (Agenzia di Viaggi). At the Florence train station you can buy your tickets directly from a teller or at an automated computer. The computers all have English options. Remember that one city may have several different train stations. The Florence city centre station is officially called Firenze, Santa Maria Novella station. To review train times and prices visit the national train website, www.trenitalia.com
What should a cab from the airport cost? How do I get a taxi in Florence?
Depending on where you are travelling to and how many bags you have, a taxi from the Florence airport cost 20 euros as a fixed price.
Taxicabs are usually waiting at the exit to the Florence airport, so there is not a need to arrange one ahead of time. In Italy taxis do not stop for people on the street, you are not able to flag them down.
Here are some numbers of different taxi companies:
http://www.socota.it/ lists all taxi stand locations in Florence city centre
When reserving a taxi by phone you must wait on the line until you are given the name of an Italian city name and a number. This is how you will know that the taxi that arrives is yours. For example, a taxi may be called Firenze 11.
Where can I get stamps?
Stamps, or francobolli, are sold at all post offices (Ufficio Postale) or at many Tabacchi stores. The largest post office is located under the covered archway leading off of Piazza della Repubblica, right behind our office in Florence. Its hours are 8:15 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday, closed on Sundays. There are usually two slots for dropping mail into in Florence. One says “per tutta la città” , for within the city, is only for local mail, the other “per tutte le alter destinazione”, or all other destinations, should be used for any international mail.
What time do Italians eat their meals?
Typically Italians have a morning coffee or cappuccino, then break for lunch between 1 and 3 pm. The Italian dinnertime does not begin until approximately 8 pm, but it is not uncommon to see people sitting down to dine as late a 10 pm. Some restaurants, in fact, may not take reservations until 8 pm. If this dinning hour seems late, a good way to fight off hunger may be to stop into a local enoteca, or wine bar, to enjoy a glass of wine and a small portion of local cheese before heading to your dinner. A great choice is the quaint enoteca, Le Volpi e l’Uva in Piazza dei Rossi, 1, near the Ponte Vecchio. Ask our office for more information!
Can I check email in Florence?
Yes! Florence, like so many tourist cities, has many Internet cafés sprinkled around the historic centre. One of the largest chains is called Internet Train. This is a nationwide store; so once you have a membership card you may check your email in other Internet train cafes across Italy. Membership sign up only takes a moment, but due to antiterrorism laws each new member is required to present an official document when you first sign on, like a passport or a drivers license. You may pay for 3 hours, one hour, 30 minutes or as few as 15 minutes. At the Internet train you can also send faxes, develop film and buy phone cards. For more information and locations visit: http://www.internettrain.it/
The closest location to our office is on via Porta Rossa, 38r, and a 3-minute walk away from our office in Florence.
We also have listed free Wifi information on our blog here.
What do I do when people approach me begging for money?
In many parts of Italy and Florence you will occasionally find people begging for money. It is best to politely say no, I’m sorry, or “ No, mi dispiace”. Sometimes, unfortunately, the one person begging may also be a cover for a pickpocket. As always when travelling, you should be very aware of your money and where it is at all times. It is recommended that you do not wear any backpacks or purses where the zippers are on your back and facing outwards. This is often a target for pickpockets. Also be aware of people begging in pairs or with children. It does happen that while one person distracts you with a hand-written sign or by tugging on your shirt, another person could be reaching for your purse or wallet. The best advice is to be careful with your valuables and to even consider wearing a money pouch or belt when travelling. If the unfortunate does happen and you discover you have been pick pocketed, you should report it immediately to the police who will help you fill out a report that you will need if you have travellers insurance. Walking Tours recommends that all travellers consider buying travellers insurance before leaving home.
What times do stores open and close during the day?
Stores in Italy typically close during the lunchtime for a few hours, however this practice is seen less and less in heavy tourist areas. Typical store hours may be 10 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. On Sundays most stores are closed and often stay closed on Monday mornings until 12 pm.
When entering in a store you should always greet the storekeeper by saying “buongiorno”. In Italy storekeepers can be more attentive than in other countries, but this is normal. You should be sure never to touch a window display without asking or enter a dressing room without asking. When leaving a store you should always salute the shopkeeper by saying “Grazie, arrivederci”.
Don’t Touch the Fruit! Why does no one pick up his or her own fruit at the fruit stands?
In Italy you should never help yourself to fruit at small grocers and in markets, as it is considered unhygienic. Instead, wait until a shopkeeper is free and they will bag the fruit for you. In large grocery stores, like Standa or Esselunga, you must put on a plastic glove before bagging your own fruit. In these store you must also weigh and ticket your own fruit before going to pay at the cash register.
How do I use a public telephone?
In Florence there are many public telephones all over the city. Most of these phones do not take change, but instead require a local telephone card, carta telefonica. These small, thin cards, which are the size of a bankcard, may be purchased at any Tabacchi stores, which are indicated with a large black and white T street sign. The telephone card has one perforated corner that must be broken off before the card is inserted into the phone. Cards are sold in varying amounts ranging from 5 euros and up. When using the phone is Florence to make a local call dial all the numbers listed, starting with 055.
How can I make an international call?
If you want to place an international call and you already have a calling card that allows you to make calls from Italy to home, you may still need to have the local calling card to insert into the phone before you can dial the access number. If you do not have an international calling card, or carta telefonica internazionale, you may buy one in Florence. These cards are also found at newsstands or in Tabacchi. They are usually available in 5 euro or 10 euro amounts and depending on where you are calling in the world, will allow you to take for over an hour. To dial the United States directly from Italy you must dial 00-1- area code – phone number.
If you would like to give your phone number at a Florence hotel to others who may want to call you, make sure to provide the country code, as well as the local access number.
Example - a call from the United States to Florence, Italy would be dialled as follows:
Where can I receive medical attention in Florence from an English-speaking doctor?
If you need medical attention while in Florence you may contact the English doctor, Dr. Stephen Kerr. His website address is www.dr-kerr.com. In Italy you may also get general medical advice from pharmacists. All pharmacies are indicated with a green cross that hangs outside the storefront. There are several in Florence that are open 24 hours, including the pharmacy located inside the Santa Maria Novella train station, one in the Piazza della Signoria, and opposite the Baptistery in Piazza del Duomo. Other pharmacies are typically open from 9 am to 1 pm and then from 4 pm to 7 pm.
What open-air markets are there in Florence?
The most important open-air markets include the Central Market and the Sant'Ambrogio market for meets, cheese, fruits and vegetables. For souvenirs or leather goods the most important markets are the market of San Lorenzo and the smaller market called il Porcellino. The central market and San Ambrogio food markets are open in the mornings, everyday except Sunday, from 7 am to 2 pm.
When do museums open and close?
All of the state-run Florence museums, including the world famous Uffizi Gallery and Accademia museum, are shut on Mondays. Their hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm. The museums are also closed on December 25th, January 1st, and May 1st. Be sure to ask our office staff how to make reservations for these museums so that you do not have to wait in line!
How do I find the correct street numbers in Florence?
In Florence there are two sets of street numbers, red and black. Generally, all the red numbers are for business and merchants and black numbers are for residences. Walking down a street in Florence you may see an 80 black next to a 132 red, so be sure to pay attention to which colour you are looking for. You will often see an address for a store listed as 11 r, which means that the number 11 is painted in red, or rosso. However, be aware, many buildings, which may have once been apartments, may also have businesses or stores in them now, so may have an address that is for a black number.
What are all the different kinds of coffee in Italy?
- ESPRESSO (also simply called caffé)
a single shot (approximately 1-1/2 ounces of espresso). The Italian tradition is to drink it in a single gulp to enjoy the fullest flavour.
a double shot of espresso.
- ESPRESSO MACCHIATO
a single serving of espresso topped with a dollop of frothed milk.
consists of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 frothed milk. Powdered cocoa may be sprinkled on top as a garnish (optional). Local Italians only drink cappuccino for breakfast and do not order one after 11 am.
- CAFFE LATTE
usually served in a tall glass, it is 1/3 espresso to 2/3 steamed milk with no foam.
an espresso that has been frozen and crushed. It is served in a cup with a spoon.
What are some good night time activities in Florence?
Florence is an amazing city, one of great culture mixed with a young and international student population. There are many great things to do in Florence at night. From outdoor concert series in Piazza di Santissma Annunziata and inside the church of Santo Stefano, to exciting bars and clubs, there is something for everyone. A good place to get the most up to the minute information on what is happening in Florence is the monthly publication, Firenze Spettacolo, available for less than 2 euros at all news stands. On line you may want to visit www.firenze.net
For a sophisticated after dinner drink we suggest Slowly on via Porta Rossa, 63. This late night bar offers great cocktails and a unique atmosphere in the historic centre of the city. Another popular spot among the young and trendy Florentines remains Capocaccia, Lungarno Corsini 12. Here you can take your drink across the street as you watch the sun go down along the banks of the Arno River. Be sure to ask your guides and the Walking Tours office staff for suggestions on our favourite restaurants, bars and clubs!
Browse, choose, enjoy!