The local news has been humming about a recent episode on the tramline coming into the center of Florence. A few days ago, a tour guide got into the tram with their group of thirty-one cruise line passengers traveling to Florence to tour the city for a half a day. Now, instead of bussing people straight into the city, With the way the public transport works in Florence, that means that the guide had thirty-two paper tickets that they needed to stamp individually in the machine on board in order to be valid for the ride. As the guide was in the middle of this process, the ticket controllers came on, told the guide they couldn’t stamp tickets for others and gave a 50 Euro fine to each tourist that hadn’t had their ticket stamped yet.
I have many problems with this situation. First, I feel that if you are going on a cruise, you should not be visiting cities surrounded by land – especially only for a few hours. This means little money is being put into the city by these tourists, and yet they’re contributing to the congestion problems we already have in this tiny city. Generally, the tourists and guides are using more and more public transportation, as private transport costs rise and everyone is looking for cheap travel. Which means they’re taking up space and inconveniencing locals. For example, if the tram is pretty full and thirty people get on at once and ride the entire route, there may not be room for the mother and the baby carriage, or for the man with the cane to even get to a seat to sit down. But these are all larger issues and certainly not the one that Florentines focused on. Instead, it was the incredulity that the ticketing officers were as abrasive as they were and that if what they said about stamping tickets is true, we might as well all line up for fines.
When busses are crowded here, my favorite thing is when the Florentines ban together. Tickets are passed up from the back of the bus through multiple hands, stamped and returned with communal “grazie.” I’ve helped more than one older gentleman stamp their ticket if we had a particularly wild driver and the poor man couldn’t keep his feet long enough to do it himself. Am I going to get fined for that? I’d like to see them try to. The entire bus would be up in arms. And so the Florentine attention to this story brought it up in the news, calling for a change, because certainly no one local would put up for being fined for something like that. But with these tourists were also absolutely taken advantage of, and everyone was rightfully angry about it.
The Commune put out a public apology acknowledging the issue and saying that they’ll right it. Some people have offered suggestions for making it more digital or having one “guide ticket” for these occasions. I’m sure they’ll come up with a solution, but I feel that it’ll only cause a larger problem in the long run.
My moral of the story? If you want to see Florence, come visit for more than a few hours. Stay for even more than a night or two, get to know the tastes and the sounds and the people. Give back to those that show you this magnificent place, and appreciate it. If you do that, you won’t have to worry about taking the tram in the first place.