The Florence Card – a tourist pass

These past two or three days have been spent hiking the sights of Florence in rather relentless summer heat. There are picture post card attractions familiar to all. I won’t bore you, honestly. My instinctive urge to move on, is bubbling up. A day in the countryside tomorrow!

A few comments. Buy a Florence Pass, especially if you intend to stay for 3 days or more. The concept is fabulous, although the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Its plastic and the same size as a credit card with a unique barcode. It claims you “bypass the queues” – worth the 72 euro alone! Sadly it’s not straightforward. At each “attraction” there is a, mostly fairly obvious, marked separate queue for the Florence card holders. How simple – short queue and scan bar coded card and “prego”! Sadly, no. One is required to find the separate Ticket Office for many attractions, no mean feat in itself, and there you will be required to queue (granted its a less lengthy one for the Florence cardholders) and purchase a separate paper ticket. Clutching this separate piece of paper, you return to the second, shorter queue at the aforementioned attraction.

It became obvious to me that the 2 step process is frustrating for both tourist and the ticket collector at the gate. Many tourists assume that the activated Florence Card is simply scanned at the entrance, and for the Italian gatekeeper they have to spend sometimes several minutes, trying to explain in limited English (forget about trying limited Japanese!) that it’s not the system. Tempers flare and the queue grinds to a halt. The reluctant tourist eventually is forced around and back outside passed the thousands, to find the Ticket Office. This is of itself a significant challenge! At the Duomo, we circumnavigated the Baptistery four times looking for the ticket office, twice clockwise then twice counterclockwise, based on the directions of the Italian lass at the turnstiles from which we were dejectedly ejected! Thankfully at other sites, the process was more transparent and simple!

There is an inviolate “theory of access” at Italian museums, cathedrals and monasteries, which I choose to call The Rule of Thirds: On any given day, a third of attractions are closed on that day, a third are closed for renovation, hidden behind scaffolding, with a sign which states the site is scheduled to be opened 15 months from whatever should be the date on which you turn up, the final third are open!