Tales of the Florence Bus System

In The Art of Travel, 5. The Spirit of Place, Florence by Marirose Aleardi1 Comment

The Florence bus operates in a world of its own. Many days, I will stand outside (in the cold nonetheless), waiting for a bus that was supposed to arrive forty minutes prior. As most students live in the city center and have to take Florence public transportation to get to class, we are advised to allow ourselves an hour to get to campus, even though it is only about a 10 minute drive away. There truly is no way to predict when the bus will arrive – or if it will arrive at all for that matter. Some days it follows the advertised schedule down to the second, but others it has no rhyme or reason to its arrival or departure times. This scheduling can get pretty frustrating, especially since NYU stresses tardiness and attendance so heavily. Many Thursday evenings I find myself rushing home from class, attempting to make a flight or train for my weekend travels. I can never be sure when the bus will actually show up – forcing me to weigh my risks and often take the ill-favored option of trudging home in the 35° weather – usually with some combination of walking and running.

What makes the Florence bus system so emblematic of this city is the attitude of the locals. Every day, no matter how late the bus is, the locals stroll on with no frustration or annoyance. They don’t even look cold standing out in the open Florence air. They’re in no rush to get home or to work or wherever the day may take them. The unpredictable schedule of the bus simply follows the laid back nature of the Italians taking it.

I can’t help but imagine this system in New York. Even when the subway is delayed five minutes it seems like the end of the world. New Yorkers are irritated and impatient, even exclaiming their dismay out loud to a car full of strangers. In Italy, every passenger minds his or her own business, taking in the sights outside the window and patiently waiting to depart for the next stop. Waiting outside in what feels like the freezing cold or pouring rain does not phase them. I see no angry expressions or bothered conversations. It truly seems like everyone is just happy to be living their lives – no matter how long it takes to get around.

This reminds me of the observations I discussed in my first blog post for this course where I questioned the calmness I felt in this new city. Even in the troubles and thrills associated with temporarily moving to a new continent, I was perfectly relaxed. I can now clearly see how reflective this is of the culture here in Florence. Though I still get annoyed when the bus is running 30 minutes late, I can honestly say I don’t feel the need to rush around or be perfectly on time. As I mentioned in week one, I hope this laid back culture continues to wear off on me – at least for the time being. Maybe by the end of the semester, the uncertainty of the Florence bus system will not even phase me. Until then, I’ll try to take note from the locals and remain calm even when my attendance grade is in jeopardy.

(Image: Views on the way to class; Source: Marirose Aleardi)


  1. Marirose,

    I think it’s so interesting how you discuss your own changes in relation to the people of Florence. This sort of patience is certainly something that I’d like to embody… and something that really doesn’t exist in Shanghai. I wonder what other ways the city shapes you, or the other ways that these cities shape all of us?


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