We are happy to provide answers to some of your frequently asked questions.
Q: Is your company registered and licensed under Italian Laws?
A: Yes. ArtiViva, The Original and Best Walking Tours is 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 believe in and practice integrity in travel, we are listed by just about every major travel guide, and we provide services to the world's top tour operators. Unfortunately, individuals can easily set up a web page and purport to be legitimate operators without offering real consumer protection. When travelling to Italy, make sure any company you deal with adheres to 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.
Q: What about suggestions for particular holidays?
A: Save time by browsing our website for ideas on romantic getaways, historic residences, palace and castle stays, beautiful views, good value vacations, classic Tuscan country holidays and top attractions. Stop by to chat with us about the best shopping and restaurants in Florence and Tuscany!
Q: Is there a number I can call?
A: Yes, visit our Contact Us page for all our contact details.
Q: Is it appropriate to tip your guides?
A: 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.
Q: What is appropriate dress attire for tours?
A: Please cover your shoulders and knees on tours that include entering churches (Original Florence Walk, Original Rome Walk, Original Venice Walk). Also please note that if you are taking this tour on a Sunday, mass is held inside the Duomo in Florence during the hours of our Original Florence Walk (something that could potentially happen at any church in other cities where ArtViva offers tours). 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.
Please bear in mind that although Italy's beautiful churches are attractions for tourists from around the world, they are firstly places of worship and sacred buildings. Be respectful by taking off hats and covering shoulders and knees. In Florence, women wearing tank tops, shorts, short dresses and skirts are likely to be refused entry to a church. An easy solution is to carry a light sweater or scarf with you, both on your tours and throughout your stay.
Q: When is a good time to visit?
A: Italy's climate varies greatly from the Alps in the north to the southern areas and islands. Many parts of the country are fairly mild climate and beautiful for different reasons throughout the year. Some prefer to visit in the spring when things are just warming up, and restaurants throughout cities like Florence, Rome and Venice are beginning to move their tables outdoors for evening dining, while others prefer the long days of early fall when the harvest is getting underway. There is really never a bad time to visit, but do keep in mind that the summer months can be extremely hot and not all hotels are equipped with air-conditioning. Summer is also the busiest time, and cities and beach resort towns are crowded with tourists and locals alike. August is traditionally a month in which Italians take their summer holidays, especially the week of August 15. Many shops, restaurants, and other types of business may close for a couple weeks in August or even the entire month. Fall is generally a nice time to visit, with somewhat fewer tourists and cooler temperatures - but you might need an umbrella.
Q: When do museums open and close?
A: All of the state-run Florence museums, including the world famous Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Museum, are closed 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! For private museums, visit individual websites for information.
Q: What do I do when people approach me begging for money?
A: In Italy you will occasionally find people begging for money. The best response is a polite but firm no and to move on. Sometimes, unfortunately, the a person begging may be working in collaboration with a nearby pickpocket. As always when travelling, you should be very aware of your money and where it is at all times. Avoid backpacks or purses where the zippers are on your back and facing outwards, as this is an easy 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 robbed, cancel your credit cards if your wallet was taken and report the theft immediately to local police, who will help you fill out a report, needed if you have travel insurance. We recommend that all travellers consider buying insurance before leaving home.
Q: Where can I receive medical attention in Florence from an English-speaking doctor?
A: 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.
Q: Where are the closest restroom facilities that I may use before a tour?
A: Unfortunately we do not have public restroom facilities in our offices. But note that if you buy a coffee, bottle or water, or even pack of gum, most bars in the city centre will allow you to use their facilities. There are some options near our office that we will gladly point out for you. Every major city has designated public restrooms. Several public restrooms in Florence are available for a cost of 60 cents to 1 euro:
- The underpass to the Santa Maria Novella train station
- On via della Stufa, 25 near the San Lorenzo market
- At the corner of via Filippina and Via Borgognona, near Santa Croce
- On Borgo Santa Croce, 29r near Piazza Beccaria
- In Piazza Ghiberti inside the San Ambrogio market
- On via dell’Ariento, 14 at the central market
- On viale Galilei, up at Piazzale Michelangelo
TRANSPORT & GETTING AROUND
Q: What's the best way to get around in Florence?
A: Florence is a wonderful city to explore on foot, with its winding streets and charming views around every corner. Because so many streets in the heart of the city are pedestrian only or limited traffic, getting around on foot is easy. 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.
Q: How do I use the bus system in Florence?
A: 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.
Q: How do I get to the Walking Tours office in Florence from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station?
A: It takes about 15 minutes to get from the train station to our office. From the train station, walk along via Panzani which then becomes via Cerretani. Take a right onto Via Vecchietti, where 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 you reach address 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.
Q: What if I need to drive into Florence? Where can I park?
A: 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.
Q: How do we buy train tickets?
A: 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 most train stations in Italy, you can purchase your tickets directly from a counter or at an automated distribution machine, which have multi-language options. Remember that one city may have several different train stations. To review train times and prices visit the national train website, www.trenitalia.com
Q: What should a cab from the airport cost? How do I get a taxi in Florence?
A: Depending on where you are travelling and how many bags you have, a taxi from the Florence airport might be most convenient for you. A taxi directly from the airport to the city center has a fixed cost of 20 euros, plus a small additional charge for each piece of baggage. Taxis 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 Florence taxi companies: 055 4390; 055 4242; 055 200 1326. Or visit this website for a list of all taxi stand locations in Florence city center. When reserving a taxi by phone, you must wait on the line until you are given the code of the taxi assigned to pick you up, which is the name of a city plus a number. This is how you will know that the taxi that arrives is yours. For example, a taxi may be called 'Firenze 11' and you will see that code on the car itself.
Q: How do I find the correct street numbers in Florence?
A: 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.
Q: Where can I get stamps?
A: 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.
Q: Where can I send emails?
A: Your hotel will likely have Wifi, and most public bookstores, libraries, and coffee shops now offer a Wifi connection to clients. Florence has some internet cafés sprinkled around the historic centre, such as the Internet Train nationwide chain of shops. At 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.
Q: How do I use a public telephone?
A: 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.
Q: How can I make an international call?
A: 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:
International Code Country Code Florence Prefix Local Number
SHOPPING & DINING
Q: What is appropriate for tipping in Italy?
A: In Italy, tipping is not as common in restaurants as it is in North America. You will sometimes 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; now, however, 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.
Q: What times do stores open and close during the day?
A: 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.
Q: What shopping etiquette should I be aware of?
A: When entering in a store, try to greet the storekeeper by saying “buongiorno”. In Italy storekeepers can be more attentive than in other countries, but this is normal. Never touch a window display without asking, or enter a dressing room without asking first. When leaving a store, say goodbye to the shopkeeper by saying “Grazie, arrivederci”. In grocery stores or in front of outdoor or market stands, remember to not touch fresh fruit and vegetables. 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. This practice is followed for hygienic reasons.
Q: What time do Italians eat their meals?
A: Typically Italians have a morning coffee or cappuccino, then break for lunch between 1pm and 3pm. 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 10pm. Some restaurants, in fact, may not take reservations until 8pm. If this dinning hour seems late, a good way to fight off hunger may be to stop into a local enoteca (wine bar) to enjoy a glass of wine and a small portion of local cheese before heading to your dinner.